Monthly Archives: October 2013

When Christian thinking becomes fuzzy


(photographs of Pastor Jim Cymbala and Roberta Langella, courtesy Pulpit & Pen)

 By Spencer D Gear

When I point the finger at fuzzy thinking, I also recognise that I’m a fellow traveller. I can be guilty of illogical thinking at times. When that happens, I appreciate those who care enough about me to point this out. In writing this article, I’m in no way making out that I’m a superior Christian who does not make mistakes or engage in fuzzy thinking at times.

When I use the term ‘fuzzy thinking’, I am referring to fuzzy logic – including the use of logical fallacies, the inability to think clearly, and the ability to read incorrect meaning into a person’s writing and speaking. This too often manifests itself in use of logical fallacies without admitting one uses them; accusation of false meaning to what a person states; and this may get to the point of speaking falsehood about a person.

Are any of you tired of the church being run by CEOs and the promise of growth in the church through following a church growth paradigm? What about that rock band on stage that entertains the group while most of them remain silent and do not enter into the singing what are supposed to be congregational songs?

I had an experience like this in the last 12 months with a local church and its evangelical pastor (well, the denomination has a reputation for being evangelical) when I emailed him to ask if I could attend one of the mid-week groups of his church and would he provide an address. He told me that the group would be way too contemporary for me. I have never met this pastor personally and have never spoken to him. My wife and I had visited his church once when we moved to this region and it was obvious that the person we met as we left the meeting had conveyed our feedback to the pastor. The pastor was in the service but was not the preacher. There was no reading of the Scriptures and their making the service contemporary seemed to be foremost on the mind of those leading the service

What is God’s view?

Bill Muehlenberg

Bill Muehlenberg (courtesy CultureWatch)

I was so impressed by this penetrating insight by Bill Muehlenberg:Dysfunctional Churches Mean Dysfunctional Societies‘, that I sent a group email to my Christian friends. A couple of them responded (which doesn’t happen all that often when I forward a group email link). One brother in Christ said he would share this message with his church.

My friend, Mike, gave feedback to me about that message and provided a link to a powerful message by Jim Cymbala that deals with getting the church back to the fundamentals and addressing the dysfunctional in our churches. I must admit that the name of Jim Cymbala did not ring a bell with me. He’s not one of my known and favourite Christian authors. I have never read any of his books or heard any of his sermons. I have since learned that he has written a number of books published by Zondervan. These are listed on his church’s website at The Brooklyn Tabernacle

Please be assured that I will sit up and take more notice when the name, Jim Cymbala is mentioned after hearing this sermon. His heart seems to be beating with Holy Spirit motivation. However, I will be a critical realist in my assessment of what he says and writes. I can’t buy into his comments about preaching from the Old Testament. Mike’s comment about this is valid when he said that the online DVD of Jim’s sermon was good but he was not in harmony with him when he spoke about refraining from preaching from the Old Testament. Mike said that it all points to Christ, but in the context of Cymbala’s sermon, he can let that slide. Why? It was because ‘he was more taking aim at preachers who simply don’t preach Christ and the cross at all’.

I urge you to take a listen to a message that knocked me off the wall of my comfortable Christianity. Has Jim Cymbala from Brooklyn Tabernacle, New York city, hit the mark or not? Here’s the link to that message: General Council: Jim Cymbala.

I pray that the Lord will use this message to get to our hearts. Some of you may disagree with points of his Pentecostal theology, but his content reminded me so much of the prophetic insight of the late A W Tozer (1897-1963).

Accusation of double talk

I was to experience some fuzzy Christian thinking as a result of forwarding the link to Jim Cymbala’s sermon. This is how it unfolded.

When I sent the Cymbala link to a pastor friend, his reply was that it was ‘great stuff’ until Cymbala ‘referred admiringly to George Wood, who has formed a liaison with Mormons’. He asked if I knew this. His emphasis was that ‘Jim didn’t mention that [about George Wood’s Mormon association] although he rightly preached about the only name’ as proclaimed by Saul who became ‘Paul, the Apostle’, in the chapter Jim C preached from – Acts 13. Dr George O Wood[1] is the General Superintendent of the USA Assemblies of God (A/G-USA).

He went on to accuse Jim Cymbala of using ‘double talk in the Church’. This pastor was careful to use the qualification, ‘in my opinion’. Whenever a person uses these words, I look for solid evidence to back that opinion. It did not come as this pastor displayed some of his fuzzy thinking.

He regards Cymbala has having a ‘perceived successful past’ and that what Cymbala said in this message ‘is obnoxious in the eyes and ears of the Lord’. The pastor gave this proviso: ‘That in my opinion is the biggest hindrance to the move of God for which we all crave. May the Lord deliver us’. This ‘perceived successful past’ language is a put down of Cymbala and what has happened through his ministry at the Brooklyn Tabernacle in downtown New York City. The Brooklyn Tabernacle website provided this information about Cymbala:

In the early 1970s Pastor Cymbala took over the leadership of The Brooklyn Tabernacle on Atlantic Avenue in downtown Brooklyn. The small, struggling congregation numbered less than twenty people and met in a small, run-down building surrounded by the physical and moral blight of the inner city. No money was available for adequate salaries during most weeks in those early years, so Pastor Cymbala and Carol took second jobs and struggled to make ends meet both in the church and at home.

Nevertheless, this was where they felt God had placed them, and they soon realized that it was a unique opportunity to see the power of the gospel of Christ in action by loving and ministering to all colors and kinds of people. Most were poor and many wrestled with the typical inner-city problems of drug or alcohol abuse and the pain of disintegrating families. At the time, the New York City area, with its challenging social problems and urban decay, was kind of a “forgotten mission field.” Most church buildings were nearly vacant on Sundays since their once-strong congregations (and their denominations) had long before fled to suburbia. But Pastor Cymbala and Carol believed that this was the very spot where God’s love could meet the most desperate of human needs. Right away they realized the necessity of real prayer to secure God’s grace and power in their ministry. The Tuesday Night Prayer Meeting, though very small at the start, became a central feature in the life of the church and has remained so to this day.

Realizing the limited impact that any one church can have in a large metropolis like New York, the leadership of the Brooklyn Tabernacle began to plant churches in other needy areas of the city. As they trained pastors and sent them out with small groups of workers from the congregation, a replication of the work in downtown Brooklyn was begun. At the same time, The Brooklyn Tabernacle began to look beyond its own locale to plant missionary stations that have grown and evolved in impoverished places like Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Over the years, other works have been established by the grace of God in Israel, Guyana, and the Philippines. The leadership for most of these ministries has been raised up by God from the congregation, which itself represents so many parts of the world. These missions have experienced a demonstration of the far-reaching power of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Today Pastor Cymbala oversees a congregation of several thousand people. Many of the inner- city problems are still there, but so is the congregation’s dependency upon the grace of God, who has raised up workers to direct outreach to children, women, men, youth, seniors, the homeless and people in shelters, among others (The Brooklyn Tabernacle).

So my pastor friend was displaying fuzzy Christian thinking with his statement that Jim Cymbala had a ‘perceived successful past’. This is misrepresentation through use of a logical fallacy of biased sample. One could arrive at a conclusion of ‘perceived successful past’ by ignoring or distorting the evidence.

How should I respond to this agitated brother in Christ who is a long-term friend? I have preached in his church.

Fuzzy thinking and judgmental attitude

I replied that I thought he was being way too harsh on Jim Cymbala. The fact that he mentioned George Wood in a sermon does not in any way indicate that Cymbala agrees with what George Wood said and did with the Mormons. With his making that kind of association, I told him that he had committed a genetic logical fallacy. Because Cymbala mentioned Wood does not make Cymbala’s exposition false or improper. A genetic logical fallacy ‘is a line of “reasoning” in which a perceived defect in the origin of a claim or thing is taken to be evidence that discredits the claim or thing itself. It is also a line of reasoning in which the origin of a claim or thing is taken to be evidence for the claim or thing’ (Nizkor Project 1991-2012).

I asked: Are you going to invalidate Albert Mohler’s ministry as President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary  because he also addressed the Mormon Brigham Young University? See:A clear and present danger‘. I asked him not to associate me with promotion of double-speak. When my wife and I were living in the USA, I was invited to speak (we both sang and played – piano and guitar) at a Mormon break-away group, The Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I was very clear on where I stood on the exclusivity of salvation through Christ alone.

I told that Christian minister that I do not endorse what George Wood did, but that does not make a devil of ‘double-speak’ out of Jim Cymbala because he mentioned George Wood who was in the meeting where Cymbala spoke.

It is my view that Cymbala was spot on with his emphasis from Acts 13:1-4. I think that Jim hit the mark, a message that many contemporary evangelical churches need to hear.

How would you expect my pastor friend to reply?

‘There is no other name’

The pastor said that it was not only that Jim Cymbala mentioned George Wood but also that he did it in ‘in the immediate context of his commending the early Christians for standing for the uniqueness of salvation through Jesus – “there is no other name”’. He claimed that I missed the point because Wood has ‘forged a link with Mormons. Yes A/G-USA [Assemblies of God USA] has gone that far and you can’t justify it no matter how hard you try’.

He did clarify that his reference to ‘double speak’ was to Jim C and George W and not to me and my preaching at a break-away Mormon group.

How should I reply?

Misrepresenting my views

I told him that I do not appreciate it when he misrepresents what I said to him. This is what I wrote: ‘I do not endorse what George Wood did, but that does not make a devil of “double-speak” out of Jim Cymbala because he mentioned George Wood who was in the meeting where Cymbala spoke’.

His statement to me was, ‘Also you have missed the point. GW has now forged a link with Mormons. Yes A/G-USA has gone that far and you can’t justify it no matter how hard you try’.

At no point have I ever said that I justify what the Assemblies of God – USA did. I exhorted him to please not misrepresent my view and invent what I did not say. He can stand his ground. That is his business. But misrepresenting my views is reprehensible.

Jim Cymbala was not engaged in double-speak in his exposition of Acts 13:1-4 and its application to the contemporary church. By this pastor’s saying that ‘Jim Cymbala referred admiringly to George Wood’, it says absolutely nothing about Jim C supporting George W’s position on the Mormons. As I said previously, that is his use of a genetic logical fallacy, which promotes illogic and prevents us having a rational conversation on this topic.

The pastor’s response to my calling him for misrepresenting my view and his use of a logical fallacy was that ‘by arguing about words we will get nowhere. The issue as far as I am concerned is JC [Jim Cymbala] and his impassioned appeal to return to fundamental Christianity with the spectre of GW’s [George Wood’s] treachery hanging over the entire scene. I am sorry that you deduced some attack on yourself by my words. That certainly was not my intention’.

My response was that I did not say that he attacked me. I said that he misrepresented what I said (he lied about what I stated) and that’s what he did. I asked him to repent of this sin towards me and acknowledge the sin he had committed?

We are not arguing about words. I am discussing his illogic in his use of a genetic logical fallacy in his associating Jim Cymbala with George Wood’s ‘liaison’ with Mormons. What Jim said had nothing to do with endorsing George Wood on Mormonism. I asked him: ‘Don’t you understand the danger in conversation when you use logical fallacies? I urge you to gain an understanding on how you did this. I have provided you with a link to the nature of a genetic logical fallacy (see above)’.

His reply demonstrated that he did not understand the seriousness of what he did in misrepresenting = lying about what I said. This person is a long-term friend with whom I’ve had many times of wonderful fellowship in the Lord and disagreement over certain issues. This was another one of the latter. He stated that he did not want to continue the conversation ‘in which you attribute to me an accusation about lies is descending to a level that I don’t want to pursue in the interests of mutual respect and friendship’.

Now he said that he would not continue the conversation, but what did he do? He came back with ‘obviously we both feel disappointed and I’m sorry I raised the matter with you’. Then he went on to accuse me of misrepresenting him ‘in not accepting or inter-relating with my point’. I have no idea what he means by this because I have rejected his point of Jim Cymbala supporting what George Wood is doing with the Mormons. I have been inter-relating with him if that means I am in email conversation with him. However, I have no idea what he is driving at when he accuses me of not inter-relating with his point. If I disagree with his point, does that mean I am not relating with him. That is a misunderstanding of the meaning ofrelatein the English language.

He stated that he feels no need to repent and that he is sorry that I feel the way I do. It has nothing to do with how I ‘feel’. It has everything to do with what he wrote in his email and what he sated about my views. He wrote: ‘Also you have missed the point. GW has now forged a link with Mormons. Yes A/G-USA has gone that far and you can’t justify it no matter how hard you try’.

That is where he was lying about me. I never, ever justified anything to do with George Wood and Jim Cymbala’s ‘liaison’ with Mormonism. I did not justify it. I did not try hard to justify it. I NEVER justified it. That’s where he lied about me. Why can’t he own up to his sin against me on this occasion?

Slipping and sliding Christian

How do you think he replied to my charge that he lied to me when he said, ‘you can’t justify it no matter how hard you try’? His reply was that his comment ‘was intended as a generic comment and was not directed against you. To the extent that you saw it that way, I do sincerely apologise. I think taking it in the context most would agree that I was not implying that you were trying to justify GW or JC in their respective views on Mormonism, whatever they may happen to be. I trust this puts the matter to rest. I will not respond further unless something new comes up’.

I find his labelling it as a ‘generic comment’ to be his rationalisation – trying to squirm out of admitting what he did. Why? I doubt his explanation because of the way he was addressing me in the email. When he wrote ‘you’, he was referring to me as he was writing to me. These are his exact words: ”Also you have missed the point. GW has now forged a link with Mormons. Yes A/G-USA has gone that far and you can’t justify it no matter how hard you try’ (emphasis added). The personal pronoun, ‘you’, is used three times in these two sentences. The meaning comes from the first use of ‘you’ which states, ‘Also you have missed the point’.  Who has missed the point? I have missed the point he is trying to make. He is not making the point to some generic you that he claims. The two uses of ‘you’ that immediately follow are based on the meaning of the first ‘you’. The first ‘you’ is definitely referring directly to me: ‘You have missed the point’. So the other meanings of ‘you’ are also addressed to me. Therefore, this brother in Christ is engaged in slipping and sliding about the meaning of what he said, i.e. he was rationalising his lying behaviour about what he said to me.

I cannot agree that he was using it in the generic sense as the context of those two sentences demonstrate. My view is that he was engaged in fuzzy Christian thinking. He is trying to wriggle out of his lying about me by rationalising. I could be wrong in this understanding, but the context of the three uses of ‘you’ is dictated by the first meaning. And that was definitely directed at me, ‘You have missed the point’.

It doesn’t put it to rest for me because I see it as a classic example of a Christian who is rationalising to cover up his sin against me. He was addressing me directly and when he said, ‘You can’t justify it no matter how hard you try’, he was addressing me in the singular in an email. It was ‘you’ singular to whom he was speaking but he wants to get off the hook by saying that it was intended as ‘a generic comment’. I am not convinced. It was a specific comment to me but he is not at the point of acknowledging it as lying to me. I’ll have to leave it rest with him and the Lord. I have made no further contact via email with him.

This, as I see it, is fuzzy thinking where he is a slipping-and-sliding Christian who is into avoidance. He is not being transparently honest with me. I did my best to convince him, but he was not moved. He gave me his made-up spiel of filtered reasoning, saying it was a generic meaning. It seems as though it was designed to get him off the hook, but I don’t buy it. Fuzzy thinking is what I call it.

What do the Scriptures say about doing things this way? Does it have anything to indicate how people need to deal with those who lie? Both Old and New Testaments are clear about lying being forbidden and what happens to liars:

arrow-small Proverbs 19:9, ‘A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who breathes out lies will perish’ (ESV).

arrow-small Proverbs 12:22, ‘Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who act faithfully are his delight’.

arrow-small Psalm 101:7 ‘No one who practices deceit shall dwell in my house; no one who utters lies shall continue before my eyes’.

arrow-small Colossians 3:9-10 ‘Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator’.

arrow-small  John 2:4 ‘Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him’.

arrow-small Ephesians 4:25 ‘Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another’.

The Scripture is very clear that the false witness, liar, and deceitful person should not be found among Christians. Therefore, my interaction with the Christian pastor who seems to be lying about what I said, is to leave him with the Lord. I am not the final judge. I can only make my assessment with what he said in context. And it certainly seemed to be dishonesty through the words he delivered.

Another side to Jim Cymbala

There’s another perspective on the Jim Cymbala story that I became aware of when I was advised by Steve Langella on 9 March 2017 through the ‘Contact Form’ on this website. Steve’s story of his sister, Roberta Langella, and Jim Cymbala are quite alarming, in my view, and are explained in these two articles:

Flower7The Story Behind the Story – Roberta Langella and Pastor Jim Cymbala – Part 1’ (October 16, 2016), and

Flower7In Roberta’s Own Words – The Story Behind the Story of Jim Cymbala and Roberta Langella – Part 2’ (October 28, 2016).

Flower7 See also Seth Dunn’s article in Pulpit & Pen, ‘Jim Cymbala and the Ghost of Testimonies Past’ (October 28, 2016).

It is my view that this tragedy should not be swept under the carpet.

Being cobelligerent or joining a false anti-Christ religion

I said to my friend that he claimed that George Wood had ‘a liaison with a false anti-Christ religion’ in his association with Mormons. I mentioned that I thought that it would do him good to read what Francis Schaeffer meant by becoming cobelligerents with people who have similar values in certain organisations. I do this when I support Cherish Life, an anti-abortion group that used to be called Right to Life. Although many Roman Catholics are associated with this group, we give common support in opposing the abortion holocaust in Australia / Queensland.

See Daniel Strange’s article, ‘Co-belligerence and common grace: Can the enemy of my enemy be my friend?’ (September 2005).

What is the abortion situation in Australia? These were 2009 figures:

How many abortions occur in Australia?

Life Network Australia – Monday, July 13, 2009

clip_image001 Abortion crosses in a field

An estimated 80,000 – 90,000 surgical abortions are performed in Australia each year.This equates to approximately 250 per day, or one abortion for every 2.8 live births. One in three Australian women will have an abortion in their lifetime.

An accurate number can not be calculated using the current systems of statistical collection. 5 An analysis of the available data has been prepared by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

There are no statistics available for the number of chemical abortions in Australia. The ‘morning after pill’, Postinor-2 is available over the counter and accounts for an unknown number of early abortions. A combination of drugs, Methotrexate and Misoprostal, is also widely used to induce abortion before 7 weeks gestation. This is done as a general consult by doctors and the number is not recorded.

For anyone or any group that stands against this holocaust, I will join with them to oppose such slaughter as a cobelligerent.

What is a cobelligerent?

The Australian Macquarie Dictionary defines the noun, cobelligerent, as ‘a nation, state, or individual that cooperates with, but is not bound by a formal alliance to, another in carrying on war’. As an adjective, it is ‘relating to such a cooperation’ (The Macquarie Dictionary 1997:422-423).

Francis Schaeffer.jpg

Francis Schaeffer (courtesy Wikipedia)

The late Francis Schaeffer defined a cobelligerent this way: ‘A co-belligerent is a person with whom I do not agree on all sorts of vital issues, but who, for whatever reasons of their own, is on the same side in a fight for some specific issue of public justice’ (Schaeffer 1980:68).

 Theopedia provided this explanation:

Co-belligerence, strictly speaking, is waging a war in cooperation with another against a common enemy without a formal alliance. The term co-belligerence indicates remoteness and differences between the co-belligerent parties although jointly pursuing a common objective. In Christianity, it refers to an alliance between denominations, which are normally opposed on doctrinal grounds, for a common social goal.

According to one author, it can be defined as a cultural philosophy that warrants questionable alliances in order to make social impact and change against the moral slippage that plagues our nation — these alliances created and fostered “on the basis of one thing and one thing only – the cause at hand.”[2] A case in point would be conservative evangelicals allying with the Roman Catholic Church in joint efforts to oppose abortion.

Some Christians have issues with a cobelligerence perspective. See Steven J Camp’s article, THE NEW DOWNGRADE…12 dangers of Evangelical Co-Belligerence related to the Manhattan Declaration. There are dangers in being a cobelligerent, but these are reduced when one focusses on why one is joining with another group with which there may be major differences on other occasions. This is not a proclamation of salvation through Christ alone and a promotion of Trinitarian Christianity. It is generally associated with cooperating with others on moral and national issues for which they have a common opponent. Steven J Camp, based on this article, lists 12 dangers of cobelligerence. These are:

1. DANGER: People who champion co-belligerence do so outside the authority of Scripture and therefore cannot affirm Sola Scriptura in its practice.

2. DANGER: People who champion co-belligerence do so without “preaching Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” For the sake of cultural unity the offence of the cross is purposely removed.

3. DANGER: People who champion co-belligerence adopt a secular view of being salt and light—applying that reality to anyone who rallies with them on the social cause which their moral conscience agrees.

4. DANGER: People who champion co-belligerence do so in support of a moral imperative derived from works righteousness thinking God is pleased and society redeemed with the veneer of pseudo-spirituality.

5. DANGER: People who champion co-belligerence do so to the purposed exclusion and amputation of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ in their social causality.

6. DANGER: People who champion co-belligerence must yoke themselves with nonbelievers; they do so in direct disobedience to God’s Word forfeiting His favor and invoking His judgment.

7.DANGER: People who champion cobelligerence lose sight of eternity in those because of temporary social moorings and therefore become calloused and hardened against the very ones that need the gospel. They therefore cannot fulfill the Great Commission for they have elevated worldly concerns above another eternals soul.

8. DANGER: People who champion cobelligerence live as political agitators fighting for morality against the very authorities that the Lord has sovereignly placed in power.

9. DANGER: People who champion cobelligerence fight to protect religious rights, violate the Scriptures in John 18:36 where our Lord said, “if my kingdom were of this world, my disciples would be fighting.” But His kingdom is not of this world—all our rights lie only in Christ.

10. DANGER: People who champion evangelical co-belligerence seldom get around to sharing the gospel with their opponents; the societal concerns on cultural or political issues have overshadowed and robbed them of seeing their opponents as sinners in need of Christ (cp, Luke 14:21ff).

11. DANGER: People who champion evangelical co-belligerence dumb-down the body of Christ to the status of a political action committee for the purpose of flexing our religious muscle to sway candidates, issues, morals, elections and party platforms to line up with our social-moral values. This violates the standard of Scripture as to the purpose and function of God’s church: “which is the pillar and support of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15).

12. DANGER: People who champion evangelical co-belligerence will never win the culture wars, though they might improve them some. But they will have failed miserably by sacrificing the gospel message, sound doctrine, theology, the church, and the biblical duties that the Lord has called us to all along “for a piece of political pie” with the reward of temporary fame, increased fortune and the still unrealized fantasy of a moral Christianized world without Christ and His truth at the core.

These dangers are minimised, in my underst nding, when one acknowledges the real purpose of cobelligerence as defined by Francis Schaeffer: ‘A co-belligerent is a person with whom I do not agree on all sorts of vital issues, but who, for whatever reasons of their own, is on the same side in a fight for some specific issue of public justice’ (Schaeffer 1980:68).

As a cobelligerent, a person is not joining with people to evangelise them with the Gospel of eternal salvation through Jesus Christ alone. We are joining others for a common cause in dealing with vital cultural issues of public justice in our society.

Dr George O Wood

General Superintendent

What about George Wood and the Mormons?

What is the truth about what George Wood has been doing in his meeting with the Mormon leadership and speaking to students at Brigham Young University? There is an organisation called TruthKeepers that was concerned over George Wood’s association with the Mormons. C H Fisher of TruthKeepers opposed George Wood and his association with the Mormons. In September 2013, Fisher wrote:

AoG General Superintendent George Wood Validates Mormonism

Posted on September 25, 2013 by C.H. Fisher

Assemblies of God “CEO” George Wood recently addressed Mormon students and faculty. After reading the article about his speech I am convinced that he did more to validate Mormonism than he did to identify it as outside of Christianity. One of the most chilling statements in the article (Assembly of God CEO addresses BYU students) is, “Wood showed that God is playing a role in all religions and that Christians are more united than they sometimes think.” It is as if Wood doesn’t recognize Mormonism as a cult. But surely he must know the truth. How long will it be before Mormon evangelists are preaching in A0G churches? How can the AoG stop that from occurring since Wood has set a precedent? The part about “God playing a role” in all religions reveals his ecumenical agenda. It is the same agenda as the heretical and diabolical Emergent Church Movement, i.e., the merger of all religions into one under the auspices of the Roman Catholic Church. What about the next time men in white shirts and black pants, riding bicycles two by two, knock on an AoG adherent’s door? Wood had better hope and pray a weak soul does not answer, especially one who knows that Wood has cast his favor on Mormonism. He will be held accountable for their lives on the Day of Judgment.

It is time for AoG ministers and members to accept the fact that their movement has been infiltrated and seized by emergent heretics that are intent on converting it into the largest New Age denomination in the world. George Wood is obviously a Rick-Warren-style heretic, the friendly face of evil, a beguiling most effective tactic of Satan. Some people may protest my calling George Wood a heretic. I do not do so pejoratively, but as a logical conclusion of his actions and words. I defend my remark by pointing to the fact that we should not be swayed by outward appearances, clever words, or people’s positions. It is tempting to become enamored by the sheep’s clothing, and fail to recognize the evil within. We should also be careful not to be desensitized by the last day’s wickedness that is suffocating our world today. It is obvious to any Spirit-filled believer that Wood is not acting under the auspices of the Holy Spirit. If he is not being led by God, there is only one other entity that could be leading him.

“For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. Romans 8:14 NKVJ)

When will AoG ministers and members take a bold stand? It costs something to stand, and the price can be very heavy. Ministers could be charged by the hierarchy for insurrection and excommunicated. Members might lose their membership. However, those are small prices compared to what the persecuted church is paying in other parts of the world. Complaining about the issue on forums and blogs will not solve the problem. I know people stuck in the apostate Episcopal Church that have been complaining about the degradation for decades, but have done nothing about it. They will complain until the day they die and evil will march onward unmolested, gobbling up souls as it goes. If professing Christians cannot even stop one man from perverting their Movement, how are they going to fare in the really dark days of unprecedented evil dominion? If they compromise now, how far will they compromise then to avoid discomfort and inconveniences?

God must be dealing with many individuals about this, but they are ignoring Him. They would never willingly attend a satanic meeting, but they would allow heretics speak at their meetings, to invade their organization, to dominate them, and to represent them. They did not act when Wood invited heretical Rick Warren to speak at the General Council. Therefore, Wood was not hindered from inviting a pagan to speak at the most recent General Council. Again, there was no measurable resistance. Therefore, he is emboldened to speak favorably at a Mormon meeting. When the next outrage occurs, will they express shock and voice complaints until the shock wears off? Will they then mumble until the next outrage occurs only to react in the same way? Everyone appears to be whistling past the graveyard, hoping it will all blow over and things will return to normal. That is not going to happen. It is a spiritual cancer that cannot be wished or ignored away.

Lack of organized resistance allows and in fact emboldens evil people to commit more evil as they grow in power. Whether it is a nation, organization, or a small group, lack of action is the fodder that evil grows in. Cattle may complain about the treatment they are receiving, but will do little of nothing about it. They outnumber their handlers, but allow themselves to be controlled and harvested. Imagine the same number of lions being herded by a few people into a pen for slaughter. I am reminded of an old adage. “The only thing needed for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing”. Another one that is equally relevant is, “No one could make a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little.” I do not know the source of these quotes, but I recognize the heart.

This was George Wood’s response that was published on the TruthKeepers website of 26 September 2013:

George Wood Explains his Involvement with the LDS

Posted on September 26, 2013 by C.H. Fisher

It was my privilege and opportunity to speak with students last week at Brigham Young University on my faith and family. For those who may have questions regarding my appearance at BYU and meetings with some in the LDS leadership, let me provide some context.

In the greater Salt Lake City area there is an evangelical association called Standing Together. It’s comprised of approximately 100 evangelical churches that in recent years have been reaching out in friendship to LDS leaders and members. Our Assemblies of God pastors and churches in Salt Lake City are involved in Standing Together. Such contacts have produced an openness not previously experienced. Just two weeks before me, Dr. Richard Land, president of Southern Theological Seminary in Charlotte, spoke at BYU. Two weeks after me, Dr. Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville, will speak at BYU. And, it is my understanding that Ravi Zacharias has been invited to return to preach at the Mormon Tabernacle early next year. He has done so previously.

Two years ago the National Association of Evangelicals held a meeting in Salt Lake City. At that time, Standing Together arranged a meeting with approximately 125 or so of us in the governor’s mansion for an address by a top LDS leader, Dr. Jeffrey Holland. That resulted in a conversation and friendship between him and me that ultimately led to my being invited to speak at BYU and also have opportunity to meet with several LDS leaders and a few members of the BYU Law School and Religious Education faculties regarding common concerns: religious liberty, how to work effectively to resist the cultural and secular pressures to push persons of faith out of the public square, the increasing coarseness within secular culture and the pressure that exerts on youth; as well as issues related to abortion, homosexuality, same-sex marriage, and end of life concerns.

I was invited to speak to BYU students on the subject of Faith and Family. There were no restrictions on what I could say. One of the key leaders, knowing my personal testimony, requested that I speak on this subject. Students were not required to attend and gave up their lunch hour to do so. About 400 students crammed into every seat in the auditorium, and the overflow room – twice the size of the auditorium – also filled up with students. For 45 minutes, I spoke freely about how the Pentecostal Movement came to be, how the Assemblies of God arose out of that Movement, how my parents became AG missionaries, miracles in my family including my Dad (through the intercessory prayer of my mother) who was spared from poisoning by Tibetans on the mission field and my sister being healed of near blindness when she was 18. I told how during a revival at Central Bible College she had a vision of Christ on the cross, reached to take blood from the cross to apply to her eyes, but in actual reality took her glasses off and flung them across the platform. When she came out of the vision, she had perfect sight. I talked freely about the Baptism in the Holy Spirit with the initial evidence of speaking in other tongues. I went on then to share my experience of faith, and ended by noting that faith is not subjective but is based on the objective reality of Jesus Christ risen from the dead. The students listened in rapt attention and when I was finished, gave a prolonged ovation. I leave the results to the Lord.

I’m providing for you a quote from one of our AG pastors, Ray Smith, pastor of Salt Lake Christian Center. He was in the audience at BYU.
Dr. Wood,
Thank you so much for your lecture that I was privileged to attend. Your message obviously led by the Holy Spirit was exceptional. I cannot help but intercede for the hundreds of students that were able to hear you talk in their language (Story, Family and Faith) as if you were talking to a group of CBC students. Telling your story of your search for truth and the markers of faith that influence your decisions is, (in my opinion) exactly what they needed to hear. Theology with a personal narrative is so compelling to LDS students. I know that we will see fruit in eternity from your willingness to go out of the box and into the marketplace of the Mormon faith.
The Executive Leadership Team and the Executive Presbytery have been kept fully informed and have approved my willingness to establish these contacts and relationships. I do not pretend to know what the Holy Spirit might be doing within the LDS leadership, but I do believe the Spirit opened this door.

There is much more I could say, but those who trust my leadership will know that I would not have opened this door except the Spirit and our leaders “bade me go.” For those who do not trust my leadership, probably nothing I say will suffice and I simply leave that to the Lord.

There was a release from BYU [Brigham Young University] that some are quoting and I close with reference to that. On the whole the release summarized well my visit, closing with this quote from me, “The whole aspect of the Christian faith, and my personal faith, rests upon whether or not Jesus Christ rose again from the dead.”

There are two brief references in the BYU release that require my clarification.

First, there was no interfaith discussion with the students. The leadership of BYU placed no restrictions on my message to the students and I freely shared about my faith and family. I did have private discussions with several in LDS leadership regarding the differences that separate us doctrinally; but also we discussed where we could work together within the public square on religious liberty and issues of morality.

Second, the BYU release quoted me as saying that “God is playing a role in all religions and that Christians are more united than they sometimes think.” While I do believe that the Holy Spirit is seeking to draw all persons to Jesus, I did not state what was attributed to me, but I do believe that there is common ground on issues facing our country and culture that we can stand united on. If evangelicals, Roman Catholics, LDS and others can stand together on issues of marriage as between a man and woman, right to life, and religious freedom – our country and culture will be better for it.

Finally, I must say that all within the LDS community treated me with utmost kindness and respect. One of their senior leaders said to me, “America needs the Assemblies of God.” I believe that was said most sincerely. I love and pray for the friends I have made within the LDS community over these past two years. I live, pray, and witness in expectation that we will live to see the prophecy of Pentecost fulfilled, that in these last days the Spirit will be poured out on all.

Thank you for your patience and prayers. I trust this explanation is helpful to you. Blessings!

You can read C H Fisher’s response to George Wood’s address at:My Response to George Wood’s Explanation of Involvement with the LDS‘. This is Fisher’s conclusion re George Wood, the Assemblies of God (USA), and the Mormons:

I believe that it is obvious the Holy Spirit was not involved in this event. After two years of involvement with Mormons, Dr. Wood has made some dear friends, bonded with LDS leaders, won their respect, and incited them to believe that they have achieved one of their major goals, acceptance by mainstream Christianity. One could hobnob with a group of atheists in the same manner, speak at their conference, and leave them with the same impression. It all adds up to one thing, i.e., there was no conviction by the Holy Spirit at that meeting. However, Dr. Wood claims that he was led by the Holy Spirit. I find it difficult to believe that a group of people immersed in great darkness, deceived and most likely possessed by demons, would feel comfortable, accepted by, and a kinship with the Holy Spirit. I also doubt that the Holy Spirit would pass up an opportunity to convict such a group of their lostness and bondage. Conviction is the primary work of the Holy Spirit.

And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment: (John 16:8 NKJV)

Although sinners may feel a Christian’s love, acceptance, and compassion for them, they will also feel conviction. I do not believe that it is possible to be anointed by the Holy Spirit without sinners being convicted. Further, I do not believe it is possible for a Spirit-filled believer to speak to a group of deceived and delusional sinners without his or her words being anointed unless the believer has somehow quenched the Holy Spirit. If ones agenda is to gain respect, cause people to feel comfortable and accepted, and to establish a bond of friendship and communion, there will be no conviction in that one’s words. In fact, that agenda is carried out by thousands of Christian preachers every Sunday morning. Some of them, such as Joel Osteen, Rick Warren, Judah Smith, and other pastors of mega churches, are masters of speaking without a hint of conviction. They convert a great number of followers, not of Christ, but of them. Accolades from sinners after one speaks are the hallmark of a dead message, enticing words of man’s wisdom, lacking the demonstration of the Holy Spirit and power.

Dr. Wood apparently believes that he was led by the Holy Spirit to spend two years with an Emergent group currying the favor of the LDS. But remember, this is the same Dr. Wood that invited a New Age guru, Ruth Haley Barton, to speak at the General Council. He is the same AoG leader that promotes Spiritual Formation and its deadly heresy Contemplative Prayer. It is the same Dr. Wood that supports Emergent heretic Rick Warren. This is the Dr. Wood that engineered and ensconced into the AoG an ecumenical agreement with the Roman Catholic Church. Now he joins with an ecumenical/interfaith group to socialize with and give validity to Mormonism. In my opinion, Dr. Wood is in lockstep with the Emergent Church Movement and will continue to carrying out what he believes is God’s agenda to turn the AoG into the largest New Age denomination in the world. His clever response will be sufficient for individuals that need only the skin of a reason to continue supporting him. For the ones that discern by the Holy Spirit, it falls well short of an adequate explanation.

I have asked my pastor friend to provide me with documentation to support his claim from George Wood and the Assemblies of God – USA that  ‘George Wood, who has formed a liaison with Mormons…. GW has now forged a link with Mormons. Yes A/G-USA has gone that far’.

I asked: Has this link denied the Trinitarian faith and the uniqueness of salvation through Christ alone? Has this link with the Mormons denied the deity of Jesus Christ and supported the view that we can become gods (Mormon doctrine)? What evidence does he have that George Wood and the Assemblies of God – USA have denied the fundamentals of the evangelical faith in their ‘liaison’ (his word) with the Mormons?

He has made some strong allegations against George Wood and the USA A/G and their connection with the Mormons. I have asked him to provide me with documentation of this from George Wood and the USA that confirms their denial of fundamentals of the evangelical faith?

A Mormon interview with George Wood

The Mormon publication, Deseret News, published this interview on 24 September 2013,George Wood, head of the Assemblies of God: Flexibility fosters growth’. Was there any emphasis on the fundamentals of the evangelical/Pentecostal faith in this interview? It needs to be remembered that this is the published interview that would need to be consistent with Deseret News policy and LDS doctrine. I could not find any published emphasis on the evangelical fundaments that were significantly different from LDS teaching. These are a few grabs from that interview:

6pointblue-small ‘My parents were pioneer missionaries in China (where he was born in 1943) and Tibet. It has given me a great love for missions and for reaching people who don’t know the Lord’.

6pointblue-small ‘While across the world our doctrine is the same, we have developed a very flexible structure in terms of how the church organizes itself…. We are also very flexible in style of worship’.

6pointblue-small ‘In the U.S. one-third of our people are under the age of 25. Worldwide it is the same. One of the reasons is, while we have stayed true to our understanding of apostolic doctrine, we have been extremely flexible in terms of our structures and worship style and creative in our ways to reach people.

We place a great deal of focus on discipleship and personal experience through … the baptism of the Holy Spirit, where we encourage personal prayer and the laying on of hands from which we expect young people to receive the gift of the spirit evidenced through praying in a language they did not learn, or speaking in tongues’.

There is no firm statement here of salvation through faith in Christ alone, affirmation of the Trinitarian faith and the deity of Christ. It amounts to speculation if we want to assume why there are not such statements. It may be because (1) The context of the interview was not to deal with fundamentals of the faith; (2) George Wood did not make such statements, or (3) George Wood made such statements but those which would conflict with Mormon doctrine were excluded from the published interview. There could be a number of other reasons.

In summary

In promoting an outstanding sermon by Jim Cymbala of Brooklyn Tabernacle online, I got into an unexpected discussion with a pastoral friend who wanted to associate Jim Cambala’s message with an endorsement of General Superintendant George Wood’s (AoG USA) association with Mormons. In opposing Cymbala and Wood, my friend used a genetic logical fallacy, accused me of agreeing with such a view (then backed off, saying the ‘you’ had a generic meaning). He engaged in some fuzzy Christian thinking, in my estimation, in his interaction with me. This short article is designed to demonstrate how Christians ought to quit their fuzzy thinking and get back to transparent communication. I can be guilty of such as well and need to be called to account if I do that.

Sadly, there’s a negative side to Cymbala’s situation with the suicide of Roberta Langella.

Works consulted

Schaeffer F 1980. Plan for Action: An Action Alternative Handbook for ‘Whatever Happened to the Human Race?’ Old Tappan, New Jersey: Fleming H Revell.

The Macquarie dictionary 3rd ed 1997. Delbridge, A; Bernard, J R L; Blair, D; Butler, S; Peters, P & Yallop, C (eds). Sydney, NSW: The Macquarie Library, Macquarie University, Australia.

The Nizkor Project 1991 – 2012. Fallacy: Genetic fallacy (online). Available at: (Accessed 25 October 2013).


[1] This article states that:

The son of missionary parents to China and Tibet, Dr. Wood holds a doctoral degree in pastoral theology from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif., and a juris doctorate from Western State University College of Law in Fullerton, Calif. He did his undergraduate work at Evangel College in Springfield, MO and served the college in several capacities, including being director of spiritual life and student life from 1965-71. Dr. Wood was ordained with the Southern Missouri District in 1967 (‘General Superintendent Dr. George O Wood’, Accessed 25 October 2013).

[2] Steve Camp, ‘The Great Divide’.


Copyright © 2013 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 9 March 2017.

Did Jesus die for the sins of the whole world?

Through the cross

(courtesy ChristArt)

By Spencer D Gear

This discussion has been continuing since the Calvinistic-Arminian debates of the Reformation period. But it is alive and well today. There are a couple Scriptures that stand out as affirming an unlimited atonement (i.e. Christ dying for the sins of every person in the world). These are:

#First John 2:2, ‘He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world’ (ESV).


# Hebrews 2:9, ‘But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honour because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone’ (ESV).

A plain reading of the text indicates that Jesus death is the propitiation (to appease the wrath of God’ for ‘our sins’ (presumably referring to Christians) AND ‘for the sins of the whole world’. Unlimited atonement is the fairly obvious reading of 1 John 2:2, except if one is a Calvinist. Hebrews 2:19 states that Jesus ‘suffering of death’ meant that he did ‘taste death for everyone’. Does everyone mean all the people in the world or only a limited number? That is what is involved in some of this Arminian-Calvinist debate as I found out when interacting on a Christian forum on the Internet.

On Christian Forums, an Arminian started a thread and asked:

If faith is a gift from God exclusively to the elect, and not everyone is elect, then there are some people that have no access to salvation.

I want to ask, if I may, if the Calvinists here on CF agree with this statement?[1]

Calvinists condone God’s being selective and conditional

This is a predictable and accurate response from an Arminian, ‘Calvinists say that this gifting of faith is done so selectively and unconditionally; it’s got nothing to do with anything good or bad that a man might do, they say’.[2]

The response was unsurprising from a Calvinist: ‘That’s because there is no such thing as a man who is good or a man who does anything good’.[3]

God decrees all sin and evil

Humans Evil

(courtesy ChristArt)

I replied to the Arminian:

The plot gets even thicker with some Calvinists.[4] Take the late Edwin Palmer, a Calvinist theologian, who stated that, ‘All the Five Points of Calvinism hang or fall together’ (2010:84). He continued, ‘To emphasize the sovereignty of God even more, it is necessary to point out that everything is foreordained by God’ and

although all things, unbelief and sin included, proceed from God’s eternal decree, man is still to blame for his sins. He is guilty. It is his fault and not God’s….
To emphasize the sovereignty of God even more, it is necessary to point out that everything is foreordained by God. Not only is God omnipotent, so that the nations are to him a drop in the bucket or as a fine coating of dust on weighing scales (Isaiah 40), but he also “works all things according to the counsel of his will” (Eph. 1:11).
It is even biblical to say that God has foreordained sin. If sin was outside the plan of God, then not a single important affair of life would be ruled by God. For what action of man is perfectly good? All of history would then be outside of God’s foreordination: the fall of Adam, the crucifixion of Christ, the conquests of the Roman Empire, the Battle of Hastings, the Reformation, the French Revolution, Waterloo, the American Revolution, the Civil War, two World Wars, presidential assassinations, racial violence, and the rise and fall of nations.
In two instances, the Bible is especially clear in teaching that everything, including sin, is ordained by God: the selling of Joseph and the crucifixion of Christ (Palmer 2010:103, 100, emphasis added).

I find that that kind of statement about the absolute sovereignty of God’s foreordination of sin and evil, by Palmer, has horrific ramifications.

It means that every act of a reprobate in paedophilia, rape, violence of person-to-person, the Holocaust, the Gulag, Nero’s slaughter of Christians, the rape of Christian women fleeing Syria today by Muslim men at check points (according to Barnabas Fund) and every other evil act imaginable by individuals, groups and nations is attributed to the sovereignty of God in decreeing sin and evil. This is not only a reprehensible view – as I understand it – but it is not consistent with Scripture. How is it possible to harmonise Palmer’s perspective of the sovereignty of God who decrees all of the sin and evil in the world, with an appeal to the Scriptures? This especially relates to the character of God, his goodness and justice/righteousness.

See my article: Limited atonement conflicts with God’s goodnes

How would a Calvinist reply?

Surprising Things

(courtesy ChristArt)

It was predictable:

If God doesn’t decree sin, that means sin happens for one of two reasons:

1) God is powerless to stop it;
2) God can stop it, but chooses not to, for no reason whatsoever. Since he didn’t decree it, it means he has no purpose for allowing it to happen. Yet he allows it arbitrarily.

Pick your poison Oz.

I’d prefer to say that God has a purpose for sin, and he uses it to accomplish His purposes, as he “works all things according to the counsel of His own will”.

So which do you prefer? #1 or #2?[5]

Notice his pejorative language to me, ‘Pick your poison Oz’. This flaming language does not help rational discussion. This was my response:[6]

There’s no picking of poison here. That’s a false and defamatory accusation. You don’t seem to be able to tolerate those, like myself, who oppose your view of God decreeing all of the sin and evil in the universe, so what do you do? You make a derogatory comment towards me of telling me: ‘Pick your poison Oz’. That’s horribly insulting!

Please quit your pejorative language towards me!

You don’t seem to be able to differentiate between God’s ordaining all of the sin and evil in the universe (your Calvinism) and God’s permitting sin and evil (my Reformed Arminianism).


John Piper (courtesy Wikipedia)

Dr. OlsonRoger E Olson (courtesy Baylor University)

See Andrew Wilson’s article, ‘Piper and Olson: Does God Ordain All Sinful Human Choices?‘ I endorse Wilson’s conclusion:

So I don’t see any biblical grounds for saying that God ordains all sinful human choices, and I agree with David Bentley Hart (and Roger Olson) that Calvinists often do not distinguish clearly enough between what God ordains and what he allows. (I’ve been asked in the past why I believe ordaining and allowing are different; my usual response is to say, “because they’re different”. When you use two words that have different dictionary definitions – “commanding, giving orders for” versus “permitting” – the burden of proof is on the guy who thinks they mean the same thing, not the guy who thinks they mean different things.) From where I’m standing, the Bible does say that God ordains some sinful choices, but it does not say that God ordains all sinful choices. And if that makes me a woolly, fluffy, Amyraldian, four point, lily-livered, half-baked, big girl’s blouse of a 1536 Calvinist, then so be it.

I recommend the article by Roger E Olson, ‘What’s wrong with Calvinism?‘ (Patheos, March 22, 2013).

Sea God's Will

(courtesy ChristArt)

The Calvinist, advocating God’s decreeing sin and evil, wrote:

If they deserve damnation, I fail to see how anything is wrong with that. He could have saved zero people and sentenced 100% of humanity to damnation, and been just to do so.

Further, your own view is censorious too, because God set up a stipulation for his mercy: belief. He didn’t have to do that. He could have saved everyone, but chose not to. He could have made the stipulation for salvation “be a human being”, but He didn’t. Thus, in your view too, He chose to be selective as to who He lets into heaven.

You act like only Calvinists beleive (sic) God saves some, but not all, when you believe the very same thing.

Please don’t come back and say that ‘none of us deserved anything from God’ because the fact, from a Calvinistic understanding, is that God discriminately, selectively, unconditionally, irresistibly, provides a limited atonement for some, but damns the rest and they cannot do anything about it because it is done ‘selectively and unconditionally’.

The fact that you think all men don’t deserve hell is noted.[7]


Note the invention here. Not once have I ever stated or inferred that I ‘think all men don’t’ deserve hell’. That’s a straw man fallacy that Skala invented to try to discredit me. It’s an under-hand, deceptive tactic that is absolutely false. I do believe all people who do not repent and have faith in Jesus Christ for salvation, will go to hell. Here are a few of my articles dealing with the existence of hell:

3d-red-star-small Torment in OT hell’;

3d-red-star-small Hell and judgment’;

3d-red-star-small Where will unbelievers go at death?

3d-red-star-small Eternal torment for unbelievers when they die’;

3d-red-star-smallWill you be ready when death comes?

3d-red-star-smallRefutation of the Seventh-Day Adventist doctrine of what happens at death’;

3d-red-star-small Immortality of the soul’;

3d-red-star-small Are there degrees of punishment in hell?

I had written to this hot Calvinist who supports TULIP that it also doesn’t sit well with 1 Tim 2:3-4, AND 2 Peter 3:9. His reply was: ‘Your misuse of scripture (the way satan does) is noted’.[8] This is abominable, insulting, inflammatory language. He continued:

Let it be known that Oz and Janx do not think all men deserve hell.

I mean, you can tell this just based on their arguments and objections.

If you truly believed all men deserved hell, why would you object to God letting them go there without first trying to save them or giving them an opportunity to escape?

A judge does not have to give a criminal a “chance of escape” in order for his sentence to be just. He can just outright send the criminal to prison, because it’s what his crimes deserve.[9]

I was pointed in my reply:[10]

This is your invention about my theology. Thus, it is a straw man fallacy. We cannot have a rational discussion when you make a false accusation about my theology.

I DO NOT believe as you accuse that I do not believe all people deserve hell. What I do not believe is your unconditional election, limited atonement and irresistible grace from TULIP when it comes to salvation.

Please quit your false accusations about my theology.

I wrote again:[11]‘My own view is not censorious because I affirm 1 John 2:2 as an accurate reflection of God’s view towards the damned: “He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world”. Please quit your false accusation against my view when you state: ‘The fact that you think all men don’t deserve hell is noted’. Not once have I stated that. I don’t believe that. You have created another straw man logical fallacy.

This is a rather typical Calvinistic reply to get around the content of 1 John 2:2:

John was writing to Jewish Christians.

He is the propitiation for our sins (Jews), and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world (Gentiles).

Thus is does not mean that He is the propitiation for the sins of every individual. It is self evident that Christ did not turn away God’s wrath from every individual. Come on!

You guys need to take courses in logic. You also need to do a biblical study on the word “kosmos” (world). It NEVER means every individual. It ALWAYS is specific to a GROUP of men.[12]

My response to this was:[13]

I have taken courses in English language, Greek language, German language, logic and biblical studies.

Where in 1 John does it state that 1 John is written only for Jews? If that is the case, I’m out – because I’m a Gentile. Please show me from 1 John where this message only applies to Jews. John was correcting false doctrine in relation to the incarnation and he was writing to readers who doubted Jesus divinity because of the false teachers of a teaching like Gnosticism.

You have imposed on 1 John 2:2 a view that is not there, thus making it your eisegesis. You have read into it what it does not say. Your problem of hermeneutics would be easily overcome if you would be open to the fact that God allows human response to receive salvation. John 1:12 applies, ‘But to all who did receive him’. It does not say, ‘To all the elect who did receive him and were irresistibly drawn to him’.

Problem with access or lack of will

One response from a Presbyterian Calvinist was: ‘Someone asked what you mean by access. It’s not an idle question. Calvinists would say that the non-elect have just as much access to salvation as the elect. Our problem isn’t lack of access but lack of will’.[14] Another Calvinist’s response was: ‘Wrong! Jesus died for the Elect only. Therefore, the non-elect have no more access to salvation than Ishmael had to the covenant of salvation’.[15] It is not unusual on a Christian forum on the Internet to get that kind of response from a Calvinist.

Did Jesus die only for the elect or for the whole world? I replied[16]that his statement contradicts Scripture:

5tn_.jpg 1.1K  ‘He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world‘ (1 John 2:2 ESV). It does not say t hat Jesus is a propitiation for the sins of some of the world, but for ‘the whole world’. To make ‘the whole world’ equal only the elect, makes language meaningless.

5tn_.jpg 1.1K  ‘For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time’ (1 Tim 2:5-6)

5tn_.jpg 1.1K ‘For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God (John 3:16-18).

This is crystal clear: God loved the whole world; those who believe are saved and those who do not believe are condemned. ‘Whoever believes’ is God’s invitation. It is not, ‘Whoever  believes and is in God’s unconditional elect’.

5tn_.jpg 1.1K ‘But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honour because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone (Heb 2:9).

Dr. Paul Reiter has summarised the Scriptural teaching on this issue. FOR WHOM DID CHRIST DIE? HE DIED…

  1. For all (1st Timothy 2:6; Isaiah 53:6).
  2. For every man (Heb. 2:9).
  3. For the world (John 3:16).
  4. For the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2).
  5. For the ungodly (Rom. 5:6).
  6. For false teachers (2 Peter 2:1).
  7. For many (Matthew 20:28).
  8. For Israel (John 11:50-51).
  9. For the Church (Eph. 5:25).
  10. For “me” (Gal. 2:20).

A helpful reply

A beneficial, faith-building reply of edification came from a Calvinistic Presbyterian, Hedrick, who began by discussing John’s audience when he wrote 1 John:

First John isn’t Romans. There’s no sign of Jew vs Gentile in the context.

If you want to read limited atonement into this passage, it’s better to use Calvin’s interpretation. He see[s] “you” as the church he was writing to, and the whole world as a global view of believers throughout the world.

However I find the summary in OzSpen’s list,…/#post64319067, persuasive. The problem with these arguments on the extent of the atonement is that they take an individualistic view that is foreign to the NT. In the Gospels and Paul we have a cosmic view of Jesus’ activity. He has defeated Satan, and begun the establishment of God’s rule. At least conceptually, he has atoned for the whole world. That doesn’t mean that every individual is saved. But it means that in principle he has reconciled the whole world. Of course the Kingdom is currently the seed growing secretly, so not everyone is actually participating in the restored Kingdom. But at least in principle, there’s a complete, cosmic victory.

I would say that in the NT view, the extent of the atonement is cosmic, but with an understanding that individuals participate in it by faith. I think there’s a difference between saying that the scope is cosmic and saying that it is universal. Objectively, the Kingdom of God is a cosmic reality. Christ has won the victory. Death is defeated. But at the moment not all individuals are part of the Kingdom. That’s where election applies. God calls us. It may well be that he doesn’t call us equally. Certainly not everyone hears it. But this call is a call to participate in a Kingdom founded on Christ. In the Synoptics, we “enter” the Kingdom. It’s a thing that exists independent of us. John 1 reminds us of Gen 1. God loves the world, and is restoring or recreating it as it was meant to be. 3:16-17 shows both sides of the picture. God loves the world. Jesus came not to condemn anyone, but to save the whole world. But he who believes in him is saved.

I should note that John is also one of the books that at times implies some kind of election, though I doubt it’s double predestination. But for John a cosmic extent of the atonement coexists with election, and in places also with a view that “the world” is hostile territory.[17]

Another replied to the list (above by Dr Paul Reiter) of those for whom Christ died:

Great list, Oz. Here’s some more categories that Christ came to save:

For whom did Jesus come to save?

The sick, the lost, the poor, the unrighteous, the ungodly, and sinners.

Matt 9:12, On hearing this, Jesus said, it is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. Are just the elect “sick”?

Luke 19:10, For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost. Are just the elect “lost”?

Luke 4:18, The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach good news to the poor. Are just the elect poor?

1 Peter 3:18, For Christ died for sins once FOR ALL, the righteous (Christ) for the unrighteous (humanity, all of them), to bring you to God. Are just the elect unrighteous?

Rom 5:6, You see, just at the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Are just the elect ungodly?

Mark 2:17, On hearing this, Jesus said to them, it is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, butsinners. Are just the elect sinners?

Isa 61:1, The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;

If Christ died for just the elect, then reformed theology leads to universalism, because of these verses. That means the non elect are neither sick, lost, poor, unrighteous, ungodly, or sinners. So they don’t need salvation. And Christ wouldn’t need to die for any of them.[18]

Can there be any reconciliation?

Theoretically, yes! Practically, very difficult!

There are at least two issues here:

1. Both Arminians and Calvinists insist that they are obtaining their information from the Scriptures. Calvinists support limited atonement while Arminians support unlimited atonement. It’s an issue of hermeneutics (biblical interpretation). Until there is an open, honest examination of all of the Scriptures relating to the atonement, with both Calvinists and Arminians laying aside their presuppositions to examine the Scriptures as objectively as possible, I can’t see a possibility of reconciliation.

2. There is a propensity for preachers to follow the flow of the denomination to which they belong. I cannot see Presbyterian and Reformed denominations accepting preachers who are Arminian. I cannot see Arminian denominations such as the Wesleyan, Methodist, Nazarene, and some Pentecostals, accepting Calvinistic preachers in the pulpit.

Therefore a stalemate is reached. There is little movement in the Arminian-Calvinistic debate.

Works consulted

Palmer, E H 1980/2010. The five points of Calvinism: A study manual (online), 3rd edn. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books. Part of this book is available free as a Google Book HERE.


[1] janxharris#1, Christian Forums, Soteriology, ‘If faith is a gift from God’, available at: (Accessed 18 October 2013, emphasis in original).

[2] janxharris#71,

[3] Skala#77, ibid.

[4] OzSpen#78, ibid.

[5] Skala#80, ibid.

[6] OzSpen#84,

[7] Skala#87, ibid.

[8] Skala#92,

[9] Skala#93, ibid.

[10] OzSpen#95, ibid.

[11] OzSpen#99, ibid.

[12] The Boxer#106,

[13] OzSpen#115,

[14] hendrick#12,

[15] The Boxer#104,

[16] OzSpen#111,

[17] Hedrick#136,

[18] FreeGrace2#186,, emphasis in original.


Copyright © 2013 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 2 January 2016.

Did John Calvin believe in double predestination?

By Spencer D Gear

Green Salvation Button

What do I mean by double predestination? I mean predestination either to eternal salvation in Christ or eternal damnation for the remainder of humanity. If God predestines the elect, then the automatic inference is that he leaves the rest to damnation, so he predestines the damned to hell.

I’m jumping ahead of myself. What is meant by predestination? My understanding is that the teaching on foreknowledge, election and predestination are closely related. Henry Thiessen explained it:

God foreknew what men [human beings male and female] would do in response to His common grace; and He elected those whom He foresaw would respond positively. Election is followed by foreordination (also called predestination). This is the act of God whereby He pre-registers, as it were, those whom He has chosen. It implies that He has determined to save them: to give them life (Acts 13:48), place them into the position of sons (Eph. 1:5, 11), and conform them to the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29, 30)….

[As applied to redemption], in election God has decided to save those who accept His Son and the proffered salvation, and in foreordination He has determined effectively to accomplish that purpose [Thiessen 1949:157, 345].

The biblical sequence is articulated in Romans 8:29-30 is, ‘For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son…. Those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified’ (ESV).

Charles Hodge (photo courtesy Wikipedia)

Calvinistic theologian, Charles Hodge, explained that there is one meaning of predestination where

it is used in theology generally to express the purpose of God in relation to the salvation of individual men. It includes the selection of one portion of the race to be saved, and leaving the rest to perish in sin. It is in this sense used by supralapsarians, who teach that God selected a certain number of individual men to be created in order to salvation, and a certain number to be created to be vessels of wrath. It is in this way they subordinate creation to predestination as a means to an end (Hodge 1979:321).

Norman Geisler calls himself a moderate Calvinist, although his views in Chosen but Free (Geisler 1999:129) indicate to me that he is closer to Arminianism in his understanding of predestination and free will. His view is that

all Calvinists must believe in some form of double-predestination – the logic of their position demands it. Augustine said of God, ‘As the Supreme Good, he made good use of evil deeds, for the damnation of those whom he had justly predestined to punishment and for the salvation of those whom he had mercifully predestined to grace’ [Augustine n d:100].[1] R. C. Sproul confirms, ‘If there is such a thing as predestination at all, and if that predestination does not include all people, then we must not shrink from the necessary inference that there are two sides to predestination’ [Sproul 1986:141]….

Moderate Calvinists [such as Geisler] call the active predestination of both the elect and the reprobate ‘double-predestination’. Those who maintain it are called hyper-Calvinists (Geisler 2004:564, emphasis in original).

Was John Calvin a double predestination advocate?

John Calvin (image courtesy: Wikipedia)

At the level of the laity, this is sometimes stated this way: ‘Heck even Calvin did not believe in double predestination’.[2]

With this kind of statement, I went looking for John Calvin’s view on double predestination. Did he follow Hentenza’s view or not. This led to the following post by me:[3]

Why did this person misrepresent John Calvin’s teaching like this? This demonstrates that the person did not know what Calvin taught about predestination.

The facts are: Calvin most definitely did believe in double predestination. This is what he wrote and taught:

The predestination by which God adopts some to the hope of life, and adjudges others to eternal death, no man who would be thought pious ventures simply to deny….By predestination we mean the eternal decree of God, by which he determined with himself whatever he wished to happen with regard to every man. All are not created on equal terms, but some are preordained to eternal life, others to eternal damnation; and, accordingly, as each has been created for one or other of these ends, we say that he has been predestinated to life or to death (Institutes of the Christian Religion 3.21.5).

From where did this person get the idea that Calvin did not teach double predestination? Did he get it from another Calvinist?

This quote from the Institutes of the Christian Religion refutes this person’s statement about Calvin. He most definitely did believe in double predestination.

Black and white denial


(image courtesy openclipart)

I provided the exact quote from Calvin to demonstrate that this theologian did believe in double predestination. So what did this person do? He stated:

lol This is a typical Arminian quote mine. You need to keep reading. The term double predestination is actually a pejorative and use to fully twist Calvin’s views of the “election” of the reprobate. It has been used as a synonym for a “symmetrical” view of predestination which sees election and reprobation being worked out in an equally parallel mode of divine operation.

This twisting of double predestination suggests a parallelism of foreordination and predestination by means of a positive symmetry, which results in a positive-positive view of predestination, i.e., God positively and actively intervenes in the lives of the elect to bring them to salvation and in the same way God positively and actively intervenes in the life of the reprobate to bring him to sin.

The classic position of Reformed theology views predestination as double in that it involves both election and reprobation but not symmetrical with respect to the mode of divine activity. A strict parallelism of operation is denied. Rather predestination is viewed in terms of a positive-negative relationship based on God’s knowledge.[4]

This sounded too academically sophisticated for the kind of posts that this person has been making, so I searched online and found that it had been plagiarised. This was my reply:

Why have you engaged in plagiarism here – stealing somebody else’s ideas without giving him credit?

Some of your material here is from R C Sproul on ‘Double” predestination‘.

For the sake of integrity in your posts, I urge you to give credit to your sources when you use another person’s views.[5]

His response was: ‘The majority of my post came from an article given to me by one of my students of my bible class and is not copyrighted. I thought it was well written but did not realize that some of the material came from Sproul. My apologies’.[6] My reply was,

That confirms that you got the information from somebody else and did not give them credit. That also is plagiarism. I am not attacking you, the poster. That is the farthest thing from my mind.

When you misrepresent another person’s views, as you did with John Calvin on double predestination, I’ll draw that to your attention because it is the truth. When will you acknowledge that you were wrong when you stated that Calvin did not believe in double predestination – when he did?[7]

What is plagiarism?

Here is a USA definition from US Legal (accessed 19 October 2013):

Plagiarism Law & Legal Definition

Plagiarism is taking the writings or literary ideas of another and selling and/or publishing them as one’s own writing. Brief quotes or use of cited sources do not constitute plagiarism. The original author can bring a lawsuit for appropriation of his/her work against the plagiarist and recover the profits. Although not normally a crime, a person who plagiarizes is subject to being sued for fraud or copyright infringement if prior creation can be proved. Penalties vary depending on jurisdiction, the charges brought, and are determined on a case by case basis.

The Internet has made plagiarism easier than ever before. From elementary schools to the highest levels of academia, the ease of downloading and copying “untraceable” online information has led to an epidemic of digital plagiarism. Plagiarism detection software now exists and is used in schools to monitor student’s work. If you adopt someone else’s language, provide quotation marks and a reference to the source, either in the text or in a footnote, as prescribed by such publications as Format, The MLA Style Sheet, or another manual of style. Students who commit plagiarism may be subject to grade or disciplinary penalties, which vary by institution.

Intentional or unintentional use of another’s words or ideas without acknowledging this use constitutes plagiarism: There are four common forms of plagiarism:

  • The duplication of an author’s words without quotation marks and accurate references or footnotes.
  • The duplication of author’s words or phrases with footnotes or accurate references, but without quotation marks.
  • The use of an author’s ideas in paraphrase without accurate references or footnotes.
  • Submitting a paper in which exact words are merely rearranged even though footnoted.

Even though I provided information in black and white with a quote from Calvin’s Institutes, this person continued to deny Calvin taught and believed double predestination with responses like these:

6pointMetal-small ‘I am not misrepresenting Calvin’s views. That is for you to prove’.[8]

6pointMetal-small ‘The only thing that you have proved is your ignorance of Calvin’s theology but then again, quote mines only show ignorance anyway’.[9]

6pointMetal-small ‘You posted a quote mine that YOU interpret as meaning that Calvin believed in the pejorative double predestination. I have already addressed this’.[10]

This is what happens when a person’s pet doctrine is challenged with contrary evidence. He was immediately into denial of Calvin’s teaching of double predestination or blaming me for misrepresenting him. I did not misinterpret him. I quoted him exactly. He said Calvin didn’t believe in double predestination.

It doesn’t fit with his established and agreed view of Calvinism. The truth can be disturbing when it is provided and it confronts an accepted doctrine. It is not easy to admit, ‘I was wrong. Thanks for providing that correction. I’ll be able to affirm Calvin’s belief in double predestination when it is raised. Thanks for your research to correct me’. That kind of response was far from his mind.

Is double predestination an Arminian twist?

This person also wrote, ‘There is no Calvinistic view of double predestination. Tis (sic) is an Arminian twist. God does not positively act in the lies of the reprobate to keep them reprobate. God knows that they will not turn from their ways and merely passes them over’.[11]

I replied:[12]

Why do you refuse to believe what John Calvin said about his belief in the doctrine of double predestination? It is not an Arminian twist. It is Calvin’s own teaching. When will you get it?

The title page from the 1559 edition of John Calvin’s Institutio Christianae Religionis

(image courtesy: Wikipedia)

Here the quote is again. The facts are: Calvin most definitely did believe in double predestination. This is what he wrote and taught:

The predestination by which God adopts some to the hope of life, and adjudges others to eternal death, no man who would be thought pious ventures simply to deny….By predestination we mean the eternal decree of God, by which he determined with himself whatever he wished to happen with regard to every man. All are not created on equal terms, but some are preordained to eternal life, others to eternal damnation; and, accordingly, as each has been created for one or other of these ends, we say that he has been predestinated to life or to death (Institutes of the Christian Religion 3.21.5).

I wrote: You are the one who is misrepresenting John Calvin’s teaching when you refuse to accept his belief in and teaching about double predestination. In this one paragraph, he emphasised it twice:

  1. ‘The predestination by which God adopts some to the hope of life, and adjudges others to eternal death’;
  2. ‘each has been created for one or other of these ends, we say that he has been predestinated to life or to death’

Why do you, a Calvinist, refuse to believe what Calvin believed by affirming that God predestines to life and God predestines to death. God predestines to the hope of life and adjudges (predestines) others to eternal death. To deny this is to deny what Calvin taught.

See:Double-Talk From a Double Predestinarian [John Piper’, by J C Thibodaux. The article begins:

Dr. John Piper recently responded to the question, “What did the death of Jesus on the cross accomplish for the non-elect? Anything?” His reply, oddly, raises more questions than it answers. Despite his views on unconditional election and reprobation, Piper frames his answer in terms of God giving those who aren’t chosen a “chance” at salvation. Ted Kaczynski, aka the Unabomber, was identified partially by his unusual, but correct use of an oft-misquoted proverb that’s very applicable here: “You can’t eat your cake and have it too.”

To understand the issue, the reader should know that Piper is a 5-point Calvinist and a supralapsarian (Got Questions 2002-2016).

He believes that whether one is saved or not is strictly up to the choice of God, with no input from a human being  or conditions fulfilled by human beings. His view is that God unchangeably chose or rejected each individual before the world was ever made.

He also believes that Christ didn’t die for the ones that weren’t chosen in any sort of way by which they could be saved through free will (this is commonly called “limited atonement”). Whether one accepts the gospel or not is entirely dependent upon whether he or she has been “regenerated” by God beforehand (per Calvinism, one who is regenerated inevitably will believe the gospel, one who isn’t regenerated never can). With that said, let’s examine Piper’s response.

In one sense, as soon as we sin we should be punished eternally. We shouldn’t get another breath. There should be no reprieve. There should be no time given to us. So clearly then, in some sense, the time given to us is grace. And grace for a sinner requires some kind of payment or purchase or warrant from a holy God. And Christ would be the one who provides that.

So I’m inclined to say, “Yes, the fact that the non-elect, the unbelievers all over the world are still breathing and have another chance to believe is a gift, just like the offer of the gospel is a gift. And that offer is provided by the cross”….

Now here’s the catch. Romans 2:4 says, “Don’t you know that the patience of God is meant to lead you to repentance? But you, by your hard and unrepentant heart, are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when the righteous judgment of God is revealed.”

So if a non-elect person spurns-which they do-they spurn this grace, the grace itself becomes added judgment. Which makes me wonder, “In what sense was it grace?” In some sense it is. It’s a real offer, it’s a real opportunity. But if you spurn it, if you reject it, it backfires and mounts up with greater judgment….

It’s like the more kindness is shown to a person that they resist, then the more wicked they show themselves to be. And the more wicked they show themselves to be, the more judgment falls upon them.

I think the answer is yes. I think real grace, real common grace, real offer of salvation-right now, just watching this-is grace. And if you’re a non-Christian, grace is being offered you at this very moment in my warning you that, if you spurn this, judgment will be greater….

And that’s a gift to you right now that God may be pleased to then use to awaken you to say, “Whoa. I don’t want to multiply my judgment. I want to respond to this moment of grace.”

That’s what I think the upshot of this conversation should be: respond to the grace. You’re alive! There’s still a chance to believe and be saved.

J C Thibodaux concluded with this assessment:

Again, per 5-point Calvinism, if you’re not among those elected to salvation, tough beans. God hasn’t chosen you, Christ didn’t die for you, and the Holy Spirit most certainly won’t regenerate you. You are lost without remedy, condemned already beyond repair, there isn’t a single ray of hope, and you never had a prayer. The accessibility of salvation to you is absolute zero. Nothing. Zilch. Nada. So how can a person to whom salvation isn’t even remotely applicable have any sort of “opportunity” to be saved?

Put even more simply, if Christ didn’t die for the forgiveness of one’s sins in any sense, then there can never be an “opportunity to be saved” for him, because there is no way to be saved unless Christ died to forgive his sins.

Such doublespeak is strong cause to question Piper’s personal theology. If his determinist views are so repugnant that he has to “balance” them with concepts that flatly contradict his doctrine, then he’s essentially embraced cognitive dissonance. If you reject universalism, but believe that God still genuinely offers salvation to all men, then which is more consistent and less convoluted to believe?

1. Christ died provisionally for the sins of all, such that any who believe in Him will be forgiven.

2. Or Piper’s view, where if you’re not one of the elect, you’re given an “opportunity” that you can’t possibly take, to accept an “offer” of salvation from God that isn’t really His will that you accept, just so you’ll have a “chance” to obtain faith that isn’t even accessible to you, wrought by a Savior who didn’t die to forgive your sins, but whose death fortunately did provide “grace” that will inevitably backfire and condemn you even more.

Makes perfect sense. Where do I sign?

Works consulted

Augustine n d. Enchiridion – The handbook on faith, hope and love (online). The Fathers of the Church, New Advent. Available at: (Accessed 19 October 2013).

Geisler, N L 1999. Chosen but free. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Bethany House Publishers.

Geisler, N 2004. Systematic theology: Sin, salvation, vol 3. Minneapolis, Minnesota: BethanyHouse.

Hodge, C 1979 (reprint). Systematic theology, vol 2. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Sproul, R C 1986. Chosen by God. Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

Thiessen, H C 1949. Introductory lectures in systematic theology. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.


[1] The New Advent online edition provides this translation, ‘He used the very will of the creature which was working in opposition to the Creator’s will as an instrument for carrying out His will, the supremely Good thus turning to good account even what is evil, to the condemnation of those whom in His justice He has predestined to punishment, and to the salvation of those whom in His mercy He has predestined to grace’ (Augustine n d).

[2] Christian Forums, Baptists, ‘Calvinist Arminian dialog’ (online), Hentenza#152, available at: (Accessed 19 October 2013).

[3] OzSpen#158,

[4] Hentenza#167,

[5] OzSpen#172,

[6] Hentenza#173, ibid.

[7] OzSpen#175, ibid.

[8] Hentenza#177, ibid.

[9] Hentenza#181,

[10] Hentenza#184, ibid.

[11] Hentenza#201,

[12] OzSpen#211,


Copyright © 2013 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 20 September 2016.

Labor Party wanted to censor Australian mass media

Division of Petrie 2010.png

Division of Petrie (green), within Queensland (courtesy Wikipedia)

By Spencer D Gear

I read in The Australian newspaper online (3 March 2012), “Media fears for freedom as watchdog unleashed“, that

PRINT and online news will come under direct federal government oversight for the first time under proposals issued yesterday to create a statutory regulator with the power to prosecute media companies in the courts.

This historic change to media law would break with tradition by using government funds to replace an industry council that acts on complaints, in a move fiercely opposed by companies as a threat to the freedom of the press.

The proposals, issued yesterday by Communications Minister Stephen Conroy, also seek to widen the scope of federal oversight to cover print, online, radio and TV within a single regulator for the first time.

Bloggers and other online authors would also be captured by a regime applying to any news site that gets more than 15,000 hits a year, a benchmark labelled “seriously dopey” by one site operator….

Greens leader Bob Brown urged the government to establish its new media watchdog so it could enforce standards across print, online, radio and television platforms by the end of the year.

While Fairfax Media said it would comment on the report “in the coming days”, the company’s submission to the Finkelstein inquiry objected to compulsory membership of a media regulator in a statutory scheme.

News Limited chief executive Kim Williams welcomed the report as a substantial work but spoke strongly against the concept of a government regulator.

“The spectre of a government-funded overseer of a free press in an open and forward-looking democracy like ours cannot be justified,” Mr Williams said.

“If print and online media are to continue to be able to robustly question, challenge and keep governments in check, they must remain self-regulated entirely independent of government.”

Family listening to crystal radio in 1920s (courtesy Wikipedia)

Therefore, I wrote to my local Federal MP, Mrs Yvette D’Ath (Labor Party), Member for Petrie, on 5 March 2012 to protest this interference. I wrote out of deep concern over what her Federal Labor Government was planning on doing to censor Australia’s mass media, including the Internet.

That the federal government should even be considering this legislation shows how out of touch it is with the democratic principles on which Australia was founded.

We live in a robust democracy which, up to this point, has freedom of speech. This move by the federal government to censor Australia’s mass media cuts to the heart of our democracy.

This move by your government installs censorship of horrific proportions. I don’t always agree with what the mass media (including the Internet) promotes, but the way to deal with it is not through censorship. Guaranteed freedom of speech is the way forward.
This is draconian, antiquated, communist-style, proposed legislation that would be more at-home in Stalin’s Soviet Union and Mao’s China.

Is this a statement about where the Australian Labor government is heading?

Australian Labor Party logo.svg

Courtesy Wikipedia

As my local member of federal parliament, I urged Mrs D’Ath to kill this proposed legislation by crossing the floor and not voting for it. I asked her to advise me what she would be doing about supporting or rejecting this legislation. However, that would have been a waste of time asking as the Labor Party would vote in a block according to its policy. It would not have proposed this legislation if it were not harmonious with Labor Party policy.

Visualization of Internet routing paths

A visualization of routing paths through a portion of the Internet (Wikipedia).


Copyright © 2013 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 3 November 2015.

Is it wrong to surrender to God?

By Spencer D Gear

Free Submission

(courtesy ChristArt)

Is it wrong to say that a Christian should ‘surrender to God? I met a fellow online who seemed to want to stir up the folks. He wrote:

I see you have not heeded The Spirit’s call for you to speak with integrity and honesty. No NT Scripture ever speaks of “surrendering to God.” It is the same manner in which no Scripture ever speaks of “Giving our heart to Jesus.”
“Surrender” and “giving” one’s self are forms of Paganism. Jesus is the only qualified offering to be placed upon the Alter which The Father uses.

I need not test you. I need only compare your ideas and words to the standard of Scripture, God’s Plumbline. Lol.[1]

Is that accurate or not? Does the Bible not speak of surrendering to God? I checked this out with the Greek of James 4:7 and responded to him.[2]

He uses something stronger than surrender

The New Testament uses an even stronger term than ‘surrender’ as in James 4:7, ‘Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you (ESV).

‘Submit’ is the aorist, middle-passive imperative of hupotassw. Hupotassw is an old verb that is also a military term that means ‘to range under’ (Robertson 1933:52) or as a middle-passive verb here, ‘subject oneself, be subjected or subordinated, obey’ (Arndt & Gingrich 1957:855).

This fellow wanted to quibble over ‘surrender’ not being in the Bible, but I pointed out to him that hupotassw is a much stronger term with its command to subordinate himself or be subordinated to God Himself.

Therefore, submitting to God, being subject to him, and obeying him are not forms of paganism, but are a requirement of all true believers in Christ.

In James 4:7-10, there are 10 aorist tense imperative verbs (commands). These are (according to the ESV): submit, resist, draw near, cleanse, purify, be wretched, mourn, weep, let … be turned, and humble yourselves. Desmond Hiebert’s commentary gets to the heart of the meaning of these commands:

They constitute an urgent call to repentance, to correct their blameworthy position before God. These imperatives, like curt military commands, demand incisive action. They reflect the seriousness with which James viewed their double-mindedness…. “Be subject to God” as an aorist imperative conveys a sense of urgency, demanding immediate compliance. The compound verb (hupotagete), consisting of the preposition hupo, “under,” and tassw, “to order, place, station,” demands that they accept their proper station under God as their captain. The passive [voice] is to be understood in the sense of the middle [voice],[3] calling for their voluntary subordination to God and His will. God does not want forced obedience. Thus, they must express their recognition of God as supreme in their lives. This subordination, so hard for the proud and self-reliant, is essential to cure their worldliness (Hiebert 1979:260-261).

Romans 8:7 sends a parallel message, ‘For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot’ (ESV).

Submit = surrender in the English language

What is the English meaning of ‘surrender’? The Macquarie Dictionary (1997:2131) gives one of the meanings of ‘surrender’ as: ‘To yield (something) to the possession or power of another’. That’s parallel with what is intended with the meaning of ‘submit’, which the Macquarie Dictionary gives as meaning, ‘to yield in surrender, compliance, or obedience’ (1997:2110, emphasis added). Therefore, from the Macquarie dictionary’s definitions, surrender means submit. They are synonymous terms.

There is no point in a Christian getting his nappy in a knot, trying to prove that the New Testament doesn’t teach that Christians should ‘surrender to God’. The facts are that Christians are commanded to ‘submit to God’, which in the English language, means ‘surrender to God’.

It is nit-picking to say that the Bible does not speak of ‘surrender to God’. Why? Because the Bible uses a stronger term: ‘Submit to God’ and ‘submit to God’s law’. Therefore, this fellow was building a false proposition by saying that it is wrong that a Christian should ‘surrender to God’. It is called building a straw man logical fallacy (The Nizkor Project). We can’t have a logical discussion when a person builds a false case. The Nizkor Project’s definition of a straw man logical fallacy is, ‘The Straw Man fallacy is committed when a person simply ignores a person’s actual position and substitutes a distorted, exaggerated or misrepresented version of that position’.

The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The fact is: The Bible does teach that Christians should surrender to God because they are commanded to submit to God.

Submit = surrender

Works consulted

Arndt, W F & Gingrich, F W 1957. A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature.[4] Chicago: The University of Chicago Press (limited edition licensed to Zondervan Publishing House).

Hiebert, D E 1979. The Epistle of James: Tests of a living faith. Chicago: Moody Press.

The Macquarie dictionary 3rd ed 1997. Delbridge, A; Bernard, J R L; Blair, D; Butler, S; Peters, P & Yallop, C (eds). Sydney, NSW: The Macquarie Library, Macquarie University, Australia.

Robertson, A T 1933. Word pictures in the New Testament: The General Epistles and the Revelation of John, vol 6. Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman Press.


[1] Christian Forums, Christian Apologetics, ‘Why covet the gifts of the Spirit?’, Stegley#63, available at: (Accessed 10 October 2013, emphasis added).

[2] I incorporated the following in OzSpen#75, ibid.

[3] The middle-passive voice is the same conjugation of the verb in NT Greek.

[4] This is ‘a translation and adaptation of Walter Bauer’s Griechisch-Deutsches Wörtbuch zu den Schriften des Neuen Testaments und der übrigen urchristlichen Literatur’ (4th rev & augmented edn 1952) (Arndt & Gingrich 1957:iii).


Copyright © 2013 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 3 November 2015.

Limited atonement conflicts with God’s goodness


(image courtesy

By Spencer D Gear

What do Calvinists mean when they support the doctrine of limited atonement or particular redemption? Was there absolutely no possibility for Hitler or a multitude of reprobates to be redeemed? Who created all of the evil in the world? Was that God or someone else?

Did Jesus die for Hitler and all of the other evil monsters in the world over the last 20 centuries, including domestic violence perpetrators and paedophiles? Did God decree all of the evil in the world, including the Holocaust, Gulag, Pol Pot’s and Idi Amin’s atrocities? Was Jesus’ atonement only designed for a limited number of people throughout history and the rest are damned to hell for eternity – damned by God himself?

Here are a few samples of Reformed teachers who promote limited atonement or particular redemption and what they understand it means:

A. David Steele & Curtis Thomas

Christ’s redeeming work was intended to save the elect only and actually secured salvation for them. His death was a substitutionary sacrifice of the penalty of sin in the place of certain specified sinners. In addition to putting away the sins of His people, Christ’s redemption secured everything necessary for their salvation, including faith, which united them to Him. The gift of faith is infallibly applied by the Spirit to all for whom Christ died, thereby guaranteeing their salvation” (Steele & Thomas 1976:17)

The Scriptures that they use to support this view are in Steele & Thomas (1976:40-47). They include this scriptural support from Steele & Thomas (1976:40-47):

A. The Scriptures describe the end intended and accomplished by Christ’s work as the full salvation (actual reconciliation, justification, and sanctification) of His people.

     1. The Scriptures state that Christ came, not to enable men to save themselves, but to save sinners.

  • Matthew 1:21: “… she will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
  • Luke 19:10: “For the Son of man came to seek and to save that which was lost.”
  • II Corinthians 5:21: For our sake he [God] made him [Christ] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
  • Galatians 1:3, 4: Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father.
  • I Timothy 1:15: The saying is sure and worthy of full accept­ance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. And I am the foremost of sinners.
  • Titus 2:14: . . . who gave himself for us to redeem us from all iniquity and to purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds.
  • I Peter 3:18: For Christ also died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit.

    2. The Scriptures declare that, as the result of what Christ did and suffered, His people are reconciled to God, justified, and given the Holy Spirit who regenerates and sanctifies them. All these blessings were secured by Christ Himself for His people.

    a. Christ, by His redeeming work, secured reconciliation for His people…. Etc, etc.

[The full list of Scriptures from Steele & Thomas (1976:40-47) has been transcribed HERE.]

George ‘Lee’ Nickles (2001) gives a brief summary of some of these Scriptures used to support this view (based on the 1963 edition of Steele & Thomas 1976). They stated:

Probably the most difficult to agree with. Also called Particular atonement.

Only the elect will be saved.

I. Christ does the saving

    1. Matthew 1:21

    Who does the saving?

    2. I Peter 3:18

    Who does the saving?

II. Christ is the basis of salvation (reconciliation, justification, sanctification)

    3. Colossians 1:21-22

    What is reconciliation?

    4. II Corinthians 5:18-19

    How are we reconciled to God?

    5. Romans 3:24-25

    How are we justified? What is justification?

    6. Galatians 3:13

    What is redemption? How are we redeemed to God?

    7. Titus 2:14

    What does Christ do for us? (2 things)

III. Only some will be saved

    8. John 10:24-29

    Does everyone follow Christ?

    9. John 17:1-3, 6-9

    Who does Christ pray for?

    10. John 17:24

    What does Christ want for his people?

IV. Concerns about “world” and “all”

    11. John 3:16

    What does “world” refer to here?

B. J I Packer:

Definite redemption, sometimes called “particular redemption,” “effective atonement,” and “limited atonement,” is an historic Reformed doctrine about the intention of the triune God in the death of Jesus Christ. Without doubting the infinite worth of Christ’s sacrifice or the genuineness of God’s “whoever will” invitation to all who hear the gospel (Rev. 22:17), the doctrine states that the death of Christ actually put away the sins of all God’s elect and ensured that they would be brought to faith through regeneration and kept in faith for glory, and that this is what it was intended to achieve. From this definiteness and effectiveness follows its limitedness: Christ did not die in this efficacious sense for everyone. The proof of that, as Scripture and experience unite to teach us, is that not all are saved (Packer 1993:137).

C. R C Sproul:

I prefer the term definite atonement to the term limited atonement (though it turns tulip into tudip). The doctrine of definite atonement focuses on the question of the design of Christ’s atonement. It is concerned with God’s intent in sending Jesus to the cross….

Christ’s atonement does not avail for unbelievers…. Some put it this way: Christ’s atonement is sufficient for all, but efficient only for some. This, however, does not really get at the heart of the question of definite atonement…. The Reformed view holds that Christ’s atonement was designed and intended only for the elect. Christ laid down His life for His sheep and only for His sheep. Furthermore, the Atonement insured salvation for all the elect (Sproul 1992:1975-176).

R. C. Sproul (cropped).jpg

R C Sproul (Wikipedia)

D. Did John Calvin, the founder of Calvinism, believe in limited atonement?[1]

Did John Calvin (AD 1509-1564) support limited atonement? In the early days of his writing when he was aged 26, he completed the first edition of The Institutes of the Christian Religion. In these Institutes, he wrote:

I say with Augustine, that the Lord has created those who, as he certainly foreknew, were to go to destruction, and he did so because he so willed. Why he willed it is not ours to ask, as we cannot comprehend, nor can it become us even to raise a controversy as to the justice of the divine will. Whenever we speak of it, we are speaking of the supreme standard of justice (Institutes 3.23.5).

Here Calvin affirmed that God willed the destruction of unbelievers. Calvin continued:

Their perdition depends on the predestination of God, the cause and matter of it is in themselves. The first man fell because the Lord deemed it meet that he should: why he deemed it meet, we know not. It is certain, however, that it was just, because he saw that his own glory would thereby be displayed (Institutes 3.23.8)

While this description is tied up with Calvin’s view of double predestination, it is linked with the doctrine of limited atonement this way: How could God predestine unbelievers to eternal damnation, thus guaranteeing no hope of eternal salvation, while offering unlimited atonement? Unconditional election to damnation – which is the corollary of unconditional election to salvation – would make unlimited salvation useless to those who are deterministically damned. That is the logical connection, as I understand it.

I appreciate that there are some evangelical preachers and teachers who do not believe in eternal hell for the damned. See

clip_image004 Hell No!: A Fundamentalist Preacher Rejects Eternal Torment by Charles Gillihan;

clip_image004[1]Can a Loving God Send People to Hell?’ Debate: William Lane Craig vs. Ray Bradley;

clip_image004[2]Clark Pinnock’s thoughts on hell

I am not of that view. See my articles:

clip_image005What is the nature of death according to the Bible?

clip_image005[1] 2 Thessalonians 1:9: Eternal destruction;

clip_image005[2]Hell & Judgment;

clip_image005[3] Hell in the Bible;

clip_image005[4]Should we be punished for our sins?

clip_image005[5]Paul on eternal punishment;

clip_image005[6]Where will unbelievers go at death?

clip_image005[6]Torment in Old Testament hell? The meaning of Sheol in the OT;

clip_image005[7]Eternal torment for unbelievers when they die;

clip_image005[6]Will you be ready when your death comes?

clip_image005[8]What happens at death for believer and unbeliever?

clip_image005[9]Does eternal destruction mean annihilation for unbelievers at death?

clip_image005[10]Refutation of Seventh-Day Adventist doctrine of what happens at death;

clip_image005[11]Near-death experiences are not all light: What about the dark experiences?

However, even if one were to disbelieve in hell, the problem is still there for the Calvinist regarding God’s unfairness (injustice). If God makes salvation freely available to only a section of humanity and the rest are left to die in their sins, God’s goodness is violated by this injustice. But I’m jumping ahead of myself. That exposition is below.

Roger Nicole’s article on “John Calvin’s view of the extent of the atonement”, indicates that Calvin did not believe in limited atonement, but that it was a doctrine originated by Calvinists following Calvin. Calvin’s first edition of The Institutes was in Latin in 1536 and this was published in a French edition in 1560.

John Calvin did progress in his thinking when he wrote his commentaries on the Bible later in life. His first commentary was on the Book of Romans in 1540 and his commentaries after 1557 were taken from stenographer’s notes taken from lectures to his students. He wrote in his commentary on John 3:16:

Faith in Christ brings life to all, and that Christ brought life, because the Heavenly Father loves the human race, and wishes that they should not perish….

And he has employed the universal term whosoever, both to invite all indiscriminately to partake of life, and to cut off every excuse from unbelievers. Such is also the import of the term World, which he formerly used; for though nothing will be found in the world that is worthy of the favor of God, yet he shows himself to be reconciled to the whole world, when he invites all men without exception to the faith of Christ, which is nothing else than an entrance into life (bold emphasis added; italics emphasis in original).

Thus John Calvin himself is very clear. He believed in unlimited (or universal) atonement.

E. What do some online Christians think of limited atonement?

Colossians 1:20


There is a considerable amount of back and forth between Arminians and Calvinists on the largest evangelical online forum that I have found, Christian Forums. I asked someone online at this Forum, ‘And you want me to believe that Christ preached and taught limited atonement? I do not support that view’.[2] The response was: ‘It’s the only view you can hold, since, obviously, nobody is burning in hell for sins that Christ already paid the penalty for’.[3]

My reply was: Limited atonement is not the only view that I can hold. I, as a Reformed Arminian, do not hold to limited atonement. I differentiate between Christ’s atonement SUFFICIENT for the whole world but EFFICIENT only for the elect.
I consider that the New Testament teaches these two doctrines in John 3:16; 1 Tim 2:4; and Acts 16:31. ‘The Lord is not slow to fulfil his promise as some count slowness, but is patient towards you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance’ (2 Peter 3:9 ESV).

I support the view in which Ron Rhodes has presented a summary case for unlimited atonement in, ‘The Extent of the Atonement—Limited Atonement versus Unlimited Atonement‘.

The response on the Forum was:

Unless you are a universalist, it is the only position you can hold, for the reasons I explained before. Otherwise, you believe in a conditional atonement, which is accessed when people meet that condition; after that, the atonement is limited to whoever accepted it. No one in hell has had their sins atoned for, otherwise they wouldn’t be burning for them.

“The Lord is not slow to fulfil his promise as some count slowness, but is patient towards you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. (2 Peter 3:9 ESV).” The context here is “us-ward,” as the KJV puts it, or “towards you,” in this case, the church. It is not referring to the scoffers and the damned reserved for judgment in the previous verses.

That the atonement is not conditional, but is effectually carried through to all the elect, is self-evident from Christ’s reply to the unbelievers in John 6.

“But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him. And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father.”
(John 6:64-65)

This cannot be so if the atonement is conditional and is not given effectually to the elect, or that it is foreknowledge of who would obey and believe which determined their membership in the elect. Otherwise Christ’s reply would be nonsensical.[4]

My reply, in quoting verses provided by Matt Slick (a Calvinist) of CARM, was:[5]

Jesus died for everyone:

  • John 1:29, “The next day he saw Jesus coming to him, and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!'”
  • John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.”
  • John 4:42, “and they were saying to the woman, ‘It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves and know that this One is indeed the Savior of the world.'”
  • 1 Tim. 4:10, “For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers.”
  • 1 John 2:2, “and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.”
  • 1 John 4:14, “And we have beheld and bear witness that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world.”

The supporter of limited atonement came back with:

Matt Slick of CARM is a Calvinist, just FYI. Nothing is more common for the Jews, in their writings, to limit the “world” to particular persons, or to even use the word “world” when they are referring only, perhaps, to the Gentiles, or on other occasions, to the Jews. That atonement is limited only to believers is not a point that can be disputed, as if self-evident from the other verses CARM provides, and my own. Of course, we (you and I) dispute on how they come to believe. In which case, you would need to reconcile the verses from, say, John 6, and others like them, with your view of a conditional atonement. Since if it is only “offered,” but not effected, we cannot say that some do not believe because it was not given them to believe.[6]

I didn’t come down in the last shower!clip_image006 I know Matt Slick is a Calvinist. However, even he admits that there are Christians on both sides of this debate. And he provided verses to support unlimited atonement (quoted above).

I further emphasised[7] that Calvinists who support limited atonement need to make ‘world’ = particular persons in the world. Arminians take the word ‘world’ at face value, meaning the whole world. We know that this is what the Scriptures intend, based on 2 Peter 3:9, ‘The Lord is … not wishing any should perish’ (ESV). This is not saying ‘The Lord … is wishing many to perish’ (through double predestination).

However, what does this verse say? First John 2:2, “and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.”

This is to refute the idea that the sins of the world = sins of part of the world. First John 2:2 is very clear that Christ Himself was the propitiation for the sins of the WHOLE world and NOT PART of the world.

First John 4:10 makes it clear how this applies as Christ’s atonement is sufficient for the whole world but efficient for those who believe, when it states that Jesus is ‘the Savior of all men [male and female], especially of believers.”

I find that unlimited atonement is the biblical teaching. Christ’s death is sufficient for the whole world, but it only applies to ‘whoever believes in Him’ (John 3:16).

However, I cannot see us agreeing on this point, even though I find the Scriptures to be clear about Christ’s atonement being sufficient for all but efficient only for those who believe.

This person did respond to me.[8] Did you notice what he did in his response to me?[9] He did not answer my post and verses I gave, with the interpretation I provided. He simply went ahead and gave his interpretation of a few verses. He ran off with his own agenda and did not respond specifically to my objections. What is he doing when he does this?

If he wants me to take notice of what he writes, he needs to stop using this kind of straw man logical fallacy. I will not engage with him further if he continues to use this tactic of writing what he wants to say and ignoring my objections. We cannot have a logical conversation when someone uses logical fallacies. For a good overview of logical fallacies, see The Nizkor Project.

clip_image007This person wrote:

First, if Christ is the propitiation for every single human being’s sins, then it means that He has atoned for the sins that they are still being punished for. It does not say that he is the possible propitiation. It says that he is, at that time, for every person in the world. This cannot be true, since only believers are saved. Unless you are a Universalist, this cannot be the verse for you. Also, your view is illogical, since it supposes that Christ died for sinners already in hell, or those who would go to hell, and millions of people who never heard the Gospel and never would, in all ages, whom the scripture regards as entirely under the guilt of sin and damned.

Arminians take these verses at “face value,” and contradict the whole of scripture and common sense. You also didn’t attempt to reconcile these views with that verse from John 6, either.

Next, let’s also put this verse side by side the parallel passage:

1 John 2:2, “and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.”[10]

My response was:[11]

Let’s try just one verse in this post and my response to your statement regarding 1 John 2:2 which you have quoted.

One of the most prominent Greek exegetes from the 20th century – and a Southern Baptist – Dr A T Robertson, provided this exegesis of 1 John 2:2: ‘For the whole world (peri holou tou kosmou). It is possible to supply the ellipsis here of twn hamartiwn (the sins of) as we have it in Heb. 7:27, but a simpler way is just to regard “the whole world” as a mass of sin (5:19). At any rate, the propitiation by Christ provides for salvation for all (Heb. 2:9) if they will only be reconciled with God (II Cor. 5:19-21)’ (Robertson 1933:209-210).

Lutheran commentator, R C H Lenski, prefers the translation of ‘expiation’ to ‘propitiation’ for the Greek, hilasmos. However, his exegesis is:

John advances the thought from sins to the whole world of sinners. Christ made expiation for our sins and thereby for all sinners. We understand kosmos [world] in the light of John 3:16 and think that it includes all men [male and female], us among them, and not only all unsaved men [male and female]. John does not add this “but also” as a matter of information for us regarding other people but as assuring us that, because Christ is expiation (qualitative, without the article; like dikaion) “in regard to the whole world,” we are included.

Augustine and the Venerable Bede offer the interpretation that “the whole world” = ecclesia electorum for totum mundum dispersa, which Calvin seconds…. But see II Peter 2:1: the Lord bought even those who go to hell. “The whole world” includes all men [male and female] who ever lived or will live (Lenski 1966:400).

Second Peter 2:1 reads, ‘But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction’ (ESV, emphasis added).

As for John 6:64-65, this interpretation that I have provided in no way conflicts with these two verses which read: ‘But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) 65 And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father”'(ESV).
These verses harmonise beautifully with Jesus’ foreknowledge of those who would believe (as opposed to unconditional election). This is obvious from the words, ‘Jesus knew from the beginning’ (his foreknowledge) those who would believe, even Judas who would betray him. The Father grants belief (faith) to those who come to him.

This fellow who was opposing me online, did run off with a long-winded reply that did not address the matters I raised, in my view.[12]

(courtesy ChristArt)

F. Prevenient grace

In the above kind of discussion, irresistible grace and unconditional election are often supported by Calvinists. It is at times like this that I enter into the Arminian discussion on prevenient grace. As to prevenient grace, this is my understanding of its meaning (which I support). Roger Olson, an Arminian, stated that prevenient grace ‘is the powerful but resistible drawing of God’ towards the unbeliever. ‘Prevenient grace’ is not a biblical term, “but it is a biblical concept assumed everywhere in scripture” (Olson 2006:159).

The Remonstrants,[1] Article 4 (as the earliest Arminians promotion of resistible grace), described it this way:

That this grace of God is the beginning, continuance, and accomplishment of all good, even to the extent that the regenerate man himself, without prevenient or assisting, awakening, following and cooperative grace, can neither think, will, nor do good, nor withstand any temptations to evil; so that all good deeds or movements that can be conceived must be ascribed to the grace of God in Christ. But with respect to the mode of the operation of this grace, it is not irresistible, since it is written concerning many, that they have resisted the Holy Spirit (Acts 7, and elsewhere in many places).

The Remonstrants understood that there was only one way to eternal salvation and that was achieved when God’s grace came to human beings before, during and after justification. Why was God’s grace needed in this way? It was because, as the Remonstrants stated, that no human being could ‘think, will, nor do good’ unless they received God’s prevenient or assisting grace.

Steve Lemke put it this way, when speaking of the Remonstrants’ response to Calvinism in Article 4 (above):

The Remonstrants taught that the only way for anyone to be saved is for God’s grace to come before, during, and after justification because even the best-intentioned human being can “neither think, will, nor do good” apart from God’s grace.[13] They even went so far as to say that all good in “any way that can be conceived must be ascribed to the grace of God in Christ.”[14] But the question is, Why is this saving grace of God not appropriated or experienced by all persons? Has God failed in some way? Does God not truly love all persons? Does God not desire the salvation of all persons? No. The Remonstrants refused to blame this failure on God but rightly assigned this failure to the rebellion and resistance of fallen human beings. God created human beings with the free will either to cooperate with God and receive His grace or to reject finally God’s gracious gift…. Human beings would have no salvation at all apart from the grace of God; but God refuses to actualize that salvation in the life of anyone who continually resists God’s grace, refuses to humbly receive it, and finally rejects it’ (Lemke 2010:110).

G. How Calvinists tame the language of ‘irresistible grace’[15]

R. C. Sproul (1992:169-170), a Calvinist, describes irresistible grace as ‘effectual calling’. For Sproul,

the effectual call of God is an inward call. It is the secret work of quickening or regeneration accomplished in the souls of the elect by the immediate supernatural operation of the Holy Spirit…. Effectual calling is irresistible in the sense that God sovereignly brings about its desired result…. irresistible in the sense that God’s grace prevails over our natural resistance to it.

We need to understand that the language of ‘effectual calling’ is a way to soften the language of ‘irresistible grace’, with the latter coming with overtones of God forcing a person to receive salvation. Lemke (2010:112) considers that ‘some contemporary Calvinists seem to be a little embarrassed by the term “irresistible grace” and have sought to soften it or to replace it with a term like “effectual calling”’.

While Sproul (1992), Spurgeon (1856) and Packer (1993:152-153) use the language of ‘effectual calling’, other Calvinists are more up front in emphasising that grace that brings about salvation cannot be refused – people are unable to resist. Packer’s language is that ‘in effectual calling God quickens the dead’, people understand the gospel through the Holy Spirit enlightening and renewing the hearts of elect sinners. They embrace this ‘truth from God, and God in Christ becomes to them an object of desire and affection’ as they are now regenerate and have been enabled ‘by the use of their freed will to choose God and the good’ and receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour (Packer 1993:153). Spurgeon (1856) said, ‘If he shall but say, “To-day I must abide at thy house,” there will be no resistance in you…. If God says “I must,” there is no standing against it. Let him say “must,” and it must be’.

Steele, Thomas and Quinn (2004:52-54), as Calvinists, are more to the point, using the language that ‘the special inward call of the Spirit never fails to result in the conversion of those to whom it is made’. It is issued ‘only to the elect’ and the Spirit does not depend on ‘their help or cooperation’. In fact, ‘for the grace which the Holy Spirit extends to the elect cannot be thwarted or refused, it never fails to bring them to true faith in Christ’. That sounds awfully like God forcing the elect to come to Christ and by implication, leaving the non-elect to damnation.

John Piper and the staff at Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, MN, do not use the softly, softly language. They state that irresistible grace

does not mean that every influence of the Holy Spirit cannot be resisted. It means that the Holy Spirit can overcome all resistance and make his influence irresistible…. The doctrine of irresistible grace means that God is sovereign and can overcome all resistance when he wills.[16]

However, there is a paradoxical statement in the Bethlehem Baptist statement in that only a few paragraphs after making the above statement, it stated:

Irresistible grace never implies that God forces us to believe against our will. That would even be a contradiction in terms. On the contrary, irresistible grace is compatible with preaching and witnessing that tries to persuade people to do what is reasonable and what will accord with their best interests.[17]

It sure is a contradiction in terms and the Bethlehem Baptist Church has given that contradiction by affirming that ‘the Holy Spirit can overcome all resistance’, yet God never ‘forces us to believe against our will’.[18] Sounds awfully like a Bethlehem Baptist contradiction to me.

Irresistible grace has been described as:

When God calls his elect into salvation, they cannot resist. God offers to all people the gospel message. This is called the external call. But to the elect, God extends an internal call and it cannot be resisted. This call is by the Holy Spirit who works in the hearts and minds of the elect to bring them to repentance and regeneration whereby they willingly and freely come to God. Some of the verses used in support of this teaching are Romans 9:16 where it says that “it is not of him who wills nor of him who runs, but of God who has mercy“; Philippians 2:12-13 where God is said to be the one working salvation in the individual; John 6:28-29 where faith is declared to be the work of God; Acts 13:48 where God appoints people to believe; and John 1:12-13 where being born again is not by man’s will, but by God’s.[19]

H. One of the major problems with the doctrine of limited atonement

Good Witness

(courtesy ChristArt)

This also applies to the Calvinistic understanding of unconditional election and irresistible grace as well. These three doctrines cut to the heart of God’s love, goodness and justice. In my understanding, limited atonement renders impotent God’s love for the world; it attacks the goodness of God; and it makes God’s justice look like injustice for the damned – those who are elected to damnation by God.

Roger Olson has stated that the pride of place or first principle of Arminian construction is ‘the Arminian vision of the character of God as discerned from a synoptic reading of Scripture using the revelation of God in Jesus Christ as the hermeneutical control’. He explained that ‘all Arminians object to is belief that God controls human choices – especially evil and sinful ones! And Arminians do not see any way to embrace divine determinism (monergism) and avoid making God the author of sin and evil…. Arminianism does not object to the idea that God controls human choices and actions through the power of persuasion’ (Olson 2006:98).

1. God as the author of sin (i.e. rape, murder, rebellion)

Olson drew my attention to this quote from Calvinistic theologian, Edwin Palmer’s[20] 1972 publication, The five points of Calvinism (see bibliography for details): ‘The Bible is clear: God ordains sin’ and ‘although all things – unbelief and sin included – proceed from God’s eternal decree, man is still to blame for his sins’. Olson’s citation was to Palmer (1972:85, 103, 106, in Olson 2006:99, n. 4). I examined my hard copy of Palmer (1972) and the pages stated by Olson and these exact quotes were nowhere to be found in those stated pages given by Olson. I did find the following different quotes in my 1972 edition of Palmer in which he stated that ‘whereas the Arminian denies the sovereignty of God, the hyper-Calvinist denies the responsibility of man’ (1972:85). His response, under a heading of Calvinism, ‘a paradox’, was that

the Calvinist accepts both sides of the antimony. He realizes that what he advocates is ridiculous. It is simply impossible for man to harmonize these two sets of data. To say on the one hand that God has made certain all that ever happens, and yet to say that man is responsible for what he does? Nonsense! It must be one or the other, but not both. To say that God foreordains the sin of Judas, and yet Judas is to blame? Foolishness! Logically the author of The Predestinated Thief[21] was right. God cannot foreordain the theft and then blame the thief (Palmer 1972:85).

Palmer than claimed that ‘the Calvinist freely admits that this position is illogical, ridiculous, nonsensical, and foolish’. He appealed to Paul in 1 Cor 1:18 to support this view: ‘The word of the cross is to them that perish foolishness’ (Palmer 1972:85) as

the Greeks seek after wisdom and logic, and to them the Calvinist is irrational. The Calvinist holds to two apparently contradictory positions.[22] He says on the one hand, God has foreordained all things. Then he turns around and says to every man, ‘Your salvation is up to you. You must believe. It is your duty and responsibility. And if you don’t, you cannot blame God. You must blame only yourself. But if you do believe, remember that it was God who worked in you both to believe and to do according to His good pleasure (Phil. 2:12, 13). ‘If you do press on to lay hold on the goal of life, remember that Christ laid hold on you that you might lay hold on it’ (Phil. 3:12). In the face of all logic, the Calvinist says that if man does anything good, God gets all the glory; and if man does anything bad, man gets all the blame. Man can’t win (Palmer 1972:85).

However, Palmer’s theology is inconsistent in that he claims that while ‘all things – unbelief and sin included – proceed from God’s eternal decree, man is still to blame for his sins’. However, in the same publication he states that ‘our first parents, being seduced by the subtilty[23] and temptation of Satan, sinned in eating the forbidden fruit. This their sin God was pleased, according to His wise and holy counsel, to permit, having purposed to order it to His own glory’ (Palmer 1972:103, emphasis added). How can it be that ‘unbelief and sin … proceed from God’s eternal decree’ but this means that God chooses ‘to permit’ the Fall into sin by ‘our first parents’? This is a conflicting interpretation. Again he has deconstructed ‘God’s eternal decree’ to mean, ‘to permit’. Honestly, this is Palmer’s promotion of contradiction. To make decree synonymous with permit, prostitutes the English language.

Thus, Calvinistic theologian, Edwin Palmer, has admitted to the content of the very Calvinistic theology to which Arminians object regarding God’s creation of sin and God’s decreeing all of the evil in the world.

Palmer wrote: ‘The Bible is clear: God ordains sin’ (Palmer 2010:83). This is a later edition of Palmer’s 1972 publication. Although Edwin Palmer died in 1980, here in this article I am citing from and enlarged third edition that is indicated as Palmer (2010) in which the quotes by Olson appear (Olson 2006:99). However, this 2010 edition was published first in 1980 (Palmer 2010:4). Palmer stated that, ‘All the Five Points of Calvinism hang or fall together’ (2010:84). He continued, ‘To emphasize the sovereignty of God even more, it is necessary to point out that everything is foreordained by God’ and

although all things, unbelief and sin included, proceed from God’s eternal decree, man is still to blame for his sins. He is guilty. It is his fault and not God’s….

To emphasize the sovereignty of God even more, it is necessary to point out that everything is foreordained by God. Not only is God omnipotent, so that the nations are to him a drop in the bucket or as a fine coating of dust on weighing scales (Isaiah 40), but he also ‘works all things according to the counsel of his will (Eph. 1:11).

It is even biblical to say that God has foreordained sin. If sin was outside the plan of God, then not a single important affair of life would be ruled by God. For what action of man is perfectly good? All of history would then be outside of God’s foreordination: the fall of Adam, the crucifixion of Christ, the conquests of the Roman Empire, the Battle of Hastings, the Reformation, the French Revolution, Waterloo, the American Revolution, the Civil War, two World Wars, presidential assassinations, racial violence, and the rise and fall of nations.

In two instances, the Bible is especially clear in teaching that everything, including sin, is ordained by God: the selling of Joseph and the crucifixion of Christ (Palmer 2010:103, 100).

This kind of statement about the absolute sovereignty of God’s foreordination of sin and evil, by Palmer, has obnoxious ramifications. It means that every act of a reprobate in paedophilia, rape, violence of person-to-person, the Holocaust, the Gulag, and every other evil act imaginable by individuals, groups and nations is attributed to the sovereignty of God in decreeing sin and evil. This is not only a reprehensible view, but it is not consistent with Scripture. How is it possible to harmonise Palmer’s perspective of the sovereignty of God who causes (decrees) all of the sin and evil in the world, with an appeal to the Scriptures?

Edwin Palmer (2010) has added this section: Twelve Theses on Reprobation[24]

This focus of Calvinistic theology is torn apart when faced with the character of God as the following exposition investigates.

2. Paedophilia, rape, the Holocaust: God’s justice and goodness.

Love and justice

(courtesy ChristArt)

Roger Olson has nailed the major problems for Calvinists: ‘This is why Arminians object to belief in the exhaustive divine determinism in any form; it cannot avoid making God the author of sin and evil, and the logical conclusion must be that God is not wholly good even though Calvinists and other monergists disagree’ (Olson 2006:99).[25] Then Olson affirms one of the Arminian vs Calvinistic differences:

Arminianism begins with God’s goodness and ends by affirming free will. The latter follows from the former, and the former is based on divine revelation; God reveals himself as unconditionally and unequivocally good, which does not exclude justice and wrathful retribution. It only excludes the possibility of God sinning, willing others to sin or causing sin’ (Olson 2006:99).

Olson could not be clearer:

There is no example within humanity where goodness is compatible with willing someone to do evil or sin and suffer eternally for it. Arminians are well aware of Calvinist arguments based on the Genesis narrative where Joseph’s brothers meant his captivity for evil but God meant it for good (Gen 50:20). They simply do not believe this proves that God ordains evil that good may come of it. Arminians believe God permits evil and brings good out of it. Otherwise, who is the real sinner?

Arminianism is all about protecting the reputation of God by protecting his character as revealed in Jesus Christ and Scripture…. God does not have to be fair. Fairness is not necessary to goodness. But love and justice are necessary to goodness, and both exclude willing determination of sin, evil or eternal suffering (Olson 2006:100, emphasis in original).

Palmer’s Calvinistic promotion of God as the author of sin and evil, runs aground on God’s attributes of goodness, justice and love. Let’s examine these attributes from God’s perspective and using some Calvinistic theologians to explain these attributes.

3. God’s goodness

There’s a marvellous verse that begins Psalm 136, ‘Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever’ (Ps 136:1 NLT).

So the Lord God is ‘good’ and his ‘faithful love’ continues ‘forever’. What does it mean to say that God is good?

a. Calvinist theologian, Charles Hodge

Hodge wrote of the goodness of God:

Goodness, in the Scriptural sense of the term, includes benevolence, love, mercy, and grace. By benevolence is meant the disposition to promote happiness; all sensitive creatures are its objects. Love includes complacency, desire, and delight, and has rational beings for its objects. Mercy is kindness exercised towards the miserable, and includes pity, compassion, forbearance, and gentleness, which the Scriptures so abundantly ascribe to God. Grace is love exercised towards the unworthy. The love of a holy God to sinners is the most mysterious attribute of the divine nature (Hodge 1979:1.427)

Thus it is impossible, based on that definition, for the God of goodness to decree to create all evil and suffering in the world and for God to be the good God and responsible for all the reprobate monstrosities that happen in our world. God’s goodness does not equate with God being the creator of sin and evil. And this is the Calvinist, Charles Hodge, speaking.

b. J I Packer, Calvinist theologian

Packer claimed of particular redemption that

this sovereign redemptive love is one facet of the quality that Scripture calls God’s goodness (Ps. 100:5; Mark 10:18), that is, the glorious kindness and generosity that touches all his creatures (Ps. 145:9, 15-16) and that ought to lead all sinners to repentance (Rom. 2:4). Other aspects of this goodness are the mercy or compassion or pity that shows kindness to persons in distress by rescuing them out of trouble (Pss. 107, 136) and the long-suffering, forbearance, and slowness to anger that continues to show kindness toward persons who have persisted in sinning (Exod. 34:6; Ps. 78:38; John 3:10-4:11; Rom. 9:22; 2 Pet. 3:9). The supreme expression of God’s goodness is still, however, the amazing grace and inexpressible love that shows kindness by saving sinners who deserve only condemnation: saving them, moreover, at the tremendous cost of Christ’s death on Calvary (Rom. 3:22-24; 5:5-8; 8:32-39; Eph. 2:1-10; 3:14-18; 5:25-27) [Packer 1993:46].

How does Packer, the Calvinist’s, description of God’s goodness line up with Palmer’s understanding that all sin and evil are decreed by God? Packer aligns God’s goodness with:

  • Particular redemption (limited atonement); the obvious corollary is particular eternal damnation. The latter hardly adds up to a demonstration of God’s goodness.
  • God’s glorious kindness and generosity to all people and living things. How can that be for those eternally damned and suffering eternal punishment? It cannot work for those who do not make it to eternal bliss through salvation. The Calvinistic God in action represents deterministic, censorship of those who are not included in the redeemed. Goodness as discrimination is not a consistent application of God’s goodness to all people.
  • He wrote of mercy, compassion and pity in demonstrating kindness to people in distress and rescuing them from trouble. That doesn’t work for those who are eternally damned by God or left out of God’s eternal salvation. That is not a manifestation of His goodness, but of evil. This attribute of rescuing people in trouble does not apply to the reprobate. It can’t, in the Calvinistic system.
  • Amazing grace and inexpressible love and kindness by saving sinners who deserved condemnation? What about the multiple millions throughout human history who are now experiencing torment? That’s a violation of God’s goodness, especially since they are unconditionally damned (the necessary consequence of the Calvinistic unconditional election, limited atonement and irresistible grace).
  • Saving sinners through the cost of Christ’s death on Calvary. Wait a minute! Multiple millions since the first century have experienced eternal loss and were not included in the limited atonement provided by the Calvinistic God. This is not a demonstration of God’s goodness, but of God’s contemptible prejudice against them. That’s my understanding of how the God of Calvinism is not the good God of the majority of humanity for those unconditionally elected to eternal condemnation and for whom there was no atonement through Christ’s death.

c. Louis Berkhof, Calvinist theologian

Of the goodness of God, Berkhof wrote:

This is generally treated as a generic conception, including several varieties, which are distinguished according to their objects. The goodness of God should not be confused with His kindness, which is a more restricted concept. We speak of something as good, when it answers in all parts to the ideal. Hence in our ascription of goodness to God the fundamental idea is that He is in every way all that He as God should be, and therefore answers perfectly to the ideal expressed in the word “God.” He is good in the metaphysical sense of the word, absolute perfection and perfect bliss in Himself. It is in this sense that Jesus said to the young ruler: “None is good save one, even God,” Mark 10:18. But since God is good in Himself, He is also good for His creatures, and may therefore be called the fons omnium bonorum [source of all good gifts]. He is the fountain of all good, and is so represented in a variety of ways throughout the Bible. The poet sings: “For with thee is the fountain of life; in thy light shall we see light,” Ps. 36:9. All the good things which the creatures enjoy in the present and expect in the future, flow to them out of this inexhaustible fountain. And not only that, but God is also the summum bonum, the highest good, for all His creatures, though in different degrees and according to the measure in which they answer to the purpose of their existence. In the present connection we naturally stress the ethical goodness of God and the different aspects of it, as these are determined by the nature of its objects (Berkhof 1941:70).

How is Berkhof’s understanding of God’s goodness compatible or otherwise with the Calvinistic theology of limited atonement? Berkhof believes God’s goodness means this:

  • ‘It answers in all parts to the ideal… He is in every way all that He as God should be’.
  • ‘Absolute perfection and perfect bliss in Himself’.
  • ‘Source of all good gifts’.
  • ‘All the good things which the creatures enjoy in the present and expect in the future’ come from God’s goodness ‘for all His creatures’.
  • He is ‘the highest good for all His creatures’.
  • The stress is on the ethical goodness of God.

I find it impossible to match these points regarding God’s attribute of goodness with the Jesus of Calvary who only died for a portion of the human race, leaving the rest to experience eternal damnation. God is thus not the source of good gifts for the lost. Yes, all creatures, redeemed and reprobate, enjoy good things in their human life but the expectation of damnation for a large hunk of the human race is hardly an experience of God’s ethical goodness. How can it be ethical goodness in operation to damn people eternally?

Now let’s check out a few Arminian or Arminian-leaning theologians for their definitions of God’s goodness.

d. Theologian Henry Thiessen, whose views harmonise with Arminians

Thiessen explained:

In the larger sense of the term, the goodness of God includes all the qualities that answer to the conception of an ideal personage; that is, it includes such qualities as His holiness, righteousness, and truth, as well as his love, benevolence, mercy, and grace. It is probably in this broad sense that Jesus said to the young ruler, “Why callest thou me good? None is good save one, even God” (Mark 10:18). In the narrower sense, however, the term is limited to the last four qualities named (Thiessen 1949:130)

Thiessen proceeded to explicate these four qualities of God’s goodness, the first being,

(i) The love of God

God is Love

(courtesy ChristArt)

By the love of God we mean that perfection of the divine nature by which God is eternally moved to communicate Himself. It is, however, not a mere emotional impulse, but a rational and voluntary affection, having its ground in truth and holiness and its exercise in free choice. This love finds its primary objects in the several persons of the trinity…. True love necessarily involves feeling, and if there be no feeling in God, then there is no love of God.

The Scriptures frequently testify to the love of God. They speak of him as “the God of love” (2 Cor. 13:11) and declare him to be “love” (1 John 4:8, 16). It is his nature to love. He is in contrast with the gods of the heathen, who hate and are angry; and of the god of the philosopher who is cold and indifferent. The Father loves the Son (Matt. 3:17), and the Son loves the Father (John 14:31). God is said to love the world (John 3:16; Eph. 2:4), his ancient people Israel (Deut. 7:6-8, 13; Jer. 31:3), and his true children (John 14:23). He also loves righteousness (Ps. 11:7) and justice (Isa. 61:8)[26] (Thiessen 1949:131-132).

God’s love, from this Arminian view, is extended to all (as in John 3:16; 1 John 2:2; 2 Peter 3:9), but not in the Calvinistic TULIP theology. God is not eternally moved to communicate his saving truth to the damned in Calvinistic theology. Why would God want to converse with those who are not unconditionally elected, included in the limited atonement, and for whom he does not extend irresistible grace? It would be a waste of God’s resources to extend himself to communicate with those who would never ever respond. Why wouldn’t they respond? Because they are eternally predestined not to respond! That is my understanding of Calvinism. This is far removed from the actions of the loving God who is absolutely good to all of his creation. Calvinism sounds more like the discriminatory action of a deterministic dictator who hates a large chunk of humanity and doesn’t want them in his eternal presence.

The second quality of God’s goodness according to Thiessen is,

(ii) The benevolence of God

Thiessen stated:

By the benevolence of God we mean the affection which He feels and manifests towards His sentient and conscious creatures. It is due to the fact that the creature is His workmanship; He cannot hate anything that He has made (Job 14:5), only that which has been added to His work. Sin is such an addition. The benevolence of God is manifested in His care for the welfare, and is suited to the needs and capacities, of the creature. “Jehovah is good to all, and His tender mercies are over all His works… Thou openest Thy hand, and satisfieth the desire of every living thing” (Ps 145:9, 15, 16). See also Job 38:14; Ps. 36:3; 104:21; Matt. 6:23. It also extends to men as such: “He left not himself without witness” (Acts 14:17); even to men as sinful: “He sends the sunshine and the rain upon both good and bad” (Matt. 5:45)[27] (Thiessen 1949:131).

This view is contrary to the Calvinistic view of God being responsible for all of the sin and evil in the world. We note Thiessen’s understanding of the decrees of God:

Most of the difficulties concerning the decrees disappear with the proper apprehension of the nature of the decrees. They are not, as some erroneously suppose, inconsistent with free agency; they do not take away all motives for human exertion; and they do not make God the Author of sin…. We believe that the decrees of God are His eternal purpose (in a real sense all things are embraced in one purpose) or purposes, based on His most wise and holy counsel, whereby He freely and unchangeably, for His own glory, ordained, either efficaciously or permissively, all that comes to pass (Thiessen 1949:147, emphasis added).

Those emphasised words are critical. The decrees of God are designed by God efficaciously or permissively. As Thiessen explained,

There are two kinds of decrees: efficacious [which means to produce the desired effect] and permissive. There are things which God purposes that He also determines efficaciously to bring about; there are other things which He merely determines to permit…. Even in the case of permissive decrees, He overrules all for His own glory…. The decrees embrace all that comes to pass. They include all the past, the present, and the future; they embrace the things which He efficaciously brings about and the things which He merely permits. Surely, this conception of the decrees removes most of the difficulties that are often associated with them (Thiessen 1949:148).

Thiessen explains that the events that happen in our universe are ‘neither a surprise nor a disappointment to God, nor the result of His caprice or arbitrary will, but the outworking of a definite purpose and plan of God, is the teaching of Scripture’ (Thiessen 1949:148). Thiessen quotes these verses to support this teaching:

‘The Lord of hosts has sworn: “As I have planned, so shall it be, and as I have purposed, so shall it stand….26 This is the purpose that is purposed concerning the whole earth, and this is the hand that is stretched out over all the nations. 27 For the Lord of hosts has purposed, and who will annul it? His hand is stretched out, and who will turn it back?’ (Isa 14:24, 26-27); ‘making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ…. In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will’ (Eph 1:9, 11).

The eternal nature of these decrees is noted in Ephesians 3:11, ‘This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord’.

So God, in his eternal purposes has permitted sin to enter the world through human beings, but God has not decreed such evil as it would make God the originator and perpetrator of sin and evil – according to the Calvinistic scheme. Such is contrary to the holiness, goodness and righteousness/justice of God. The goodness of benevolence that God has manifested to all human beings is that they are given free will to choose to obey or disobey God and that God did not decree that people would sin. Human beings, starting with Adam, chose to disobey. It was not decreed by God that Adam should disobey God and that sin should infect the entire human race. It was Adam’s choice and he was acting on our behalf. We would have made the exact same decision if we had been there.

It is as William G T Shedd has stated, ‘Sin is no part of creation, but a quality introduced into creation by the creature himself’ (in Thiessen 1949:153). This revolt by human beings against the will of God cannot be associated with God as the cause of sin as James 1:13-14 teaches, ‘Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”, for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire’. There you have the key to temptation and sin by human beings, ‘by his own desire’, or as the New Living Translation puts it, ‘Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away’ (James 1:14).

God declared in Ezekiel 18:23: “Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign Lord. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?” Notice the language, ‘When they turn’ from their wicked ways. Too often, we hear Calvinists say that the damnation of the non-elect is ‘the good pleasure of His will’. But here, God states explicitly that He takes no pleasure in damning anyone but prefers that they turn from sin and live. How this idea fits into the Calvinist scheme is not at all clear.

Thiessen asks this penetrating question: ‘How could He [God] be the Author of sin and then condemn man to an endless hell for doing what He caused him to do?’ (Thiessen 1949:153). Olson affirmed the Arminian position, contrary to Calvinism: ‘Arminius’s main concern was to avoid making God the author of sin’ (quoting William Witt) and ‘to put it bluntly, for Arminius, God could not foreordain or directly or indirectly cause sin and evil even if he wanted to (which he would not), because that would make God the author of sin. And God’s good and just nature requires that he desires the salvation of every human being. This is completely consistent with Scripture (1 Tim 2:4; 2 Pet 3:9)’ (Olson 2006:103).

What, then, is the origin of sin? How did it enter the universe when we understand God as an absolutely good and benevolent God? Arminius, contrary to Calvinism, expounded this as ‘the cause of sin’, i.e. Adam’s first sin:

The efficient cause of this sin is two fold. The one immediate and near. The other remote and mediate.

(1) The former is Man himself, who, of his own free will and without any necessity either internal or external, (Gen. iii. 6,) transgressed the law which had been proposed to him, (Rom. v. 19,) which had been sanctioned by a threatening and a promise, (Gen. ii. 16, 17,) and which it was possible for him to have observed (ii, 9; iii, 23, 24).

(2.) The remote and mediate efficient cause is the Devil, who, envying the Divine glory and the salvation of mankind, solicited man to a transgression of that law. (John viii. 44.) The instrumental cause is the Serpent, whose tongue Satan abused, for proposing to man these arguments which he considered suitable to persuade him. (Gen. iii. 1; 2 Cor. xi. 3.) It is not improbable, that the grand deceiver made a conjecture from his own case; as he might himself have been enticed to the commission of sin by the same arguments. (Gen. iii. 4, 5.) (Arminius 1977:1.481).

Thus, the biblical data is consistent with the Arminian view that God did not create or decree that first sin, but in his permissive will he allowed for human beings to break the law of God, commit the first sin and so infect the entire human race. The Bible is very clear about that: ‘Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned’ (Rom 5:12). This is consistent with God’s attribute of goodness. It is not God who decreed sin, but it was God who permitted Adam to sin and the sin infection came to the entire human race because of one man’s sin. Ephesians 2:3 confirms that the Ephesian Christians are ‘by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind’.

A third quality of God’s goodness, according to Thiessen, is

(iii) The mercy of God

Thiessen explained:

By the mercy of God we mean, his goodness manifested towards those who are in misery or distress. Compassion, pity, and loving kindness are other terms in Scripture that denote practically the same thing. Mercy is an eternal, necessary quality in God as an all perfect being; but the exercise of it in a given case is optional. To deny the freeness of mercy is to annihilate it; for if it is a matter of debt, then it is no longer mercy…. The Scriptures represent God as “rich in mercy” (Eph. 2:4) and as “full of pity [compassion] and merciful” (James 5:11).[28] He is said to be merciful toward Israel (Ps. 102:13), toward the Gentiles (Rom 11:30f.), and toward all that fear him (Ex. 20:2; Luke 1:50)[29] and seek His salvation (Isa. 55:7; Luke 1:72) [Thiessen 1949:131-132].[30]

What does it mean for reprobate people who are in distress because of their sin? If God provides atonement only for a certain section of humanity (the elect), he cannot manifest his goodness – through mercy – to the entire human race, including those who are eternally damned. The Arminian view of God’s mercy is more in line with the biblical message than that of Calvinism.

Bread from God

(courtesy ChristArt)

There’s a fourth quality to God’s goodness that Thiessen identifies;

(iv) The grace of God

By the grace of God we mean the goodness manifested toward the ill-deserving. Grace has respect to sinful man as guilty, while mercy has respect to him as miserable.[31] The exercise of grace, like that of mercy, is optional with God. He must be holy in all his actions; he may or may not show grace to a guilty sinner…. The Scriptures show that the grace of God is manifested toward the natural man: (a) In his forbearance and long-suffering delay of the punishment of sin (Exod. 34:6; Rom. 2:4; 3:25; 9:22; 1 Pet. 3:20; 2 Pet. 3:9,15) and (b) in His provision of salvation, the Word of God, the convicting work of the Spirit, the influence of God’s people, and prevenient grace. This is the common grace of God (1 John 2;2; Hosea 8:12; John 16:8-11; Matt 5:13, 14; Titus 2:11).

They also show that His grace is especially manifested towards those who respond to prevenient grace: (a) In their election and foreordination (Eph. 1:4-6), (b) their redemption (Eph. l:7, 8), (c) their salvation (Acts 18:27), (d) their sanctification (Rom. 5:21; Titus 2:11, 12), (e) their preservation (2 Cor. 12:9), (f) their service (Heb. 12;28), and (g) in their final presentation (1 Pet. 1:13). This is God’s special grace[32] (Thiessen 1949:132, emphases in original).

God’s grace toward the undeserving is evident to all, from an Arminian perspective, but only to a select minority of those for whom there is limited atonement in the Calvinistic theology. The Arminian teaching, in my understanding, is more consistent with Scripture in accurately upholding the grace of God

e. Arminian theologian, H Orton Wiley

Christian Theology -<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /> By: H. Orton Wiley</p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /> <p>

H Orton Wiley (

Wiley explained goodness, as an attribute of God:

The goodness of God is that attribute by reason of which God wills the happiness of His crea­tures. Perfection as we have shown, is the absolute ex­cellence which God has in Himself; goodness is that ex­cellence which moves God to impart being and life to finite things apart from His divine essence, and to com­municate to them such gifts as they have capacity to re­ceive. Goodness is generally expressed by the Hebrew word chesedh, and by the Greek words  agathosune or chrestotes and such like terms. The goodness of God ad intra [towards the inside, i.e. internally] belongs to the Holy Trinity, in which the Blessed Three eternally communicate to each other their infinite richness. In this sense, goodness is eternal and neces­sary. The goodness of God ad extra [in an outward direction] is voluntary, and refers primarily to His benevolence which may be de­fined as that disposition which seeks to promote the happiness of His creatures. Schouppe defines it as “the constant will of God to communicate felicity to His crea­tures, according to their conditions and His own wisdom.” It is related to love, but love is limited to respon­sive persons or to those capable of reciprocation, while goodness applies to the whole creation. Not a sparrow is forgotten before God (Luke 12:6). The word is applied to the whole creation in the dawn of its existence. And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good (Gen. 1:31). The positive declarations of Scripture concerning the goodness of God are numerous and convincing. God said to Moses, I will make all my goodness pass before thee (Exod. 33:19); and again, The Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth (Exod. 34:6). The psalmist seems to take delight in meditating upon the goodness of God. Surely goodness and mercy shall fol­low me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever (Psalm 23: 6). I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living (Psalm 27: 13). O how great is thy goodness, which thou hast laid up for them that fear thee (Psalm 31: 19). The goodness of God endureth con­tinually (Psalm 52: 1). They shall abundantly utter the memory of thy great goodness, and shall sing of thy right­eousness (Psalm 145: 7). Isaiah mentions the great goodness toward the house of Israel (Isa. 63: 7) and Zechariah voices the exclamation, For how great is his goodness, and how great is his beauty! (Zech. 9: 17). In the New Testament the Apostle Paul speaks of the goodness of God as leading to repentance (Rom. 2:4); and in the same epistle mentions the goodness and severity of God as apparently the constituent elements of the divine holiness [Rom. 11:22].[33] In Gal. 5:22 and Eph. 5:9 goodness is mentioned as a fruit of the spirit (Wiley 1940:362-363, emphasis in original).

God’s goodness, based on this definition, deals with what God wills for the happiness of human beings. Eternal damnation through limited atonement thus violates God’s attribute of his goodness and how it functions in the external world because it does not lead to the happiness of creatures. It leads to the damnation of a large portion of humanity.

f. Methodist and Arminian theologian, Thomas C Oden

Oden wrote:

The psalmists delighted in meditating on the goodness of God (Pss. 1:2; 77:12). For “The goodness of God endureth continually” (Ps. 52:1). “Thou, O God, in they goodness providest for the poor” (Ps. 68:10). “How great is thy goodness” (Ps. 31:19). The same divine goodness is celebrated in the New Testament as leading to repentance (Rom. 2:4) and providing the gifts and fruits of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22; Eph. 5:9).

The divine goodness is that attribute through which God wills the happiness of creatures and desires to impart to creatures all the goodness they are capable of receiving….

God is not only good in himself, but wills to communicate this goodness to creatures. Not merely possessing goodness, but communicating it to others, is characteristic of Scripture’s attestation of God. This may be viewed in the light of triune teaching. For within the Godhead, there is an eternal communication of the Father’s benevolent self-existence and life to the Son by eternal generation, even as the Father and Son communicate the effulgence of divine glory to each other and to creation…. God’s goodness is wholly voluntary – not imposed upon God by something else….

Divine goodness profoundly qualifies all other divine attributes, for there is no divine power apart from its being benevolent. There is no divine justice that could ignore what is good. There is no truth of God that is not good for creatures. The being of God encompasses every excellence that can properly belong to the One eternal, personal Spirit who is incomparably good, undiminished by defects, uncorrupted by evil motives and unsurpassable in holiness….

God’s goodness corresponds with, yet transcends, the best conceptions of moral good of which we are capable….

[In the goodness of God], the varied themes of divine reliability, veracity, and benevolence have been constantly and necessarily interwoven with the theme of the love of God. As divine goodness is the bridge between God’s holiness and God’s love, so does divine love constitute the aim, end, and zenith of all divine attributes (Oden1987:116-117).

Notice some of Oden’s descriptions of the goodness of God and how they do not apply to Calvinistic limited atonement (or unconditional election, or irresistible grace).

  • ‘God wills the happiness of creatures and desires to impart to creatures all the goodness they are capable of receiving’. This cannot be applied to those who are damned eternally through limited atonement. That would make happiness = reprobation with eternal suffering. An abominable thought!
  • ‘There is no divine power apart from its being benevolent’. This is false when applied to limited atonement. Those sent to eternal perdition for lack of receiving Christ’s atonement, do not experience the goodness of God through benevolent divine power. They receive evil from God. But that is the fundamental error of TULIP coming to light through these violations of the goodness of God
  • ‘There is no divine justice that could ignore what is good’. Yes there is if one believes in TULIP, with application here to limited atonement. Divine justice does evil to the reprobate according to the Calvinistic view of particular atonement.
  • ‘There is no truth of God that is not good for creatures’. There most certainly is if one is not included in limited atonement.
  • ‘The being of God encompasses every excellence that can properly belong to the One eternal, personal Spirit who is incomparably good, undiminished by defects, uncorrupted by evil motives and unsurpassable in holiness’. That’s not the case for those who are left out of salvation through unconditional election, limited atonement and irresistible grace. These TULIP characteristics again shatter the goodness of God. They make goodness equal badness and doing sinful evil.
  • ‘God’s goodness corresponds with, yet transcends, the best conceptions of moral good of which we are capable’. That’s not according to the Calvinistic limited atonement.
  • ‘[In the goodness of God], the varied themes of divine reliability, veracity, and benevolence have been constantly and necessarily interwoven with the theme of the love of God’. Not so with the Calvinistic doctrines of salvation that prostitute the teaching on the goodness of God.
  • ‘As divine goodness is the bridge between God’s holiness and God’s love, so does divine love constitute the aim, end, and zenith of all divine attributes’. That’s if one is an Arminian in theological understanding of the biblical material, but it most definitely gets a fail grade in the examination of the biblical teaching on eternal salvation.

We remember what Edwin Palmer, the Calvinist, stated: ‘All the Five Points of Calvinism hang or fall together’ (Palmer 2010:84). With the ULI violations of the goodness of God, this should cause Calvinists to reconsider their false teaching on ULI of TULIP and its conflict with the goodness of God.

Evangelical theologian, Norman Geisler, stated:

All Calvinists believe in some form of irresistible grace: Strong Calvinists believe grace is irresistible on the unwilling, and moderate Calvinists [where he identifies himself][34] believe it is irresistible on the willing…. But in view of God’s onmibenevolence [i.e. goodness], it follows that grace cannot be irresistible on the unwilling, for a God of complete love cannot force anyone to an act against his will. Forced love is intrinsically impossible: A loving God can work persuasively, but not coercively (Geisler 2003:370, emphasis in original).

Other fundamental attributes of God also come into conflict with limited atonement (and unconditional election and irresistible grace). These are:

4. God’s righteousness and justice.

a. Henry C Thiessen – an Arminian perspective

Thiessen summarised the biblical material on these attributes:

By the righteousness and justice of God we mean that phase of God’s holiness which is seen in his treatment of the creature. Repeatedly, these qualities are ascribed to God (2 Chron. 12:6; Ezra 9:15; Neh. 9:33; Isa. 45:21; Dan. 9:14; John 17:25; 2 Tim. 4:8; Rev. 16:5). In virtue of the former [the righteousness of God] He has instituted moral government in the world, imposed just laws upon the creatures, and attached sanctions thereto. In virtue of the latter, he executes his laws through the bestowal of rewards and punishments. The distribution of rewards is called remunerative justice, and is mentioned in such Scriptures as the following: Deut. 7:9-13; 2 Chron. 6:15; Ps. 58:11; Matt. 25:21; Rom. 2:7; Heb. 11:26. The infliction of punishment is called punitive justice [the expression of divine wrath] and is mentioned in such Scriptures as these: Gen. 2:17; Exod. 34:7; Ezek. 18:4; Rom. 1:32; 2:8, 9; 2 Thess. 1:8 (Thiessen 1949:129-130).[35]

Thiessen (1949:130) inserted this quote from Wm G T Shedd:

Divine justice is originally and necessarily obliged to requite disobedience, but not to reward obedience…. God cannot lay down a law, affix a penalty, and threaten its infliction, and proceed no further, in case of disobedience. The divine veracity forbids this…. Hence, in every instance of transgression, the penalty of law must be inflicted, either personally or vicariously; either upon the transgressor or upon his substitute…. Justice may allow of the substitution of one person for another, provided that in the substitution no injustice is done to the rights of any of the parties interested (Shedd 1888: 370-373).

Thiessen concluded: ‘In other words, justice demands the punishment of the sinner, but it may also accept the vicarious sacrifice of another, as in the case of Christ’ (Thiessen 1949:129-130). However, with Calvinistic theology, there is no justice for all sinners because salvation to eternal life is only available to some sinners – those who are deterministically, discriminately chosen by God through unconditional election, limited atonement and irresistible grace. God’s justice is in conflict with Calvinistic theology because of the discriminate way in which the atonement is made available – not to the whole world, but to the limited number who are the subjects of particular redemption.

b. H Orton Wiley, a Nazarene Arminian theologian

Orton Wiley, an Arminian, described God’s justice and righteousness:

Dr. Strong[36] regards jus­tice and righteousness as transitive holiness, by which he means that the treatment of His creatures always con­forms to the purity or holiness of His nature. While closely related, justice and righteousness may be dis­tinguished from each other, and both from holiness. The term holiness applies to the nature or essence of God as such, while righteousness is His standard of activity in conformity to that nature. This refers both to Himself and to His creatures. Justice may be said to be the counterpart of God’s righteousness but is sometimes identified with it. Righteousness is the foundation of the divine law, justice the administration of that law. When we regard God as the author of our moral nature, we conceive of Him as holy; when we think of that na­ture as the standard of action, we conceive of Him as righteous; when we think of Him as administering that law in the bestowment of rewards and penalties, we con­ceive of Him as just. Justice is sometimes considered in the wider sense of justitia interna, or moral excellence, and sometimes in the narrower sense as justitia externa, or moral rectitude. A further division of the term is (1) Legislative Justice which determines the moral duty of man and defines the consequences in rewards or penalties; and (2) Judicial Justice, sometimes known as Distributive Justice, by which God renders to all men according to their works. The justice by which He re­wards the obedient is sometimes known as remunera­tive justice, while that by which He punishes the guilty is retributive or vindictive justice. But whether as legis­lator or judge, God is eternally just.

In the following scripture references no distinction is made between the terms justice and righteousness. The careful student of this subject will be impressed with the many and various ways in which these attributes are combined. The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether (Psalm 19: 9). Justice and judg­ment are the habitation of thy throne: mercy and truth shall go before thy face (Psalm 89: 14). There is no God else beside me; a just God and a Saviour; there is none beside me (Isa. 45: 21). The just Lord is in the midst thereof; he will not do iniquity (Zeph. 3: 5). Who will render to every man according to his deeds (Rom. 2: 6). Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways (Rev. 15: 3).

Dr. Strong takes the position that neither justice nor righteousness can bestow rewards, in that obedience is due to God and therefore no creature can claim a reward for that which he justly owes. Dr. Pope takes a more scriptural position, insisting that while all that is praise­worthy in human nature is of God, either by prevenient grace or the renewing of the Spirit, there can be no men­tion of merit except as the word is used in divine con­descension. Nevertheless, He who crowns the work of His own hands in glorifying the sanctified believer, con­stantly speaks of his own works of faith as a matter of reward. God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love (Heb. 6: 10 ). Is God unrighteous who taketh vengeance? (I speak as a man) God forbid for then how shall God judge the world? (Rom. 3:5, 6).[37] The rewards of God’s judicial or distributive justice are, therefore, according to St. Paul, to be reckoned not of debt but of grace (Rom. 4:4). The last day is, by the same apostle, called the revelation of the righteous judgment of God (Rom. 2:5). We may therefore with confidence believe that the punishment of evil-doers, will be at once an infliction of the divine judgment and the consequences of the treasuring up of wrath against the day of wrath. And we may equally assure ourselves that the rewards of the righteous will be at once the decision of a Just Judge, and the fruitage of their own sowing in righteousness (Wiley 1940:387-388, emphasis in original).

The following Calvinistic theologians had this to affirm about God’s righteousness and justice:

c. Wayne Grudem, a Calvinistic Baptist theologian

Grudem explained that in English, righteousness and justice are two different terms ‘but in both the Hebrew Old Testament and the Greek New Testament there is only one word group behind these two English terms’. Therefore, these two terms deal with one of God’s attributes:

God’s righteousness means that God always acts in accordance with what is right and is himself the final standard of what is right…. What is ‘right’? In other words, what ought to happen and what ought to be? Here we must respond that whatever conforms to God’s moral character is right…. It should be a cause for thanksgiving and gratitude when we realize that righteousness and omnipotence are both possessed by God. If he were a God of perfect righteousness without power to carry out that righteousness, he would not be worthy of worship and we would have no guarantee that justice will ultimately prevail in the universe. But if he were a God of unlimited power, yet without righteousness in his character, how unthinkably horrible the universe would be! There would be unrighteousness at the center of all existence and there would be nothing anyone could do to change it. We ought therefore continually to thank and praise God for who he is, ‘for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and right is he’ (Deut 32:4) [Grudem 1999:93-94, emphasis in original].

A major issue arises out of this kind of definition. This deals with hermeneutics (biblical interpretation). For the Calvinist, what God considers is ‘right’ includes limited atonement. For me, a Reformed Arminian, what God considers is ‘right’ is that ‘the atonement is universal. This does not mean that all mankind will be unconditionally saved, but that the sacrificial offering of Christ so far satisfied the claims of the divine law as to make salvation a possibility for all’ (Wiley 1952:295). Therefore a better statement, in my view, could be , ‘God’s righteousness means that God always acts in accordance with what is right by His holy standard, but sinful human understanding of this righteousness by Christian believers is limited by the hermeneutical biases of the interpreters of Scripture’. Based on my hermeneutical bias, the God of Calvinism has an attribute of determinism that causes him to be unjust towards the unbelievers to whom he does not extend the benefits of Christ’s atonement.

d. J I Packer, Anglican Calvinistic theologian

Packer explained:

Justice, which means doing in all circumstances things that are right, is one expression of God’s holiness. God displays His justice as legislator and judge, and also as promise-keeper and pardoner of sin. His moral law, requiring behavior that matches His own, is “holy, righteous and good” (Romans 7:12). He judges justly, according to actual desert (Genesis 18:25; Psalms 7:11; 96:13; Acts 17:31). His “wrath,” that is, His active judicial hostility to sin, is wholly just in its manifestations (Romans 2:5-16), and His particular ‘judgements’ (retributive punishments) are glorious and praiseworthy (Revelations 16:5, 7; 19:1-4). Whenever God fulfils his covenant commitment by acting to save his people, it is a gesture of “righteousness,” that is, justice (Isa. 51:5-6; 56:1; 63:1; 1 John 1:9). When God justifies sinners through faith in Christ, He does so on the basis of justice done, that is, the punishment of our sins in the person of Christ our substitute; thus the form taken by His justifying mercy shows Him to be utterly and totally just (Romans 3:25-26), and our justification itself is shown to be judicially justified (Packer 1993:43-44).

I find some issues with this explanation. These include:

  • Like with Grudem’s definition, here he defines justice as meaning doing things that are right and being a just legislator and judge. This relates to the problem of hermeneutics. Packer as a Calvinist supports limited atonement, which he calls ‘definite redemption’ (Packer 1993:137-139). How can that be called a just judgement by God when God’s provision of atonement through Christ is not made available to all people in the world. This doesn’t mean all will accept it, but Packer’s definition is limited to his Calvinistic hermeneutical restriction of the atonement to particular redemption.
  • There is another issue as Packer’s definition of justice includes God’s ‘covenant commitment’ to ‘save his people’. That means justice is deconstructed to mean justice for some and not all of the people in the world. There is no justice here for the reprobate who are damned for eternity.
  • God’s justifying ‘sinners through faith in Christ’ is ‘on the basis of justice done’, with ‘the punishment of our sins in the person of Christ our substitute’. I find this to be a cagey way of Calvinists putting it as it avoids stating ‘the punishment of our sins’ only refers to those who experience definite redemption and excludes the rest of humanity. My understanding is that Packer here redefines injustice as Calvinistic justice. This should make the postmodern deconstructionist[38] smile with glee. For the deconstructionist, there is no fixed meaning in the text. The meaning of the text is not determined by the intended meaning of the original author, but is determined by the reader/interpreter of the text. For postmodern deconstruction, there are multiple meanings to a text and these meanings can be determined by multiple interpreters or by the one interpreter in multiple situations.

e. Reformed theologian, R C Sproul

In his explanation of the justice of God, R C Sproul wrote:

How then does mercy relate to justice? Mercy and justice are obviously different things, though they are sometimes confused. Mercy occurs when wrongdoers are given less punishment than deserved or greater rewards than they earned.

God tempers His justice with mercy. His grace is essentially a kind of mercy. God is gracious to us when He withholds the punishment we deserve and when He rewards our obedience despite the fact that we owe obedience to Him, and so we do not merit any reward. Mercy is always voluntary with God. He is never obligated to be merciful. He reserves the right to exercise His grace according to the good pleasure of His will. For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion” (Romans 9:15).

People often complain that because God does not distribute His grace or mercy equally on all people, He is therefore not fair. We complain that if God pardons one person He is therefore obligated to pardon everybody.

Yet, we see clearly in Scripture that God does not treat everyone equally. He revealed Himself to Abraham in a way He did not to other pagans in the ancient world. He graciously appeared to Paul in a way He did not appear to Judas Iscariot.

Paul received grace from God; Judas Iscariot received justice. Mercy and grace are forms of nonjustice, but they are not acts of injustice. If Judas’s punishment was more severe than he deserved, then he would have something about which to complain.

Paul received grace, but this does not require that Judas also receive grace. If grace is required from God, if God is obligated to be gracious, then we are no longer speaking of grace, but of justice.

Biblically, justice is defined in terms of righteousness. When God is just, He is doing what is right. Abraham asked God a rhetorical question that can only have one obvious answer: “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Genesis 18:25). Likewise, the apostle Paul raised a similar rhetorical question: “What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? Certainly not!” (Romans 9:14) [Sproul 1992:53-54, emphasis in original].

Sproul provided this summary of his view:

1. Justice is giving what is due.

2. Biblical justice is linked to righteousness, to doing what is right.

3. Injustice is outside the category of justice and is a violation of justice. Mercy is also outside the category of justice but is not a violation of justice.

4. Biblical passages for reflection are:

Genesis 18:25

Exodus 34:6-7

Nehemiah 9:32-33

Psalm 145:17

Romans 9:14-33 (Sproul 1992:54).

I find some serious issues with this description of justice/righteousness in the light of Sproul’s support for ‘definite atonement’, which he prefers to the term ‘limited atonement’ (Sproul 1992:175-177). The points with which I have contention are:

  • ‘God is gracious to us when He withholds the punishment we deserve’. But this graciousness does not extend to all human beings according to Sproul’s view of ‘definite atonement’. God withholds punishment from the elect but he lambasts the rest of humanity with the damnation of eternal punishment. That is hardly how to defend God’s gracious actions in withholding punishment that all human beings deserve; but only some are saved from it through definite atonement that covers only salvation for the elect.
  • ‘Mercy occurs when wrongdoers are given less punishment than deserved’. That’s OK for the elect who are redeemed but not OK for the reprobate who experience the injustice of death without mercy and then eternal damnation inflicted by God. That is deconstructing mercy.
  • ‘Mercy is always voluntary with God. He is never obligated to be merciful. He reserves the right to exercise His grace according to the good pleasure of His will’. That comes out as deterministic, voluntary refusal to grant mercy to unbelievers for whom God does not provide atonement. Sadly I have to say that that is censorship in the name of mercy – Calvinistic deconstruction is in operation again.
  • ‘People often complain that because God does not distribute His grace or mercy equally on all people, He is therefore not fair. We complain that if God pardons one person He is therefore obligated to pardon everybody’. People have every right to complain because limited atonement is grossly unjust when it comes to God’s eternal treatment of people, based on Calvinism. It is one thing to see that God treated people differently while they were on earth. But it is quite a different perspective when one’s eternal destiny is determined with grace for those who receive limited atonement, but not received with God’s grace for the rest of the damned. This in injustice with a capital I, but all in the name of Calvinistic views of the ‘grace’ of God in ULI of TULIP.
  • ‘Mercy and grace are forms of nonjustice, but they are not acts of injustice’. This is an example of Calvinistic sloganeering. If one is among those for whom there is no atonement in Christ’s death, no mercy and grace were offered to the sinners who were damned, but mercy and grace were provided to the elect. Sproul’s ‘nonjustice’ language is a euphemism for injustice to those who experience eternal punishment in the afterlife.
  • ‘If grace is required from God, if God is obligated to be gracious, then we are no longer speaking of grace, but of justice’. If grace is a dimension of God’s goodness – as it is – then limited atonement conflicts with God’s goodness, repudiates God’s grace, and demonstrates God’s injustice towards the ungodly in their eternal suffering in reprobation.
  • ‘When God is just, He is doing what is right’. That is correct! But God is not doing what is right by not providing an opportunity for all people to have access to Christ’s atonement through his shed blood on the cross. Limited atonement offers a large chunk of humanity the injustice of God. It rescinds God’s goodness and justice by excluding it from large numbers of people in the world.
  • “What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? Certainly not!” (Romans 9:14). There is no unrighteousness with God but there is certainly unrighteous injustice in the Calvinistic censorious application of the atonement, by leaving a large portion of fallen humanity to wallow in their own sins without any opportunity of redemption. Such is a rewriting of the justice of God to make it synonymous with the injustice of God – for the Calvinist.
  • ‘Biblical justice is linked to righteousness, to doing what is right’. Therefore, Calvinistic limited atonement is linked to biblical injustice by doing what is wrong for a large number of people throughout human history. Damnation, without the opportunity of redemption (which is what limited atonement does) amounts to Calvinistic discriminatory practice of injustice towards the Calvinistic non-elect.


God’s righteousness is the standard of God’s action by which he bestows rewards and penalties in conformity with God’s holy nature. How can there possibly be holy, righteous justice when God discriminates in providing atonement for some and condemning the rest of humanity to outer darkness, according to the Calvinistic system? God’s righteous justice does not harmonise with discriminatory action towards people, providing salvation for some and damnation for the rest.

As this article has summarised, the Calvinistic understanding of limited atonement (with its package that includes unconditional election and irresistible grace) is in significant conflict with the nature of the goodness of God in its failure to demonstrate God’s goodness through love, benevolence, mercy and grace in action to all people throughout human history.

For your consideration:

I have covered similar issues in my articles:

# The injustice of the God of Calvinism;

# Is a Calvinistic God a contradiction when compared with the God revealed in Scripture?

See also my articles on Christ’s atonement,

blue-satin-arrow-smallDoes the Bible teach limited atonement or unlimited atonement by Christ?

blue-satin-arrow-smallCalvinistic excuses for rejecting Jesus’ universal atonement’;

blue-satin-arrow-smallDoes God’s grace make salvation available to all people?

blue-satin-arrow-smallDid John Calvin believe in limited atonement?’ ‘

blue-satin-arrow-small What is the connection between Christ’s atonement and his resurrection?

blue-satin-arrow-smallDoes God want everyone to receive salvation?

I also recommend consideration of the content of:

design-gold-small Keith Schooley, ‘Why I am an Arminian, Part 1’;

design-gold-small Keith Schooley, ‘Why I am an Arminian, Part 2’.

design-gold-small Keith Schooley, ‘Why I Am Not a Calvinist (with apologies to Bertrand Russell) Part 1’;

design-gold-small Keith Schooley, ‘Why I Am Not a Calvinist (with apologies to Bertrand Russell) Part 2’.

I recommend the article by Roger E Olson, ‘What’s wrong with Calvinism?‘ (Patheos, March 22, 2013).

Works consulted

Arminius, J 1977. The writings of James Arminius, vols 1-3. Vols 1-2 tr by J Nichols, vol 3 tr by W R Bagnall. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House. Also available at: (Accessed 7 October 2013).

Berkhof, L 1941. Systematic theology (online). London: The Banner of Truth Trust. Available at:–Systematic-Theology_djvu.txt (Accessed 6 October 2013).

Geisler, N 1999. Chosen but free. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Bethany House Publishers.

Geisler, N 2003. Systematic theology: God, creation, vol 2. Minneapolis, Minnesota: BethanyHouse.

Grudem, W 1999. Bible doctrine: Essential teachings of the Christian faith, J Purswell (ed). Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press.[39]

Hodge, C 1974. Systematic theology, vol 1 (online). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B.

Eerdmans Publishing Company. Available at Christian Classics Ethereal Library, (Accessed 6 October 2013).

Lemke, S W 2010. A biblical and theological critique of irresistible grace, in D L Allen & S W Lemke (eds), Whosoever will: A biblical-theological critique of five-point Calvinism, 109-162. Nashville: B&H Academic.

Lenski, R C H 1966. Commentary on the New Testament: The Interpretation of the Epistles of St. Peter, St. John, and St. Jude. Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers.

Nickles, G L 2001. The five points of Calvinism: A study of our great salvation (online),[40] Spring. Winder GA: Developed as a small group study for the youth group of New Life Presbyterian Church. Available at: (Accessed 5 October 2013).

Oden, T C 1987. The living God: Systematic theology, vol 1. New York, NY: HarperSanFrancisco.

Olson, R E 2006. Arminian theology: Myths and realities. Downers Grove, Illinois: IVP Academic.

Packer, J I 1993. Concise Theology. Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers Inc. The chapter on ‘Definite Redemption: Jesus Christ Died for God’s Elect’ (Packer 1993:137-139) is available at Monergism (online), (Accessed 5 October 2013).

Palmer, E H 1972. The five points of Calvinism: A study manual. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House.

Palmer, E H 2010.[41] The five points of Calvinism: A study manual (online), 3rd edn. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books. Part of this book is available free as a Google Book HERE.

Robertson, A T 1933. Word Pictures in the New Testament: Volume VI, The General Epistles and the Revelation of John. Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman Press.

Shedd, W G T 1888. Dogmatic theology (online), vol 1, 2nd edn. New York: Scribner. Available at Cornell University Library, (Accessed 7 October 2013).

Sproul, R C 1992. Essential Truths of the Christian Faith. Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers Inc.

Spurgeon, C H 1856. Effectual calling, sermon 73, 30 March. Available at: (Accessed 5 October 2011).

Steele, D N & Thomas, C C 1976. The five points of Calvinism: Defined, defended, documented. Philadelphia, Pa: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co.

Steele, D N, Thomas C C, & Quinn S L 2004. The Five Points of Calvinism: Defined, Defended, Documented. Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed.

Strong, A H 1907. Systematic Theology (online), three volumes in one. Philadelphia: The Judson Press. Available at, (Accessed 7 October 2013).

Thiessen, H C 1949. Introductory Lectures in Systematic Theology. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Thiessen, H C (rev by V D Doerksen) 1979. Lectures in Systematic Theology. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Vanhoozer, K J 1998. Is there a meaning in this text? The Bible, the reader and the morality of literary knowledge. Leicester: Apollos.

Wiley, H O 1940. Christian theology, vol 1 (online). Kansas City, Mo.: Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City. Chapter 14 on ‘The attributes of God’, is available from Nampa, Idaho: Northwestern Nazarene University, Wesley Center Online, at: (Accessed 7 October 2013).

Wiley, H O 1952. Christian theology, vol 2 (online). Kansas City, Mo.: Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City. Chapter 24 on ‘The atonement: Its nature and extent’, is available from Nampa, Idaho: Northwestern Nazarene University, Wesley Center Online, at: (Accessed 7 October 2013).


[1] I have taken this section from my article, ‘Does the Bible teach limited atonement or unlimited atonement by Christ?’ (Spencer D Gear).

[2] I am OzSpen#36, Christian Forums, Baptists, ‘Calvinist Arminian dialog’, available at: (Accessed 21 September 2013).

[3] Petruchio#37, ibid.

[4] Petruchio#41, ibid.

[5] OzSpen#42, ibid. In my original quote I did not mention Matt Slick but gave the link to his website, CARM.

[6] Petruchio#43, ibid.

[7] OzSpen#50, ibid.

[8] Petruchio#54., ibid.

[9] I told him so at OzSpen#56., ibid.

[10] Petruchio#54, ibid.

[11] OzSpen#58, ibid.

[12] See the long-winded reply by Petruchio#59, ibid.

[13] His footnote here was: ‘The Five Arminian Articles,” Articles III and IV, in The Creeds of Christendom (ed. P. Schaff; 6th ed.; Grand Rapids, Baker, 1963), 3:547, available online at; accessed November 1, 2008’ (Lemke 2010:110, n. 1).

[14] Ibid.

[15] I have taken this section from my article, ‘Is prevenient grace still amazing grace?’.

[16] Desiring God, ‘What we believe about the five points of Calvinism’ (rev. March 1998). Available at: (Accessed 5 October 2011). I was alerted to this reference from Piper in Lemke (2010).

[17] Ibid.

[18] This contradiction was pointed out in Lemke (2010:112).

[19] The Calvinist Corner, available at: (Accessed 3 October 2011).

[20] The Baker Publishing Company, which published Palmer (1972), gave these biographical details about Edwin Palmer: ‘Edwin H. Palmer (1922-1980) was a theologian, scholar, teacher, and pastor. He served as executive secretary on the team’, available at: (Accessed 6 October 2013).

[21] This refers to Henry Statius’ (AD 1585-1623) book from the 17th century that had the unusually inflated full title (for the 21st century) – typical for that era – of, The predestinated thief. A dialogue betwixt a rigid Calvinian preacher and a condemned malefactor. In which is not onely represented how the Calvinistical opinion occasions the perpetration of wickedness and impieties; but moreover how it doth impede and hinder, nay almost impossibilitate the reducing of a sinner to emendation and repentance. London: printed by R. Trott for Daniel Jones, and are to be sold at the three Hearts in S. Paul’s Church-yard, 1658. Statius’s book is available online from Ann Arbor, Michigan: University of Michigan, Digital Library Production Service, at:;idno=A60360.0001.001 (Accessed 6 October 2013).

[22] At this point the footnote was, ‘It should be emphasized that the contradiction is only apparent and not real. Man cannot harmonize the two apparently contradictory positions, but God can’ (Palmer 1972:85, n. 2).

[23] This is an archaic form of the spelling of ‘subtlety’ according to at: (Accessed 8 October 2013).

[24] This website from Our Savior Lutheran Church, Houston, Texas, is available at: (Accessed 6 October 2013).

[25] At this point, Olson had the footnote, ‘I am well aware that Calvinists (and other divine determinists) say that God is wholly good and they appeal to some higher good that justifies God’s foreordination of sin and evil. But Arminians want to know what higher good can possibly justify the Holocaust? What higher good can possibly justify some significant portion of humanity suffering in hell eternally apart from any genuinely free choices they or their federal head Adam made? Appeal to God’s glory to justify unconditional reprobation to hell, as Wesley said, makes our blood run cold. What kind of God is it who is glorified by foreordaining and unconditionally reprobating persons to hell? If appeal is made to the necessity of hell for the manifestation of God’s attribute of justice, Arminians ask whether the cross was sufficient’ (Olson 2006 99, n. 5).

[26] At this point, Thiessen (1979) added, ‘The assurance of God’s love is a source of comfort to the believer (Rom. 8:35-39)’.

[27] At this point Thiessen 1979 adds, ‘The benevolence of God is manifested in his concern for the welfare of the creature and is suited to the creature’s needs and capacities (Job 38:41; Ps 104:21; 145:15; Matt 6:26)’. However, this added information is not from Thiessen but from his new reviser, V D Doerksen. It seems as though Doerksen has Calvinised Henry Thiessen, the Arminian, a little, which would be contrary to Thiessen’s theological persuasion.

[28] We could add that God has ‘great mercy’, according to 1 Peter 1:3.

[29] See also Psalm 103:17.

[30] At this point in Thiessen (1979), the editor added, ‘The term is often used in salutations and benedictions (Gal. 6:16; 1 Tim. 1:2; 2 Tim. 1:2; 2 John 3; Jude 2)’.

[31] At this point the editor of Thiessen (1979) added: ‘Scripture speaks of the “glory of His grace” (Eph. 1:6), “surpassing riches of His grace” (Eph. 2:7; cf. 1:7), “manifold grace” (1 Pet. 4:10), and “true grace” (1 Pet. 5:12).

[32] At this point the editor of Thiessen (1979) added, ‘Like mercy, this term is also often used in salutations and benedictions (1 Cor. 1:3; 16:23; Eph. 1:2; Philem. 25; Rev. 1:4; 22:21)’.

[33] The original had Rom. 22:22, which is a typographical error.

[34] Geisler wrote, ‘Moderate Calvinists, such as I am, differ with Arminians on many points’ (Geisler 1999:117).

[35] The editor of Thiessen (1979) inserted the following at this point: ‘God cannot make a law, establish a penalty, and then not follow through if the law is disobeyed. When the law is violated, punishment must be meted out, either personally or vicariously. In other words, justice demands punishment of the sinner, but it may also accept the vicarious sacrifice of another, as in the case of Christ (Isa. 53:6; Mark 10:45; Rom. 5:8;1 Pet. 2:24). The righteousness of God is revealed in his punishing the wicked (Rev. 16:5-7), vindicating his people from evildoers (Ps. 129:Iff.), forgiving the penitent of their sin (1 John 1:9), keeping promises made to his children (Neh. 9:7ff.), and rewarding the faithful (Heb. 6:10)’.

[36] Here he refers to Baptist Calvinistic theologian, Augustus Hopkins Strong (1907:249f).

[37] Here Wiley provided the bibliographical information: ‘(Cf. STRONG, Syst. Th., I, p. 293 and POPE, Compend. Chr. Th., I, p. 341.)’.

[38] What is postmodern deconstruction? Kevin Vanhoozer explained its meaning: ‘Through the activity of reading, interpreters construct the text, or rather, its meaning. This is a new role for interpretation… hence the postmodern ‘incredulity towards meaning…. Deconstruction, as its name implies, is a strategy for taking apart or undoing’ (Vanhoozer 1998:18, 20, emphasis in original). Vanhoozer provided this further insight: ‘The virtue of deconstruction, according to David Clines, is that it undoes dogma: “The deconstructive strategy eliminated dogma as dogma, and in recognizing that multiple philosophies are being affirmed in the deconstructible text loosens our attachment to any one of them as dogma”…. Where, however, does deconstruction get us? After casting down the graven images, the Idols of the Sign, what does deconstruction put in their place? Nothing but empty spaces. Having cleaned the home of meaning of its author, the Undoer may find that seven other worse spirits return to take possession of the text (cf. Matt. 12:45)’ (Vanhoozer 1998:184, emphasis in original).

[39] This is ‘published by special arrangement with Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49530’ (Grudem 1999:4).

[40] This is based on the 1963 edition of Steele & Thomas (1976).

[41] This was previously published in 1980 (Palmer 2010:4).


Copyright © 2013 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 3 November 2015.

What hope is there in hopeless situations?


(courtesy ChristArt)

By Spencer D Gear

If you watch the nightly TV news in Queensland, you’ll know about the bikie violence on Queensland’s Gold Coast[1] and a police officer shot in the face.[2]

But you won’t hear about this very often:

designRed In Australia about 100,000[3] babies are murdered each year, with 45-50 million slaughtered annually worldwide by abortion.[4]

But where is that on the TV news?

designRed In the state of Victoria, Australia, about 20,000 unborn babies ‘are mercilessly cut to pieces, poisoned, burned or butchered each and every year. And in 2008 one of the world’s most liberal abortion laws was passed: the Abortion Law Reform Act 2008 (Vic)’.[5]

I’ll be surprised if you heard too much of that on TV, radio or newspaper news here in Australia.


Where in Africa is Guinea? ( African history)

Have you heard about this on your TV news?

Christian families in the African nation of Guinea are in a desperate plight, having been forced to live in makeshift shelters in the bush after their homes were destroyed in a severe outbreak of violence. Churches and Christian properties were targeted by a Muslim tribe in N’Zerekore and two other towns in the south-eastern Forested Guinea region in mid-July [2013]. Within the space of 24 hours, 11 church buildings were destroyed and the homes and shops of many Christians looted and torched.

Christians suffered horrendous violence during the rampage. One woman was seized by the Muslim attackers, who tortured her and covered her in petrol before setting her alight. They left her screaming in agony, saying, “She is dead, let us not waste our time here.”

Miraculously, she survived, after hiding in an abandoned building for three days with severe burns to her head, back, shoulders and arms before being taken to hospital (The Barnabas Fund). [6]

This was just one of many shocking cases that you probably didn’t hear on your nightly TV news.

Where is hope?

How can hope be found in these kinds of hopeless circumstances? To be honest, the hope that comes to bikies, those who shoot policemen, women (impregnated by men) having abortions of unwanted babies, Christians being persecuted in Guinea and many other parts of the world and others, is found in this:

cubed-iron-sm Jesus said, ‘The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly’ (John 10:10 ESV).

cubed-iron-sm  ‘His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire’ (2 Peter 1:3-4).

cubed-iron-sm ‘Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come’ (2 Cor 5:17).

God calls this kind of change …

From God’s side, this change of heart is called regeneration, the new birth, being born again. From the side of human beings, it is called conversion to Christ.

matte-red-arrow-small ‘We may define regeneration as the communication of divine life to the soul’ (John 3:5; 10:10, 28; 1 John 5:11, 12),

matte-red-arrow-small as the impartation of a new nature (2 Pet. 1:4) or heart (Jer. 24:7; Ezek. 11:19; 36:26),

matte-red-arrow-small and the production of a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17; Eph. 2:10; 4:24),

matte-red-arrow-small Henry Thiessen put it this way, ‘The term heart in Scripture means the soul, the self. It is that which thinks, feels, wills and acts. It is clear from this that regeneration involves the whole soul’ – the entire person (Thiessen 1949:367).

What needs changing?

Bikies, police chasing bikies, doctors killing unborn children, those persecuting Christians here and abroad, are doing that because by nature, human beings cannot have fellowship with God.

murky-arrow-small A moral change needs to come to all human beings and that can only happen if God regenerates the human hearts of bikies, police, doctors, pregnant mothers, persecutors – in fact, all human beings.

murky-arrow-small The Scriptures call this the new birth by which rebels become children of God. It happens this way: ‘But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God’ (John 1:12).

murky-arrow-small Why oh why do all people need this change? Because by nature all people are ‘children of wrath’ (Eph 2:3), ‘sons of disobedience’ (Eph 2:2), ‘sons of this world’ (Luke 16:8) and ‘children of the devil’ (1 John 3:10).

This is the HOPE!

John 3:36

(courtesy ChristArt)

Seeing the evil around us and all over the world has placed a big sign of HOPE in my vision. This is the HOPE:

snowflake-red-small Bikies need the Gospel;

snowflake-red-small Police need the proclamation of Christ;

snowflake-red-small  Pregnant mothers planning abortion need the hope of change through regeneration that only Christ can bring.

snowflake-red-small Persecutors in Africa need to find new life, from the inside out.

snowflake-red-small There is only one way that I know that will absolutely guarantee that Christians will not be slaughtered and persecuted – that’s through the change of hearts of persecutors that only Jesus can bring.

snowflake-red-small How will they hear without a proclaimer? Romans 10:14 in the New Living Translation states, ‘But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them?’ How will we make Christ known to people in your suburb?

snowflake-red-small Our city desperately needs everyday people who will do what Paul said to Timothy, ‘But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry’ (2 Tim 4:5 NIV). It would seem that Timothy’s primary gifting was not evangelism, but Paul said to him what he says to us today: Even if you don’t have the primary gift of evangelism, do the work of an evangelist, evangelise your community. Church leaders! Equip your people – all of them – to do the work of an evangelist.

snowflake-red-smallThat’s the only hope I can see for bikies, police, persecutors of Christians around the world, pregnant women wanting to kill their unborn babies. It’s God’s only message for all kinds of rebels. Jesus changes people. God regenerates antagonists. He changes them from the inside out. People need to be born again; regenerated by God through receiving Christ.

snowflake-red-small Will you do the work of an evangelist in your community, with your neighbours? How about it?

snowflake-red-small It’s God’s only hope for our depraved world.

Globe The Content of the Gospel (and hope)

Works consulted

Thiessen, H C 1949. Introductory Lectures in Systematic Theology. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.


[1] See, 18 charged after bikie gang brawls on Gold Coast’ (ABC News, 28 Sept 2013); ‘National anti-gang squad formed to fight bikies amid fear of backlash against Queensland crackdown’ (ABC News, 3 October 2013); ‘Scores of bikies arrested as gang war looms’ (, 28 September 2013)

[2]Qld cop shot on force’s most sombre day’ (7 News, 27 September 2013).

[3] ‘”Somehow up to 100,000 abortions a year is accepted as a fact of life, almost by some as a badge of liberation from old oppressions,” Abbott told parliament’, The Australian, ‘Don’t mention the A-word: Abortion’, August 14, 2010, available at: (Accessed 8 October 2013).

[4] ‘According to WHO [World Health Organisation], every year in the world there are an estimated 40-50 million abortions. This corresponds to approximately 125,000 abortions per day’, Worldometers: Abortion, available at: (Accessed 8 October 2013, emphasis in original).

[5] Bill Muehlenberg, Culture Watch, ‘This is why we march’, 7 Oct 2013, available at: (Accessed 8 October 2013).

[6] The Barnabas Fund, 4 October 2013, available at: (Accessed 8 October 2013).


Copyright © 2013 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 3 November 2015.

Is Jesus a God and not the God?

Colored in Cross

(courtesy  ChristArt)

Spencer D Gear PhD

It is common among some cults that they do not acknowledge Jesus Christ’s deity as being God. It was promoted in the early days of the Christian church by Arians. Two contemporary examples of an Arian philosophy would be the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Christadelphians.

The Jehovah’s Witness view of John 1:1

Jehovah’s Witnesses outside the British Museum, 2017 (Courtesy Wikipedia)

I first encountered this quote when a Jehovah’s Witness was in my house sharing his views and when I challenged him, he leapt from the seat and left his trusty trouble shooting manual behind. This is called, Reasoning from the Scriptures (1985:212-213). However, it is now available online:

Does John 1:1 prove that Jesus is God?

John 1:1, RS: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God [also KJ, JB, Dy, Kx, NAB].” NE reads “what God was, the Word was.” Mo says “the Logos was divine.” AT and Sd tell us “the Word was divine.” The interlinear rendering of ED is “a god was the Word.” NW reads “the Word was a god”; NTIV uses the same wording.

What is it that these translators are seeing in the Greek text that moves some of them to refrain from saying “the Word was God”? The definite article (the) appears before the first occurrence of the·os? (God) but not before the second. The articular (when the article appears) construction of the noun points to an identity, a personality, whereas a singular anarthrous (without the article) predicate noun before the verb (as the sentence is constructed in Greek) points to a quality about someone. So the text is not saying that the Word (Jesus) was the same as the God with whom he was but, rather, that the Word was godlike, divine, a god. (See 1984 Reference edition of NW, p. 1579.)

What did the apostle John mean when he wrote John 1:1? Did he mean that Jesus is himself God or perhaps that Jesus is one God with the Father? In the same chapter, John 1 verse 18, John wrote: “No one [“no man,” KJ, Dy] has ever seen God; the only Son [“the only-begotten god,” NW], who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known.” (RS) Had any human seen Jesus Christ, the Son? Of course! So, then, was John saying that Jesus was God? Obviously not. Toward the end of his Gospel, John summarized matters, saying: “These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, [not God, but] the Son of God.”—John 20:31, RS (Watchtower Online Library: Jesus Christ n d)

That is very clear. The JW view is that John 1:1 does not teach the deity of Christ but that Jesus is ‘a god’. John was teaching that Jesus was obviously not God. That’s JW false teaching, as we will see below.

Denial of Jesus’ deity by the Christadelphians

Christadelphian Hall in Bath, United Kingdom (Courtesy Wikipedia)

In an article, “Why was Jesus Christ?” the Christadelphians wrote:

These New Testament Scriptures make it clear that the teaching of the Old and New Testaments is entirely consistent. Throughout the Bible the message is that God is One, not three persons in one Godhead….

For us there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we for Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and through whom we live (1 Corinthians 8:6);

There is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus… (1 Timothy 2:5);

Keep this commandment without spot, blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ’s appearing, which He (God) will manifest in His own time, He who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see, to whom be honour and everlasting power. Amen (1 Timothy 6:14-16).

Notice how careful Scripture is at all times to distinguish between the Father and the Son. God is the source and originator of everything. He dwells in unapproachable light and has never been seen by any mortal. Jesus is His Son and came into existence when he was born of the virgin Mary by the power of God – the Holy Spirit. He is described as “the man Christ Jesus” (Ipswich Christadelphians n d).

So there you have it. Jesus is not God; he is the man Christ Jesus and there is no Trinity. That’s Christadelphian false teaching as the following biblical data will demonstrate.

Pushing Arianism on an evangelical forum

What is Arianism? Matt Slick of CARM summarised this heretical view promoted by some in the early church:

Arianism developed around 320, in Alexandria Egypt concerning the person of Christ and is named after Arius of Alexandar (sic).[1]  For his doctrinal teaching he was exiled to Illyria in 325 after the first ecumenical council at Nicaea condemned his teaching as heresy.  It was the greatest of heresies within the early church that developed a significant following.  Some say, it almost took over the church.

Arius taught that only God the Father was eternal and too pure and infinite to appear on the earth.  Therefore, God produced Christ the Son out of nothing as the first and greatest creation.  The Son is then the one who created the universe.  Because the Son relationship of the Son to the Father is not one of nature, it is, therefore, adoptive.   God adopted Christ as the Son.  Though Christ was a creation, because of his great position and authority, he was to be worshipped and even looked upon as God.  Some Arians even held that the Holy Spirit was the first and greatest creation of the Son.

At Jesus‘ incarnation, the Arians asserted that the divine quality of the Son, the Logos, took the place of the human and spiritual aspect of Jesus, thereby denying the full and complete incarnation of God the Son, second person of the Trinity.

In asserting that Christ the Son, as a created thing, was to be worshipped, the Arians were advocating idolatry (Slick n d).

However, even on an evangelical forum on the Internet, this kind of teaching emerged through the deceptiveness of a person wanting to push his Arian epistemology that denies the deity of Jesus Christ. A person wrote:

The word was a God but not Almighty God that is the difference.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a God.
They missed the A out, it’s obvious to any one reading that line of scripture’
Almighty God did not come in the flesh, it was his only begotten son that came, that’s why just before his death Jesus prayed to his Father and said let your will be done not mine.
Then when he was being put to death he said My God! My God! why have you forsaken me.
So there is no Controversy about that Jesus is not his Father God Almighty.
Your treating Jesus if he was some sort of Con-man, play acting, how disrespectful is that.
I am sorry to the board if I am not allowed to discuss it on this forum, but it’s very important as lives are at stake.

A person responded: ‘This is false. The (sic) is no justification to add an “a” so the John 1:1 says “…the word was a god.” It’s just not in the original. Also, there is no difference between “Almighty God” and “God”’.[3]

How does one respond to someone who claims that Jesus is not God? Earlier in the thread, this promoter of Arian, anti-deity of Jesus, stated,

What did the apostle John mean when he wrote John 1:1?
He said the word was God but not Almighty God, did he?
Did he mean that Jesus is himself God or perhaps that Jesus is one God with the Father?
In the same chapter, verse 18, John wrote: “No one [“no man,” KJ, Dy] has ever seen God; the only Son [“the only-begotten god,” NW], who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known.” (RS)
Had any human seen Jesus Christ, the Son?
Of course! So, then, was John saying that Jesus was God?
Obviously not.

How should we respond to these kinds of statements?[5]

If one does not understand the nuances of Greek grammar, there will be a translation of John 1:1 like that in the New World Translation of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, which reads, ‘In [the] beginning the Word was, and the Word was with god, and the Word was a god‘ (NWT, John 1:1, emphasis added).

To the person unfamiliar with Greek grammar, this looks like a reasonable translation as the Greek for ‘and the Word was a god’ (NWT) in the Greek is kai theos en ho logos (transliteration of the Greek). You will notice that theos is not ho theos. Therefore, to the untrained eye it could be translated ‘and a God was the Word’ or ‘the word was a god’.

However, The Granville Sharp Rule of Greek grammar refutes this JW translation. In English, if we want to indicate the predicate nominative after the verb to be, it is indicated by its place in the sentence – after the verb. That is not so in Greek as word order does not indicate meaning. Conjugation and declension of words determine their places and meaning in a sentence. [In my part of the English-speaking world, what is called the predicate nominative of a sentence in the USA is called the complement of a sentence.]

The Granville Sharp Rule means that to help us determine which is the subject of a sentence and which is the predicate nominative in Greek, the definite article is dropped before the noun that is the predicate nominative – when the verb ‘to be’ is used in the sentence.

So in this section of John 1:1 we have, kai theos [predicate nominative] en ho logos [subject]. Therefore, based on correct Greek grammar, the translation is: ‘And the Word was God’ or to emphasise this, we could correctly translate as, ‘The Word was the God’.

Thus, the JW translation has not taken into consideration how one identifies the predicate nominative from the subject nominative of a sentence using the verb ‘to be’. The link to the fuller explanation I have given above of the Granville Sharp Rule provides other NT Greek examples of its use.

To the JW, Arian promoter, I responded:

You make this kind of statement that Jesus, the Word, is only a God because you are ignorant of the Greek grammar. When you don’t understand the Granville Sharp Rule of Greek grammar, you will come to your ungrammatical kind of JW translation that ‘the word was a God’. See my fuller explanation above.

You call yourself ‘kingdomfirst’. Are you a member or are you promoting the Jehovah’s Witness Watchtower view of the non-deity of Jesus Christ?

Your knowledge of Greek grammar is deficient. That’s what causes you to mistranslate John 1:1 as ‘the Word was a God’.[6]

What biblical evidence is there to affirm Jesus as God?


clip_image002 Sue Bohlin,Jesus claims to be God’;

clip_image002[1] Matt Slick, ‘Jesus is God’;

clip_image002[2] Norman Geisler, ‘The uniqueness of Jesus Christ’;

clip_image002[3] Matt Slick,Bible verses that show Jesus is Divine’;

clip_image002[4] Bill Pratt, ‘Did Jesus’s Disciples Think He Was God? Part 1’;

clip_image002[5] Bill Pratt,Did Jesus’s Disciples Think He was God? Part 2’;

clip_image002[6] Matt Perman,How can Jesus be God and man?

clip_image002[7]Spencer D Gear,Was Jesus omniscient while on earth?

The Nicene Creed rejects Arianism and promotes orthodox Christianity. It states:

We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of all things visible and invisible; and in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the only-begotten of his Father, of the substance of the Father, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten (gennethenta), not made, being of one substance (homoousion consubstantialem) with the Father. By whom all things were made, both which be in heaven and in earth. Who for us men and for our salvation came down [from heaven] and was incarnate and was made man. He suffered and the third day he rose again, and ascended into heaven. And he shall come again to judge both the quick and the dead. And [we believe] in the Holy Ghost. And whosoever shall say that there was a time when the Son of God was not (en pote hote ouk en), or that before he was begotten he was not, or that he was made of things that were not, or that he is of a different substance or essence [from the Father] or that he is a creature, or subject to change or conversion51—all that so say, the Catholic and Apostolic Church anathematizes them (Wikisource 2013).

Works consulted

Cairns, E E 1981. Christianity through the centuries: A history of the Christian church. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

Ipswich Christadelphians n d. Who was Jesus Christ? (online). Available at: (Accessed 4 October 2013). This is Ipswich in the United Kingdom.

Reasoning from the Scriptures 1985. Brooklyn, New York: Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.

Slick, M n d. Arianism (online). CARM, available at: (Accessed 4 October 2013).

Watchtower Online Library n d. Jesus Christ (online). Available at: (Accessed 4 October 2013).


[1] Arius was a presbyter to Alexander, the bishop of Alexandria, Egypt, in AD 318 or 319 and Alexander ‘preached to his presbyters on “The Great Mystery of the Trinity in Unity.” One of the presbyters, Arius, an ascetic scholar and popular preacher, attacked the sermon because he believed that it failed to uphold a distinction among the persons in the Godhead. In his desire to avoid a polytheistic conception of God, Arius took a position that did injustice to the true deity of Christ’. The orthodox view promoted by Athanasius and others was that ‘Christ had existed from all eternity with the Father and was of the same essence (homoousios) as the Father, although He was a distinct personality…. Christ was coequal, coeternal, and consubstantial with the Father’. This wasaffirmed at the Council of Nicea in 325 (Cairns 1981:133-134).

[2] Christian Forums, Christian Apologetics, ‘The Holy Trinity’, kingdomfirst#136, available at: (Accessed 4 October 2013, emphasis in original). I suspect that this person is a Jehovah’s Witness or a person of similarArian belief who is promoting his views. This seems to be inferred by his statement above, ‘I am sorry to the board if I am not allowed to discuss it on this forum, but it’s very important as lives are at stake’. By 5 October 2013, this post had been removed from this Christian Forums; thread because, I expect, of kingdomfirst’s violation of the Statement of Faith of Christian Forums’ website, which affirms the content of the Nicene Creed (his post was not able to be accessed 5 October 2013).

[3] TomZzyzx #142, available at: (Accessed 4 October 2013). However, because kingdomfirst’s posts have been removed, some of the other links to his posts, including my own as OzSpen, could have been removed from the thread.

[4] This is part of what kingdomfirst#120, ibid, wrote.

[5] OzSpen#146, ibid.

[6] OzSpen#147, ibid.

Copyright © 2013 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 08 August 2020.

Are women supposed to be permanently silent in the church gathering?


Catherine Booth

(Courtesy Zion Christian Ministry)

By Spencer D Gear

This is one way to get a discussion going on the Internet:

cubed-redmatte  Take one:

If women are to be silent…why are they allowed in the choir???

1 Corinthians 14:34
Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says.
So why are women allowed to be children’s ministers, music directors, even deacons, but Paul says they must be silent?

To those who say that a woman cannot be a pastor, but allow your women church-goers to hold roles in the church that go against the very verse you use to claim they cannot hold leadership positions in a church I must ask: Dont (sic) you find this to be the very definition of hypocrisy?[1]

A response to this was, ‘There are some problematic verses for staunch advocates of exclusively male roles for church. The verse had a local meaning only referring to some inappropriate behaviour by some women at Corinth, probably interrupting orderly conduct during the house church gatherings’.[2]

My comeback was:[3]

Just as important as your issue seems to be, if women are to remain silent in the church (1 Cor 14:34), how is it that we have this teaching from Acts 2:16-18 on the day of Pentecost?

16 But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel:
17 “‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams;
18 even on my male servants[
a] and female servants
in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy (ESV).

Do we have a contradiction between Acts 2:16-18 and 1 Cor 14:34 OR, as I believe, was Paul addressing a particular error in the Corinthian church where the women needed to remain ‘quiet’ because of the disorder they may have been causing? This seems to be inferred from 1 Cor 14:40 (which follows 14:34):

So, dear brothers and sisters, be eager to prophesy, and don’t forbid speaking in tongues. But be sure that everything is done properly and in order (1 Cor 14:39-40 NLT).

Could it be that the silence of women in 1 Corinthians 14 is not a contradiction (as it seems on the surface) with Acts 2, but that 1 Cor 14:34 is meant to deal with a situation specific to the Corinthian church and was not meant to close down women in ministry for all of the NT era?

Could it be that the alleged silence of all women in ministry since the first century has been a wrong interpretation? Otherwise, we have a substantive contradiction between Acts 2:16-18 and 1 Cor 14:34?

Another’s rejoinder was, ‘There is no contradiction…. Prophesying is different from making a sermon from the pulpit’.[4] My response was, ‘I can see nothing in 1 Cor 14 that even remotely sounds like ‘making a sermon from the pulpit’. Could that be your imposition on the text?’[5] Another responded to the idea that ‘prophesying is different from making a sermon from the pulpit’:

A bit of history might me useful here. The Pulpit was used in the Christian church as early as A.D. 250. It came from the Greek ambo, which was a pulpit used by both Greeks and Jews for delivering monologues. The Centrality of the Pulpit in the Order of Worship was introduced by Martin Luther in 1523.

In contrast the NT Christians met in homes around a meal. It was highly participatory as were the gatherings themselves. Contrary to all social norms, slaves ate with the (sic) rest of the group including the host, not separately and women were included, again contrary to custom. In that setting it is preposterous to suggest some formal hierarchy of genders being taught, rather than some corrections to inappropriate behaviour by some women experiencing a new liberty for the first time. We must never impose 21st Century church structures onto the NT records. The former have an historical process behind them which is not always true to sound biblical exegesis.[6]

To this historical information, another tried to give some spin:

This is so misunderstood. In the early church the women and children sat on one side and the men on the other – the women chatted and tended to the children and they were told to remain silent.

There are many women pastors called and anointed. There will be many women who have not fulfilled their calling because of the misunderstanding of this scripture.[7]

This earned the reply:

That was true of the synagogue but not of Christian gatherings which were communal, participatory and informal by today’s standards.

Here is a quote from a great Christian and scholar. Mark Strom.

Paul fought against the influence of abstraction, idealism and elitism upon his ekklesiai Ultimately, Paul lost. Only a generation or two after the apostle, the abstract categories of theology had become the model for discussing his God and message. Ideals of Graeco-Roman morality like serenity, moderation and courage shaped the ways believers read and applied Paul’s instructions on the life of faith. Church conventions of leadership and authority adapted and reinforced the common marks of rank and status. Similar conventions of abstraction, idealism and elitism have continued to shape Christian thought and practice almost without exception and across all traditions to the present day. Evangelicalism is no exception.”

Paul’s gatherings focused on integrating allegiance to Jesus Christ with everyday concerns. The people met to equip one another for the decisions and options they would face outside the gathering. The gathering did not convene for religious worship. They did not gather for a rite. Nor do the sources suggest a meeting structured around the reading and exposition of Scripture following the model of the synagogue. They met to fellowship around their common relationship to one another on account of Christ. Most evangelicals agree that a rite is not central to church; most argue that preaching is central. But rite and preaching share common ground. Both are clergy-cantered. Perhaps the reason so many theologians and clergy resist any shift away from the centrality of the sermon lies not only in the fear of subjectivism or heresy, but also in the fear of losing control and prestige.

Professionalism, even elitism, marks the sermon and the service and distinguishes clergy from congregation. Paul faced something similar at Corinth. The strong had transferred to themselves certain social and religious marks of rank and status-education, eloquence, a leader’s style, even clothing. They had also come to regard the fruits of Christ’s work-the Spirit and the evidences of his presence-as further marks of status, even “spiritual” status. Paul would not tolerate this creation of new rank within the assembly. He urged the Corinthians to see what they had as gifts of grace. They must honour the least honourable. This was not conventional; it was not moral. This was not theology; it was not about words. This was the meaning of grace.

Little in modern Christian experience matches this. Academic, congregational and denominational life functions along clear lines of rank, status and honour. We preach that the gospel has ended elitism, but we rarely allow the implications to go beyond ideas. Paul, however, actually stepped down in the world. His inversions of status were social realities, not intellectualized reforms.

Dying and rising with Christ meant status reversal. In Paul’s case, he deliberately stepped down in the world. We must not romanticize this choice. He felt the shame of it among his peers and potential patrons yet held it as the mark of his sincerity. Moreover, it played a crucial role in the interplay of his life and thought. Tentmaking was critical, even central, to his life and message. His labour and minis[bless and do not curse] try were mutually explanatory. Yet for most of us, “tent making” belongs in the realms of missionary journals and far-flung shores. As a model for ministry in the United States, Britain or Australia, it remains as unseemly to most of us as it did to the Corinthians. At best it is second best.

Evangelicalism will not shake its abstraction, idealism and elitism until theologians and clergy are prepared to step down in their worlds. Some might argue that since the world often shows contempt for the pastoral role, then professional ministry is itself a step back. But that is to ignore the more pertinent set of social realities: evangelicalism has its own ranks, careers, financial security, marks of prestige and rewards. Within that world, professional ministry is rank and status.

Paul’s conversations were rich in stories. These stories characterized the gathering. The believers came together around Christ and his story. They also came with their own stories. They came to (re)connect their stories to his and to each others’ stories. That was the gathering. They taught, prophesied, shared, ate, sang and prayed their stories-their lives-together around Christ. The Spirit made the conversation possible. All the people shared the Spirit through whom they met God and one another face to face. They urged one another in conversation to grow into the full measure of their freedom and dignity.

This touches on themes that have appeared in this thread, generally supporting a limited role for women. Much needs reappraising as the issue of women is in fact a subset of some far wider issues.[8]

Image result for photo Anne Graham Lotz public domain

Anne Graham Lotz (courtesy National Day of Prayer)

This is an important issue for us to consider since so many gifted women in ministry have been closed down by well meaning men and women. Even Billy Graham acknowledges that his daughter Ann Graham Lotz is the best preacher in the family. How could that be when Anne, some say, is supposed to be silent in the church?

Mentioning Anne Lotz got a couple of them going. One response was: ‘Ann is a teacher not a overseer. Her husband is a deacon. Female deacons are allowed in the SBC and were found often from 33AD to the 300’A.D’.[9] My response was: ‘That’s not the issue being raised. The issue is women who are to be silent. When Anne is a teacher, she is not silent. It is HERE on Anne Graham Lotz’s homepage that there is the quote of Anne being the best preacher in the Graham family’.[10] Another response to me was: ‘We accept women as missionaries who preach, teach and in some cases have established churches. Since ‘missionary’ is the Latin word for the Greek word ‘apostle’ such women are therefore performing in apostolic roles from a NT perspective’.[11]

In response to Johnz on a related topic, I wrote:[12] I also have Gordon Fee’s book on the Holy Spirit in Paul’s letters, called God’s Empowering Presence. I must admit that I’ve only read chunks of it. I find his commentary on 1 Corinthians in the New International Commentary series to be a breath of fresh exegetical air in this debate.

However, I have also heard some fairly trite ‘messages’ delivered in churches as manifestations of the gifts of the Spirit over the years, but this is easily dealt with according to 1 Cor 14:29, ‘Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said‘ (ESV, emphasis added).

Too little of this kind of ‘weighing’ goes on in my part of the world.

It seems to me that ‘weighing’ is needed for all of these supernatural vocal gifts, whether prophecy, tongues and interpretation, a word of knowledge, a word of wisdom.

Does this kind of ‘weighing’ the content of the message happen in the groups to which you belong/have belonged? On the practical level, how does it happen in your groups? My experience is that it is rare in the groups and churches I have attended.

One fellow got rather pointed in his reply to another person and me: ‘How many of the 12 were women? How many leaders of the early church were women? This does not make women inferior. But God created men and women to have specific roles’.[13] My reply was:

Arguing from silence is not a good way of producing evidence. How many of the 12 were married? Is that an argument against married men in ministry?

bronze-arrow-small C E Cerling Jr has a helpful article in the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, ‘Women ministers in the New Testament church?‘ that seems to contradict the view that you are here promoting.
bronze-arrow-small Australia’s New Life newspaper has an article online that provides NT material that differs from what you are saying: ‘New Testament Women Church Leaders‘.
bronze-arrow-smallSee also, ‘What the Bible Says about Women in Ministry‘, by Betty Miller.

I’ll stick with what the Scriptures teach and it does not close down women in ministry, as far as I can read. But this I know: Hermeneutics by some men and women has closed down many God-gifted women in ministry.[14]

Anne Graham Lotz, daughter of the evangelist, Billy Graham and his wife, Ruth, wrote this article, ‘Jesus Calls Women to Serve and Lead‘. In it she states what happened to her when she addressed a group containing men. She wrote:

What legitimate, Biblical role do women have within the church? That question demanded an answer early in my ministry when I accepted an invitation to address a large convention of pastors.

When I stood in the lectern at the convention center, many of the 800 church leaders present turned their chairs around and put their backs to me. When I concluded my message, I was shaking. I was hurt and surprised that godly men would find what I was doing so offensive that they would stage such a demonstration, especially when I was an invited guest. And I was confused. Had I stepped out of the Biblical role for a woman? While all agree that women are free to help in the kitchen, or in the nursery, or in a secretary’s chair, is it unacceptable for a woman to take a leadership or teaching position?

When I went home, I told the Lord that I had never had a problem with women serving in any capacity within the church. I knew that the New Testament declared that there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28) And God emphatically promised, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy… (Acts 2:17) But the problem the pastors obviously had was now my problem. And so I humbly asked God to either convict me of wrongdoing or to confirm His call in my life. The story of Mary Magdalene came to mind, so I turned to John 20.

At the beginning of John 20, Peter and John had been to the empty tomb, then returned to Jerusalem. With the sound of their footsteps fading in the distance, Mary Magdalene returned and encountered the risen Christ. Then I read His command to her, “Go…to my brothers and tell them…” Jesus was commanding Mary to go to Jerusalem and tell eleven men what she had seen and heard. Mary obeyed and ran back to Jerusalem to deliver the glorious news, I have seen the Lord! With great joy and relief, I concluded that Jesus Himself did not have a problem with women in ministry.

Mary Magdalene was actually the very first evangelist! Since Jesus had obviously been present when Peter and John were there, why did He withhold Himself from them, but reveal Himself to Mary? He could so easily have given the task of announcing His resurrection to Peter and John, but instead He had given it to Mary. I believe He was making an undeniable, obvious statement that reverberates through the centuries, right up until our own day. Women are commanded and commissioned to serve Jesus Christ in whatever capacity He calls them, within or without the organized church, in word or in deed.

That these men could be so rude to an invited female guest, beggars my imagination.

A fellow responded to me:

Your (sic) overlooking a very simple fact. Paul’s prohibition was in a leadership role over men and their headship. God is a God of order…it is throughout the Bible…think of Jerico (sic), did God need them to march in the formation he designated to collapse Jericho’s walls, of course not. God clearly wanted the task performed to HIS COMMAND.

Gods command to us with respect to God, man, women is clearly defined as man was made for God, woman was made for man. Its really that simple from a humanperspective (sic). From a God perspective, its very complex. God alone understands his edicts and reasons, he is the potter we are the pot. Can the pot say to the potter why did you make me this way? Of coursenot (sic), the potter has complete license to make whatever he wants for his desired purpose…whether its to set up high on display for adoration, or whether it is to be set lower, or even destroyed…ALL is up to the POTTER’s desire, and none is of the POT’s desire.

As for women receiving gifts, of course they do, as you mentioned they can be deaconesses, lead children, sing in choirs, even take on certain leadership positions that dont (sic) involve men. Dont (sic) forget older women are critical to teaching the younger women.

So no there is no contradiction in the bible, the error was actually in the reader, who did not know, from the scriptures all I have stated here is plainly stated in the texts. That’s (sic) what sanctification is all about for the believer…conversely,…..

Its (sic) ALL foolishness to the unsaved. Which are you? clip_image001[1][15]

The original poster called the respondents back to the topic of the original post: ‘Please answer the question in the thread title. If you’re going to generically apply said verse to all of creation, then why do you permit them to speak in church?’[16]

A reply was:

I answered that particular question: What Paul meant was that women were not to be discipled under men and vice versa. It has nothing to do with being physically silent, but has to do with administering inherent doctrinal and disciplinary authority.

The only two roles I see that have inherent doctrinal and disciplinary authority are apostle and elder. I can argue that women could hold neither of those positions in the early church, but I’d agree that all the others could be held by women as long as they did not confer inherent doctrinal and disciplinary authority over men.

By “inherent” authority, I mean authority in the position that is not delegated. For instance, Phebe (sic) — carrying Paul’s most significant theological work to the Romans–was almost certainly the head of the delegation sent from Corinth by Paul and she was likely the only woman in charge of a number of men, but her authority was delegated from Paul, like that of a military sergeant is delegated from the commanding officer.

There isn’t any indication that the role of “deacon” held inherent authority, but it certainly had authority delegated from the elders.

This is not even the same thing as the general term of “leadership,” which does not take an office to exercise.[17]

cubed-redmatteTake two:

‘A woman prophesying or being a servant of God does not make them pastors. Women being deaconesses or teachers does not make them pastors’.[18]

This view was rightly challenged:

I agree. But then the modern pastor has no biblical counterpart from which women can be excluded.
In the NT pastor is just one of the gifted ministries. Since women in NT times were active in the other ministries we cannot now exclude women from a pastoral role when that simply did not exist as we have it today. I cannot recall any named person entitled ‘pastor’ in the NT. It is used only once in Eph 4:11, in the plural. Otherwise the Greek word (shepherd) is applied only to Jesus as any kind of title in the NT.

The NT always talks about elders – plural – in local congregations. Thus a woman can be part of a leadership team and express her ministry gifting as God intends. The one-man-in-charge is just a scaled down pope – a “pope one very parish’ as one church leader once stated.
Also, the NT Christians weren’t into titles as we are today. Some women obviously had leading roles in the NT church. But you will not find one man designated ‘pastor’ in the NT.

‘Take two’ (my designation) made a reply to another:’1Tim. 3: 8-13, John 12:26 “him”, Titus 1: 6-9 and any place where you find the title “Overseer”, “Elder” or “Deacon” it is referring to the position we call “Pastor” today and is referring to men in those positions. There were no female “Overseers”, “Elders” or “Deacons”’.[20]

My answer to this fellow was: ‘Your issue is not just with women as pastors, but with women in any prominent ministry as leaders. Why would you be raising the issue of how many were in the 12 if you were not against women in these kinds of roles? Where in the Scriptures does it state: Women, thou shalt not be pastors? Where?’[21] Then I added, ‘Please direct me to NT passages where pastor = elder, overseer or deacon in meaning’.[22] And again: ‘You do err in making this kind of statement in the last sentence because Romans 16:1 is pointedly clear. A female named Phoebe was a diakonos, a deacon, in the Roman church’.[23] Another replied for him, ‘He wont be able to. Foot in mouth disease is rampant’.[24]

His replies failed to hit the mark: ‘Deacons and deaconesses do not fulfill the same rolls’[25] and ‘grab a Bible dictionary or concordance’.[26] Another jumped in for me, ‘Eph 4:11 It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, NIV The only time pastor occurs in the NT’.[27] This person also explained re deacons and deaconesses: ‘Only due to church history, not adherence to the Scriptures. There was a similar situation with Song of Songs. The church fathers did not believe Holy Writ would contain anything so blatantly sexual. Thus, it must be an allegory. Today, that approach is commonly rejected. Preconceptions governed exegesis’.[28] My reply was, ‘That’s your 21st century speaking. They both come from the same Greek word, diakonos. Now try to prove to me that diakonos doesn’t mean diakonos when she is a female. God didn’t make me a lemming!clip_image002[29] His reply was, ‘So? They don’t fulfill the same functions today’.[30] Another chimed in, ‘The question for us is not whether they fulfill the same functions today, but whether they fulfilled the same functions in the Apostolic Churches’.[31]

Still another: ‘We may do, but that is simply ignoring biblical categories, For anyone who takes the Scriptures seriously that is not on in my view. And, even it that is true they were a operated as plurality in the NT church, not as a single unit. I am bemused that those who see that NT, taken literally, forbids women in leadership, yet are less than literal with other verses, as you seem to be above’.[32]

cubed-redmatteTake three:

‘What they called deacons and overseers in Biblical days we call pastors today’.[33] My response was, ‘Who said? Please provide exegesis to demonstrate such’.[34]

cubed-redmatteTake four:

Mary Jo Sharp (courtesy The Gospel Coalition)


Discuss women in ministry on a Christian forum online and the anti-women-in-public-ministry brigades are not long to raise their voices. Here are a few samples:

Overseers=Men only
Deacons= Both Men and Women
Elders=Generally Men since they were the community leaders at the time with some exceptions (Lydia)

My reply was:[36]

I can’t be as confident of this kind of teaching coming from Scripture as you are. Dr Robert Morey has written a thought-provoking article titled,Women Elders in the Early Church‘. In it he states,

these women functioned in a truly presbyterial (sic) capacity. They had charge not only of the other widows but of all the women in the church. They were not “exercising authority over men” (1 Tim. 2:12). They were discipling the women (Tit. 2:4).

In Titus 2:3–5, Paul tells Titus to teach the presbutidas (i.e., women elders) to teach the younger women. That he was not simply saying that old age was all that was necessary is clear from the fact that these women teachers had to meet spiritual qualification (v. 3). The subjects in which they were to instruct the other women required spiritual maturity (vs. 4–5). Thus while these women were “older” in age, it is their being spiritually mature that is in view.

This is why Paul says that these women must be hieroprespestata (v. 3). This word means according to Vincent,

“… becoming those who are engaged in sacred service. The meaning is the more striking if, as there is reason to believe, the presbutidas represented a quasi-official position in the church” (Word Studies in the New Testament, IV, p. 341).

As Moulton and Milligan point out:

“It is sometimes thought that the presbutidas of Titus 2:3 … are the members of a priestly or organized class in view of the hierprepes which follows” (p. 533).

Given the distinction between the sexes in the first century, that there arose a need for women elders to counsel and instruct the women in the congregation is no surprise. While Paul tells Titus to teach by verbal instruction (Greek: lalew), the women elders are to disciple the younger women personally. It would not have been appropriate for Titus to do so.

The women elders were under the authority of the male elders who had oversight over the entire congregation. Just as the deaconic came to include women who could minister to the women in those physical areas where the male deacons could not, the presbytery or eldership came to include women who could minister to other women in spiritual and domestic areas where the male elders could not.

These women elders instructed new female converts and even baptized them (see Lange’s Commentary, Vol. II, p. 59 on 1 Tim. 5:9).

The following comments from various scholars are given to establish the fact that the existence of women elders in the Early Church has been noted for many years and is not something recently “invented” by feminist scholars.

We then conclude that these “widows” were a distinct and most honorable order, whose duties, presbyteral rather than deaconic, apparently consisted in the exercise of superintendence over and in the ministry of counsel and consolation to, the younger women (Ellicott’s Commentary, VIII, p. 203).

Such widows, called presbyteresses, seem to have the same relation toward their sex as the presbyters toward the men (Lange’s Commentary, Vol. II, p. 58).

They supervised the female members in much the same way as the elders were responsible for the men (Scott, The Pastoral Epistles, p. 57).

They corresponded in office for their own sex in some measure to the presbyters, sat unveiled in the assemblies in a separate place, by the Presbyters and had a kind of supervision over their own sex (Alford, The Greek Testament, Vol. III, p. 347).

“An order of widows is referred to whose duties apparently consisted in the exercise of superintendence over … the younger women, whose office in fact was, so to say, presbyteral rather than deaconic. The external evidence for the existence … of such a body, even in earliest times, is so fully satisfactory and so completely in harmony with the internal evidence supplied by 1 Tim. 5:10, e.g., that on the whole we should adopt this view. That the widows here were church officials, who to command respect, must have been foremost in the performance of the duties for which women are looked up to.” (Sadler, Colossians, Thessalonians and Timothy, pp. 236–237)

Fourth, the documents of the Early Church clearly speak of an order of women elders or disciplers who had a ministry in the church and even a special seat of honor in the congregation.

“The Fathers … to the fourth (century), recognized a class known as presbyteresses ‘aged women’ (Tit. 2:3), who had oversight of the female members and a separate seat in the congregation” (Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament, Vol. IV, p. 257).

Stahlin in Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Vol. IX, p. 464f, points out that it is clear that in the Early Church there existed an order of women who ministered on a spiritual level to the other women. It is impossible to reduce their ministry to that of the deaconic.

In Ignatius’ Letter to the Smyrneans (XIII, 1), he mentions “the virgins who are called widows.” While Lightfoot’s contention that the order of widows was not primarily made up of unmarried virgins is well taken, yet, it is still clear that some unmarried women were allowed to join the order if they met the spiritual qualifications.

Just as it was no longer thought necessary for men to be married and to be the father of children to be qualified to be an elder, even so it developed that spiritually mature unmarried women could join the female presbytery.

When Polycarp wrote his Letter to the Philippians, he stated the qualifications for becoming a “widow,” i.e., woman elder (IV), as well as those for deacons, deaconesses (V) and male elders (VI). The context is clearly dealing with church offices.

Other references to this order have been found in Hermas Vis. II.4; Clem. Hom. XI. 30; Tert. de Pudis 13; Apost. Constitutions VI, 17, 4; Test. Domini. 1.23 and among the heathen, Lucian De Mort. Perezr. 12.

It was not until the Council of Laodicea (A.D. 344) that the order of women elders was officially abolished.

“The appointment of the so-called female elders of presidents shall not henceforth take place in the church” (literal translation of Canon II).

The Canon reveals that certain women were “elders” or “presidents” in the church up to that time. This is the same council that forbade the “laity” from observing the love feast (Canon 28) and in forbidding “lay” intrusions into “clergy” business. It was a council which did much to strengthen the grip of priestcraft on the church and to overturn the last elements of the priesthood of the believer which still survived from Apostolic times.

Could it be that the close down of some women in ministries of leadership has more to do with our contemporary views than what is written in the NT text?

Another responded to Robert Morey’s comments:

I would agree with Morey about the specifics of the gender division. I’m not as sure as he that gender division would have required female elders–unless that role was limited to governing women only.

But really, the idea that women were required to be physically silent is preposterous in context of all Paul and Luke have to say about the role of women in their own work.

We can debate intelligently about how their roles actually functioned but the idea of physical silence is the result of someone who is simply not reading scripture.[37]

First Corinthians 14:28-40 (ESV) reads[38],

28 But if there is no one to interpret, let each of them keep silent in church and speak to himself and to God. 29 Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said. 30 If a revelation is made to another sitting there, let the first be silent. 31 For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged, 32 and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets. 33 For God is not a God of confusion but of peace.

As in all the churches of the saints, 34 the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. 35 If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.

36 Or was it from you that the word of God came? Or are you the only ones it has reached? 37 If anyone thinks that he is a prophet, or spiritual, he should acknowledge that the things I am writing to you are a command of the Lord. 38 If anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized. 39 So, my brothers, earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. 40 But all things should be done decently and in order.

The same Greek word is used for ‘silent’ if there is no interpreter of tongues (v 28), of the first prophet in v. 30 (when the other is speaking),  as for the silence of women in the church (v 34). It’s the Greek, sigaw, which Arndt & Gingrich’s lexicon give as the main intransitive verb meaning ‘be silent, keep still’ with the meaning of (a) ‘say nothing, keep silent’ (1 Cor 14:28). This also is the meaning in Acts 12:17; 15:12; (b) in the transitive form of the verb, ‘stop speaking, become silent’ (1 Cor 14:30), which is also the meaning in Lk 18:39; Acts 15:13; (c) ‘hold one’s tongue, keep something secret’ (Lk 9:36). For an intransitive verb, it means to ‘keep silent, conceal something’ as in Rom 16:25 (Arndt & Gingrich 1957: 757).

So the meaning of sigaw in relation to 1 Cor 14:34 and silence of women in the church could be: be silent, keep still. The context gives further insight with this kind of language: ‘For God is not a God of confusion but of peace’ (1 Cor 14:33). It seems that confusion was happening in these meetings of the early church at Corinth and women could have been some of the culprits. They were told to keep silent/quiet wherever this was happening in churches. This is further emphasised in 1 Cor 14:40 with, ‘But all things should be done decently and in order’.

I’m not of the view that these verses are teaching the permanent silence of all women in the church throughout all of the existence of the church when the gifts of the Spirit are being manifested in the church gathering. As 1 Cor 11:5 indicates, wives could pray and prophesy in the church gatherings.  Some women in ministry were allowed in the Corinthian church – women could prophesy, as a gift of the Spirit. One cannot be silent, shut up, and speak prophesy to the church gathering.


There is a lot of mixed information in the above posts. How is it possible to gain a reasonable, biblically based understanding of women in ministry? See my articles:

cubed-iron-sm Women in ministry in I Corinthians: A brief inquiry

cubed-iron-sm Amazing contemporary opposition to women in public ministry

cubed-iron-sm Women in ministry: an overview of some biblical passages

cubed-iron-sm Must Women Never Teach Men in the Church?

Works consulted

Arndt, W F & Gingrich, F W 1957. A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature.[39] Chicago: The University of Chicago Press (limited edition licensed to Zondervan Publishing House).


[1] Christian Forums, Baptists, ‘If women are to silent … why are they allowed in the choir?’, 98cwitr, available at: (Accessed 4 October 2013).

[2] Johnz#5, ibid.

[3] OzSpen#9., ibid.

[4] Digout#63, ibid.

[5] OzSpen#66, ibid.

[6] Johnz#69.

[7] SharonL#70.

[8] Johnz#71, ibid.

[9] SeventhValley#10, ibid.

[10] OzSpen#11, ibid.

[11] Johnz#15, ibid.

[12] OzSpen#22, ibid.

[13] Revrobor#24, ibid.

[14] OzSpen#26, ibid.

[15] slickvolt#32, ibid.

[16] 98cwitr#33, ibid.

[17] RDKirk#34, ibid.

[18] revrobor#29, ibid.

[19] Johnz#31, ibid.

[20] revrobor#36, ibid.

[21] OzSpen#39, ibid.

[22] OzSpen#42, ibid.

[23] OzSpen#45, ibid.

[24] slickvolt#44, ibid.

[25] revrobor#47, ibid.

[26] revrobor#48, ibid.

[27] Johnz#49, ibid.

[28] Johnz#50, ibid.

[29] OzSpen#51, ibid

[30] revrobo#54, ibid.

[31] progmonk#55, ibid.

[32] Johnz#59, ibid.

[33] revrob#53, ibid.

[34] OzSpen#60, ibid.

[35] SeventhValley#64, ibid.

[36] OzSpen#67, ibid.

[37] RDKirk#68, ibid.

[38] I supplied the following post at OzSpen#72, ibid.

[39] This is ‘a translation and adaptation of Walter Bauer’s Griechisch-Deutsches Wörtbuch zu den Schriften des Neuen Testaments und der übrigen urchristlichen Literatur’ (4th rev & augmented edn 1952) (Arndt & Gingrich 1957:iii).


Copyright © 2013 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 28 February 2018.

Seeker-sensitive dumb-down

Church Sucks flyer

(Photo: Screen Grab via KVAL  Courtesy The Christian Post)

By Spencer D Gear

What will some pastors do to attract people to their churches? Why don’t you take a read of what this pastor is doing in Oregon? See: ‘‘Pastor’ Says ‘Church S*cks’ for Focusing on Sin“.  The article begins:

EUGENE – A minister in Oregon has a launched a sermon series entitled ‘Church S*cks,’ and is announcing seeker-friendly changes to his Sunday services, as a way to attract people who dislike church.

Tony Crank, who leads One Love Church in Eugene, claims that churches talk too much about sin, and are not welcoming enough to visitors.

Is your church up to these kinds of antics? What will you do to make sure that your church is protected from this seeker-sensitive nonsense and biblical downgrade? What will this kind of church do to biblical Christianity?

I was alerted to this situation by Bill Muehlenberg’s article, Relevant’ Churches and Apostate Pastors. Could you believe that there is a website titled, Some reading this may get angry with me for daring to mention it and they may consider that this short article gives this kind of profane activity some extra publicity. Please be assured that my purpose is primarily to alert God’s people to some of the theological nonsense that is going under the church banner these days. Please be warned. This approach to church has some of the signs, as I see it, of apostasy.

I sent a reply online to the newspaper cited above:

This is a sure way to dumb down the church and send biblical theology out of the window. When will this pastor read the New Testament and get his message from the Scriptures. Application of the message to the general populace, for sure! But this is a recipe for making this church another secularized club and place of entertainment. There is no good news without the bad news – of sin.

We have this warning in the Scriptures, ‘Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction’ (2 Thess 2:3 ESV). Matt Slick has written an article to address these kinds of issues: ‘Apostasy in the Christian church’.

To address some of the issues related to this seeker-sensitive church mentality, see my articles:

# Something’s gone wrong with the contemporary evangelical church? (A review of Os Guinness, Prophetic Untimeliness).

# Is theology important?

# Is liberal theology heresy?

# Worldliness in church music

# What does it mean to shipwreck your faith?


Copyright © 2013 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 3 November 2015.