Saturday, January 5, 2019

The One Point "Calvinist"

If you're familiar with the Calvinist system, you're aware of the fact that there are five points laid out by the system as a convenient way to describe what God and man's roles in salvation are. The well-known acrostic TULIP, describes the primary points that the system seeks to identify. T stands for total depravity, the idea that man is dead in sin (Ephesians 2:1) and that he needs God to quicken him (Ephesians 2:5) in order to respond and be saved. U stands for unconditional election. Since man is dead in sin, God has selected those whom He will to save from the mass of sinners in the world. L is for limited atonement. God, having chosen those whom He wills to save, has provided a way for them to be so saved through Christ. I is for irresistible grace. Again, since man is dead in sin, it is God who has to draw man to Himself. Man cannot do so of his own accord. And P is for perseverance of the saints. It is here that we have the one point to which the title of this article refers.

Many Christians, especially Baptists, believe that once a person has been saved, he or she will never be able to lose that salvation. This is commonly referred to as "once saved always saved." Unfortunately, the practical aspects of that doctrine have been sorely abused and misused by many. The belief among the rank and file is that once you've been saved, the life you live is secondary to the fact that you can never be lost. It is possible to deny the faith and live in complete sin and you're still going to heaven in the end. In other words, get saved (usually by making some sort of decision or praying a prayer) and you'll never be able to be lost again—regardless of how sinful the rest of your life may be. The extreme side of this issue is seen in the non-Lordship salvation proponents who will tell you that all you have to do is "repeat after me" (meaning some sort of formula about how you believe Christ died for you) and presto you're on your way to heaven. Get saved, live like the Devil, but make it to heaven anyway! Nothing, in my opinion could be more distasteful than that—or more appealing to the carnal mind.

Now, I do believe that a Christian, a true Christian (I know, sounds rather redundant, but in a day when just about everybody is a "Christian," this becomes a necessary clarification), will not lose the salvation that God has given him. But the difference between the Calvinist belief and the usual Baptist position is in the description itself. To the Calvinist, a man cannot lose his salvation because God has chosen him from the foundation of the world to justify, sanctify and glorify (Romans 8:29). Thus, since the callings of God are without repentance (Romans 11:25), a man whom God has saved He will preserve to the end. It would make little sense for God to choose someone to be His own from all eternity only to see that person lost in the end. That would make of God a liar and someone who is unreliable at best, and downright helpless at worst. 

But the great majority of those who believe the "once saved always saved" doctrine are also Arminian in their theological outlook. And therein lies the rub. To believe that man has the inalienable right to make a completely libertarian decision for Christ, but then once he's "in" he can no longer be "out" is the worst kind of inconsistency. If a man has total control over his decision to become a Christian, then how is it that once he comes to Christ and is saved he now somehow loses the ability to get back out? If man's will and desires are the final arbiters as to whether he becomes a Christian or not, then why can he not one day decide "hey, I don't think I like the Christian thing anymore. I'm leaving"? That's what leads, inevitably, to what the doctrine has become: you can't accept that a man can be lost after being "saved," regardless of how they live, so you simply redo the doctrine so that people who once made a decision will still be saved regardless of their conduct!

The Calvinist, however, is the only one who can be consistent and still hold to the final perseverance of his faith. And that is simply because we believe that man not only is saved unilaterally by God, but he is preserved by God for His own purposes. It is not up to man to "decide" to be saved, and it is not up to man to decide to be "unsaved." A believer does not endure to the end simply because, out of sheer strength of will he hangs on for dear life, but because God will preserve him even in the midst of the most severe trials. We can't get ourselves saved and if we could, we would definitely lose the salvation we've been given. It is simply a fact that man is constantly straying. Were it not for the Spirit preserving us, we would eventually go off the rails all together.

So, if you're an Arminian, then you can't believe in the perseverance of the saints and still be a consistent Arminian. The only way you can be consistent is by holding to the position, which many Pelagians and semi-Pelagians hold, that you can in the end get unsaved. If you alone make the final determination as to whether you're saved or not, then you'll be able to decide to be lost in the end. 

Of course, just when it is that you fall out of a state of grace is something our Arminian friends will always have a very difficult time determining. You may have someone who theoretically can come and go from salvation based on where you draw the line. But that's for them to resolve, not for those of us who understand that God is the one who decides and as such, that cannot change. We can be assured that our salvation is secured by the immutable God himself. Our salvation is not in our hands but in God’s. No need to fret, God is the one who guarantees our enduring faith! (Romans 8:33-34)


  1. Mike, you write: "Get saved, live like the Devil, but make it to heaven anyway! Nothing, in my opinion could be more distasteful than that—or more appealing to the carnal mind."

    Those who urge this point of view doubtless believe that it extols the wide grace and mercy of God. After all, if one can be saved and "live like the devil" subsequently, isn't God's genuine magnanimous forbearance amplified? I can see the appeal of that position, in that a cursory consideration it seems to have some spiritual plausibility. The rub comes, as you well know, by virtue of the fact that Scripture makes clear that works vindicate (or establish) the veracity of our faith. (Eph 2:10; James 2:14-26; John 15:1-17 and numerous others.

    Good work. I hope this little article is read by those who would benefit from it's clarity.

    1. Thanks, David. Those who support this type of thinking need to give attention to Romans 8:29. We all like to use that passage to prove the veracity of God's electing grace, and rightly so. But it also says something profound that many miss. "Those whom He foresaw He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son." Thus, one of the central points of God's election is to glorify Himself by forming in His elect the image of Christ. If God predestined you to be holy, how then can you claim to be among those predestined if you don't live a holy life? Thanks.

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