Just what exactly is the calvinist gospel?
A lot of allegedly Christian religious groups have what seems to be an on-the-ball biblical gospel. But it is how the converts to that gospel are counted or recorded that defines the actual gospel being preached. No matter what you preach to the alleged lost, it’s how you assess your results that defines your gospel!
The Catholics, for instance, appear to teach a reasonable gospel. But to be seen as a good catholic you must remain a member in good standing, including regularly attending masses and confessions. If you cease being a good catholic, then it is usual to consider you as not saved. A catholic who renounces catholicism is generally pronounced anathema, that is, rejected by their God. The catholic gospel is therefore to be a good catholic.
The Seventh Day Adventists (SDAs) likewise appear to have a biblical gospel, but then assess the salvation of their members according to their adherence to the law of God. If you break God’s law without due repentance, then you may be considered to be not saved, especially if you worship on any day other than Saturday. The SDA gospel is therefore one of obedience to the law of God, especially with respect to the sabbath commandment.
The Jehovahs Witnesses (JWs) teach that only a JW may be saved. Those who belong to other religions cannot be saved. If you leave the JWs, you lose your salvation. Therefore the JW gospel is to belong to the JW religion! This is common to most cults.
In many charismatic and Pentecostal churches, the gospel may be preached faithfully, yet if a person is “slain in the Spirit” or speaks in tongues, or is apparently miraculously healed, then that person is automatically deemed to be a Christian. The reasoning is that if the person has experienced a spiritual manifestation, it must be attributed to God, because they are Christian churches and therefore spiritual activity must be of God. But satan and his demons can also cause spiritual manifestations such as these. We are told to test the spirits (1 John 4:1-3) but I have yet to see a church test the spirits behind spiritual manifestations. If the spiritual manifestation is used to define that person as Christian without qualification, then their gospel is not biblical but of spiritual manifestations.
Calvinists preach a gospel which does appear to be the same as the biblical gospel. Their doctrinal statements of belief are often seemingly very scriptural. But how do they count their converts? How do they assess whether or not a person is truly a Christian according to their doctrines? One thing is certain: they cannot assess their converts by any testimony involving free will choice in any way. If you claimed to have heard the gospel and responded in faith, repenting of your sins and choosing to trust Jesus Christ as your Saviour and Lord, then this is insufficient for calvinists to accept you as a genuine Christian. In fact, any decision that involves your free will in any way should disqualify you from being accepted by a calvinist as a genuine Christian!
So how does the calvinist assess the results of his gospel preaching? Calvinists often claim to be great evangelists, seeking the lost more vigorously than any non-calvinist! They claim that calvinist missionaries have sparked revivals, have built churches in many godless communities, all through their preaching of the gospel. Yet, the calvinist can’t count anyone whose claim to being Christian rests on free will in any way. So who can he count? Or, who does he actually count?
The answer lies in their doctrines. Without free will permitted for mankind to choose salvation, what do they actually teach? Some teach that you must repent and forsake all your sins before you can claim to be a Christian. Others preach that you must give up all your worldly sins in order to be saved. But one thing stands out: that you don’t choose God; God chooses you! If you repent, then God has made you repent.
The calvinist God has chosen from the beginning (without imposing any conditions at all) a small select group of people to be his own people, his elect. These and only these will go to heaven. In fact, they can’t go anywhere else, for God has chosen them unconditionally to go to heaven, and to heaven they will go! God will make them go!
MacArthur teaches that no-one is willing until God makes that sinner willing.
No sinner has the capacity to be willing. …….
It is only when the power of God makes him willing that he becomes willing.
(“The doctrine of God’s effectual call”)
All the rest (the majority of mankind) have not been chosen, so there is no hope of salvation and heaven, ever. The calvinist Jesus only died for God’s chosen elect; therefore those not chosen cannot go to heaven, even if they wanted to, for their sins remain unpaid for. These non-elect sinners will never be saved because the calvinist God intends that they remain unwilling to come!
This means that only those who have been chosen can be saved, and the rest cannot be saved. Not one may have free will to choose for himself. The calvinist therefore may only count those who have been chosen by God for salvation, not necessarily those who say they have made a personal decision to be saved. But how does the calvinist know the difference? Well, to start with, those who claim to have made a personal decision to be saved have to be counted out of the running. In fact, most calvinists do teach clearly that your free will in salvation renders your salvation imperfect and thus useless.
Paul Washer says: My friend, Jesus is Lord of your heart and if He wants to come in, He will kick the door down. ….. And ….
The greatest heresy in the American evangelical and protestant church is that if you pray and “ask Jesus Christ to come into your heart,” He will definitely come in.
Todd Freil says: People who ask Jesus into their hearts are not saved and they will perish on the Day of Judgment. (“Ten reasons to not ask Jesus into your heart”)
So, to count calvinist converts to their gospel, first of all cross out all people who have a testimony of salvation through accepting Jesus as Lord and Saviour. Note that if the calvinist actually preaches the biblical gospel, people may get saved in spite of the calvinist denial of man’s free will in salvation. But the calvinist cannot count them as converts as such because their claim to have chosen salvation by their free will has caused them to be unable to be saved by the calvinist God. Only those whom God has chosen may be counted. Of course, many calvinists try to then say that they only made a free will choice because God had first chosen them and regenerated them (caused them to be born again) before they heard the gospel and made a decision to be saved. But then, how can a person be born again with life from the Spirit before he can be saved? How can he have eternal life before he comes to Christ for eternal life? (John 5:40)
Ultimately, the calvinist gospel is one of good works. You must demonstrate your salvation in order to be considered to be saved. You must attend church, you must have forsaken all your sin, and, in general, be a better, nicer person than you were before. In other words, you must be seen to be living a pure life, free from worldly pursuits. Pure living? Read this as “puritan”! Converts to the calvinist gospel are to be puritans. In fact, this is what calvinists teach, that the puritan lifestyle is what demonstrates your salvation. It’s not the words that you say but the life that you live that determines your eternal destiny! So, if you made a free will decision to be saved, then as long as you go to church and live a good moral life, you can be counted as a puritan and thus a genuine calvinist convert.
So, who can the calvinist witness to without telling lies? After all, if he goes out into the wide world and starts witnessing to the lost in the streets, what does he say to them? That Jesus loved them so much that He died for them? No, that would be a lie, because the calvinist Jesus didn’t die for many of them at all. Do you tell them the truth, that the calvinist God has chosen a small proportion of them and if they are one of those chosen ones, then they should listen up and hear the gospel message? Of course, you should also tell them that it is most likely that God hasn’t chosen them for heaven, having instead chosen them to go to hell. (Calvinism doesn’t like to admit this fact, that by not choosing most of mankind for heaven, the calvinist God has effectively chosen to send most of mankind to hell. Note that Calvin did teach this clearly.)
Calvin taught that those whom God had chosen for salvation would firstly be drawn to the church where they would be nurtured and finally brought forth into full salvation. In fact, he said that there was no salvation, no forgiveness of sins, outside the Church. (Institutes Bk IV Ch 1, Section 4) Now we’re getting close to our answer. Many calvinist churches and reform churches teach that the gospel should only be taught to those attending church because those attending church are likely to be chosen ones who have been drawn to church by God through regeneration (= being born again). They reason that those attending church are more likely to be of the elect group, and the calvinist gospel can only be preached effectively to those who have already been regenerated (born again) by the Spirit.
Those who regularly attend church, do good works, and appear to have forsaken their sins are likely to be declared calvinist elect. They may or may not also have a testimony of asking Jesus to be their Saviour and Lord, as long as it is assumed that they were born again (regenerated) first before they were thus saved. However, it is their behaviour that will define their elect status rather than their free will salvation testimony which might be considered irrelevant by many calvinists. Those who have a testimony of calling upon the name of the Lord to be saved (Romans 10:13) yet appear to continue to struggle with sin may be rejected as God’s elect. Only those with godly behaviour may be certified as the elect of God. This describes the puritan.
And this also describes the ideal convert of the calvinist missionary and church planter. The ideal convert may be permitted to have called on the name of the Lord as long as he also demonstrates the puritan lifestyle. That is, he must attend church regularly, have given up all vices (this included alcohol but surprisingly smoking of any kind was permitted – note Spurgeon!), be faithful to his spouse, doesn’t lie, or cheat others, in fact, has become a “nicer” person. And this effectively describes the preferred attributes of the calvinist convert; in general you must be a nicer person. If you struggle with drugs or have a problem with alcohol, for example, then it is likely to define you as probably not one of God’s elect. If you cannot forsake all those obvious sins, then you aren’t likely to have been born again by God’s Spirit, because you are apparently still dead in your trespasses and sins. (Ephesians 2:1)
While a missionary outreach should produce nicer people and hopefully fill the churches, not all Christians become perfect all at once. Many do struggle with sin for a while after they are saved; sins such as addictions do not always miraculously completely disappear immediately the person comes to Christ for salvation. However, if they do not disappear at all, ever, then that person’s salvation was probably non-existent. But it should not disqualify them from being declared Christian if they do not completely change from the start. What they often need is encouragement, not a dismissal because they failed to measure up immediately.
The calvinist gospel is therefore defined as puritan (better, nicer people with better, nicer works, attending church and doing the good works expected of such people). Those with a testimony of salvation (through having called upon the name of the Lord to be saved) may be declared elect if they also demonstrate the puritan lifestyle. They may be declared non-elect if they have a testimony of salvation without the puritan lifestyle. All Christians should endeavour to live a puritan life, yet not all who live a puritan life are necessarily Christians.
Calvinists may be great evangelists and church-planters, but their gospel is puritan and their converts are likewise puritan. Church members in good standing are usually seen as God’s elect. For many calvinist outreaches, this is the measure of their effectiveness: to get people sitting on seats in church; to be “nicer” law-abiding people; to be obedient to God’s commandments; and so on. Ultimately, the calvinist gospel comes down to just one thing: either you have been chosen by God (and therefore will be saved) or you have not been chosen by God (and therefore will not be saved). And if God has chosen you, you will be a nicer, better person (that is, a puritan). This is what they have to assess in order to define your Christian status. You are either elect or non-elect, and the way you live will demonstrate this, and there’s nothing you can do about it, ever. If you are elect, then you cannot miss out on heaven. All others go to hell!
So why evangelise? Effectively, calvinist evangelism cannot ever in any way change who’s going to heaven and who’s going to hell. The bottom line is that even if calvinists sat back and did nothing to seek the lost, the end result (according to their doctrines) would be exactly the same! So why bother? They might as well go out and enjoy themselves, for if they are chosen ones, they are going to heaven anyway. And if they aren’t chosen ones, then they’ll end up in hell no matter whether they are good or not. Really, this is the non-gospel of the calvinists!
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