Who Acts in Our Salvation? Jesus!

When we’re initially saved, who makes it happen? If you’re not familiar with many aspects of the traditional Calvinist/Arminian debate, you may be wondering what quite this question is getting at. If you are, you may recognize the doctrinal point involved. The question at hand is the debate of monergism vs. synergism. If you don’t know what those mean, they are actually fairly simple to understand.

When we are first saved, how does it happen? Who does what? Obviously there are at minimum two persons in involved: God and you. But how do your roles relate? In the traditional forms of Calvinism and Arminianism, the answers are like this:

Calvinism affirms monergism, which means “one working.” In Calvinism, the only person who actually acts in bringing about your salvation (usually specified as regeneration) is God Himself. Your repentance and faith are altogether secondary and only happen because God first gives you a new birth which enables (and guarantees) your response to Him. God alone acts by the Holy Spirit to save you, and from this saved ground you can repent and believe in the Gospel. R. C. Sproul put it this way:

We also believe that regeneration is monergistic. Now that’s a three-dollar word. It means essentially that the divine operation called rebirth or regeneration is the work of God alone. An erg is a unit of labor, a unit of work. The word energy comes from that idea. The prefix mono– means “one.” So monergism means “one working.” It means that the work of regeneration in the human heart is something that God does by His power alone—not by 50 percent His power and 50 percent man’s power, or even 99 percent His power and 1 percent man’s power. It is 100 percent the work of God.

Arminianism, along with many Catholic view and Eastern Orthodoxy, counter with synergism, which essentially means “working together.” In synergism, God initiates and offers grace, and man must cooperate with his free will. Salvation essentiallly occurs by the acts of both parties, God in giving and man in receiving, with the idea of man’s reception being conceived of as an act of a human free will. In this view, repentance and faith are integral to the beginning of salvation, rather than a result of a beginning accomplished simpy by God alone. Some would characterize synergism as being a 50-50 view, although most synergists would disagree. In any case, synergism relies on man cooperating with God’s grace, so that God does part (certainly the superior part) and man does part (an inferior, receptive part). Eric Landstrom of the Society of Evangelical Arminians gives this explanation:

So important is it that God monergistically works that Calvinists have effectively written out and forgotten that all relationships are in point of fact synergistic. If any “relationship” isn’t synergistic, then it is said to be one-sided, and one-sided relationships are both sad and unhealthy.

But God is personable and so too are we also personable. As such, we should expect that, as a person, God interacts with us on a personal level and in a personal way…[W]hen God reaches out to us, we can respond—but just like any healthy relationship, we needn’t respond to God by necessity. But if we respond to God’s reconciling ministry of grace, and our response is theocentric and sustained by continuously drawing upon the strength of grace received by God, then God continues to augment the process with more grace; and by augmenting the process the relationship between the creature and God grows.

Now, if you don’t already have a settled opinion on this matter, which view will ring true to you probably largely depends on the preaching you’ve heard and the reading you’ve done. But before you consider making any conclusions, I would like to present an alternative.

See, my problems with both monergism and syngerism in their traditional forms are two: (1) they assume a competitive relationship between divine and human agency, and (2) they don’t take Jesus into account.

What do I mean by these? For (1), the problem is that Scripture does not assume any view of the relationship between God’s will and man’s will which must simply add up to 100%. Traditional monergism and synergism do. For monergism, the 100% of action must belong entirely to God, leaving man with 0%. In synergism, the numbers must be divided up some way, perhaps 50-50 or 90-10, or even 99-1. But there is no Biblical evidence for this kind of zero-sum game. All of God does not mean none of man, and neither does God and man mean only some of each.

But to make my (1) make sense, I have to explain (2). Neither traditional monergism nor traditional synergism make any explicit use of Christology, the doctrine of Jesus, instead either talking of God generally or specifiying the Father or the Holy Spirit. And yet, if we are trying to understand the relationship between God and man, we can’t bypass the one place in all reality where God and man are truly and fully one, hypostatically united as a single person named Jesus.

I follow, then, the Evangelical Calvinist tradition in focusing on what is called the vicarious humanity of Christ (posts related to this can be found here, and Martin M. Davis has a good series on it beginning here). Jesus did not simply die in our place; He was and is human in our place. Our true humanity is based in Him. Everything that needed to be done for our salvation, both on God’s part and on man’s part, has already been done in His own Person and work.

So how does this affect monergism and synergism? I look at it through Christ. Contrary to synergism, the only true cooperation between free human will and divine grace is found in Jesus, where He lived a whole human life in obedience to the Father, even unto death. If we are to respond to God at all, our reponse will have to begin with the human response of Jesus to His Father, not with our free will. Contrary to monergism, though, this does not somehow remove our response from the equation. On the contrary, our response plays a decisive role in our receiving salvation precisely because it is not our own response but rather the response of Jesus in which we participate by the Holy Spirit.

If you’re lost a bit, I’ll step back. For humanity to have a saving relationship to God, we need faithfulness and holiness. For sinful humanity to return to God, we need faith and repentance. We fallen men, however, could never offer God any of this. So Jesus offered it in our place. He gave God on our behalf perfect faithfulness, perfect holiness, perfect faith, and even perfect repentance.1 This perfect human response to God could only be given by Jesus who was Himself God. Jesus is both the Word of God who calls for repentance and faith as well as the true Human who responds to God’s word in repentance and faith.

With this in mind, perhaps I could call my view Christological monergism. In one sense, it is God alone who acts to bring us to salvation. The Father sent the Son, the Son gave the Father the necessary human response for salvaiton, and by the Holy Spirit we are brought into saving union with Jesus. The true actor in our salvation is Jesus for us, and He is God. But on the other hand, we are also involved. By our union with Christ through the Holy Spirit, we do truly and really repent and believe to be saved. I respond to God, yet it is not I but Christ in me, and the response I offer to the Father, I offer by the response of the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me.2 And God accepts this response, and me, because what He is really accepting in Jesus, who is in me, and I in Him, and His response.

So it is not simply 100% God and 0% man, nor is it part God and part man. In Jesus salvation comes as 100% God and, albeit in a secondary sense, 100% man. Yet even man’s part is not just man in and of himself, not any natural human free will, but the part of Jesus as a man for us. It is only through, in, and by Him—us united to Him by the Holy Spirit—that we can be free for God, and in this freedom choose life by choosing what Jesus has already chosen for us and in our place.

I’ll conclude, then, with an editor’s summary of T. F. Torrance’s view in his book Incarnation:

[F]or Torrance, the Christian life is one of union with Christ in which in faith we live out of his faith and his righteousness. Having no righteousness in ourselves, we arc united to him so that we may live out of his. Our faith is the knowledge, given to us in the Spirit, that he has accomplished our salvation in his person and work and that we are saved purely by his unconditional grace.

This does not mean that we do nothing although it does mean that we do nothing for our salvation. For Torrance, there is an analogy here with the person of Christ. The fart that the humanity of Christ owes its being entirely to the action of God in the incarnation, does not mean It is not real. The fact that Christ is all of God, or that all of God is in Christ, does not mean that there is nothing of man in him, but the opposite, that all of man is in him. Torrance used to explain that in the logic of grace, ‘All of grace does not mean nothing of man. All of grace means all of man.’ The knowledge that forgiveness and salvation is all of grace liberates us out of ourselves into union with Christ, freeing on to live fully and freely out of him. All of grace means all of man, just as the action of God in Christ means all of man in Christ.

Who Acts in Our Salvation? Jesus!

Is God All This and All That? (Part 1: Omniscience)

God cannot be good, or He cannot be real. This is basically the thrust of the argument which uses the problem of evil against God, at least as He is traditionally understood. The Greek philosopher Epicurus put it this way:

Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?

This dilemma, called in the above form the Epicurean Paradox or more generally just the problem of evil, has always been a difficult problem for Christians. Yes, there have always been answers, but not all of the proposed answers have been good, clear, and coherent. The most popular answer has usually involved free will, but even that idea has been fraught with questions and philosophical challenges (e.g. “Can free will truly exist alongside divine sovereignty, omnipotence, and omniscience?”). Another popular answer, though almost exclusively in Calvinist circles, is that evil was essentially imagined and decreed by God so that He could use it to glorify Himself.

Because of these difficulties, some people have attempted reevaluate Biblical teachings on God to see if we are getting something wrong in the start. This has led some people to startling conclusions.

What if God isn’t actually omniscience (all-knowing)?

What if God isn’t actually omnipotent (all-powerful)?

At first glance, both of these objections sound absurd. Yet there are people who charge that omniscience and omnipotence, at least as traditionally understood, are philosophical traditions imposed on the Bible from the outside, and not actually Biblical teachings themselves.

For those of us who seek to be true Biblicists, sola Scriptura Protestants, we should feel compelled to examine all such claims that our traditions are misleading us from Scripture. We must take them seriously and find out if they are true. Could we be wrong, misled by worldly philosophy?

If we are wrong, there are obvious implications for the problem of evil. If God is not truly all-knowing, and in this case usually people mean He doesn’t fully know the future, then the devastation of sin on the world may have been essentially a surprise to God. Maybe He didn’t mean for the world to turn out so bad, but He took a risk for the sake of love.

For some people, though, even this isn’t enough. Maybe God didn’t see it coming, but surely if He was omnipotent and good, He would have immediately responded to evil by wiping it out. He could have destroyed Satan, or found a way to give people free will without giving them the ability to do evil, just like He gives us free will without the ability to turn into sausage. So if God was not fully omnipotent, at least in the traditional sense, then it might make sense that God did not immediately stop evil in the beginning.

With such a solution to the problem of evil at hand, and with an accusation that full omniscience and omnipotence are unbiblical, it is worth a search to see what Scripture actually says. I’ll tackle the two questions, omniscience and omnipotence, separately.

Does God know everything? More specifically, does God know all about the future, or does He perhaps not know what free humans will choose to do every time? The Biblical evidence is interesting. There are some statements in Scripture which seem to indicate that God doesn’t know absolutely everything. God responded to man’s wickedness before the Flood with regret as though it were a surprise (Gen. 6:5-6), asked Abraham where Sarah was (Gen. 18:9), seemed to need to investigate Sodom and Gomorrah before He judged them (Gen. 18:20-21), apparently found out Abraham’s faith at Mt. Moriah (Gen. 22:12), searched out the hearts of the Israelites for 40 years in the desert (Deut. 8:2), only said “perhaps” about Israel’s repentance from Jeremiah’s preaching (Jer. 26:3), and in many other places acted as though He did not know what was coming. Many people have argued that these narratives provide a portrait of a God who does not know all the future, or even necessarily the whole of the present.

On the one hand, there are statements to the effect that God knows everything. Examples include 1 John 3:20, Psalm 139, Hebrews 4:13, John 21:17, etc. One might argue, though, that in context none of these have anything to do with the important question about the future. It still might make sense to say God knows “everything” but speak loosely and only really mean the present, or perhaps be using hyperbole. Some people even argue that God knows absolutely everything, but that the future is literally nothing until it happens. God knows everything, but the future isn’t part of everything. So does the Bible offer any specific reasons to believe that God knows the future?

There is, to the best of my knowledge, no verse that specifically says that God knows the future exhaustively, but there is evidence that He must know at least some or most of it. A classic example is Isaiah 42:9, in which God declares that He speaks of events yet to come. In fact, in Isaiah God’s knowledge of major coming events is repeatedly brought forth as evidence that He, not the idols Israel and the Gentiles loved to worship, is the true God (Isa. 41:22-23, 44:7-8, 46:9-10). While one might respond that this knowledge seems to be limited to what God is planning to do Himself (e.g. 46:10), such a limitation is hardly compatible with the way this knowledge is used against the idols. Any false god could know what it plans to do, and there is nothing uniquely impressive about Yahweh knowing His own plans.

More evidence that God must know the future at least pretty fully is found in the prophecies of Daniel. Daniel prophesied the rise and fall of many empires in God’s power, and yet these prophecies cover a wide range of types of knowledge. They include God’s own plans, the actions of individual kings and leaders, and the larger movements of history and empire. Sense can hardly be made of the prophecies of Daniel unless God knows every, or nearly every, kind of future action, including the free choices of people.

That said, is there any Biblical “smoking gun” statement proving unambiguously that God knows absolutely everything about the future? No. So it is certainly possible to interpret the Biblical evidence in a way which leaves the future at least partially uncertain to God. Nonetheless, it seems far more likely, given the totality of the Biblical testimony, to say that God does indeed know the future to the same extent that He knows the present and the past. More problems are solved by acknowledging this than by denying it, or at least it seems so to me. This is further supported by the unanimous testimony of the entire Church throughout history up until very recently (for most of Church history no other understanding has existed at all), and by reflections on space, time, creation, and physics, though this latter line of evidence is beyond the scope of this post. If everything must be established by two or three witnesses, then the full omniscience of God seems well grounded.

Of course, I should not skim over the many Biblical texts brought against this view earlier. What of all of these references, mostly in Genesis, which make God sound as though He needed to find things out which He did not know? My answer on this must remain somewhat traditional, not out of any necessary loyalty to tradition but because it seems the most sensible explanation to me out of all the possibilities. I believe John Calvin got it mostly right with his strong notion of accommodation. To Calvin, we see in the Scriptures, and especially in the early Old Testament, God reaching down to speak to us in a way that we can understand, even if this is very limited and even perhaps not always fully accurate in translation. He likened God’s condescension in speaking to us to a parent babbling to their infant child.

I would, in fact, take this line even further. I believe that what we see in the early Old Testament is God revealing Himself first in a way which would simultaneously be understandable and subversive to the original audience, an ancient people steeped in primitive polytheism. They came from a religious culture where the gods were almost exclusively viewed in a very limited and human-like way. They had no other concept of what a deity might be like. So God showed Himself primarily in such terms, as though He were one of their tribal deities, but throughout this revelation also planted the seeds of fuller knowledge, so that the knowledge of God by condescending analogy and the knowledge of God as He truly is wrestled in tension until the fullness of revelation in Jesus.

On an additional note to this, I would suggest that in interacting with man God can do so most freely and easily when He interacts with us on our level, like a character in time rather than simply as the God above time. Just try to imagine the weirdness of interacting with someone from a strictly transcendent, timeless posture. For our comprehension alone, it was necessary for God to speak like one of us.

So, with a decent case for God’s comprehensive foreknowledge established with at least some strength, we will need to move on to look at God’s omnipotence, His all-power. After all, perhaps God knew what was coming, and knew that in the long run He could work all things out, but in the meantime did not have the ability to prevent all evil. Yet I have run wildly long so far, thus I will have to save the next part for another post.

Is God All This and All That? (Part 1: Omniscience)

An Evangelical Calvinist Ordo Salutis

If you’re not familiar with the term ordo salutis, it is Latin and means “order of salvation,” and is basically a framework for laying out the different parts and events of salvation in order. There are two common views on the ordo salutis, a Calvinistic one and an Arminian one. Here’s the a short version of the most common layout, with the differences between the two versions noted:

  1. Election/predestination — Chronologically, election happens before time. While Calvinists and Arminians disagree on what it means, they agree that it is before time.
  2. Atonement — With election decided, atonement is the next step. Christ died for the sins of the world (or just the elect, if you ask a Calvinist) and so purchased all of the remaining benefits.
  3. Conversion/regeneration — Next, upon the preaching of the Gospel, come conversion and regeneration. Calvinists believe that regeneration, being born again, comes first and causes faith and repentance. Arminians, on the other hand, hold that faith and repentance come first and lead to regeneration. (If anyone ever tells you “how you can be born again” by faith, that’s a rather Arminian statement. Calvinists say only God causes regeneration, and there is nothing you can do to cause it until the Spirit moves in you.)
  4. Justification — Justification follows conversion, with God declaring the sinner righteous on the basis of the faith which came about at conversion. At that moment you are given the verdict “righteous.”
  5. Sanctification — Following justification, one begins to progress in conformity to Christ’s image, a process called “sanctification.” This will continue until death.
  6. Glorification — Finally, at the resurrection when Christ returns, we are given fresh new bodies, a new share in God’s glory, and complete eternal life.

This all seems nice and tidy, but an argument can be made that this is a bit out of focus with the Biblical teaching. An Evangelical Calvinist alternative would look something like this:

  1. Election/predestination — God chooses humanity for Himself in Christ, and predestines Christ as the one in whom humanity is to be oriented, shaped, and glorified.
  2. Incarnation/atonement/justification/sanctification/glorification — From an EC perspective, the whole of salvation is fully accomplished in the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ. In the Incarnation He became man like us and for us, so that He might do all of this on our behalf. He lived a sanctified, consecrated human life for us. He was publicly vindicated/justified in His resurrection, declared to be the Righteous One before the world. In His death He offered Himself as the set apart and just sacrifice by which the death of the natural man could be redeemed by sharing in His resurrection. In His ascension He was exalted to the right hand of the Father and given all authority, an authority which He will one day share with us.
  3. Conversion/Union with Christ — With all of the rest of this accomplished, the Holy Spirit unites us to Christ and leads us to faith and repentance (realities also rooted in Christ’s faithful and sin-resisting life). It is this Spiritual union which imparts to us all of the realities mentioned before, allowing us to share in His justified, sanctified, and glorified life in the present.
  4. Consummation — Finally, when Christ returns, our share in His salvation life will no longer be partial, but complete. We will be like Him, for we will see Him as He is (1 Jn. 3:2). Our bodies and souls will enjoy full participation in everything He won for us once-for-all.

Sounds good, right? I thought so. I’m not going to elaborate that for now, but ultimately I think this conception is superior to and less artificial than the ordo salutis offered by the classical Calvinist/Arminian paradigm. Barth would agree. And I suspect Scripture would as well. (For recommended Scripture reading on this point, I would suggest reading closely together Romans, Hebrews, and 1 John.)

An Evangelical Calvinist Ordo Salutis

God Took the Blame (Or, A Little Thought About the Problem of Evil)

If God exists, why does evil? Is He too weak to stop it? Does He refuse? Did it catch Him off guard? These questions have challenged philosophers and theologians for thousands of years, and goodness knows I can add little or nothing to their many answers. But I just felt like sharing this thought on my mind.

In Christian circles, there are usually two answers given, one by Calvinists and one by almost everyone else. To the Calvinist, evil exists by God’s decision. He ordained before time that Satan should fall, and Adam after him. He did not directly cause evil, but knowingly set up the world with causes, effects, and stuffs which led to evil. Why did He do this? To bring Him glory in conquering and judging it. God’s glory is the greatest good for both Himself and the elect.

The problems with the Calvinist answer are many. Can the intense evil and suffering in the world really bring glory to a good and kind God? Did the same God we see in Jesus imagine the Holocaust to make Himself look good? Moreover, this reasoning smacks of utilitarianism, an unbiblical ethic system where the ends justify the means, and you can get away with anything for “the greater good.” Is God a utilitarian? That’s not what we see of Him in Jesus’ life.

On the other hand, Arminians, Molinists, and self-styled “Biblicists” usually go with the free will defense. I’m sure you’ve heard it. God wants us to freely love Him, but with free will necessarily comes the possibility to do evil. He can either force us to love Him, which wouldn’t be real love, or He must allow for the possibility of evil. This is considered by many a strong and intuitive answer to the problem of evil.

Yet this approach is not without its problems. For one, how do we know free will exists? That debate is ages old, with many arguments of both sides. Moreover, if free will is real, then God has it, but we also know that God cannot sin, and indeed always truly loves. So in that case why could He not make people in the same way, free, truly loving, yet unable to sin, like He is? Besides these problems, is free will by itself a strong enough concept to bear all the weight of the world’s evil? I don’t think we can really reduce the answer to every “Why, God?!” to “That’s easy, free will.”

If these answers don’t work, then what will we say? Shall we cite Karl Barth and his doctrine of nothingness? Maybe go with Augustine in saying evil doesn’t truly exist? Somehow, I don’t think any of these work well enough. So where do we go? How do we exonerate God from evil?

Maybe we don’t.

When we look at Scripture, God never tries to explain or defend Himself on this subject. The Bible never tells us how evil came around, or why God let it. We’re completely in the dark.

In fact, in God’s fullest revelation—Jesus Himself—speaks no excuse, apology, or even rebuke. He instead did the unthinkable: He took the blame. God the Creator, as a created human being, took on full responsibility for the evil of all His creation, and He suffered the consequences. He did not fight to prove His innocence or protect His reputation, but let us punish Him as we saw fit. On Calvary humanity judged God for evil, and God submitted to their sentence.

None of this means, of course, that God actually has done anything wrong and deserves blame. What it does mean is that God is a big boy, one who doesn’t need our philosophies or even sophistry to be justified. He is perfectly capable and willing to take responsibility for the state of His world.

Of course, the other thing the Cross proves in this subject is that God definitely loves us. Whatever else may be at work, and whatever questions He leaves unanswered, we can trust that Jesus loves us. So if nothing else, we can know that God is for us.

God Took the Blame (Or, A Little Thought About the Problem of Evil)

A Few Silly Christian Jokes

Christian jokes. Gotta’ love ’em. Without further ado, here’s what I got:

Baptist Jokes

You might be a Southern Baptist if:

  • You think God’s presence is strongest on the back three pews.
  • Your definition of fellowship has something to do with food.
  • You honestly believe that the Apostle Paul spoke King James English.
  • You think Jesus actually used Welch’s grape juice and saltine crackers.
  • You think someone who says “Amen” while the preacher is preaching might be a Charismatic.
  • You clapped in church and felt guilty about it all week.
  • You got saved at 6 years old.
  • You are old enough to get a senior discount at the pharmacy, but not old enough to promote to the Senior Adult Sunday School.
  • You judge all church meals by the quantity and quality of the fried chicken.
  • You’ve ever gossipped about how much someone else gossips.
  • You have never sung the third verse of any hymn.
Why don’t Baptists believe in premarital sex?
Because it might lead to dancing.
What’s the difference between a Pentecostal and a Baptist?
One believes in a second blessing and one believes in a second helping.

Jews don’t recognize Jesus as the Son of God.
Protestants don’t recognize the pope as the Ruler of the Church.
Baptists don’t recognize each other in a liquor store.

One day a man dies, who was a devout Christian. Saint Peter meets him at the Pearly Gates and begins to give him a tour of Heaven. As the tour goes on, Saint Paul points out all the different Christians. “There’s the Catholics, there’s the Lutherans, the Methodists, the Presbyterians”, and so forth. As they come to this one group way off to themselves, Saint Paul motions for the man to come closer and whispers. “Now, for this next group, we need to be really quiet. They are the Baptists and they think they’re the only ones here.”

How do we know Adam was Baptist? Only a Baptist could stand next to a naked woman and be tempted by food.

A teacher asked her students to bring an item to class that represented their religious beliefs. A Catholic student brought a crucifix. A Jewish student brought a Menora. A Southern Baptist student brought a casserole.

A Dictionary of Arminian Terms

  • All (1): All always means all. Yup, Jesus died for every single human, including those already dead and in hell, and even including himself.
    (2): (as to sin) If its related to sin, “all” doesn’t include babies.
  • Arminius, Jacob: The first church father.
  • Assurance: Keep trying, hopefully you’ll make it, but since you have libertarian free will, you could just flip sides one day. Never can tell.
  • Bible: Cool book with stories that can be used as springboards into inspiring sermons about nothing to do with the text whatsoever. (See exegesis.)
  • Calvinism: We love everyone, because God is love. Calvinists are devil worshipers, their God is the devil, and Calvinism is a devil worshiping doctrine. We love them.
  • Calvin, John: Satan incarnated.
  • Dead (1): (as to Christ) Really, complete dead. Unable to see, hear, or respond to stimuli.
    (2): (as to Adam’s posterity) Somewhat sick. It’s hard to see, hear, or respond to the Gospel.
  • Determinism: False Calvinist teaching that God makes sure that his plan will come about.
  • Devil Worship: What Calvinism leads to. (Really.)
  • Drawing: Wooing. Usage example: “Drawing doesn’t mean God will surely bring men to himself, he (now, pooch lips out, making a small opening, and, in a low voice say) woooos them.”
  • Effectual call: Unbiblical Calvinist doctrine. Just as Calvinists try to make unwarranted leaps from physical death to spiritual death, they also make unwarranted leaps from earthly careers like “Shepherding,” viz., “My sheep hear my voice, I know them, they follow me,” to how God brings in his people in the flock, er fold, er, group.
  • Election: God’s “choosing” of people who chose him first. Kind of like me “voting” for the president after November 4th, 2008.
  • Evil: Something God cannot decree (except in the case of Jesus since God decreed his death at the purposeful hands of humans)
  • Exegesis: What?

A Dictionary of Calvinist Terms

  • All (1): (as to salvation) The elect. Duh.
    (2): (as to sin) All means all, and that’s all all means.
  • Arminianism: see false Gospel.
  • Arminius, Jacob: Father of heresies.
  • Assurance: If you’re elect, you’re guaranteed a spot in heaven. No worries. Nothing can separate you from the love of God. How do you know you’re elect? Well…
  • Bible: Book with lots of random references to Calvinism.
  • Calvinism: A nickname for the Gospel.
  • Calvin, John: The only divinely inspired prophet since the closing of the canon.
  • Determinism: God determined from eternity past how your child will die.
  • Drawing: Forceful and irresistible, but altogether pleasant, dragging by God.
  • Effectual call: When God flicks the switch in your heart to make you love Him for realsies. But He only does that to the elect.
  • Election: How God segregated the human race into Calvinists and everyone else.
  • Evil: God’s clever invented enemy He crushed to make Himself look good.
  • Exegesis: The art of making all of the Bible Calvinist.

Light Bulb Denominational Jokes

How many charismatics does it take to change a light bulb?
One, since his/her hands are in the air anyway.
How many Calvinists does it take to change a lightbulb?
None. God has predestined when the lights will be on.
How many liberals does it take to change a light bulb?
10, as they need to hold a debate into whether or not the lightbulb exists. Even if they can agree upon the existence of the lightbulb they may not go ahead and change it for fear of alienating those who use fluorescent tubes.
How many Anglo-Catholics does it take to change a lightbulb?
None. They always use candles instead.
How many Arminians does it take to change a light bulb?
Arminians do not change light bulbs. They simply read out the instructions and hope the light bulb will decide to change itself.
How many Atheists does it take to change a lightbulb?
One. But they are still in darkness.
How many Brethren does it take to change a light bulb?
Change??
How many Pentecostals does it take to change a light bulb?
10, one to change it and 9 others to pray against the spirit of darkness.
How many TV evangelists does it take to change a lightbulb?
One. But for the message of hope to continue to go forth, send in your donation today.
How many campfire worship leaders does it take to change a lightbulb?
One. But soon all those around can warm up to its glowing.
How many charismatics does it take to change a lightbulb?
Three. One to cast it out and two to catch it when it falls.

Cheesy Dialogue Jokes

A collector of rare books ran into an acquaintance who told him he had just thrown away an old Bible that he found in a dusty, old box. He happened to mention that Guten-somebody-or-other had printed it.

“Not Gutenberg?” gasped the collector.

“Yes, that was it!”

“You idiot! You’ve thrown away one of the first books ever printed. A copy recently sold at auction for half a million dollars!”

“Oh, I don’t think this book would have been worth anything close to that much,” replied the man. “It was scribbled all over in the margins by some guy named Martin Luther.”


There was a barber that thought that he should share his faith with his customers more than he had been doing lately. So the next morning when the sun came up and the barber got up out of bed he said, “Today I am going to witness to the first man that walks through my door.”

Soon after he opened his shop the first man came in and said, “I want a shave!” The barber said, “Sure, just sit in the seat and I’ll be with you in a moment.” The barber went in the back and prayed a quick desperate prayer saying, “God, the first customer came in and I’m going to witness to him. So give me the wisdom to know just the right thing to say to him. Amen.”

Then quickly the barber came out with his razor knife in one hand and a Bible in the other while saying “Good morning sir. I have a question for you… Are you ready to die?”


A boy was sitting on a park bench with one hand resting on an open Bible. He was loudly exclaiming his praise to God. “Hallelujah! Hallelujah! God is great!” he yelled without worrying whether anyone heard him or not.

Shortly after, along came a man who had recently completed some studies at a local university. Feeling himself very enlightened in the ways of truth and very eager to show this enlightenment, he asked the boy about the source of his joy.

“Hey” asked the boy in return with a bright laugh, “Don’t you have any idea what God is able to do? I just read that God opened up the waves of the Red Sea and led the whole nation of Israel right through the middle.”

The enlightened man laughed lightly, sat down next to the boy and began to try to open his eyes to the “realities” of the miracles of the Bible. “That can all be very easily explained. Modern scholarship has shown that the Red Sea in that area was only 10-inches deep at that time. It was no problem for the Israelites to wade across.”

The boy was stumped. His eyes wandered from the man back to the Bible laying open in his lap. The man, content that he had enlightened a poor, naive young person to the finer points of scientific insight, turned to go. Scarcely had he taken two steps when the boy began to rejoice and praise louder than before. The man turned to ask the reason for this resumed jubilation.

“Wow!” exclaimed the boy happily, “God is greater than I thought! Not only did He lead the whole nation of Israel through the Red Sea, He topped it off by drowning the whole Egyptian army in 10 inches of water!”

Pearly Gates Jokes

A fellow finds himself in front of the Pearly Gates.
St. Peter explains that its not so easy to get in heaven.
There are some criteria before entry is allowed.
For example, was the man religious in life? Attend church? No?
St. Peter told him that’s bad.
Was he generous? give money to the poor? Charities? No?
St. Peter told him that that too was bad.
Did he do any good deeds? Help his neighbor? Anything? No?
St. Peter was becoming concerned. Exasperated, Peter says, “Look, everybody does something nice sometime.
Work with me, I’m trying to help. Now think!”

The man says, “There was this old lady. I came out of a store and found her surrounded by a dozen Hell’s Angels. They had taken her purse and were shoving her around, taunting and abusing her. I got so mad I threw my bags down, fought through the crowd, and got her purse back. I then helped her to her feet. I then went up to the biggest, baddest biker and told him how despicable, cowardly and mean he was and then spat in his face”.

“Wow”, said Peter, “That’s impressive. When did this happen”?
“Oh, about 10 minutes ago”, replied the man.


Three men were standing in line to get into heaven one day.

Apparently it had been a pretty busy day, though, so Peter had to tell the first one, “Heaven’s getting pretty close to full today, and I’ve been asked to admit only people who have had particularly horrible deaths. So what’s your story?”

So the first man replies: “Well, for a while I’ve suspected my wife has been cheating on me, so today I came home early to try to catch her red-handed. As I came into my 25th floor apartment, I could tell something was wrong, but all my searching around didn’t reveal where this other guy could have been hiding. Finally, I went out to the balcony, and sure enough, there was this man hanging off the railing, 25 floors above ground! By now I was really mad, so I started beating on him and kicking him, but wouldn’t you know it, he wouldn’t fall off. So finally I went back into my apartment and got a hammer and starting hammering on his fingers. Of course, he couldn’t stand that for long, so he let go and fell — but even after 25 stories, he fell into the bushes, stunned but okay. I couldn’t stand it anymore, so I ran into the kitchen, grabbed the fridge and threw it over the edge where it landed on him, killing him instantly. But all the stress and anger got to me, and I had a heart attack and died there on the balcony.”

“That sounds like a pretty bad day to me,” said Peter, and let the man in.

The second man comes up and Peter explains to him about heaven being full, and again asks for his story.

“It’s been a very strange day. You see, I live on the 26th floor of my apartment building, and every morning I do my exercises out on my balcony. Well, this morning I must have slipped or something, because I fell over the edge. But I got lucky, and caught the railing of the balcony on the floor below me. I knew I couldn’t hang on for very long, when suddenly this man burst out onto the balcony. I thought for sure I was saved, when he started beating on me and kicking me. I held on the best I could until he ran into the apartment and grabbed a hammer and started pounding on my hands. Finally I just let go, but again I got lucky and fell into the bushes below, stunned but all right. Just when I was thinking I was going to be okay, this refrigerator comes falling out of the sky and crushes me instantly, and now I’m here.”

Once again, Peter had to concede that that sounded like a pretty horrible death.

The third man came to the front of the line, and again Peter explained that heaven was full and asked for his story.

“Picture this,” says the third man, “I’m hiding inside a refrigerator…”

A Few Silly Christian Jokes

Are You a Calvinist, Arminian, or Molinist?

Instead of a long, complicated blog post about these different perspectives on predestination and free will, I’ll boil it all down pretty simply so you can try to find out what you identify with the best. Here are some questions and answers on different issues from each view. You can judge for yourself which statements seem most like what you believe, and which system holds most of your agreement.

What is election? Does God choose me, or do I choose God?

Calvinist: Election is the unconditional decision of God from before time to save certain individuals, despite their fallen state. This decision has nothing to do with any foreknown faith, works, or other merit. People who believe in Jesus do so because of this election. Summary: God chooses you specifically, and because of that you choose Him in return.

Arminian: Election is the decision of God to bring salvation to everyone who will have faith in Jesus Christ, the elect Savior. God foreknew that certain people would come to faith in Christ by free will, and so elected to save them based on that foreknowledge. Summary: God chooses whoever believes in Jesus, so when you choose Him you are already chosen.

Molinist: God always knew every possible future, and knew who would reject Jesus by their free will in whatever future He chose to create. Election is God’s choice to save the people who do not reject Jesus in the possible future that He is best to create. So, it is up to you if you want to reject Jesus in the world you find yourself in, but you do not have a choice about what timeline God has created. Summary: God chooses to create a certain future in which He knows you will freely choose God.

What is the state of man’s will?

Calvinist: Man’s is totally depraved because of his sinful nature. This does not mean that man is as bad as possible, but that every part of him (mind, heart, soul, body) is affected by sin to the point that the natural man is too hardened to ever choose God. Man’s will, whether considered a “free will” or not, is a slave to sin and cannot escape to believe in Jesus. Summary: Man is too hurt by sin to have a truly free will, or to choose God.

Arminian: Man’s will is depraved, just as the Calvinist says, but God has given everyone “prevenient grace,” which restores his capacity to freely choose between God and unbelief. The strong tendency towards sin remains, but can be overcome by free will. Summary: Man’s will is naturally enslaved to sin, but God gives everyone enough grace to have free will again.

Molinist: Man’s will is depraved, must like the Calvinist says, but he retains the ability to say “NO” to his sinful nature. He cannot choose God without a special work of grace, and this grace is generally received when hearing the Gospel. Summary: Man’s will is enslaved to sin and cannot choose God, but retains some freedom to refuse sin and can go along with God’s grace or resist.

How does man come to salvation?

Calvinist: Because man cannot choose God or even believe in his sinful state, God must cause faith. The Holy Spirit regenerates those who have been elected, thus causing them to believe in Jesus and repent of their sins. This is called monergism and irresistible grace. First God’s grace changes the heart with no human cooperation necessary, and then the human response comes. Summary: Salvation comes completely through God’s work to change the will. You do not come to God against your will, but God transforms your will to accept Him.

Arminian: Because prevenient grace has restored all men’s free will to choose or reject God, one must freely believe in Jesus and repent of his sins, though the Spirit will often work to press this issue. Then the Holy Spirit will respond to faith by giving the person new birth. They are regenerated and saved. This is called synergism. God and man work together (though man is quite obviously in an inferior role) in regeneration. Summary: Man can freely choose to believe and then be saved because of prevenient grace.

Molinist: Man’s will is depraved much as the Calvinist says, and because of this the Holy Spirit must work to create faith. The Spirit will give this grace, which is enough to regenerate someone and bring them to faith, to anyone when they hear the Gospel, but it can be resisted by free will. The work of the Spirit to save is like a river current: it would sweep you away (to salvation) if you let it, but if you try you can resist and stay where you are (in sin). Summary: God’s grace through the Holy Spirit can bring you to believe and save you on its own, but you can freely resist it.

What is the purpose of evangelism?

Calvinist: God has elected certain people to salvation through faith, and He has chosen the preaching of the Gospel as the means by which the elect are to believe and be converted. Because we do not know who the elect are, we are to preach the Gospel to all people in all nations, armed with God’s promise that the Holy Spirit will work to bring His elect to salvation when we preach. Summary: We spread the Gospel because we know that God is using this to bring His elect into salvation.

Arminian: Because people are saved by faith in Jesus, they need to know about Jesus to believe in Him and be saved. The only way this can happen is if we tell them. The more people we tell, the more people have a chance to use their free will to accept Jesus. If no one evangelized, then very few people could ever have a chance to be saved. Summary: We evangelize so people have a chance to accept Jesus freely.

Molinist: We know that there are people in this world who will believe the Gospel when it is presented, and so we evangelize so that they have the opportunity to do so. When they hear the Gospel, the Spirit works, and if they do not resist they will be saved. Summary: Evangelizing gives everyone the chance to freely be saved.

Why are some people lost?

Calvinist: Everyone in their fallen state deserves condemnation, but by grace God has chosen a few to be saved. The rest of them, who cling willfully to sin, will be judged for their sin as they deserve. Summary: People are lost because they are sinful and deserve condemnation. It is pure grace that God chooses anyone.

Arminian: Everyone deserves condemnation for their sin, and moreover everyone is provided with the grace of free will to choose God if they want. So for rejecting Jesus by their free will and sinning, many people are lost. Summary: People are condemned for their sin, especially their free will rejection of Jesus.

Molinist: As everyone deserves condemnation for sin, those who remain in their sin will be condemned. People are lost when they resist God’s saving grace, which would otherwise be enough to regenerate them and bring them to faith, and remain in their sins. People freely resist and are so freely lost. Summary: People are lost because they freely resist God’s grace in the circumstances in which they find themselves.

How does God relate to sin, and other things that people do or that happen?

Calvinist: Everything that happens can only happen because God has said so. He does not directly cause all things, but He chooses everything that will happen and establishes this through secondary causes and various means (read: normal cause-and-effect). Some things God might just permit. When people choose to sin, they do so because they want to; however, they do not necessarily have the ability to control what it is that they want. Man can be said to have “free will” in that he does what he wants to do, but God wrote the story first. Summary: God decides everything that will happen, but does so in a way that allows natural cause-and-effect and people’s desires to play out.

Arminian: God simply knows the future, and by freely giving man free will He has relinquished His right/ability to choose who people will do. So people choose by their own free will to sin, though God wishes that they wouldn’t. All other actions are by free will, as well. Natural disasters are usually the natural result of sin in the world, not necessarily God’s will, though sometimes they may be divine judgment. Summary: God permits people to sin by their own free will, but has no role in their sin whatsoever. Some events may be caused by God, but many are simply natural consequences of sin in the world.

Molinist: God always knew everything than every person would freely do in any given set of circumstances, and He knew every possible resulting future. So God choose to create the world that leads to the best future, in the process making all the people who will freely choose to do what they do. Everything people do, they do freely, but God chooses what “set” of choices will happen by choosing what future to make real. Summary: God chooses the circumstances, knowing how you will freely respond, and so maps out the entire future.

Does God want everyone to be saved? Does God love everyone?

Calvinist: While God does want all people to be saved on some level, God’s plan for the entire world would not be completed properly if everyone were to be saved, so He does not choose everyone. Some are left in their sins as we all deserve. God also loves everyone, but His love for the lost is expressed as the common grace of this world, blessings and pleasures, while His love for the elect leads to salvation. In the words of Paul, “what if God, desiring to display His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience objects of wrath ready for destruction? And what if He did this to make known the riches of His glory on objects of mercy that He prepared beforehand for glory?” (Rom. 9:22-23) Summary: Although God would enjoy the salvation of all, to execute His final story of redemption requires judgment on some who are lost side-by-side with the redemption of others.

Arminian: God love everyone and wants everyone to be saved, but will not violate their gift of free will to make them believe. Without free will, their salvation and love would be a farce. Summary: God loves and desires the salvation of all, but permits free will instead.

Molinist: God does indeed love everyone and wants everyone to be saved, but permits man free will, so instead He chooses the best possible future in which the most possible people freely believe. Either there is no possible future in which everyone freely comes to Jesus, or perhaps that world has something else really wrong with it (e.g. only has a dozen people in total).

So which line of thought seems to ring true best to you? Maybe you find yourself conflicted on some of these, or don’t agree on many points with any of them. In that case, feel free to comment and discuss your views.

Are You a Calvinist, Arminian, or Molinist?