An Inquiry

Dear Mr White I am a young pastor. I was raised by a Calvinist father until he fell away from the faith. As a late teen I turned to Christ after years of hedonistic living and repented of my sins and sin wile trusting in Christ. I have continued to this day for 12 years and have seen God move in my life, answer when I call and discipline me as well. I also abhor myself in regards to my complete wickedness apart from God’s mercy now more than ever. However, I do not currently hold to Reformed Theology. My concern is this. As I continue to study and read material I find no end to this subject. Logically from all the argumentation that I read on this site and elsewhere, it seems to follow that anyone who does not believe in Reformed theology is not truly saved. Is this truly what you believe?

Dear Pastor KC:
   I would honestly like to ask you where you derived, from anything on aomin.org, this idea? Where have I even once said “the non-Calvinist is not saved?” I know where I have in fact attacked perfectionists and hyper-Calvinists (such as here), but I would be very interested in seeing which articles you think promote such an idea.
   I suppose it is possible that you believe that since I have firmly stated that non-Reformed views, no matter what their character and history, are sub-biblical, and hence tend toward diminishing God’s glory and exalting man, and likewise introduce inconsistency into one’s theology and therefore one’s apologetics, that this means I think anyone holding such views is not a Christian, but such would surely be a major error of reading and thought. You can believe someone sub-biblical and inconsistent and not banish them from the kingdom because, obviously, unless we are going to claim perfection in our theology, each of us is functionally sub-biblical in this lifetime.

Could I be lost after years of a changed life and seeing more of Jesus and falling in love with Him while He works in my life all because I do not know Greek and can’t come to a perfect exegetical understanding of several key passages. Do I have to trust someone like yourself as my “high priest of Greek.”

   Of course you could be lost, since I do not have the slightest idea who you are, and in this life we do not yet see as we shall see someday. But such is hardly the point. I must admit, it is hard not to see some intended offense in the phrase “high priest of Greek.” Do you not wish to be fully equipped to respect God’s Word by handling it aright? It almost sounds like you are indicating there is something wrong with investing your life in becoming equipped to study the Scriptures and to do in-depth exegesis. But what is more, if you are as in love with Jesus as you say, and I am not questioning that you are, the logical outcome of that love would include a deep and abiding respect for His Word, and a desire to know Him better. It would seem that loving Jesus is not antithetical to exegesis, but instead, it provides the ground for making the sacrifices necessary to be able to handle the Word aright so as to show it the respect due to Christ. Don’t you think?
   You say you haven’t come to a perfect exegetical knowledge of certain passages. What does that mean? If it means “I still do not understand key texts but am open to continued study” that’s one thing. If by that you mean “I can’t refute what you say about John 6:37 but I will keep looking for a way around such texts,” that’s a completely different matter.

Doesn’t that take away one of the goals of the Reformation in the first place which as to put the scriptures in the hands of every man.

   Not at all. None of the Reformers dismissed the need for in-depth study of the Word of God. But they likewise recognized that the pastor, the bishop, the leader of God’s people, needs a large “tool box” than the layman at the plow. It takes scholars to provide accurate translations in the language of the people, for example. And when traditions of men hide behind falsehoods (“All means all and that all all means!”) reference to the original languages is often quite useful. When Hebrews tells us Jesus Christ died “once for all,” in English that could be taken temporally (once for all time) or in an expansive sense, once for all men (individually or generically). But their is no ambiguity in the original (it is temporal).

I am sincerely asking as a fellow believer because of the confusion that this argument has created in my own mind and heart, and those around me, for years. Is it possible at all that this can fall into the category of “seeing through a glass dimly”, (1 Cor. 13), and “things to profound for me” (psalm 131). I hope so, because I truly believe the Lord has rescued and redeemed me, but can’t seem to even make myself believe what you believe in regards to Reformed thelogy. If you have a pastor’s heart as well as a theologian’s please respond…. IN Christ KC

   Well, KC, I confess, I am less than fully confident that you truly understand the issues here, especially in light of how you started. I would recommend to your reading one of the finest books on the topic, the one that turned me from a reluctant Calvinist into a passionate one, RC Sproul’s, Chosen by God. Sproul’s conversational style would surely not cause you to refer to him as a “high priest of Greek” (though his passion for Latin might conjure up a few other terms). It, along with The Holiness of God, provides a wonderfully balanced introduction to this vitally important topic. We make the book available through our book ministry now, here. I have a somewhat similar work, also in our book ministry, titled God’s Sovereign Grace.
This work is likewise fairly conversational, and is meant to provide a biblical and theological introduction to the doctrines of grace, but with a little extra element of apologetic response included.
   Now, Norman Geisler decided to respond to Sproul’s work without directly indicating he was doing so in his book, Chosen But Free. CBF is a tremendous example of how tradition can blind the brightest of minds to basic biblical truths, leading to basic, fundamental errors. I replied to CBF with The Potter’s Freedom. If you find give and take, argument and counter-argument, useful in illustrating truth, then TPF would be for you. If you do not, you might wish to stick with Chosen by God. In any case, I hope these few thoughts are useful to you.