What's The Best Way To Make People Agree With Your Calvinist Views?

By shaming, mocking, and silencing those who disagree, of course!

Allow me to daydream here, to tell you a little story, a hypothetical situation (Sorry for the random font changes.  Stupid computers!)...  

Pretend you are part of a great church, where the pastor doesn't make a huge issue (or any issue) out of Calvinism.  He keeps it middle of the road, on the parts of doctrine we can all agree on.  And it's a great place to be, a place you love inviting people to.  You've been there for many years, and have no intention of ever leaving.  

And then, after that pastor retires, you get a new one.  At first, he seems just fine.  Lots of enthusiasm, speaks powerfully, very intelligent.  But you notice something just a little ... off ... and you can't quite put your finger on it.

One of the first things that caught your attention, shortly after he got there, was when he admitted from the pulpit that he has no patience.  You could tell that he thought he was trying to sound ... I don't know ... humble? ... like "See, I'm human, too."  But as a person who's very cautious and slow to trust people, it made you realize you would never go to him for any kind of emotional help if you needed to talk to someone.  You don't talk about your problems easily with people, and the last kind of person you'd want to talk to would be someone who has no patience with others.

Okay, so, that's a just little red flag that pops up in your mind about him.  But it's not that big of a deal.  Nothing worth getting worked up over.

But not long after, you get the first big red flag.  It's not big at the time - it's actually quite small - but it's only the first tiny glimpse into what will become a very big issue for you.  

During one sermon, he speaks about people who believe in free-will, who believe that humans can make decisions and choices, like choosing to have Jesus in their lives.  And as soon as he says it ... he snickers.  It was just a small thing - a tiny, scoffing, mocking sound - but it was clearly meant to imply "Can you believe anyone would think that!?!  What fools!"  It wasn't what he said, but the way he said it.  And it made you sit up and take notice.  It made you go, "Whoa, what was that about?  This is something new coming from our church."  

And that small scoffing sound was just the beginning of trouble.  Slowly, over the course of years, he would slip disconcerting teachings into his sermons.  He'd talk about how we are "dead people" and as "dead people" we can't do anything on our own, even think about or want God, and so God has to be the one to make us become a believer.  He'd tell us that God causes everything we do, even sins, and yet we can still be rightly held accountable for our sins.  "We don't have to understand it, but we do have to accept it because it's what the Bible says."  He'd talk about how God does everything for His glory, how He made people for His glory and how even predestining people to hell is for His glory.

It doesn't take you long to realize that the new pastor is a highly-dogmatic Calvinist who does his best to slip his Calvinism into as many sermons as he can.  You can tell it's his favorite topic - his pet topic.  You, however, are not a Calvinist.  Actually, you are a ... well ... you don't quite know what you are because you haven't had to think too much about this issue before.  Back when you were in high school, you leaned toward Calvinism because you were taught that it was truth, and you figured it was just the way it was, and so you had to accept it.  After all, He's God and can do whatever He wants, right?  Who are we to question His ways?

But after that, you never really gave it much thought.  You didn't get any deeper into Calvinism, but you didn't have real reasons to reject it either.  So you just "let it be."  You didn't make a big deal out of it, one way or the other.  You just got on with life, living your faith as best you knew how.  And with your old pastor, this topic was never as issue either.  No one got into it that deeply.  No one at church even really talked about who was or wasn't a Calvinist or Arminian or neither.  We all just focused on the indisputable parts of doctrine, letting the rest be small side issues, nothing to get worked up over or to divide over.

But then ... this new pastor comes in and makes it an issue.  A big issue.  A "you have no choice but to agree with me" issue.

And slowly, it eats away at your desire to be there.  You keep trying to give him the benefit of the doubt, thinking maybe he'll back off of it after he's gotten it out of his system.  But every time you start to relax and enjoy the sermons again, he dishes out another round of "predestination beating."  

And after every beating, you go home angry and frustrated for days.  Eventually, you don't even want to be there anymore.  But the thing is, your kids grew up there and want to be there.  And it really is a great church in so many other ways - the programs, the people, the friends you've made.  Besides that, you've tried looking for another good church nearby, but none of them fit the bill.  So you just keep going to yours.  Reluctantly.  (You would stay home by yourself, but you believe a family should go together.  You don't want your kids growing up remembering how they went to church while mom stayed home or went to a different church.  If you go, you all go together.)  

So you can't leave, but you can't listen anymore.  So what do you do?  

You decide to go but to sit out in the hall by the televisions with your earbuds on, listening to godly music while you read a godly book.  And then later, you watch a good sermon online by your favorite pastor, Tony Evans.  It's the only thing you can think to do to get through this.

And ... you also decide to start researching this issue.  Deeply.  To figure out what the Bible really teaches.  You don't want to just take what this pastor or some Calvinist theologian says as truth.  You want to find out what God says.  So over the months and years, you research.  You hear a Calvinist point the pastor makes, you write it down, and then you go home and research what the Bible says.  For months and months.  You read the Bible, cross-reference the verses, look up different translations, check the meaning of the words in the concordance, read it again in context, read it again in context, read it again in context.  

And slowly but surely, you come to see how absolutely twisted Calvinism is.  How it says almost the complete opposite of what God says.  How damaging it is to someone's view of God, the Gospel, Jesus's sacrifice, salvation, etc.  And it makes you angry.  And heartbroken.  To know that your church is being force-fed this stuff, bit by bit, over and over again, like drips of poison being added to your water so slowly that you don't know it's happening.  (And it's not just in your church.  It's everywhere.  An epidemic.)

For those who don't know, Calvinists believe that God determines and controls everything, even sin and unbelief, that we don't get a choice about Jesus because God has already determined who will accept Him and who won't, that Jesus really loves only the "elected" people and that He died for only the "elected" people, that we can't even think about wanting God in our lives because we are so depraved and wicked that God has to be the one to make us believe in Him.  And if He doesn't make you believe in Him, it's because He's predestined you for hell ... because it brings Him glory somehow.  And there's nothing you can do about it.

Sounds great, huh!  A God worth calling "loving, just, righteous."  A God worth worshipping and trusting.

Not only has this pastor preached Calvinism, but he's also had his adult son get up and talk on it, even teaching predestination in the kids' groups (which makes you angry, but at least it gives you the opportunity to talk to your kids about the errors of Calvinism).  

One Sunday, this adult son gets up there to talk about it, and he tells the church that "NO ONE SHOULD EVER QUESTION GOD'S SOVEREIGNTY!!!" ... and he stares really hard and creepy-like at the audience as he says this, slowing scanning the whole room from side to side to drive the point home.  

It makes you and your spouse look at each other like, "What the heck was that!?!"  

And to you, it honestly sounds more like, "No one should EVER question my daddy's view of God's sovereignty!"  

Now, all of this stuff ha
s been disturbing to you.  But the worst was the pastor's 9-month-long series on Romans.  Because he would constantly throw in subtle manipulative sentences, which end up ensuring that no one would disagree with him because it would make them look foolish for doing so.  (And you begin to think that any pastor who does a 9-months-long series on Romans does it specifically so that they can talk about predestination for 9 long months.) Things like ...

"People in other countries don't have a problem accepting that God is completely in control.  It's only us proud Americans who have trouble with it, because having control is so important to us."  (So let's make anyone who doesn't believe in predestination feel like they have prideful control-issues.  That'll make them fall in line.)

"Humble Christians don't have trouble accepting predestination, that God is completely sovereign.  It's only unhumble Christians who have trouble with it."  (Sure ... use humility against us, making us feel like anyone who disagrees with you is a bad Christian.  And I don't have trouble accepting God's sovereignty; I have trouble accepting your view of His sovereignty.)

"Little children can accept the truth of predestination.  It's only us unhumble, proud, independent adults who have trouble with it because we like the idea of being in control.  And God says we are to be humble like children, so we should accept this teaching in faith, even if we can't really understand it."  (Of course little children accept it ... because that's what trusted adults told them to believe.  Little children also believe in Santa.  And the "humble like a child" passage doesn't mean "accept predestination without questioning it."  It means that we have to turn to God in humility, like a child - that we have to fully rely on Him instead of relying on ourselves.)

"This is what the Bible clearly teaches.  And like all doctrine, even if we don't like it, we have to believe it.  Because it's what the Bible says.  Disagreeing with this is disagreeing with God."  (If it's "so clear," why have great theologians debated it for centuries?) 

"The Bible doesn't have any problems balancing predestination with God still holding us responsible for rejecting Him.  It presents both 'truths' with no tension.  It's only we who have trouble with it and who struggle with it - because we can't really understand it with our finite minds.  But we don't have to understand it; we just have to accept it because it's what God says.  God is so far above us and so mysterious that we can't really understand Him.  And who are we to act like we can?  Who are we to question His ways?"  (What a great way to shut people up from questioning predestination!  Making them feel like it's wrong to seek to understand it better, to understand God better.  Like it's impossible to understand, and so we should just blindly accept everything we're told.  "Because that's what humble Christians do!"  But you know what?  Of course the Bible doesn't have any trouble or tension with what it teaches.  But it's not the Bible I am questioning anyway; it's the Calvinist's reinterpretation of the Bible that I am questioning.  And if he misunderstands a biblical truth and preaches an incorrect view of it, that's when there's tension and conflict with other biblical truths.  So maybe predestination is "so hard to understand" because it's not what the Bible really teaches.  Maybe if you're not trying to shove a square peg into a round hole everything would fit better and it would make sense.)        

"God deserves all the glory, right?  Everything He does is for His glory.  So predestining people for hell is somehow for His glory, even if we don't like it."  (A little bait-and-switch.  This gets you to agree with a truth - that God deserves all the glory - and then it attaches something it wants to validate to that truth - that predestining people for hell must then necessarily be for God's glory.  Who's going to complain about God getting glory?  Therefore, who's going to complain about God predestining people to hell if they're told it's "for His glory"?  But I have no problem with God being glorified.  I have a problem with the lie that God glorifies Himself by denying most people the chance for salvation, that He "justly" punishes unbelievers in hell when, according to them, He caused them to be unbelievers and Jesus never died for them anyway and saving grace was never offered to them.  I have a big problem with this because the Bible clearly and repeatedly says otherwise.  And if you notice, Calvinists will always come back to "You don't have to like it and you don't have to understand it, but you do have to accept it because it's what the Bible says."  They have to say this since Calvinism is overly distasteful and confusing because it contradicts the simple, straightforward, common-sense understanding of the Gospel and God.)

"You only have three options when it comes to the 'truth' about predestination: ignore it, get angry about it, or humbly accept it."  (Really?  Just those three options?  What about "disagree with it because you don't think it's what the Bible really says"?)

These are either things he's basically said or things he was trying to say in so many words.  And while you are quite sure he has the best intentions - to honor God, to uphold His sovereignty, to glorify Him above all, to stand up for what he believes is the Gospel Truth, to lead others to that "truth" - it's also subtly manipulating people into agreeing with him and preventing anyone from disagreeing.     

After all, who's gonna disagree with him when he's already painted those who disagree as "proud, unhumble, resistant Christians who are denying the Bible and not submitting to God"? 

It's a subtle and brilliant (and successful) way to shut down any opposition.  

(Now, of course, you know this is probably not his intention.  His intention is to boldly preach what he believes is God's truth.  But it actually ends up making people afraid to disagree.  And yes, there are issues in the Bible where there is no room for disagreement, where if we don't accept it then we are rebelling against truth.  But this is not one of those issues.)

Yes, all this bothers you deeply.  It alarms you.  But the thing that gets you the most is that no one else is talking about it.  No one else is saying, "What!?!"  So you feel alone in your views, shamed into silence.  Who am I to bring this issue up, to talk against the pastor, to ruin other people's enjoyment of him, to possibly hinder God's work if God is using him, to upset other people's faith?  

And so you sit there quietly and let him keep dishing it out, and you grow more and more discouraged and withdrawn.   

[I've found this kind of "manipulation" in the books of Calvinist authors, too.  It's almost like they must all attend the same class or follow the same textbook on how to bully your audience into submission.  It's almost cult-like with its controlling techniques - the shaming, manipulating, Scripture-twisting, intimidation, and mocking and silencing of those who question it or oppose it.  

One thing to notice is the way Calvinists deflect your tough questions.  If you ask "Why would God send all those people to hell with no choice," they'll say, "The question really is, 'Why does God choose to save anyone when we all deserve hell?"  They'll shift the focus from having to explain what kind of a God would send people to hell even though He predestined them to be there ... to focusing on the love God has for the "elect."  It's much easier to talk about His love for the elect than His damnation of the unelect.  

And if they do answer the question about why God "wants" people in hell, it's always with "Because it brings God glory somehow."  They expect "because it's for God's glory" to stop all further doubting and questions and disagreement.  After all, who wants to sound like they disagree with God getting glory?

And as I pointed out above, they'll deflect contradictions in their theology with "We don't have to understand it, but we do have to accept it.  Because it's what the Bible says.  God cannot be understood by us anyway."  It's as if they are trying to stop you from seeking answers, from making sense of the Bible, from pointing out the contradictions and illogical reasoning in their view of God and the Word.  After all, who do you think you are, tiny human, to think you can really understand God or question Him!?!

But don't fall for it.  Keep digging.  When you really find the Truth, it makes sense, and you'll find reasonable answers instead of being left with a bunch of unanswerable questions and confusing contradictions, and you'll see that the Bible tells one consistent story from beginning to end.  

Also watch out for the ways they change the meanings/usage of words in the Bible.  Sometimes they'll even use the original Greek words to make you feel like they know more than you.  After all, if they know the Greek words (and you don't) then surely they must know the proper meaning and usage of the word in that verse, right?  

I heard of one Calvinist who said that "world" from John 3:16 means "cosmos," as in the universal realm.  I suspect this is a deliberate attempt to stop people from saying that "'God so loved the world' means that Jesus died for everyone's sin."  And then he can more easily spread his view that "God didn't really die for everyone, only the elect."  

Really!?!  Do you really think God's love for the impersonal cosmos was so great that it caused Him to send Jesus to die?  For what ... the impersonal cosmos!?!  

Yes, the Greek word is "kosmos."  But when you look it up in the concordance, it can mean several different things, according to its usage in the verse - such as the earth or universe, or the earth in contrast to heaven, or "the human race, mankind," or Gentiles in contrast to Jews, or the present condition of people in relation to God, or all temporary possessions as a whole, etc.  

And the concordance says that John 3:16's "world" means mankind, the human race.  

But since that would mean that Jesus died for all of mankind instead of just the elect, I guess this Calvinist is going to define it as "cosmos" because it doesn't contradict his view as much.  Even though "mankind" makes much more sense.

And since we're on the topic of John 3:16, Calvinists also say "whosoever" ("whosoever believes shall not perish") doesn't mean that anyone can accept Christ.  They say "whosoever" means the "elect," as in "those who believe."  They say the verse means "For God so loved the elect (or "cosmos," as some say), that He sent His one and only Son, that the elect would believe in Him and shall not perish but have eternal life."

Interesting!  Because the concordance says that "whosoever" is made up of two Greek words, which are essentially "all/any/every/whole" and "the/who."  There is nothing about the "elect" or "believe" here.  "Whosoever" simply means exactly what we think it does: "Any who" or "All who" etc.  

if "whosoever" in John 3:16 is talking about the elect, then "whosoever" (sometimes translated as "anyone" or "everyone") in these verses also has to mean "the elect" because the concordance says they all use the same Greek word:

"But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgement ..." Matthew 5:22  

"But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart."  Matthew 5:28

"Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery ..."  Luke 16:18

"Everyone who falls on that stone [Jesus] will be broken to pieces ..."  Luke 20:18

" ... a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God."  John 16:2

"Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father ..." 1 John 2:23

Does it sound like it means "the elect" in these verses?  No?  Then it can't be said that "whosoever" in John 3:16 means "the elect" either.  

"Whosoever" means exactly what we think it does - "anyone/everyone who."

"Oh, but wait," says the Calvinist, "you have to include the 'believes.'  'Whosoever believes' means 'all the believers' - the elect, those predestined to believe."

Well ... that wouldn't work either because "believe" in that verse is not a noun, as in "a believer, a person who believes."  Nor is it an adjective, as in "a believing person."  It's a verb, as in "to be persuaded by something and, consequently, to commit to it, to put your faith in it." 

"Whosoever believes" means exactly what the Bible says ... "Anyone who believes shall not perish but have eternal life."  
Why ... WHY! ... must they keep twisting Bible verses and altering the clear, consistent, rational teachings of Scripture!?!  Why must they keep reading into it things that are not there!?!

But, I digress.  So back to my hypothetical story...] 

Anyway ... so you don't really talk about it with others, but you want to at least make sure people know that someone doesn't agree with him, that there is another biblical way to view this issue.  You want the people to know that they can disagree with him, too.  

And one day, you see that he wrote a post on predestination on the church's blog.  About how predestination is what the Bible clearly teaches, and how we don't have to like it but we do have to accept it, and how we should read RC Sproul to better understand predestination (one of his theological heroes, a fellow dogmatic Calvinist), and how even though the Bible teaches that God decides who goes to heaven and who goes to hell, we are still fully accountable for our choices to God.  (Really!?!  What choice!?!  If God makes the choice for us then how can he say we have any real choice at all?  Choices are not choices if you can't choose!)

And you just can't take it anymore.  You do not think Calvinism is taught in the Bible.  And furthermore, you think Calvinism does great harm to God's Truth, His character, people's faith, our view of His love and justness, the need to evangelize and pray (why bother if it's all been planned and there's nothing we can do about it anyway?), etc.  

Calvinism makes a mess of everything!  

You don't necessarily think the Calvinist intends to do this kind of harm.  You know they think they're truly honoring God by upholding His "complete control over everything," unlike those of us prideful, power-hungry, unhumble people who think we actually have a choice or some influence over our lives.  

But you do think Calvinism is wrong.  Because you don't think it's what the Bible teaches.  And you think it's wrong for him to keep pressing his view as "the only way to read the Bible."  

And so you add a comment to the post, disagreeing with his view of predestination.  You're not trying to be divisive or anything.  (In fact, it's not you being divisive.  You're not the one dogmatically pushing your views about a highly debatable issue on those around you, presenting your views as "The only way to read the Bible."  You're simply pointing out the one who is.)  

But you want people to be able to have the right to discuss this issue.  You want "the other side" to be heard.  But no one else seems to be talking about it or questioning it.  It's like you are all just letting him push his view deeper and deeper into the church, and no one's saying anything about it.  (But it seems that most people at your church are Calvinists, so you're not surprised.  Most likely, what you see as "manipulation," all the Calvinists just see as "boldly preaching the truth."  So they aren't alarmed at all.  They don't see what you do.  They just think "Way to go, pastor.  Preach it like it is!"  While you're thinking, "But what if it's not 'what it is'?")

Maybe there are others who disagree but who are afraid to say anything because they've been shamed into silence.  Because they don't want to look like a foolish, unhumble, prideful Christian.  And this breaks your heart, to think that people might be quietly struggling with this, that it might be affecting their heart and faith and peace and joy, as you can imagine happening after he gave his sermon about how God causes everything in your life, for your good and His glory, including childhood abuse(WHAT!?!  What the ....!?!)  

And if these people are out there suffering, they suffer in silence because no one else will speak out about this nonsense.  But you desperately want to make sure that the "other view" is at least presented somewhere, so that it's out there for people to read, if they need it.  So they can know they aren't the only ones who disagree with him.  So they can find some hope and some answers for this debatable issue.  And so you leave a long comment disagreeing with his view on predestination.

And to your surprise and delight, the comment appears on the blog.  And you think How nice that we are part of a church that would allow open discussion about this very debatable topic!  That I could put my voice out there, to help someone who might need it.  

And then ... just a few hours later, wouldn't you know it, the comment gets deleted.  

This really angers you - to not only have a pastor who preaches dogmatically about this and uses manipulative techniques to shame people into not disagreeing with him (intentionally or unintentionally), but now to have someone at church actively block opposing views on a very debatable topic.  That's sad.  And scary.    

But you know what?

You saved a copy of your comment before you sent it, because you suspected this would happen.  And you post it on your blog, in case you ever need to share it with anyone else at church:      

The thing is ... I don't think the Bible does clearly teach predestination.  In fact, the more I studied it for myself, the more I think it's not predestination.  I think it's clear in Scripture that God has offered salvation to all, but it's up to us to choose to accept it or reject it.  He does not make that decision for us.  I think this is the only way to view it when you look at His character, at biblical examples of how He acts, at the many calls He gives us to believe in Him, etc.  

Examples: 1) In the concordance, "hardens" is retribution - a punishment for having first hardened your own heart even though God has been patient and long-suffering with you.  2) And Romans 9 talks about those "prepared for destruction," which means NOT that God prepared them specifically for destruction but that they prepared themselves for destruction by their character, by how they chose to be.  3) You often say God opened Lydia's eyes, as in "making her believe," but the verse or two before says she was already a "worshipper of God."  It's more likely that God opened her eyes to the need to be baptized, not to turn her into a believer.  Because she already believed in God.  4) And the idea of "total depravity" is based on "there is no one righteous, not even one."  But that doesn't mean we are so depraved that we can't possibly even think about or seek God unless He makes us do it.  It simply means none of us deserves heaven by our own merits.  None of us can work our way there.  5) And the Bible is full of commands to "seek Him."  How can we do that if we can't seek?  The more I study, the less predestination it is.  I say read Tony Evans, not RC Sproul.

This was your comment.  It was very biblically-based.  But it was deleted.  For some reason or other.

So you send another one:

Interesting ... my comment was posted here earlier, but now it's been deleted.  Is it because I disagreed with you about predestination?  If so, it would be sad - and scary - to know I was part of a church that would silence opposing views on a very debatable topic.  This issue has been debated through the centuries - by even the greatest theologians - and they haven't been able to come to an agreement on it.  I don't think it's right for you to be so dogmatic about this, to the point of silencing opposing views (if that's what you did).  You shouldn't be afraid of different views on this.  If I am clearly wrong, it would only make me look like a fool while highlighting how right you are.

Of course, you don't expect this comment to show up either, but you at least want him to know that you knew it was deleted.  

In fact, you believe that God led you to find the comment while it was posted.  You see, you were at your sister-in-law's house for a Christmas party and you got really, really bored.  So you grabbed the tablet and decided to check the church's blog.  And - surprise - there was your comment, which got deleted just a couple hours later.  The thing is, you never ever picked up the tablet to surf online while at a Christmas party.  That would be too rude.  But for some reason, you decided to do it that day for the first time ever, spur of the moment.  And you just happened to see that your comment was there.  If you had waited till after the party to look, you would never have known it was posted.  And if you never saw it show up, you would have just thought it was a technical problem, that maybe your comment didn't go through, like other comments you've sent.  But now you know for sure that someone deleted the comment, someone blocked a biblically-based view that opposed the pastor's view.  That's shady.

But you don't stop there.  You send one more, contradicting his teaching that Romans clearly teaches predestination.  You know he'll probably dismiss it out of hand and it probably won't get posted either, but that's why you include it all on your blog.  So it's there, if ever you need to refer to it.  

Your final comment:

Romans 11:32:  "For God has bound all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all."  We are all in the same boat.  We are all fallen, but He has mercy on us all, offering all of us salvation.  But it's up to us to accept or reject it.

In the concordance, "hardens" (from Romans 9:18) is punishment for first hardening our own hearts.  

"Called" (Romans 1:1, 1:6, 8:28) involves the idea of being invited to accept God's offer of salvation, not that it's an irresistible force that compels us to become a believer.  

"Receive" (Romans 1:5, 5:11, 5:17, 8:15) is not passive, it's deliberately reaching out and grabbing ahold of what it offered to you.  

"Believe" (Romans 3:22, 10:4) is not passive, either, as in "God makes us believe."  It's allowing ourselves to be persuaded by something, and then committing to it.  It's the opposite of being resistant to it, of hardening our hearts against it.  It shows we have the responsibility to accept or reject the truth.  

"Unbelief" (Romans 11:20, 23) is not about God causing us to be resistant to the truth; it's about dis-believing something, being unwilling to believe it.  (And according to Romans 11:23, if we stop persisting in our unbelief, we will be grafted in.  WE persist in unbelief, but we can be grafted in if we are willing to accept the truth.)  

"Ignorance" (Romans 10:3, Eph. 4:18-19) doesn't mean God blinded them, that He never gave them a chance; it's about us deliberately ignoring something, choosing to resist it.  

"Prepared for destruction" (Romans 9:22-23) is not about God preparing us for destruction, but us preparing ourselves for destruction by our character, by how we choose to be.  

The "hardening" of hearts (Eph. 4:18-19, which is really "blindness" in the concordance) doesn't mean God hardened their hearts but that they chose to be callous toward the truth.  It comes from the word which is used of the Israelites who deliberately refused God's Will and His ways.  It's willful, self-chosen blindness.  

Over and over again, the Bible - including Romans - teaches that God offers salvation to all, but it's up to us to accept or reject it.  That God doesn't cause anyone to go to hell, but it's our own stubborn resistance that leads us there.   

The Bible calls us over and over again to seek God (Amos 5:4, Isaiah 55:6, Deut. 4:29, Psalm 9:10, Heb. 11:6, Acts 17:27).  We are responsible to see Him in His creation, and to seek Him.  And there's no excuse for not doing it (Romans 1:20).  

John 12:37-40 tells us that the people would not believe in Him, and because they would not believe, God hardened their hearts.  Not the other way around.

2 Corinthians 4:4 tells us who blinds the minds of unbelievers: Satan.  And 2 Cor. 3:16 tells us who takes the veil away: Jesus Christ, when we turn to Him.  If we perish, it's not because God predestined us for hell.  It's because we refused to love the truth and so be saved (2 Thess 2:10 and 1:8)   

And those are the comments that never show up on the church's blog.  Because it contradicts the pastor's view.  

And for you, this is the tipping point, when you decide that you cannot sit by and say nothing.  You didn't say anything heretical in your comments.  It was all straight from the Bible, as it is written.  And yet, it was blocked.  And to you, that starts to seem cult-ish.  Like the congregation is not allowed to have different biblical views on this issue, not allowed to discuss your differences, not allowed to hear different views.  And that concerns you enough to finally speak up.

And so you decide to send a letter to your elders, to point out what's going on, the ways we are being manipulated into agreeing with the pastor, shamed into silence, prevented from having access to opposing views.  You are not writing the letter for your sake, because you don't care anymore about what happens there for yourself.  You are done listening.  You are content to watch Tony Evans' sermons online.  But you are concerned for those in the church who might be distressed by what they are hearing, who also feel shamed into silence, whose faith is shaken because of this view that turns God into a monster, and who are not even aware that they are being prevented from hearing "the other side."  How fair would it be to them if you just kept quiet or left the church without pointing out what you know.  

It would be like watching people sinking into quicksand who don't know they're sinking into quicksand, but you got yourself to safety and then you just stand there and watch them sink, never warning them, never waving your hands and yelling, "Hey, you're sinking!  You're going down!  Look what's happening to you!" 

You wouldn't want to make any trouble, so you just quietly watch them sink.  

Maybe, in reality, they don't want to be saved?  Maybe they are content with their view?  And that's their choice.  (Or should I say "predestination"?)  But how fair would it be to them to not warn them, at the very least?  To not point out that they are being force-fed only one view and prevented from hearing any other view, no matter how biblically-based it is?  

Could you stand before God and say, "I did the right thing by keeping quiet" ... when you know that He would say, "What do you think I gave you all that knowledge for?  Why do you think I put this issue on your heart, and gave you a deep concern for those who might be distressed about this but who don't hear anyone else speaking up about it?  Just so you could stand there and watch them sink?"

Yeah, you don't think that would deserve a "Well done, good and faithful servant."

Sometimes the right thing to do is the hardest thing to do.

Sometimes it costs you big time.

And sometimes the sacrifice is worth it!

Even if you never change anyone else's mind, even if you lose your friends and are run out of the church, you know you will be able to stand before God and say, "I did what You told me to, for Your truth and for the people You love so much."

Sometimes the sacrifice is worth it.

And sometimes there is no other way but to "make trouble."

The end!

So ... How did you like my hypothetical story?

To those in my church who might read this:  

Please know that it breaks me heart to write this, to be pushed to the point of having to write it.  I have been silent for years (growing more and more silent and withdrawn) because I never wanted to taint anyone else's view of our pastor or our church.  I didn't want to rock the boat or cause division.  And for a long time, I wanted to give the pastor the benefit of the doubt.  Surely he couldn't be pushing Calvinism this dogmatically!?!  But yes, he has been, and it's only gotten worse.  When contradicting views on very debatable topics start getting blocked ... it's time to speak up.  

We had planned to quietly slip away if we could have found another good church to attend.  But that wouldn't be fair to you, especially if you want to know what's going on ... if you want to know that there are other biblically-sound ways to understand the Bible ... and if you want to know that you are not alone in questioning his views.  If I (and everyone else who disagrees with him) slipped away quietly and never said anything, eventually you would find yourselves in a deeply-Calvinistic church, shamed into agreeing with him, feeling like he must be right and like you can't speak up because there's no one else who disagrees with him.  And that wouldn't be fair to you.  

All it takes for bad theology to take over is for no one to disagree with it!  

I am sorry it got to this point.  But unfortunately, I think it was inevitable because of his dogmatic stance on this.  Such a shame!

On a different note:

If a Christian doesn't want to get too deep into this issue, then they shouldn't.  It's messy and distressing and dividing and just not fun!  If you are content to just quietly live your faith as best you know how, not being concerned about the "how does salvation happen" question, then just live your faith as best you know how, being content that you don't have to know how it all works out.  Don't get into it if it's not an issue for you.

But for those who do want to get into it, then get into it deeply.  Don't just listen to what others tell you to think about it.  Research it for yourself, with a Bible (a few different translations) and a concordance.  Read the Bible apart from theologians telling you how to interpret it.  And see how it sounds to you.  (Be warned that many popular theologians nowadays are Calvinists.)  Then, once you get a picture of who God is and how He acts, then you can look into what others say about it.  But don't let others tell you how to read the Bible.  Too many times, we go into it with preconceived ideas - implanted by others - about what a verse means.  Read it as it is first, then see what others say about it, if you want to. 

Question:  Do Calvinists ever stop to ask God if they are correctly understanding the Word?  Do they stop to consider if they might really be wrong?  Or do they simply build their theological framework on their assumptions, on the education they get from a Calvinistic seminary, on the writings of other forceful Calvinists, and on a few verses that - when read a certain way - could sound like predestination (until you dig deeper)?  

My opinion:  
I think there are some strong, dogmatic, aggressive Calvinists who truly believe that "God's glory" is the reason they are a Calvinist, because they are trying to elevate Him as high as they can.  But deep down, it's really about the pride they feel for being such an "ultra-humble" Christian because they elevate God as high as they can, because they accept the "hardest teachings," like the idea that man has no power at all and that God controls everything.  They feel they alone truly glorify God, unlike free-will-believers who, in their assessment, downplay His sovereignty and won't fully submit to Him.  And they feel "theologically superior" because they believe they alone understand the hidden messages of the Word.  They believe that we who believe in free-will do so simply because we are letting our feelings lead us - our desire for control, to be independent, to not have God rule us so completely.  They believe we resist Calvinism because we are resisting God's control, because we are refusing to humble ourselves before Him.    

Their extreme view of God's sovereignty (I would say it's an erroneous view of God's sovereignty) makes them a better, more humbled, more God-honoring Christian.  In their own assessment.

No wonder they won't listen to any arguments against Calvinism.  No wonder they don't stop to ask themselves or God if they are wrong.

That would make them feel like they too are resisting God and refusing to be "humble."  It would mean they have to admit that, all along, they misread the Bible, that they let their own views and their own pride taint how they read Scripture.  By the time they reach "strong, educated Calvinist," there's just too much on the line to go back now.  To wonder if they might be wrong.

Trapped by their own pride and knowledge!
And of course, I am painting with broad brushstrokes here.  Not all Calvinists are like this.  We have some good friends who lean towards Calvinism, and they are the most gracious, gentlest, generous, godly people we know.  Even when this issue has come up in conversation, they are truly kind and humble about their views.  We can politely and respectfully agree to disagree.  I can handle that!  I like that!

And if pastors were like that, I would be totally okay.

But when they teach that their view alone is the only way to read the Bible and that those who disagree are wrong and unhumble and not honoring God, and when they stop others from sharing opposing views ... well, now we've got problems.   

I think this desire to be as humble as possible, to be the "most God-honoring Christian," to elevate God as high as they can, is what initially sucks people into Calvinism.  (It did for me, back in the day.)  They want to be honoring to God, and they're told this is the best way to do it - to raise God's sovereignty up so high that people have no control or choice or anything.    

But ...
What if they're wrong?  What if God Himself - even if He has the power to control people and every detail - decided to not always control people and every detail (as seen in many biblical examples)?  What if He decided to allow people to have a choice about Him - to accept Him or reject Him (as seen in many biblical examples)?  Because that's the way He wants things to be?  Because He wants people who want to be with Him, not who are forced to?  

What if it's actually more honoring and glorifying to Him to have people willingly choose to love Him and obey Him, instead of being forced to?

And yet, the predestination-pushers keep pushing predestination, that "God is sovereign" means "God controls every detail of life and every choice you make," that "we can't choose God unless He makes us choose Him"!  They portray Him as an all-controlling God who doesn't give people a choice - who creates them for heaven or for hell, based on His own whims - and then who holds those who reject Him accountable for rejecting Him, even though He made them reject Him and didn't even send Jesus to die for their sins.  

And they expect us to still be able to trust Him?  To call Him "loving" and "just" and "righteous"?

Do you see why this issue gets me so fired up!?!  It portrays God in a very damaging way, contrary to how He really is.  

I don't like my God being portrayed that way!  I don't like seeing Jesus's precious sacrifice for all men being reduced to a selective sacrifice for a few men!  I don't want to see people get hurt or see their faith get damaged because they were forced or manipulated into agreeing with a false view of God, salvation, forgiveness, Jesus, faith, mercy, grace, love, etc. 

And this is why I am writing against it!  

And yet I expect that Calvinists would dismiss it out of hand.  Strong Calvinists generally won't listen to anything against Calvinism because they have pre-decided that those who oppose it are unhumble and wrong, that we are not honoring God, and that we don't understand the Bible.  (I know because I used to be one.  Not a strong one, but a "baby Calvinist," looking down on those who "just didn't get it," those who dared to question God's supreme authority and control.)  

I'm guessing that when Calvinists block opposing views on this in a church, they do so because they think they're "protecting" the church from "heresy," because they think it's being divisive.  

Is it divisive ... is it heresy ... to encourage people to go right to what the Bible says, instead of reinterpreting it according to what popular Calvinist authors teach?  To point out the ways the pastor is manipulating you into agreeing with him?  To point out how very wrong it is for a pastor to tell you that you can't disagree with him on this very-debatable, unclear topic?

Well, if that's what they want to think, then so be it.  But I believe that church members deserve to know when a biblically-based view on a very debatable issue is being silenced.  That should be disturbing to us as a church!  

I know "Calvinism vs. Anti-Calvinism" (some would say Arminianism, but I haven't studied that. I study the Bible and the Bible alone.) is a very emotionally-charged subject, and I am not trying to cause problems or division here by bringing it up.  But I am sharing my experience and research to help others who find themselves in similar situations.  And I am trying to be as true to the Word as I can be, to represent God and the Gospel as accurately as possible.  And I am challenging others to do that too, to reconsider the Calvinist views they think they hold to but might not truly understand.  

If Calvinists want to believe that Jesus died only for some people and that it brings God glory to send the vast majority of people to hell even though He gave them no chance to be saved, then that's their problem.

But if I am one of the few to stand up against Calvinism, I will stand up tall and shout it from the rooftops:  


For some more posts on this:  "Links To My Anti-Calvinism Posts."

But before you read, I would challenge any strong Calvinists to do what I did when I was researching this issue: Ask yourself if you really want to know the truth, even if it means finding out you've been wrong all this time.  Take the time to really consider if you are willing to find out you might be wrong, or if there's any pride in you that would prevent you from letting God open your eyes to the truth.  

If you are not willing to find out you might be wrong - if you are bristling at this idea and already coming up with all sorts of arguments to "prove" you are right - then there's no point in reading anything I write because you are already set in your views and your pride.  But if you are willing to see the truth, whatever the cost, then ask God in prayer to open your eyes to His truth, even if it means showing you that you are wrong.

It's amazing how much sense Scripture makes and how consistent and wonderful God's character is when you get rid of Calvinism and predestination.

And for fun: Some of my favorite Anti-Calvinism memes.  (There's more at the end of this post: Anti-Calvinism Memes and Links):

That Face You Make ...

... Everything That Happens ...

That Face You Make... Lost Souls

Injustice ...

... Says One Thing ...

I'm Sorry, Sally ...

... Nineveh ...

... Stop Hitting Yourself ...

It's comforting to know I'm not the only one who sees things the way I do, who believes that when Jesus said He died for all, He means He died for all.  Calvinists can be so forceful and vocal and manipulative and condescending that you can begin to feel like there's something wrong with you - like you're a "bad Christian," a "stupid Christian" - for not agreeing with them.  But take heart!  You're not alone.  I'll be bad and stupid with you!  :) 

And keep digging for the Truth of what the Bible says.  When you finally do understand what it really says, it all makes sense.  Unlike Calvinism.

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