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Sunday, May 4, 2008

Response to a Defense of 4 Point "Calvinism"

This is an article I found by Kevin Bauder defending the "4 point" position. I had a few comments that I had written down as I was reading, and I wanted to know what anybody else thought. I have nothing against Dr. Bauder; as a matter of fact, I hear nothing but good things about him from everyone I know. I hear that he is interested in moving the fundamentalist movement in a more positive direct, and I greatly appreciate that. I would love to assist him in that effort if I can, but in the case of the article that I’m linking to we disagree. Please take the time to follow this link and read the short article that Dr. Bauder has written before reading my response.

Thanks. Here’s the link:

The question is not whether Dr. Bauder has arrived at logical conclusions. The question is whether he has started with logical premises, and I would argue that he hasn’t.
For example, Dr. Bauder begins with the premise that Christ died to provide salvation not merely for the elect of the Father, but for each and every person without exception. This, I believe is a definitely faulty premise.

First of all, let’s consider how a man is saved: Paul, speaking to believers in the book of Ephesians, says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God…” Now, the question is whether someone can be saved without having been given grace and faith. Considering the passage before us, we have to ask the question, “What does the word ‘this’ refer to in the phrase ‘And this is not your own doing’?” Without getting into the Greek behind it, I think that we can safely say that it is referring to all three things mentioned previously. Grace is definitely not something that we can conjure up on our own; we are definitely not saved by our own doing; and (I assume Dr. Bauder would agree with me on this one) we, in our depraved, separated, spiritually dead condition, certainly did not spontaneously generate the necessary faith towards God. For the moment, I will consider this last point something that we agree on; but if anyone would like to investigate further, go check out Philippians 1:29 and II Tim. 2:24-26.

Next, we must ask ourselves whether it is legitimate to assert that Christ has actually provided salvation for all those who have, do, and will end up in hell. Can we truly affirm this if they never have saving faith? If in order to be saved, a man must exercise faith in Christ as his all sufficient Savior, and the unbelieving multitudes who are suffering in hell because they never expressed this gift of faith, has Christ truly provided for their salvation? If He didn’t provide for this required faith, did He really provide for their salvation? Was it Christ’s intention to provide faith for the non-elect? I won’t even consider that to be true or that anyone would agree to that because of the potentially blasphemous conclusions that we would have to arrive at if it were. So, if we agree that Christ didn’t intend to provide faith for the non-elect then we must conclude that Christ never actually intended to purchase them fully; He never intended to provide salvation for them because a full provision would include the gift of saving faith that cannot be separated from the gift of salvation.

I will consider one more thing. I’m assuming that the other option would be that Christ never intended to die in the place of anyone in particular (which denies Penal Substitution), and that the purpose of His death was merely to provide a way for God to justify sinners by providing a general sacrifice which is meritorious enough for God to apply it to particular sinners’ accounts whenever He decides to do so. Well, I don’t think this works either because that would negate the teachings of Christ in passages such as John 6, 10 and 17.

In John 6, Jesus, when explaining why the unbelieving Jews are not believing explains that they do not and CANNOT believe unless drawn by the Father, and that all that the Father draws (based on His predetermination) WILL COME. So, if the Father has sent the true Bread down from heaven in order to give life to the world (vv. 32-33) and this life that He gives is eternal life (vv. 50-51, 54, 58), was Christ sent to provide this eternal life for each and every individual in the world without exception? No. We can all agree on that, so we must conclude that the eternal life which He intended to provide was specifically intended for the ones whom the Father had chosen to draw.

In John 10, Jesus is illustrating His relationship to His sheep as the Good Shepherd. He demonstrates the closeness of the Shepherd for His sheep, which is something that His audience would have understood clearly. I’m , quite honestly, not all that studied in the historical relationships between shepherd and their sheep; but the illustrations Jesus gave concerning the way that shepherds must’ve felt for their sheep gives me the idea that they were very close to them and were not willing to neglect them in any way. I doubt the same could be said for the other shepherd’s sheep that they knew, let alone the relationship Jesus would have had with the Devil’s sheep. The bottom line in this passage is that Jesus lays down His life for His sheep (vv. 11, 14, 17-18) and He gives them eternal life (v. 28). He also says that the Jews don’t believe because they’re not His sheep (vv.25-26), which reminds me of the things I mentioned earlier about the gift of faith.

Some have argued that the conclusion that I come to concerning Jesus not laying down His life for the Jews because He says that He laid down His life for His sheep is merely a logical conclusion based on ambiguous premises. My intention here, however, is simply to provide evidence for a substitutionary atonement. On the other hand, since the people who have argued from the perspective that Jesus may have meant that He lays down His life for everyone else and that His sheep were the only ones He was mentioning in this particular instance, I would have to ask if He also gives everyone else eternal life since He also mentions this as something that He does in behalf of His sheep. I think that my conclusion is valid, but I’m open to critique.

I won’t say much about John 17 right now because I need to get to my homework and study, but Jesus was pretty clear about His relationship to His people again by saying things like, “…you [the Father] have given him [Christ] authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him,” and “I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world BUT for those whom you have given me, for they are yours.” (all emphases mine)Finally, he prays for the Church in this present time: "I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word…” Notice that He is very specific in His prayer, making it very clear that He is considering all that the Father had previously chosen, not the “whole world.”

I have one last objection. Dr. Bauder says:

“Prior to their conversion, even the elect are dead in trespasses and sins. Until they believe they remain children of wrath.”

This issue was raised to me not too long ago. I would affirm the first sentence; but it seems as though the second sentence is taken from Ephesians 2:3, and I would have to disagree with its usage in Dr. Bauder’s article.

I think that from the perspective of the elect sinner, we were dead in sin and had no desire for God whatsoever. We, according to this passage in Ephesians 2, were totally depraved in our nature. Paul’s goal in this passage (vv. 1-3) is to remind us of who we were, and how our minds and desires operated “…like the rest of mankind.” He points this out in order to point our attention back to the fact that God “raised us up” in order that we may see the things which God has done for us. And by pointing this out, he is pointing to the fact that God did this for us as an undeserving bunch of degenerate sinners. In short, the context indicates that Paul is speaking of our condition from our perspective, not God’s. This passage, therefore, is not a good support for the idea that the atonement wasn’t actually applied at the cross.

In summary, I believe that Limited Atonement is not only true, but it is a magnificent way in which God in Christ has decided to glorify Himself. And, as Shai Linne has put it: this is not controversy for the sake of controversy or theological nitpicking. Salvation is of the Lord, and Christ’s particular role in the bringing about of the salvation of the select persons that the Father has chosen and that the Spirit brings to spiritual life is every bit as important and meaningful and purposeful as the other two persons of the Godhead. This means that it is worth defending.

Soli Deo Gloria.


SBC said...

Dr. Bauder's purpose, in that particular article, was not to make a case for General Atonement.
Rather, his purpose was to demonstrate that General Atonement is not logically incompatible with Unconditional Election.

The fact of the matter is that he's correct. General Atonement, as he defines it, is not incompatible with Unconditional Election.

Now, his theory of the atonement may or may not be correct...perhaps Christ's cross-work was NOT only provisionary...perhaps it "sealed the deal" on behalf of the elect...but the point is that the provisionary view of the atonement is not incompatible with the other 4 points.

Don't hate me :-)

Michael.Gabriel said...

Well, SBC, the reason that I decided to respond to this article is because he is defending a position that I don't believe matches up with the testimony of the Scriptures. As I said at the end of my article, I believe that the purposeful actions of Christ had in mind just as specific a goal as the Father and the Spirit. I believe that down playing His role denegrates Him.

I do realize that no one comes to the conclusion that Dr. Bauder has in order to intentionally downgrade Christ's role in the work of salvation, but to simply say, "I believe it because I can justify it and make it sound as logical as your position" misses the point. It understand that his intention was to demonstrate the logical compatibility in his system, but I don't think that it is logical unless you accept his faulty premises. My intention was to point out the flaw in the starting point.

Do you think that you can look at the Scriptures and come up with a General Atonement knowing what Christ's specific intention was? SBC, I realize that you want to give others as much leeway as possible, but can you do that at the expense of your convictions? You're heading down a dangerous path, if so. Is everybody right? Do you not believe what you believe because you are FULLY convinced by Scripture? I always thought so. If so, there is nothing to be ashamed of in defending that position.

I realize that you're open to the possibility that you could be wrong, and I think that that's an admirable position; but that can be taken too far. I'm not implying anything, either; I am cautioning, though.

It seems that you and others don't think that this is a very important teaching. Or at least not important enough to defend. I actually lean toward the idea that it is one of the most important teachings to defend because it has everything to do with the integrity of Christ and whether He acts with specific purposes in mind or capriciously. I think one view honors Him and the other fails to recognize His majesty.

This is how I honestly assess the situation, and I am unsure why those who have studied the Scriptures so deeply have come to this other conclusion. The best answer I can come up with is that they want to make God out to be more "loving" than what they perceive Him to be without Him providing salvation to undeserved, rebellious haters of God. One other possible option is that they can't let go of a tradition that they have held to for a really long time. Or, they could honestly not see it in the text, but I find that truly hard to believe. I honestly think that they see it, but they are unwilling to submit to it.

If the reason is the last one, I need to be more giving I suppose. I just have so much respect for certain peoples who have such in depth knowledge of the Scriptures in other areas, and I have such a hard time understanding how they don't come to the same conclusion when using the same hermeneutic. I need some help in this are, I admit. If you can help me better understand, please do.

SBC said...

I understand where you're coming from:
In your mind, losing Definite Atonement means losing Substitutionary Atonement, and it means losing unity in the Trinity, and it means losing power in the cross, etc.

In your mind, Substitutionary-Atonement = Definite Atonement, and Definite-Atonement = Substitutionary Atonement.

Which is why you would say that Definite Atonement is among the most important doctrines to defend.

So let me help you understand your 4 (or fewer) point brothers:
They don't make that connection. It's that simple. They can believe Substitutionary Atonement, love Substitutionary Atonement, defend Substitutionary Atonement, write books on Substitutionary Atonement, and die for Substitutionary Atonement...and never make the connection that you (and I) make.

Substitutionary Atonement is among the most important doctrines to defend. But there are ramifications of that doctrine that not everybody sees...and they're not as important.

There are two things you must believe: you MUST believe that substitution is at the heart of the cross, and you MUST believe that many people will end up in hell... now you can tack Definite Atonement onto that, and it'll make sense; or, you can tack General Atonement onto that, and it won't make sense. Oh well.

Some people hold to those two doctrines in a logical way, and some people hold to those two doctrines in an illogical way...I don't really care which you do, as long as you hold to them.

SBC said...

During my freshman year, I interacted with Dr. Bauder about this very issue, on another forum.

Just to be clear about my respect for him, I made the following comments:

I humbly recognize that to part company, on any matter, with a theologian of Dr. Bauder's caliber is a weighty thing. He has my utmost respect, and IS infact THE primary reason I intend to attend Central. The best preaching I have ever heard has come from a pulpit he fills.

He responded,

Scott used the expression, "a weighty thing." He then went on to comment about how I "fill the pulpit."

And he means it!

That's why, since I became an administrator at Central, we've had a really tough time finding somebody who could fill my chair.

You know, we've got the Southwide Baptist Fellowship, the Nationwide Baptist Fellowship and the Worldwide Baptist Fellowship.

Here at Central we've decided to just cut through the fat (so to speak) and establish the Wide Baptist Fellowship. Beacham, Straub and I will be charter members.

Stoutly Yours for Broad Learning,


Oh, one other thing. Scott talks about my "caliber" as a theologian.

Reminds me of something that Myron Houghton once told me.

"The higher the caliber, the bigger the bore."

And now I really must quit.

And not a moment too soon.

Michael.Gabriel said...

I am not trying to separate myself from someone like Kevin Bauder. I need to clarify the fact that I don't discount his position before the Lord or his scholarship because of my disagreement on this issue. I don't think that this is a separation issue. As a matter of fact, I realize that he would affirm substitutionary atonement no matter how disconnected his reasoning is.

Now, I wouldn't separate from Kevin Bauder over this issue or call him any names or say that he is onorthodox for denying the true nature of the atonement. I wouldn't separate from a Presbyterian brother for baptizing babies, either, but I would be willing to defend credo baptism at the same time. Do you see where I'm coming from? This is an issue of not accepting the true nature of a particular doctrine, not whether or not it's important.

One thing I forgot to mention in my response is that if Dr. Bauder and other "4 Pointers" cannot affirm that Jesus intended to provide faith, then He didn't truly intend to provide salvation; and if He didn't intend to do these things then all they can affirm is that Christ's sacrifice was sufficient to save "all." This is something that all Calvinists would affirm, so I don't understand why they don't concede to the fact that Christ had a definite purpose in mind particularly for the elect of God.

Do you see my concern?

Oh, by the way, my explanations of the passages in John were not confined to proving the doctrine of substitution. I guess I strayed from what I intended to do. Of course, I don't think that this will diminish the legitimacy of substitution in anyone that reads this blog's mind. If anyone would like to object, though, let me know so I can take the time to answer your concerns.

SBC said...

I bet that if you asked Dr. Bauder if he believed that the atonement purchased faith for those who would believe, he'd say yes.

And yes, of course we can discuss (even debate) the doctrinal issues that aren't separation-worthy. We just need to keep it in perspective.

I did get a laugh out of his sense of humor... :-)

Michael.Gabriel said...

I don't know if I caught his sense of humor.

Are you saying that he would admit his inconsistencies? Do you think that he would affirm that Christ bought the faith of the non-elect too?

About what you mentioned concerning people affirming a particular doctrine but not thinking through the ramifications of doing so...I was thinking this through, and I realized that this is a common occurrence. People will affirm the substitutionary atonement without thinking through what that actually means; they will affirm that God is sovereign over all things, yet He doesn't interfere with our decision making faculties or have any part in evil things such as me being hit by a car and being paralyzed
(He just makes things turn out for the better).

There are more inconsistent positions that I don't need to mention, but the point is that these people are ok with this. It baffles my mind! God is this and He is that and it doesn't seem to make sense, and that's ok with me because He's God. Sure, if God decided to do it that way, but they are affirming that the God Who created sense and order doesn't make sense or do things in an orderly manner. Hello! These are things that flow from Who He is! Right? The whole idea that God doesn't make sense to our finite minds is pious, to be sure, and I would agree that the secret things belong to Him; but does this mean that God is some disorderly, inconsistent being Who imposes a particular standard that He thinks would be best for us that doesn't flow from His perfect nature?

I'd like to know if I'm off-base here. Is there anyone who can explain this to me? Is there anyone who can make sense out of it.

The main thing that concerns me is that when you attempt to show someone the Scripture verses that demonstrate Who God is and how He operates they either say that your drawing a logical conclusion (as if that would be wrong based on the solid premises) or that He worked like that in the one instance, but we can't go by that to determine how He works today (even though there is a plethora of evidences.

Help! Somebody help me understand!

SBC said...

I don't know what to say except that nobody's perfect.

If somebody holds to the essential stuff, but doesn't see every ramification...oh well (depending on the ramification).

When they say that two contradictory things are both true, they don't mean that God is illogical or disorderly. Look beyond what their WORDS mean to what THEY mean. What THEY mean (even though they don't phrase it well) is that they can't understand the connections so they accept tensions by faith.

And you know what...I bet that deep down, they really do agree with us. For instance, when they accept a sovereignty/freewill tension, what they really mean (often) is that they believe in both sovereignty and responsibility.
Give the benefit of the doubt and allow them to be less precise than we are.

SBC said...

Oh and, you didn't get Dr. Bauder's humor?

He was cracking jokes about his weight, based on my words.

"weighty thing"
"fill pulpit"
"fill my chair"
"wide baptist fellowship"
"Cut through the fat"
"Stoutly yours for broad learning"

I thought it was hilarious.

Michael.Gabriel said...


You know I'm slow. I guess his humor was clever after all. Right now, I'm not with it because I've had very little sleep. It has paid off, though, because I've been doing rather well on my finals so far.

About the lack of thinking through the issues as perpetrated by some...I am concerned with anyone whenever I attempt to discuss the issue at hand and they want nothing to do with the presentation of the correct understanding from the Bible. We are supposed to be dedicated to the Bible as the final authority, not our understanding of things as we're comfortable with it. Sometimes we have hard truths to contend with, and (from my experience) when you understand the fullness (as far as possible) it becomes a glorious truth.

This concern of mine goes back to my original article. Why would someone refuse to accept the truth of a particular doctrine of God. Why would they reject one of God's attributes or His actions? The only thing I can come up with is that they don't want that God. Is that fair? To give them the benefit of the doubt, they may not want to hear the truth from me, but what should be the response? Leave them in darkness?

You're gonna say that I'm being too harsh, aren't you? I think that I what could be considered a flaw in taking things to their ultimate conclusion.

I need constant guidance, bruthuh. How do I overlook this denial of God's glorious character and work in order to have a conversation and fellowship with someone without constantly wanting to help them understand these things?

sbsr said...

I believe that there is sufficient evidence in the scripture to support the fact that Christ died for the sins of all mankind. His sacrifice was sufficient for all mankind. This free gift has been offered to all mankind; however an act of grace cannot be forced upon anyone. If I were to post your bail, you could still refuse to leave the jail cell. God does not force salvation on anyone. Yes, I believe in foreknowledge and election, but I also believe that God created man with a free will. We as finite humans cannot completely comprehend the mind of God all of the time; This requires faith. A pardon is an act of grace and if it is denied one cannot force it upon an individual. If you believe in limited atonement,why did you write the article about witnessing to the J.W.'s. John 3:16 stated that "For God so loved the WORLD that He gave His only begotten Son that WHOSOEVER believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." I could continue this on but it is now 11:20 P.M. and I will respond to any comments at a later date if time allows. This could go on forever and although I strongly disagree with your position on the subject of limited atonement, I can agree to disagree.

SBC said...


You said,

"God does not force salvation on anyone."

Non-Calvinists who have studied out this controversy never use that kind of terminology. When Non-Calvinists are first confronted with doctrines like Election and Effectual Calling ("irresistible grace"), they sometimes say what you said. But, as they study out the Reformed perspective (what I believe is the Biblical teaching), they realize that that sort of language is inaccurate and inappropriate.

Our position (what we believe is the Biblical teaching) is this:

Unregenerate people are so evil that they will always rebel against Christ. Their unwillingness and inability are inseparably linked.
Sometimes, Non-Calvinists ask, "So, even if an unsaved person wanted to be saved, he couldn't?!?!?!?!"
That question demonstrates a profound misunderstanding of the human heart: unregenerate people do not want Christ. Period. If somebody does want Christ, it is because God has graciously changed their heart. Anybody who wants Christ can have Him (John 3:16). Christ will not turn away anyone who comes to Him (John 6:37). But read Jn. 6:37 to discover who comes to Him.
Their unwillingness and inability are inseparable.

When God "draws" someone to Himself, it is not against their will. No one is ever "forced" (though, if "forcing" me is what it took to save me, I sure hope that God would do it!)
Rather, God regenerates the heart, so that that person exercises his will in faith and repentance.
See, we always act in accordance with our heart. Always. Good fruit doesn't grow on bad trees. The unregenerate heart doesn't choose Christ, the regenerate heart does. So, God gives a regenerate heart, and viola! You've got a believing person.

So, God does not directly touch the human "free will" at all. Rather, He changes the thing that determines what the "free will" will choose.

Let's say that I'm a lunatic, but you have a syringe of something that will make me sane. Let's say that, in my lunacy, I'm hanging over a precipice, and I'm about to let myself fall. You shoot me with the syringe, I come to my senses, and I choose to NOT fall. The decision to NOT fall was mine, but I was incapable of making it until you changed my disposition.

God isn't going to let us "slip through the cracks" and not be saved, because Christ deserves our worship and His Father is going to make sure that He gets it. His Father won't let Him die in vain--He'll ensure that He gets His reward.
If salvation was about us, it would be ok to let us "slip through the cracks" and not be saved; but if salvation is about Christ--about Him being worshiped--then it is NOT ok for God to let us go on unsaved. We're the Father's gift to His Son, and He won't let my depravity get in the way of His gift-giving.

"Why should I gain from His reward? I cannot give an answer."

Michael.Gabriel said...


My response was initially intended to demonstrate the fact that 4 point "Calvinism" is not in fact logically consistent when affirming certain other things. I was not intending to disprove your assertion that the Biblical evidence supports Christ's death being made in behalf of all of mankind. As a matter of fact, I believe that it is definitely possible for you to hold to that position AND be logically consistent in doing so. It just isn't Biblical.

I also believe what you affirm when you say that Christ's sacrifice is indeed sufficient for all of mankind; though, the question is not whether Jesus, an infinite being, is able to apply His sacrifice to all of mankind who has ever lived and will ever live and save each and every one of them. The question is whether God, Who does not do even one thing without a specific end in mind, meant to give His Son's life as a true ransom for the sins of every man without distinction. God makes no arbitrary or capricious moves. When God sets out to accomplish something, He accomplishes it. I'm sure you would affirm this, right?

If we both agree on that last question, did Christ intend to save all of mankind? I believe that there is a hell and that sinners who did not submit to God's plan of salvation while on this earth will be inhabiting hell for all of eternity. Do you? If so, you must not believe that Christ's intention was "to seek and to save" everyone who was lost (Luk. 19:10). If you don't believe that He came to do this for all of mankind, what causes the restriction? If you do, you're affirming that Christ is not powerful enough to save everyone whom He intended to save. Do you see this?

You might say that the unbelief of certain men is what keeps them from salvation, but why? Did not Christ pay for all of every man's sins? If so, isn't unbelief a sin? If Christ took their place on the cross and took the punishment due to them, how on earth could they suffer for their sins again? Wouldn't that make God unjust in demanding a double payment for sin?

The Bible says that Christ came to give His life a ransom for many (Matt. 20:28; Mar. 10:45). If Christ's intention was to actually save sinners (I Tim. 1:15) and not to merely provide a sacrifice for the sins of nobody in particular, He must have had a particular group of people in mind since some will certainly be in hell. This is the only true basis for believing in a substitutionary atonement. Either He died in the place of some or nobody in particular.

Well, I have much to say that time will not allow me to say right now. As you said, I could go on all night as I delve into the different Scriptural passages and examine them with you. I would be more than willing as time goes on (as I'm sure SBC would) to discuss this further, but now I must leave. Please let me know what you think so far.

Oh, by the way, I try to be as involved in personal evangelism as possible. I actually visited the local Kingdom Hall in order to be a witness to the JW's, and I am involved with my church's visitation program into the local area. I do this, if not for the explicit command by Christ to preach the Gospel to every creature (Matt. 28:18-20; Mar. 16:15-16; Luk. 24:46-47), then out of a desire to share with others the hope that I have in order that God will save his elect (II Tim. 2:10) because God has chosen the foolishness of preaching to save those who believe (I Cor. 1:21). And we (Calvinists) know that God will indeed save ALL those who have been appointed to eternal life (Acts 13:48).

So, sbsr, let me know what you think of this, and I'll try to make some more time to give you a thoroughly Biblical response.

Michael.Gabriel said...

By the way, SBC, nice post. I especially appreciated the syringe analogy.

Dramatized Exegesis