5 reasons to embrace unconditional election

John Piper: I use the word embrace because unconditional election is not just true, but precious. Of course, it can’t be precious if it’s not true. So that’s the biggest reason we embrace it. But let’s start with a definition: Unconditional election is God’s free choice before creation, not based on foreseen faith, to which traitors he will grant faith and repentance, pardoning them and adopting them into his everlasting family of joy. 1. We embrace unconditional election because it is true. All my objections to unconditional election collapsed when I could no longer explain away Romans 9. The chapter begins with Paul’s readiness to be cursed and cut off from Christ for his unbelieving Jewish kinsmen (Romans 9:3). This implies that some Jews are perishing. And that raises the question of God’s promise to the Jews. Had it failed? Paul answers, “It is not as though the word of God has failed” (Romans 9:6). Why not? Because “not all

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Calvinism, Hyper-Calvinism, and World Missions

This post is adapted from Andrew Fuller: Holy Faith, Worthy Gospel, World Mission by John Piper. Natural Inability and Moral Inability In his most famous work, The Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation, Andrew Fuller piles text upon text in which unbelievers are addressed with the duty to believe.[1] These are his final court of appeal against the High Calvinists, who use their professed logic to move from biblical premises to unbiblical conclusions. But he finds Jonathan Edwards very helpful in answering the High Calvinist objection on another level. Remember, the objection is that “it is absurd and cruel to require of any man what is beyond his power to perform.” In other words, a man’s inability to believe removes his responsibility to believe (and our duty to command people to believe). In response to this objection, Fuller brings forward the distinction between moral inability and natural inability. This was the key insight which he learned from Jonathan Edwards, and he

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A Calvinist Evangelist?

By Keith Mathison: If I have heard it once, I’ve heard it a thousand times: “A Calvinist evangelist? Isn’t that an oxymoron? Calvinism undermines evangelism.” This accusation has been repeated so many times that few make the effort to argue it. Instead, it is simply assumed. Never mind that some of the church’s greatest evangelists have been Calvinists. One need only be reminded of men such as George Whitefield, David Brainerd, or “the father of modern missions,” William Carey. “Yes,” we are told, “these men were great evangelists and Calvinists, but that is because they were inconsistent.” But is this true? The fact of the matter is that Calvinism is not inconsistent with evangelism; it is only inconsistent with certain evangelistic methods. It is inconsistent, for example, with the emotionally manipulative methods created by revivalists such as Charles Finney. But these manipulative methods are themselves inconsistent with Scripture, so it is no fault to reject them. In order for evangelism to

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Watershed Differences Between Calvinists and Arminians

John Piper: Really helpful and careful summary: Audio Transcript: A listener to the podcast, Peter from Seattle, writes in: “Pastor John, what is the main difference between Calvinism and Arminianism? I’m trying to explain this difference to my 13-year-old son, and would love to boil it down to one or two watershed differences. What would those be?” Okay, I am going to give him more than he asked for. And then I am going to give him what he asked for, okay? I think it will be helpful for me to just walk through the so-called five points because these five points are what the Arminian Remonstrance in 1610 threw back at the Calvinists. The Calvinists didn’t come up with five points to start with. The Calvinists wrote their vision of what salvation looks like and how it happens under God’s sovereignty and when the Arminians read it, they said, “These are five places we don’t agree.” And that is

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8 Features of the Best Kind of Calvinism

Tim Challies: I was interested to read through a new little booklet written by Ian Hamilton, pastor of Cambridge Presbyterian Church in Cambridge, England. In this work he means to show that Calvinism is both deeper and richer than the well-known 5 Points (a.k.a. TULIP). Calvinism at its best is also experiential, a word which Tom Nettles once helpfully described in this way: “An experiential theology, or experimental Calvinism, pursues the purposeful application of every doctrine to some area of life that needs further conformity to Christ’s perfect humanity.” Hamilton explains further: Calvinism is natively experiential. Before it is a theological system, Calvinism is deeply affectional, God-centered, cross-magnifying religion. A man may loudly trumpet his adherence to the distinctive tenets of Calvinism, but if his life is not marked by delight in God and His gospel, his professed Calvinism is a sham. In other words, there is no such thing as “dead Calvinism.” Such is a theological oxymoron for one simple

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What Is the Heartbeat of Reformed Theology?

  Jason Helopoulos: What is the heartbeat of Reformed Theology? Some would point to the Doctrines of Grace (Five Points of Calvinism) and others to the Solas of the Reformation. Still others may be inclined to assert that it is the sovereignty of God or union with Christ. All of these are good answers, but if I was pressed to articulate the one thing that drives Reformed Theology, I would reply that it is the glory of God as revealed in the Scriptures: We emphasize reliance upon the Scriptures because observing the rule He has given for faith and practice ascribes glory to God. We emphasize the sovereignty of God because a theology rooted in His supremacy ascribes glory to God. We emphasize the distinction between Creator and creature because a right understanding of His “otherness” ascribes glory to God. We emphasize the sinfulness of man because recognizing His unfathomable grace ascribes glory to God. We emphasize the inability of

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Jesus Doesn’t Fail: An Interview on Definite Atonement

  David Mathis, Desiring God: It is, by far, the most contested of the Five Points. And confusion over the term makes it all the trickier. “Limited Atonement” is the middle letter in TULIP, but as author and pastor Douglas Wilson explains, that name might give the wrong impression. “The problem with ‘limited atonement’ is that it makes everybody think ‘tiny atonement.’” And, of course, no good Christian wants to cast the cross-work of Christ as diminutive. The better term, says Wilson, with a growing number of voices, is “Definite Atonement.” Same doctrine, better name. This way of putting it emphasizes the extent of Jesus’s accomplishment, rather than its restriction. He Died for His People Definite atonement teaches that Jesus died to fully secure the salvation of his people, not just make the offer. Its anchors in the biblical text include, among others, John 10:11: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” Ephesians

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The Gospel of Sovereign Grace

  By Joel Beeke: One New Testament book that especially emphasizes God’s astounding sovereign grace is Paul’s letter to the Romans. According to Paul, this grace makes both Jew and Gentile co-heirs of God’s kingdom with faithful Abraham (Rom. 4:16). It establishes peace between God and sinners who are His enemies (Rom. 5:2). Since only this grace is stronger than the forces of sin, it brings genuine and lasting freedom from sin’s dominion (Rom. 5:20-21; 6:14). Divine grace equips Christian men and women with varied gifts to serve in the church of God (Rom. 12:6). This grace ultimately will conquer death and is the sure harbinger of eternal life for all who receive it (Rom. 5:20-21), for it is a grace that reaches back into the aeons before the creation of time and, without respect to human merit, chooses men and women for salvation (Rom. 11:5-6). This idea that salvation owes everything to God’s grace is the overarching theme not just in

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The five phases of grace

Daniel Montgomery and Timothy Paul Jones: The five facets of grace described in PROOF are a biblical and theological re-framing and re-envisioning of TULIP. TULIP is a nifty mnemonic device but hasn’t proven to be the most helpful tool, in our estimation, in magnifying the glorious gospel of God’s grace: Planned Grace re-envisions limited atonement and we begin here because the story of grace begins with a perfect plan in eternity past. Before time began, God mapped out the plan of salvation from first to last. It’s a loving plan made by the Father for a particular people. It’s a victorious plan achieved by the Son for a definite people. It’s an effective and guaranteed plan sealed by the power of the Holy Spirit. God planned to adopt a particular people as his own children; Christ offered himself as a sacrifice for these people’s sins and as a substitute who satisfied God’s righteous requirements in their place. When God makes

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Spurgeon versus Hyper-Calvinism

In Spurgeon v. Hyper-Calvinism, Iain Murray draws four lessons from that conflict: 1.  “Genuine evangelical Christianity is never of an exclusive spirit.  Any view of the truth which undermines catholicity has gone astray from Scripture.”  Spurgeon disagreed with hyper-Calvinists who “made faith in election a part of saving faith and thus either denied the Christianity of all professed Christians who did not so believe or at least treated such profession with much suspicion.” 2.  Spurgeon “wanted to see both divine sovereignty and human responsibility upheld, but when it came to gospel preaching he believed that there needed to be a greater concentration upon responsibility.  The tendency of Hyper-Calvinism was to make sinners want to understand theology before they could believe in Christ.” 3.  “This controversy directs us to our need for profound humility before God.  It reminds us forcefully of questions about which we can only say, ‘Behold, God is great, and we know him not’ (Job 36:26).”  “It is to

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Piper’s Five Points

Rick Ianniello summarises John Piper on the 5 points: “I have found … that people grasp these points more easily if we go in the order in which we ourselves often experience them when we become Christians.” We experience first our depravity and need of salvation. Then we experience the irresistible grace of God leading us toward faith. Then we trust the sufficiency of the atoning death of Christ for our sins. Then we discover that behind the work of God to atone for our sins and bring us to faith was the unconditional election of God. And finally we rest in his electing grace to give us the strength and will to persevere to the end in faith. In short, here is how he explains each of the points: Total Depravity: Our sinful corruption is so deep and so strong as to make us slaves of sin and morally unable to overcome our own rebellion and blindness. This inability to save

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The Deciding Factor in Salvation

“Calvinism and Arminianism both affirm that God has chosen not to save everyone; the paths diverge over whether God’s electing grace or our free will is the deciding factor in salvation. In the Calvinist account, though, God’s love is finally greater than the fallen heart’s rebellion and resistance. God will not let those whom he has chosen have the last word in this matter, but redeems them, renews them, and keeps them until glory. In the case of neither the elect nor the reprobate does God coerce the human will. Rather, in the former case he frees sinners from their bondage to sin and death, and in the latter case he leaves sinners to go their own way.” – Michael Horton, For Calvinism, page 64 (HT: Josh Harris)

Piper on Calvinism

New Course on Calvinism from John Piper. The Bible gives us a glorious vision of God’s sovereignty in saving sinners. “Calvinism” is a kind of nickname for this Christian body of doctrine on salvation that so appropriately humbles humanity and so magnificently exalts divine grace. In a new eight-hour course on Calvinism, or “the doctrines of grace,” John Piper walks through the historical “five points,” digging into text after text of Scripture and responding to many of the most common questions. “The doctrines of grace,” Piper explains, “give the lowest view of the saved person as utterly depraved and hopeless in himself, and the highest view of the saved person as individually chosen and loved and purchased at infinite cost.” These truths expose our desperate neediness, such that the subtlest form of boasting in ourselves becomes ridiculous. And at the same time, they highlight the grace of God such that we marvel with the apostle Paul, “To him be glory forever”

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Does Calvinism Kill Missions?

Jason Helopoulos: It is often asserted that Calvinism creates a barrier to evangelism and missions. The accusation usually comes in the form of questions. How could those who believe the Scriptures teach predestination and election truly have a heart for missions? If God has determined who shall be saved, why would there be any need to engage in evangelism or missions? And yet, we can safely say that this is an argument lacking historical proof (and theological basis). It must be acknowledged that Calvinists have not only robustly encouraged, engaged, and propagated missions, but have led some of the great mission’s and evangelistic movements in the history of the church. Even a cursory glance at the history of missions and missionaries produces a hall of fame filled with Calvinists. It could rightly be argued that Calvinism is not only not a barrier to missions and evangelism, but has actually proven to be a spur to missions and evangelism. In fact, it has often been

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J.I. Packer on three views of salvation

“Long ago, when I was an undergraduate, I had an experience on one of the rivers in Oxford where students love to pole themselves around in flat-bottomed boats called punts. I do not know if undergraduates do it in the universities of this country, but we do it in Oxford. The experience was my falling into the river. I can still remember the surprise I had when I suddenly found myself upside down in the water and that there were strands of green weed around my head and the light was up at my feet. You do not forget that sort of thing quickly, and on the basis of that experience I construct for you the following illustration. Imagine a man who has fallen into a river. He cannot swim. The weeds have caught his feet. He is threshing around, but he cannot get free and will not be above the surface for very long. His state is desperate. Three

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Piper on the Life and Ministry of Charles Spurgeon

Plenty of encouragement here for the Christian who wants to honour God in the way they believe and live, and for the pastor who wants to glorify God in his ministry. Watch above as John Piper lectures at Reformed Theological Seminary (April 10, 2013) on the life and ministry of Charles Spurgeon. (You can find audio and the manuscript of an earlier edition of this talk here.) (HT: Justin Taylor)

Definite Atonement

“The Arminians say, ‘Christ died for all men.’ Ask them what they mean by it. Did Christ die so as to secure the salvation of all men? They say, ‘No, certainly not.’ We ask them the next question: Did Christ die so as to secure the salvation of any man in particular? They answer ‘No.’ They are obliged to admit this, if they are consistent. They say, ‘No; Christ has died that any man may be saved if ?’ and then follow certain conditions of salvation. Now, who is it that limits the death of Christ? Why, you. You say that Christ did not die so as infallibly to secure the salvation of anybody. We beg your pardon, when you say we limit Christ’s death; we say, ‘No, my dear sir, it is you that do it.’ We say Christ so died that he infallibly secured the salvation of a multitude that no man can number, who through Christ’s death

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Whitefield on Election

We should not have so much disputing against the doctrine of election, or hear it condemned (even by good men) as a doctrine of devils. For my own part, I cannot see how true humbleness of mind can be attained without a knowledge of it. And though I will not say, that everyone who denies election is a bad man, yet I will say . . . it is a very bad sign. Such a one, whoever he be, I think cannot truly know himself. For if we deny election we must, partly at least, glory in ourselves. But our redemption is so ordered that no flesh should glory in the Divine presence. And hence it is, that the pride of man opposes this doctrine because according to this doctrine and no other, ‘he that glories, must glory only in the Lord.’ But what shall I say? Election is a mystery that shines with such resplendent brightness that, to make

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