Calvinism is NOW the theological flavor for the SBC today. It has been around the SBC since its founding but make no mistake about it, it is infinitely more popular today than it has ever been in the SBC. More people are being indoctrinated with the errant theology with the proliferation of the internet and the increased influence in the academic arena. For many, especially the younger crowd coming up, they are dining on the vast buffets provided by the Pipers, and MacArthur’s and Mohler’s of our day. The Founder’s Movement deserves a resounding round of applause for its determination to stick to its mission to make the SBC a reformed denomination. Adding to the Founders are groups like Together For the Gospel and the Gospel Coalition and 9 Marks and a host of other reformed groups. Speakers for these groups are growing in popularity by the hour and their influence is increasing especially among the young folks who are in the process of forming their theological roots so to speak. This is a huge problem in the SBC today.
Why on earth am I NOT a Calvinist? It ought to be obvious that the answer to this question is one of two options: first, I am not in this theologically elite elect group because God did not intend for me to be in it or the god of this world has not drawn me into it. On a more serious note, I will try to answer this question in the next series of posts.
First of all, I do not believe the Bible supports a total depravity/inability position. Without this foundation, one CANNOT be a Calvinist. Total Depravity is a thesis presented that forms the foundation for Calvinism. It has some level of validity to it. Man is without question depraved. Man is unquestionably sinful and all men have sinned and come short of the glory of God. Man’s depravity is not in question here. What is at question is the totality or extent of that depravity. Calvinism contends that man lost the ability to choose God when Adam sinned. Fallen man has no inclination nor any ability to choose God or anything righteous. This is a definition of depravity. Not total depravity. Understand one other thing. There is a determined difference in someone “choosing God on his own and of his own inclination” and one responding to God’s salvific initiative brought about by an introduction to the gospel and the convicting and convincing work of the Holy Spirit in a lost person’s heart.
I respectfully challenge you to think about the difference in depravity and total depravity. There is a profound difference. Calvinists argue God MUST change the totally depraved nature before he can respond to God. This is the foundation for the necessity of regeneration taking place prior to repentance or believing faith on man’s part. Since man cannot change his own nature, which is a sin nature, God MUST do it so that he can THEN respond to God.
Here is a question I have with respect to man not being able to change his nature. How did he change his created nature, being created in the image of God in the first place? If the totally depraved man cannot change his nature and God must do it, that must be the case in the beginning as well. The Bible clearly states that man was created in the image of God and most believe this meant that man had a choice in the garden. God gave him that choice and He also gave him the consequences of his choices. God told Adam, “In the day that you eat of the fruit, you shall surely die.” So the question that looms large in my mind is, how did man go from being created in the image of God having been given the responsibility to choose to being not able to choose, where God is concerned? If man’s created nature was changed, God would have had to be the One to change it, since man is incapable of doing so. That is what Calvinism contends. Actually, I believe that statement to be true but I believe it is true in the beginning as opposed to the end as calvinism contends.
The Bible speaks of man’s sin nature and that all men have sinned and there is no one who is righteous no not one. This does not mean that men cannot respond to God’s initiative of revelation and reconciliation. The gospel message is of such a nature that it demands a response! I believe man is still created in the image of God and bears the responsibility to choose and to suffer or benefit from the consequences of those choices as set by God Himself. This seems to be perfectly logical where the Scriptures are concerned.
If Adam’s nature was changed, then it must be understood that sin did not change his nature; God must have changed man’s nature. A problem with that would be the statement that God made in the garden concerning Adam and Eve in Genesis 3:22, ““Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil.” If God had changed man’s nature to one of total depravity and inability, it would seem difficult to square that with His statement in Genesis 3:22. Adam has sinned. God has confronted that sin. He has cursed the serpent, the woman and the earth. Man is not totally depraved; the difference between Adam and Eve after their sin as opposed to prior to their sin is that they now know BOTH good and evil. Calvinism and total depravity contends that man knows only evil. He can only sin. He cannot not sin and so he is unable to choose good or choose God without first being regenerated or made alive.
Genesis 3:22 speaks directly to this issue and Scripturally says something totally different. If total depravity and inability are accurate, it must have come into being after this statement and not before. One additional problem with the concept of total depravity and inability and regeneration being necessary for one to respond positively to God is that there is no evidence of that in the Old Testament where Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are concerned; there is no evidence of that being the case with the calling of Moses at the burning bush; in fact, one could argue the opposite as God spoke to Moses he made every excuse in the book not to go back to Egypt and lead the people, even to the irritation of God in the dialogue process.
There is no evidence of God regenerating David before Samuel Anoints him to be king. Regeneration is not even an Old Testament concept. Another interesting note is the fact that total depravity and inability are nowhere to be found in the Jewish theological system. God has established a set of laws and He has promised to bless those who keep His laws and to punish those who do not keep His law.
The truth is, total depravity and inability are not Biblically sustainable concepts and in fact are difficult to sustain especially in the Old Testament and in the event of Adam’s original sin itself. Even when God came walking in the cool of the garden after Adam had sinned, there is no reference to regeneration taking place before Adam could respond to God. None. God spoke and Adam responded. God is still speaking and men are still responding to God and those responses determine both the direction of one’s eternal destiny and the quality of the journey to get there.