Before I launch into a reply of Chaz Lehman’s sermon, I want to ask Chaz if he’s really taken a hard look at Calvinism’s exegetical responses to his views. Much of Chaz’s disagreements with Calvinism are nearly identical to those claimed by Non-Lutheran evangelicals, thus I apply the traditional Calvinist replies to his claims.
However, Lutheranism differs in its critique of Calvinism specifically its understanding of assurance. As expressed in the Internet discussions with Pr. McCain of 1/2006, the Lutheran understanding of assurance never points the uneasy believer to evidences (good works, faith, etc.) in their life, but always back to the cross and the sacraments that express Christ’s accomplishments on the sinner’s behalf. Lutheranism rightly acknowledges that man has salvation NO PART in his salvation (apart from God’s grace gift of faith), Lutherans are therefore also rightly concerned about false-pietism and legalism which views righteousness as something inherent in the person and somehow meritorious.
The LCMS website states the following:
Lutherans believe that faith is created and strengthened not by looking inside of one’s self (to one’s own faith and/or doubts) but by looking outside of one’s self (to God’s Word and promises in Christ). Therefore, assurance of salvation is to be sought by looking to God’s Word and promises in Christ (which create and strengthen the faith through which one is saved), not by looking inward at the strength or weakness of one’s own faith (which creates either pride and false assurance or doubt and lack of assurance). (http://www.lcms.org/ pages/internal.asp?NavID=2650)
However, this philosophical position can be taken too far, as is done in so-called ‘free-grace’ evangelical churches, usually of dispensational viewpoint wherein ‘calling upon the name of the Lord’ saves you no matter what you do, or don’t do in the future. There are severe differences between said churches and Lutheran doctrine, so I will not belabor the point.
This often causes Lutherans to be lumped with those who have been rightfully applied the title of antinomian, yet Lutherans do believe that good works are part of a Christian’s life.
The LCMS website also states the following:
The faith of which Paul speaks, of course, is a living faith in Jesus Christ that produces, by God’s Spirit, the good works that God wills be done in the Christian’s life. That is why, immediately after his beautiful summary of the Gospel in Ephesians 2:8-9, he continues, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” Of this living faith, Luther so eloquently said: “Oh faith is a living, busy, active, mighty thing, so that it is impossible for it not to be constantly doing what is good. Likewise, faith does not ask if good works are to be done, but before one can ask, faith has already done them and is constantly active” (Formula of Concord, SD, IV, 10-11). This is precisely what the entire book of James is all about. Genuine faith is a faith that shows itself in good works. Or as Luther again put it once, as an apple tree makes fruit and the fruit does not make an apple tree, so works do not make a Christian, but a Christian does good works. (http://www.lcms.org/pages/internal.asp?NavID=5561)
So Lutherans DO believe that true faith produces good works. Lutherans do not believe that these good works can ever be evidences of one’s salvation. My concern here is that it seems in direct opposition to every Biblical passage dealing with assurance. Certainly one cannot expect their good works to earn themselves a place in heaven, however, they can expect that if they’re truly a believer in Christ, the fruit of the Spirit will be present in their life, and a lack thereof surely is a sign that something is wrong. I will present this case later.
It is difficult in such discussions to not become argumentative or even haughty about what one believes. It is especially difficult in this case, as it seems that the Calvinist replies to typical Arminian (and in this case Lutheran) arguments against the exhaustive sovereignty of the Triune God go unheard by someone who has spent many hours hanging about in a particular Calvinist chat room and conversing with Calvinists. If one wishes to address a subject like Calvinism honestly, they should attempt to deal not only with what Calvinists believe, but their replies to common objections.
Finally, I must say that Lutheran exegesis, hermeneutics and simple use of Scriptures leave much to be desired. Often verses that speak nothing of the subject in question are appealed to in an offhand manner, suggesting that they’re denied by the Calvinist. Father Charles does this with Paul’s oft repeated greeting “Grace and peace to you…”. I’ve noticed that when I present specific Biblical objections to these arguments to Lutherans, they often seem ignorant of the passages in particular, or have no response at all to them. One Lutheran pastor for example really hadn’t studied Romans 9 at all and was unable to provide a Lutheran commentary on 1 John 2. It seems that Lutheran understanding of any specific Scriptural passage is reliant first and foremost on wearing a specific set of philosophical glasses and if the passage seems contrary to the tint of the lenses, one must reinterpret the passage to blend.
1 John 2 seems of particular difficulty for Lutherans to understand since John seems to go out of his way to make it very very clear that one can “know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands”. Regardless of what “keep” means, the fact of the matter here is that John IS addressing assurance and its relationship to the commands of God.
In spite of the good will shown on such programs as The White Horse Inn and in magazines such as Modern Reformation, Lutherans seem willing to slander Calvinists and ignore their replies.
So it is with a heavy heart and this background information in mind that I take on Chaz’s sermon:
I’m glad I’m not a Calvinist. If I approached the teaching of divine election in the way that Calvinists do, I wouldn’t be able to comfort you. I wouldn’t be able to speak Christ’s word of salvation to you in a tangible way. I would have no choice but to point you to yourself, to your own deeds and your own so-called faith. You would have to look to the holiness of your life for evidences that God had elected you.
It is questionable what one’s view of assurance has to do with the doctrine of divine election, I believe at least on this one point we agree: Those whom God elects to salvation will be saved, regardless of where they look for assurance.
But, to that end, what a boastful statement, “I’m glad I’m not like them!!” Aren’t these the words of the Pharisee? ‘I’m glad I’m not like THAT GUY, he’s not perfect… like me.’
Yet it seems that Lutherans simply ignore great swaths of Scripture because it is difficult to understand, or it ‘peers too much into the mind of God’. If I approached the teaching of Scripture the way Lutherans do, I’d have to rip 1 John, Romans 9, Jude 1 and other passages from my Bible as I could not actually accept what the words therein state.
“We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands.”
SURELY NOT! For we teach that that no one ACTUALLY OBEYS! No, the source of assurance cannot be one’s own obedience (even if it is by faith alone, in Christ alone, etc…)
1 John 2:3-6
By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.
How does the Apostle John tell us that we can KNOW that we know Christ? How does the Apostle John tell us that we can know if we are IN Christ? This is not about HOW you’re saved, but how you know that you are in Christ, and the Apostle John points to the evidences of the fruit of the Spirit in one’s life.
“Oh, but that’s John!” You cry, yes but what does Paul say!?
Gal 5:7,22-26 You were running a good race. Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth?…
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.
Oh that evil pietistic Paul…
Jesus dying on the cross for you would be a possibility, but not a certainty.
Actually, it is the Calvinist who can say that Christ died, certainly, for someone, His death ACTUALLY accomplishing what He intended for it to do. Christ’s death doesn’t make us savable, it actually saves!
Whether the Lord bothered to save you would be a question up for debate. Saying that the work of the cross was “sufficient for all but effective for some” really doesn’t get you very far. Where it does get you is fear and uncertainty. But the Word of God is clear. He has died for you. He has forgiven all of your sin.
Limited Atonement (or particular redemption, however you want to say it) is a difficult concept, not because the Bible doesn’t teach it, but because evangelical-dom has so thoroughly saturated preaching with the “all” mentality that what Christ, the Bible and specifically the types and shadows of the Old Testament actually say about atonement and its extent has gotten lost.
The fact of the matter is that, in the end, both Calvinists and Arminians (and in this case even Lutherans) limit atonement. Calvinists limit atonement to those who Christ determined to save and who would actually be saved. That is, Christ actually satisfied the wrath of God on the cross for those whom God intended to save. Christ did not make men saveable, He saved those for whom His blood was spilt in accordance with the intention of the Trinity established throughout the Old and New Testaments whereby God planned to redeem a people for Himself.
The payment wasn’t potential, it wasn’t partial and it wasn’t possible, it was accomplished. Not only did Christ actually pay for sins but he truly was a substitute for those whom He would redeem. Finally, Christ does in fact intercede on behalf of everyone for whom He died (Rom. 8:34, Heb 7:25) ensuring them to the end.
So the Lutheran position is that Christ died for you, has forgiven all your sin EXCEPT the sin of not believing in Him? How comforting is that? The Calvinist can say that IF CHRIST DIED FOR YOU, YOUR SALVATION IS SURE! Where’s the Lutheran’s boasting in his doctrine now?
Paul tells us that “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” But he adds a wonderful word, one word in Greek, two in English… “being justified.” Who is being justified? All, the very same all who have sinned. You, me, and every person who has been born or ever will be born.
As I’ve argued elsewhere this is the claim of the Universalist. To avoid this the Lutheran here has to create a theological construct, called ‘objective justification’ which in reality means “Christ’s death is only efficacious for you if you believe”. While it sounds impressive, it is really no different than the Arminian argument and is subject to the same flaws. Ultimately, in the Lutheran system, Christ only died for some of your sins or can only save you from some of your sins, unbelief is not one of them however.
And so, with Paul, I can say to you, “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Paul writes at the beginning of a letter (TO CHURCHES OF BELIEVERS), “Grace and peace…” but to unbelievers He says, “…God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent…” (Acts 17:30). Calvinists accept that God uses means to save, the Word of God preached is, by the power of the Spirit, to save those whose ears have been opened to it. Surely they teach how to read CONTEXT in Lutheran seminaries?
A Calvinist can’t say that. Not honestly. A Calvinist doesn’t know whether God wants grace and peace for you or not. They have forced themselves to live in a world of uncertainty and despair.
Calvinists can truly say that God desires “grace and peace” to His church, however, if one wants to rip the text from its context, Calvinists aren’t willing to go there.
Consider for a moment that Lutherans believe one can lose their salvation; that is that Christ actually can FAIL TO SAVE those the Father gave to Him! Where is the ‘grace and peace’ now? Lutherans seem to believe that God really wants to save people, but can’t.
Compare that with John 6 “…all that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. 38For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. 39And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day.”
The Calvinist can say that they’re quite certain that Christ will lose NONE of those given to Him by the Father.
There’s only one way they could mimic Paul’s words. Grace and peace to some of you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. The rest of you are going to hell. So where are you headed? In Calvinism, the Gospel is only for those elected to salvation. You can’t proclaim it to anyone else, because it doesn’t apply to them.
Proclaiming the Gospel, the remedy for the Law and the wrath of God that follows it, is what actually brings people to Christ. Paul tells us in the Romans that “faith comes by hearing”, that is, God uses the preaching of the Gospel to actually generate faith by the working of the Spirit. We are commanded then, to preach the Gospel to all mankind that they might hear it and believe and be saved.
Calvinists do no know who the elect of God are, nor do they claim to. We preach to all that if God wishes, all might be saved.
But the Gospel proclamation cannot be made apart from the warnings of the Law. Do not Lutherans even teach that one must BELIEVE in Christ for the effects of Christ’s work on the cross to actually save them from hell? Surely “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life” is NOT the Gospel? When Paul preached to unbelievers what did he preach? Should we imitate him, as he told Timothy to do? Paul told unbelievers that “…God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent…”. His message was not “all your sins are forgiven”, but a dire warning of the wrath of God… yes the Law. Paul preached the Law to unbelievers and then showed them the reprieve and mercy found in the Gospel.
We see that, in the parable of the Pharisee and the Publican, that God forgives those with repentant hearts. But the Lutheran here wants to tell them both that they’re forgiven.
Ultimately, Chaz is dishonest here, suggesting that Calvinists only preach to ‘the elect.’ Surely we’re not to bear false witness against one another?
In Calvin’s Strasbourg Catechism, a child was able to say that he was a Christian in fact as well as in name because he could say, “I am baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Unfortunately, modern Calvinists have lost the ability to make their stand on God’s promises. Calvin’s views on predestination have displaced the Gospel entirely. Today’s Calvinists cannot point you to your baptism, because it is entirely useless to you if Jesus didn’t die for you and you have been elected to hell. A Calvinist cannot point you to Christ’s promises, because if you are a vessel of destruction, Jesus didn’t make those promises to you. A Calvinist cannot point you to the Lord’s Supper and the forgiveness that the Lord gives out there because in his thinking an unbeliever receives only bread and wine.
Surely pointing to the Supper, and pointing to baptism of one who denies God and hates His Son does not promise to him salvation?
Since who Christ did die for and didn’t die for, in the biblical view of things, is invisible to us, what is Chaz trying to say? Because we don’t solely point one to their baptism and their partaking of the supper (both external things that THEY may have done?) we’re not giving them true assurance? Again, where in Scripture are we told, “We know that we have come to know him if we were baptized”?
The Calvinist cannot give true, unconditional comfort because they do not confess a true, unconditional Savior. As much as they might claim that Christ chooses apart from any holiness in you, it’s only the holiness in you that they can you point to in order to see if you’ve been elected to salvation.
What does the BIBLE say about this?
1 John 2:3-6 We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands. The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.
Heb 12:14 Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord.
Looks like the Bible is painfully clear on this issue saying: “By THIS we know that we are in him…” Obviously only a preexisting commitment to a theological perspective can prevent one from accepting the teaching of Scripture.
The will of God is entirely inscrutable, and so the Calvinist can have no certainty of their salvation apart from looking at their own heart, their own works, their own so-called faith. They don’t have the Lord’s promises, because they deny that the Lord’s promises are for all sinners.
“The will of God is entirely inscrutable”? Is not the will of God, specifically His plan and purpose in Salvation revealed to us in Scripture and ultimately in Christ? Should we not look to Scripture to see what God says about certainty in Salvation rather than relying on a man-created system to bypass His holy word?
Does not the potter have the right to do with clay as He wishes? Is the Lutheran “god” the God of the Bible who actually gets everything He desires and whose plans have been immutable since the foundation of the world? What did God PROMISE to Pharaoh? “I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.”
And what about the Lutheran, does the Lutheran who believes that Christ can die for you, intercede for you, pay for all your sins and yet STILL FAIL TO SAVE YOU have any understanding of the promises of the Lord?
You know the despair that Calvinists have to abide in.
What despair is this!? Despair that if Christ died for me, has me in His hands, I will certainly be found in Him in eternity? Not on the basis of whether or not I “believed enough” but because He is a gracious Lord and Savior?
You hear Christ’s parable of the sheep and the goats and you think, “Surely I am condemned! I am lost! I have failed to feed the hungry. I have turned away strangers. I have ignored the pleas of the naked. I have forsaken the sick and forgotten the ones in prison. The Lord has given me countless opportunities to serve my neighbor and I have failed at every turn!”
You’re right. You are a lost and condemned creature. You have earned hell and all of the torment that it implies. The Law of this passage bites very deeply. It judges you on the basis of your works, and even worse than that, it lists a set of works that no one has ever accomplished consistently and completely. When you listen to it you hear the echoing silence of your own deeds. Some of you have not done these deeds at all. Some of you have squandered opportunities to do them. Some of you have done them with impure thoughts and selfish motives. You deserve nothing but eternal punishment in the place prepared for the devil and his angels.
But wait a minute… If hell is prepared for the devil and his angels, then how can you be eternally elected to suffer there? Jesus has an outstanding opportunity to confess the eternal election of sinners to hell in Matthew 25 and He passes it up. Clearly Jesus needs to read Calvin’s Institutes again. Clearly when He went to Calvinist Seminary He failed systematics.
Is it not true that “Scripture has shut up everyone under sin”, are we not all “children of wrath”? It is as if Chaz doesn’t believe in the fall of man! Sure the eternal fire was prepared for the devil and his angels, but Adam, by sinning against God, thrust himself and all in him into that place as well.
We’re all equally destined for that same place, apart from the grace of Christ. Do Lutherans do something that earns them the special merit badge that enables them to dodge God’s justice?
Is not Christ talking to PEOPLE when he says “Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels”? What is this, contextless exegesis? Does what the verse actually means and its context have any bearing on how to understand it in Lutheran theology!?
Such is the beauty of our Lord. When given an opportunity to use literary parallelism and teach what some would argue is a very logical doctrine, Jesus says, “No thanks.” He says to the sheep, “Come, you are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” But the Lord absolutely refuses to speak of hell in that way.
Were not the Pharisees also messengers of Satan? Are not all children of Adam messengers of Satan?
“You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.
and the field is the world; and as for the good seed, these are the sons of the kingdom; and the tares are the sons of the evil one;
2 Peter 3:7
But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.
Jude 1: 12
These are the men who are hidden reefs in your love feasts when they feast with you without fear, caring for themselves; clouds without water, carried along by winds; autumn trees without fruit, doubly dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea, casting up their own shame like foam; wandering stars, for whom the black darkness has been reserved forever.
What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction?
Chaz however believes:
Hell, beloved, was not prepared for you. Even if you die in unbelief, you will not be suffering for eternity in a place prepared for that purpose.
Maybe Romans 9 is simply missing from Lutheran Bibles?
22What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction? 23What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory— 24even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles?
Everything God does, glorifies himself. Soli Deo Gloria. Chaz continues:
The Lord takes no pleasure in the death of a sinner but wants the sinner to turn from his evil way and live. Every person in hell is a forgiven sinner for whom Jesus died. They are there only because they rejected the gift He won for them by His death on the cross.
While it is true that God has “no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies,” this is why He declares, “Therefore, repent and live.”
Two things to keep in mind here, just because a person dies doesn’t mean that because God doesn’t take pleasure in it that it was completely contrary to His eternal plan and purpose, or that He had no idea it would occur. Rather, everything happens for a purpose and that ultimate purpose is to bring glory to God, just as Romans 9 states, very clearly.
Also, If “every person in hell is a forgiven sinner”, on what legal basis does God condemn them? If they’re FORGIVEN, why are they punished? They “rejected the gift”? What gift does the little blind Ethiopian boy who never hears the Gospel preached, reject?
Also, why did our Lutheran writer “accept the gift” but someone else “rejects” it? What was it about our Lutheran pal that made him more amiable to this “gift”? Maybe he was more spiritual? More holy? More… intelligent? Maybe he was just lucky to be born in a land where the Gospel IS preached in the first place?
And, don’t we all “reject the gift” in some way? Don’t we all fail to believe? How is it that one rejects but another… doesn’t?
The glory of God is seen in the Creator of the Universe hanging dead on a cross. When James and John asked to be seated on Jesus’ right and left in His glory, the Lord answered that it was not for Him to give but was for the ones for whom it had been prepared. James and John thought that glory was some sort of worldly pomp and circumstance. They thought that Christ was going to usher in His kingdom like Caesar riding down the streets of Rome in a triumph parade.
But the glory of God is made perfect in weakness. It is seen most clearly when nails are driven through His hands and feet and a crown of thorns is pressed into his scalp. The glory of God is not the death of a sinner but rather the death of His only begotten Son who bears the sins of the whole world.
Calvinists will argue that if you teach an election to heaven that you must also teach an election to hell. It’s logical. It’s reasonable. But they push it to a point that destroys comfort. They make it impossible for you to be certain of Christ’s work for you. But the satanic consequences of their error shouldn’t surprise us.
No, Calvinists argue that the Bible teaches that some, like Judas and Pharaoh, were according to the plan and purpose of God, who, being sovereign, gets everything He desires, destined to glorify God through their rejection of Christ.
Calvinists argue that the Bible teaches that it “does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy” and that “God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.”
Calvinists do not argue on the basis of x + y = z, rather we point to Scripture, (remember Sola Scriptura?) to inform our understanding of things. We do not find “rejecting gifts” and “every person in hell is a forgiven sinner” in Scripture, rather, we find that all those who are sent to hell deserved hell, and all those sent to heaven ALSO deserved hell, but were forgiven, graciously and believed on Christ not out of some innate ability or spark within them, but because God graciously chose to have mercy on them. As Scripture says, “By grace you are saved, through faith…”
It is the one who, seeing Scripture that fails to fit his views and refuses to apply his views to the standard thereof but places his theological framework above the very Word of God they claim to preach who engages in Satanic error. Is it Satanic error to accept the Word of God for what it says or to flee from the truth that Scripture teaches for a man-made theological construct?
By teaching an election to hell the Calvinists speak where the Scriptures are silent. They say a word of God that He has not given them to say.
I believe I’ve shown the contrary, and must ask why Lutherans seem ignorant of Romans 9, Acts 4:27-28, Jude 1:12, 2 Pet 3:7 etc.? Was God so clueless when He created the universe that He had NO IDEA that people would go to hell? No, the Scriptures tell us otherwise.
While Jesus makes the beautiful promise to the sheep that the eternal joy they will receive has been prepared for them since the foundation of the world, He scrupulously avoids speaking of an election to hell.
Do not the Apostles speak on behalf of Christ? Do we not accept that the Scriptures are “God-breathed”? If so, is it not Christ then who is ultimately responsible for Romans 9?
The doctrine of election is a source of joy and comfort for every Christian. You who believe have faith because from before the foundation of the world God chose you for that eternal salvation that even now you enjoy.
If God chose them for eternal salvation, how is it possible for them to fall away? Has God chosen EVERYONE for eternal salvation?
The deeds that Christ has done for you are even now reckoned to you. He has visited the sick with healing. He has clothed the naked with his righteousness. He has given you to drink of His own blood. He has given you to eat of His own body.
When you fail to serve your neighbor, Christ forgives you and provides for the one you neglect. When the Lord looks at you at the last day, He will put you on the side of the sheep because He the Lamb of God has taken away the sin of the world. He has forgiven all sinners from the wood of His cross and you who have faith He has elected you to be His own. He has done it from the foundation of the world.
Rejoice, dear Christian. The salvation in which you hope is sure. There is nothing that can snatch you from your Savior’s hand.
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Finally, something I actually can say “amen” to… however I have to ask, “You who have faith”? What about those who don’t have faith, aren’t they “elected” as well in the Lutheran scheme? If not, how can the Lutheran avoid the same criticism they apply to Calvinists?
It is imperative that the one who speak in the name of Christ speak truth about his brother and even his enemy. Even more, its important for believers to know what they believe, why, and how it differs from others.