Note: I have not posted the complete message I received from this person. The reason is simple: space. It was a very long message and I cut it down without editing it, so that it was more manageable. I believe and I truly hope I have left enough of it so as to give the author's point of view and biblical support that the person was trying to give.
Hello, and God bless! I would like to start off my letter by answering a question you put forth to those who believe in "OSAS," which I prefer to call "preserving of the saints." You asked whether we believe that someone with a view opposing ours can be saved. I certainly think they can be, although they do not have the guidance of the Spirit in some of their beliefs. I do not intend to call into question your salvation. I sincerely hope that the words of this letter are not mine, and I pray that God will use me to speak the truth. I must tell you that I disagree with several of the "OSAS" believers, and they contradict themselves continually. You are right--if it is free will, then we can "choose" to leave Christ. This brings me to the first thing I would like to discuss. Calvinism, or Reformed Theology. I will also state that I am not a hyper-Calvinist, but a moderate Calvinist, although I am a five-point Calvinist.
I am a five-point Calvinist, but I do not like being called a Calvinist. John Calvin was a man who lived many centuries ago and taught what Calvinists (or most of them) believe. I, however, do not like being called by the name of a man, so I would rather be called a Sovereignist.
The total depravity of man is very important. What you believe concerning this defines much of your logic. Let's look at a few verses speaking about the depravity of man. "As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Their throat is an open sepulcher; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: Their feet are swift to shed blood: Destruction and misery are in their ways: And the way of peace have they not known: There is no fear of God before their eyes." Romans 3:10-18
If Adam had obeyed, we would not have had all that we have because of Jesus. We would have been a little lower than the angels. But now, we have much more! We have the promise that we will reign! Let's move on to verse 18. "Therefore as by the offense of one judgement came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of One the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life." Now, the last part of this verse could be greatly misinterpreted. "the free gift came upon all men" What exactly does "all men" mean? We know that the free gift did not fall upon ALL MEN to justification, or no man would go to hell. So what does it mean? My interpretation is that the verse speaks of all the men who were represented in the Covenant Head. Jesus Christ represented His elect, as we will see in examining the Scriptures later. So, on to verse 19. "For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinner, so by the obedience of One shall many be made righteous." In these verses, representation is laid out for us to see. The termonology is plain and clear, and may God give us eyes to understand. All in all, total depravity is a doctrine derived from Scripture that states that man fell in his first covenant head, Adam, and therefore death passed upon all men, and so we are born condemned. This is truly just when considered in all aspects, and the doctrine of the Bible. The reason this truth is so important? It represents man as he truly is: corrupt by nature, unable to choose that which is good, inclined toward that which is evil. His will which would have been free is in bondage to sin, because he has sinned in Adam and is a servant of sin. The servant cannot free himself, but he must be freed. Also, we must note that Adam was the head of the covenant of works, by which no man is redeemed. Jesus is the Head of the covenant of grace. This brings us to the second point of Calvinism: Unconditional Election.
There is no denying that Scripture speaks of predestination and election. The words are used over and over in Scripture. "According as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, wherein He hath made us accepted in the beloved. In whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace; Wherein He hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; Having made knwon unto us the mystery of His will according to His good pleasure which He hath purposed in Himself" Ephesians 1:4-9 Now, some have said that God predestined all men to salvation in Himself, but God's will is accomplished. If He had predestined that all men would be saved, all men would be saved.
Some use 2 Peter 3:9 to support Jesus dying for all humanity. They mistranslate this verse, however, and take it out of context. Let us carefully examine this verse. "The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance." Now, the verse starts out stating that the Lord is not slack concerning His promise. Who is His promise made to? Believers. He promises eternal life to those who believe, and no one can believe or seek the Lord unless they are His elect. So, at the beginning of he verse, Peter is speaking to the elect. "but is longsuffering" Who is He longsuffering towards? "but is longsuffering to us-ward" Who is us? Believers. The apostle wrote the epistle to believers, the elect of God, and he is here speaking about God's attitude to the elect. "not willing that any hsould perish, but that all should come to repentance." All of who? Who is Peter addressing throughout the entire epistle AND the entire verse? The elect. This verse is truly supporting preservance of the saints, or "once saved always saved." Did Peter address the elect throughout the whole verse, and all of a sudden change his audience without stating he was doing so, then resume speaking about the people who he was speaking about and to through the rest of the verse? He is long suffering to US-WARD--towards the elect. He is not willing that any of His elect should perish, but that all should come to repentance. So, if God wills it, it will be done.
And the Scripture is not open to private interpretation. The Bible should not be interpreted with a biased viewpoint. If someone wants to express their views on what a certain verse is, they are welcome to write books or devotionals on it, but not altar wording of the Bible. While I take certain words to mean certain things, I would certainly not want to altar the translation in my Bible.
My response is in Green:
I must admit I got a chuckle out of your message. What I mean is that you said that you would not challenge my salvation. What made me chuckle is as a 5 point Calvinist you can't. Because either God picked me or He did not and neither of us will know for sure until judgment day.
Believe me I am very aware of what 5 point Calvinism is. I disagree with it, but I understand it all the same. You made a statement that I want to address; you said that a person can't make personal (or private) interpretations of the Bible. My problem with that statement is that it is exactly what Calvinism does. Calvinism says that the Bible does not really mean what it says and then it gives its own interpretation. For example John 3:16 where God says that He loves the whole world and sent Jesus to die for everyone. Well that does not mean the "whole" world, just the elect. Jesus did not die for "everyone" only the elect. I have a problem with that kind of interpretation.
You quoted verses which talk about everyone being a sinner. I have no problem with any of those, but I do have a problem with how you use those verses to bolster an argument which is not addressed directly. You go from everyone has sinned and everyone was born into sin to the fact that we are so depraved that we can't even choose to follow God. I will tell you why I have a problem with that thinking.
Yes we are all depraved sinful beings and yes God has to draw us or we would not even think about following Him. Look at this verse: (John 6:44 NIV) No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day. Now my question is this. Why would Jesus say this and why would God "draw" someone if they had no choice in the matter? Why doesn't Jesus just plainly say, those the Father gives me I will raise up on the last day? The very act of drawing some one means to fetch, attract, pull, etc... All of those show choice.
Look at these passages: (Ezekiel 3:18-19 NIV)  When I say to a wicked man, 'You will surely die,' and you do not warn him or speak out to dissuade him from his evil ways in order to save his life, that wicked man will die for his sin, and I will hold you accountable for his blood.  But if you do warn the wicked man and he does not turn from his wickedness or from his evil ways, he will die for his sin; but you will have saved yourself.
(Ezekiel 33:11-13 NIV)  Say to them, 'As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, O house of Israel?'  "Therefore, son of man, say to your countrymen, 'The righteousness of the righteous man will not save him when he disobeys, and the wickedness of the wicked man will not cause him to fall when he turns from it. The righteous man, if he sins, will not be allowed to live because of his former righteousness.'  If I tell the righteous man that he will surely live, but then he trusts in his righteousness and does evil, none of the righteous things he has done will be remembered; he will die for the evil he has done. Is God just being cruel here? If He is the one who chooses then He is being cruel because these people don't really have a choice to do what is right. After all if they are "totally" depraved and only God can enable them to do right, then these two passages are a joke.
Apparently Jesus did not understand because if He had He would never of made this statement: (Luke 13:34 NIV) O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! "You were not willing!" Sounds to me like they had a choice in the matter.
I will not disagree that God can do whatever He wants, but His word clearly shows that He has allowed man to make choices as to serve Him or not and as to believe in Jesus or not. Yes the Bible talks about predestination and election, but not in the way that 5 point Calvinist claim it does. They claim that it is totally up to God, but God's word shows that He has given us free will to choose between believing or not believing.
Did Adam and Eve have a choice as to whether they ate from the tree God commanded them not to eat from? Or did God command them not to eat from it, but not give them the ability not to? If they did not have a choice, then original sin is a joke too. It would be a joke because we are all born into sin because of what Adam and Eve did, but if they had no choice then God choose to make them sin and He choose to make us all sinners. If that is all true, then the very command not to eat from the tree is a cruel joke.
As is this: (Genesis 4:6-7 NIV)  Then the LORD said to Cain, "Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast?  If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it."
If Cain had no choice then telling him to master sin is a joke because he couldn't.
(Ezekiel 18:31-32 NIV)  Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, O house of Israel?  For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent and live! What is the sense of this passage? If they could not choose to repent, then why tell them to? Why ask them "why will you die?" God says He takes no pleasure in the death of the person who dies, but if God is the one choosing then that does not sound right to me.
Is this verse a joke too? (2 Peter 3:9 NIV) The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. Now Calvinist, as you yourself did, can claim that this verse only refers to the elect, but even if that is true it is a silly verse to put in the Bible. Here is why I say that: If Peter is referring to only the elect, then it is God's fault they have not yet repented. What, has He been too busy to draw them with that irresistible grace? Why would God have to be patient about His own actions?
Let me say right here, this is my problem with both Calvinism and Arminianism. Both go off into the weeds, just on different sides of the narrow path. Both have the exact same problem, they don't take the Bible as a whole, they take it for what they want it to be. They take some passages and make a doctrinal theology from them, but they totally reject other passages because they would destroy that doctrinal stand. Or they interpret passages to make them say things which they clearly do not say.
So how do I explain those verses which say that we were predestined and elected? Simple, they are true. I believe that God wants (predestines) everyone to know Him and to come to repentance. That He draws 'all' men to Himself, but that He allows us to make the final decision as to whether we will come or not. I also believe that God knew before He created the world that some of us would and some would not believe and repent. Not because He made the choice for us but because He knows us and knew what choice we would freely make. So yes those who believe were predestined and elected to Salvation, but by their own choice.
If it is not by free choice, then the Bible is full of either lies or cruel jokes, just like I have shown you. Like Jesus crying because "He decided" not to save Jerusalem. Or God being longsuffering because He has not gotten around to drawing some people yet.
I am sorry I don't buy into that. I see God's character clearly portrayed in His word and His character tells me that He loves us all and wants us all to come to know Him through His Son. But that He loves us enough to give us the choice. He takes no pleasure in people choosing to reject His free gift of Salvation, nor does He take pleasure in their punishment for doing so, but His holy nature and justice demands they be punished.
(Revelation 20:12-13 NIV)  And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books.  The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. I again see this as a cruel joke if these people who were not part of the elect had no choice in their own actions. If as 5 point Calvinism claims we are all so totally depraved that we can't choose to do any good, then why wouldn't everyone just get the same punishment instead of being judged on what they did and did not do? This does not strike me as a just and merciful God who would do this.
Let me ask you a question. Do you know anything about the Jewish marriage ceremony? I ask that because it has great significance to the Christian. Jesus is often called the Bridegroom and the church the bride. Jesus Himself talked about preparing a place for us in His Father's house and then coming back for us. That all is related to the Jewish marriage ceremony. I won't go into too much of it, but I wanted to tell you about one part. At one point the bridegroom holds up a glass of wine and tells his bride that this represents his covenant with her. The bridegroom holds up the cup (he makes the offer), but the bride must take the cup from him in order for the marriage to go forward. If she refuses then there is no marriage. The bridegroom does not force her to take the cup, yet only he can offer it. The bride can't take something he has not offered.
Do you see our salvation in that ceremony? I do, God is the only one who can offer salvation through Jesus Christ, but He offers it to us and it is up to us whether we take that offer or not. That is why Jesus talked in the language of the Jewish marriage. The bride never knew exactly when she would be married. After the ceremony the bridegroom would go back to his father's house and build a room on for himself and his bride. It was up to the father to decide when all the preparations were complete and the son could go get his bride. The bride had to be ready to go all the time, because the bridegroom could come for her at any moment.
We await our Bridegroom the same way. This is a beautiful picture of our salvation. If that is true, then why would God not follow the ceremony? Why would He not give us any choice in the matter?
Here are three more passages. In all of these Jesus is talking about repentance. He either tells people to repent or condemns them for not repenting. Now if they do not have free will then these statements by Jesus make no sense what so ever. (Matthew 4:17 NIV) From that time on Jesus began to preach, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near."
(Matthew 11:20-24 NIV)  Then Jesus began to denounce the cities in which most of his miracles had been performed, because they did not repent.  "Woe to you, Korazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.  But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you.  And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted up to the skies? No, you will go down to the depths. If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day.  But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you."
(Matthew 21:32 NIV) For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him.
I believe that God is a just and fair God. Yes we all deserve punishment for our sins, but why would God choose to save only some people and not others and yet make His word so that it appears that it is our choice? I would agree from reading Scripture that God says He has the right to make some objects (people) for destruction and some for honorable purposes and none of us can disagree with that. But saying He has the right is not the same as saying that He has done so. If He had done so, then why would His word caution us so many times about rejecting Christ? We cannot reject something that we had no choice or say in from the start. Why would Jesus condemn those who did not repent if they had no say in the matter? I think it is more likely that God knowing what each person's choices would be put some people who He knew would reject His free gift into positions and circumstances where He could show His glory and mercy to others who would not reject His gift. So yes some people are placed in positions to take God's wrath, but yet they still have free choice.
E-Mail Ralph (whose comments are in green)