calvinism

Total Depravity

I. The doctrine of Total Depravity stated:

As a result of the Fall, man’s nature is wholly corrupted; man is now under a state of wrath and is utterly unable in himself to come to God for salvation.

II. The doctrine opened into its parts

A. Man’s nature is wholly corrupted.

1. The understanding is corrupted: “There is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God.” (Romans 3:11)

2. The will is corrupted.

a. Unregenerate man is unable to do anything truly good or acceptable in the sight of God.

(1.) “There is none who does good, no, not one.” (Romans 3:12)

(2.) “Without faith it is impossible to please Him.” (Hebrews 11:6)

b. There is in the unregenerate will an aversion to good.

(1.) “But you are not willing to come to Me thatyou may have life (John 5:40)

(2.) “There is none who seeks after God.” (Romans 12:11)

c. There is in the unregenerate will a natural

“proneness to evil.”

(1.) “The wicked are estranged from the womb; They go astray as soon as they are born, speaking lies.” (Psalm 58:3)

(2.) “I find then a law, that evil is present with me.” (Romans 7:21)

d. There is in the unregenerate will a direct

opposition to God.

(1.) “The carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be.” (Romans 8:7)

(2.) “You who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works.” (Colossians 1:21)

3. The affections are corrupted:

“For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these things within and defile a man.” (Mark 7:21-22)

4. The conscience is corrupted:

“To those who are defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure; but even their mind and conscience are defiled.” (Titus 1:15)

5. The body is corrupted:

“Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Roman 7:24)

B. Man by nature is under a state of wrath:

– “We . . .were by nature children of wrath.” (Ephesians 2:3)

– “He who does not believe is condemned already. . . (John 3:18) . . . but the wrath of God abides on him (John 3:36).”

WHAT IS THE NATURE OF THIS WRATH?

1. Man is under the curse of the Law of God: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things are written in the book of the law, to do them.” (Galatians 3:10)

2. Man is the subject of God’s anger: “God is a just judge, and God is angry with the wicked every day.” (Psalm 7:11)

3. Man is despised of God: “You hate all workers of iniquity.” (Psalm 5:5)

4. Man despises God and His ways: “The carnal mind is enmity against God.” (Romans 8:7)

5. Man is a slave:

a. Of Satan:

“You once walked . . . according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the children of disobedience.” (Ephesians 2:2)

b. Of sin:

“You were the slaves of sin.” (Romans 6:17)

C. Man is utterly unable in himself to come to God for salvation.

1. Although Christ is offered in the Gospel, man by nature cannot believe in Him.

a. “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him.” (John 6:44)

b. “No one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father.” (John 6:65)

c. “The natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (I Corinthians 2:14)

d. “You have hidden then these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes.” (Matthew 11:25)

2. Man cannot work a saving change on himself.

a. “Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? No one!” (Job 14:4)

b. “Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard its spots? Then may you also do good who are accustomed to do evil?” (Jeremiah 13:23)

c. “And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins.” (Ephesians 2:1)

d. “Unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3)

3. Natural man resists the operations of the Holy Spirit (God infallibly overcomes this resistance in His elect): “Your people shall be willing in the day of Your power.” (Psalms 110:3)


SOVEREIGN GRACE

I. Calvinism defined:

A theological system distinguished chiefly by its view of the absolute sovereignty of God and His relationship to fallen man. The main emphasis of Calvinism may be seen in the verse “For of Him, and through Him, and to Him, are all things: to whom be glory forever. Amen.” (Romans 11:36)

A. The Calvinist prayerfully endeavors to center his thoughts upon God, His grace, His love and His glory. B. Calvinists do not necessarily accept all of John Calvin’s teachings. C. We use the term “Calvinism” merely for identification. We teach Calvinism, not because it was taught John Calvin, but because we believe it to be the only system of theology contained in the Bible.

II. The Content of Calvinism: The Five Points (TULIP)

Total Depravity – The absolute inability of man to come to God for salvation through the exercise of his own will (John 6:44).

Unconditional Election – The good pleasure of God’s will in choosing some as objects of His love without any merit on their part (John 6:37).

Limited Atonement – Christ’s death was intended to result in the actual salvation of the elect and only the elect (John 10:14-15; John 17:9)

Irresistible Grace – The infallible, irresistible operation of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of the elect to turn them from the power of Satan unto God (John 6:37).

Perseverance of the Saints – The indwelling Holy Spirit preserves and enables each of the elect to endure (persevere) to the end, in holiness, righteousness, good works and faith (John 10:27-29).

III. Advantages of Calvinism

A. Scriptural. B. Relatively simple to learn. C. Excites thought. D. Coherent in all its parts. E. Consistent with the experience of believers. F. Produces the holiest of people.

IV. Sovereign Grace Reading List

Such is the scope of Reformed theology that a thorough investigation of it necessarily involves in-depth study. This list of easily obtained books, recommended to be read in the following order, facilitates that study. A. THE FIVE POINTS OF CALVINISM

W. J. Seaton Banner of Truth In 24 pages the author gives an introductory overview that serves as a fine primer and stimulus to further reading.

B. THE FIVE POINTS OF CALVINISM

Steele & Thomas Presbyterian & Reformed Publishing Co. This paperback contains hundreds of scriptures systematically arranged in logical, sequential categories. An appendix on the meaning of the word “foreknow” in the Bible is invaluable.

C. CHOSEN BY GOD

R. C. Sproul Tyndale House Readability is the hallmark of this recent work: Dr. Sproul says it so well. Each chapter is followed by an outline summary.

D. THE REFORMED DOCTRINE OF PREDESTINATION

Loraine Boettner Presbyterian & Reformed Publishing Co. About 1/4 of this book deals deftly with common objections to sovereign grace. A masterpiece!


The Ninety-Five Theses Against Dispensationalism

Preface

What follows should not be interpreted to mean that NiceneCouncil.com nor the historic Bible believing church would place every dispensationalist outside of the Christian faith. We acknowledge that most are dedicated to the foundational orthodox doctrines of Christianity. Unlike the sixteenth century dispute over the doctrine of justification, this is an in-house discussion, a debate among evangelical Christians. We recognize and treasure all born again believers who operate within a dispensational framework as brothers and sisters in Christ.

However, we must remember that Paul loved his fellow apostle Peter and esteemed him the senior and more honored of the two of them. Nevertheless, when it came to a point of theology that had profound implications for the purity and health of the Church, Paul was constrained by his love for Christ and the Truth publicly to withstand Peter to his face. (Galatians 2:11)

Therefore, because we believe that dispensationalism has at least crippled the Church in her duty of proclaiming the gospel and discipling the nations, and out of love for the truth and the desire to bring it to light, the following propositions will be discussed in a series of videos written and produced by NiceneCouncil.com under the title The Late Great Planet Church. And as iron sharpens iron we request that every Christian, congregation, and denomination discuss and debate these issues. By the grace of our great Sovereign let us engage in this debate with an open mind and an open Bible. Like the Bereans nearly two thousand years ago, let us “search the Scriptures daily, to see whether these things are so.”

95 THESES AGAINST DISPENSATIONALISM

1. Contrary to the dispensationalists’ claim that their system is the result of a “plain interpretation” (Charles Ryrie) of Scripture, it is a relatively new innovation in Church history, having emerged only around 1830, and was wholly unknown to Christian scholars for the first eighteen hundred years of the Christian era.

2. Contrary to the dispensationalist theologians’ frequent claim that “premillennialism is the historic faith of the Church” (Charles Ryrie), the early premillennialist Justin Martyr states that “many who belong to the pure and pious faith, and are true Christians, think otherwise.”  Premillennialist Irenaeus agreed.  A primitive form of each of today’s three main eschatological views existed from the Second Century onward.  (See premillennialist admissions by D. H. Kromminga, Millennium in the Church and Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology).

3. Contrary to the dispensationalists’ attempt to link its history to that of early premillennial Church Fathers, those ancient premillennialists held positions that are fundamentally out of accord with the very foundational principles of dispensationalism, foundations which Ryrie calls “the linchpin of dispensationalism”, such as (1) a distinction between the Church and Israel (i.e., the Church is true Israel, “the true Israelitic race” (Justin Martyr) and (2) that “Judaism … has now come to an end” (Justin Martyr).

4. Despite dispensationalism’s claim of antiquity through its association with historic premillennialism, it radically breaks with historic premillennialism by promoting a millennium that is fundamentally Judaic rather than Christian.

5.  Contrary to many dispensationalists’ assertion that modern-day Jews are faithful to the Old Testament and worship the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Hagee), the New Testament teaches that there is no such thing as “orthodox Judaism.”  Any modern-day Jew who claims to believe the Old Testament and yet rejects Christ Jesus as Lord and God rejects the Old Testament also.

6. Contrary to the dispensationalists’ assertion that the early Church was premillennial in its eschatology, “none of the major creeds of the church include premillennialism in their statements” (R.P. Lightner), even though the millennium is supposedly God’s plan for Israel and the very goal of history, which we should expect would make its way into our creeds.

7. Despite the dispensationalists’ general orthodoxy, the historic ecumenical creeds of the Christian Church affirm eschatological events that are contrary to fundamental tenets of premillennialism, such as: (1) only one return of Christ, rather than dispensationalism’s two returns, separating the “rapture” and “second coming” by seven years; (2) a single, general resurrection of all the dead, both saved and lost; and (3) a general judgment of all men rather than two distinct judgments separated by one thousand years.

8. Despite the dispensationalists’ general unconcern regarding the ecumenical Church creeds, we must understand that God gave the Bible to the Church, not to individuals, because “the church of the living God” is “the pillar and support of the truth” (1 Tim 3:15).

9. Despite the dispensationalists’ proclamation that they have a high view of God’s Word in their “coherent and consistent interpretation” (John Walvoord), in fact they have fragmented the Bible into numerous dispensational parts with two redemptive programs—one for Israel and one for the Church—and have doubled new covenants, returns of Christ, physical resurrections, and final judgments, thereby destroying the unity and coherence of Scripture.

10. Contrary to the dispensationalists’ commitment to compartmentalizing each of the self-contained, distinct dispensations, the Bible presents an organic unfolding of history as the Bible traces out the flow of redemptive history, so that the New Testament speaks of “the covenants [plural] of the [singular] promise” (Eph 2:12) and uses metaphors that require the unity of redemptive history; accordingly, the New Testament people of God are one olive tree rooted in the Old Testament (Rom 11:17-24).

11. Contrary to the dispensationalists’ structuring of redemptive history into several dispensations, the Bible establishes the basic divisions of redemptive history into the old covenant, and the new covenant (Luke 22:20; 1 Cor 11:25; 2 Cor 3:6; Heb 8:8; 9:15), even declaring that the “new covenant … has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete is ready to disappear” (Heb 8:13).

12. Contrary to the dispensationalists’ frequent citation of the King James Version translation of 2 Tim 2:15, “rightly dividing” the truth, as evidence for the need to divide the biblical record into discrete dispensations, all modern versions of Scripture and non-dispensational commentators translate this verse without any allusion to “dividing” Scripture into discrete historical divisions at all, but rather show that it means to “handle accurately” (NASB) or “correctly handle” (NIV) the word of God.

13. Because the dispensational structuring of history was unknown to the Church prior to 1830, the dispensationalists’ claim to be “rightly dividing the Word of Truth” by structuring history that way implies that no one until then had “rightly divided” God’s word.

14. Dispensationalism’s argument that “the understanding of God’s differing economies is essential to a proper interpretation of His revelation within those various economies” (Charles Ryrie) is an example of the circular fallacy in logic:  for it requires understanding the distinctive character of a dispensation before one can understand the revelation in that dispensation, though one cannot know what that dispensation is without first understanding the unique nature of the revelation that gives that dispensation its distinctive character.

15. Despite the dispensationalists’ popular presentation of seven distinct dispensations as necessary for properly understanding Scripture, scholars within dispensationalism admit that “one could have four, five, seven, or eight dispensations and be a consistent dispensationalist” (Charles Ryrie) so that the proper structuring of the dispensations is inconsequential.

16. Despite the dispensationalists’ commitment to compartmentalizing history into distinct dispensations, wherein each “dispensation is a distinguishable economy in the outworking of God’s purpose” and includes a “distinctive revelation, testing, failure, and judgment” (Charles Ryrie), recent dispensational scholars, such as Darrell Bock and Craig Blaising, admit that the features of the dispensations merge from one dispensation into the next, so that the earlier dispensation carries the seeds of the following dispensation.

17. Despite the dispensationalists’ affirmation of God’s grace in the Church Age, early forms of dispensationalism (and many populist forms even today) deny that grace characterized the Mosaic dispensation of law, as when C. I. Scofield stated that with the coming of Christ “the point of testing is no longer legal obedience as the condition of salvation” (cf. John 1:17), even though the Ten Commandments themselves open with a statement of God’s grace to Israel: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery” (Exo 20:1).

18. Contrary to the dispensationalists’ structuring of law and grace as “antithetical concepts” (Charles Ryrie) with the result that “the doctrines of grace are to be sought in the Epistles, not in the Gospels” (Scofield Reference Bible – SRB, p. 989), the Gospels do declare the doctrines of grace, as we read in John 1:17, “For the law was given by Moses; but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ,” and in the Bible’s most famous verse: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

19. Contrary to the dispensationalists’ historic position that the Sermon on the Mount was designed for Israel alone, to define kingdom living, and “is law, not grace” (SRB, p. 989), historic evangelical orthodoxy sees this great Sermon as applicable to the Church in the present era, applying the Beatitudes (Matt 5:2-12), calling us to be the salt of the earth (Matt 5:13), urging us to build our house on a rock (Matt 7:21-27), directing us to pray the Lord’s Prayer (Matt 6:9-13), and more.

20. Despite the dispensationalists’ vigorous assertion that their system never has taught two ways of salvation (Couch), one by law-keeping and one by grace alone, the original Scofield Reference Bible, for instance, declared that the Abrahamic and new covenants differed from the Mosaic covenant regarding “salvation” in that “they impose but one condition, faith” (SRB, see note at Ex. 19:6).

21. Contrary to the dispensationalists’ central affirmation of the  “plain interpretation” of Scripture (Charles Ryrie) employing (alleged) literalism, the depth of Scripture is such that it can perplex angels (1 Pet 1:12), the Apostle Peter (2 Pet 3:15-16), and potential converts (Acts 8:30-35); requires growth in grace to understand (Heb 5:11-14) and special teachers to explain (2 Tim 2:2); and is susceptible to false teachers distorting it (1 Tim 1:7).

22. Despite the dispensationalists’ claim to be following “the principle of grammatical-historical interpretation” (Charles Ryrie), they have redefined the method in a way that is rejected by the majority of non-dispensational evangelicals (and even “progressive dispensationalists”) who see that the Bible, while true in all its parts, often speaks in figures and types—e.g., most evangelicals interpret the prophecy in Isaiah and Micah of “the mountain of the house of the Lord being established as the chief of the mountains” (Isa 2:2b, Mic. 4:1b) to refer to the exaltation of God’s people; whereas dispensationalism claims this text is referring to actual geological, tectonic, and volcanic mountain-building whereby “the Temple mount would be lifted up and exalted over all the other mountains” (John Sailhammer) during the millennium.

23. Despite the dispensationalists’ conviction that their “plain interpretation” necessarily “gives to every word the same meaning it would have in normal usage” (Charles Ryrie) and is the only proper and defensible method for interpreting Scripture, by adopting this method they are denying the practice of Christ and the Apostles in the New Testament, as when the Lord points to John the Baptist as the fulfillment of the prophecy of Elijah’s return (Matt 10:13-14) and the Apostles apply the prophecy of the rebuilding of “the tabernacle of David” to the spiritual building of the Church (Acts 15:14-17), and many other such passages.

24. Despite the dispensationalists’ partial defense of their so-called literalism in pointing out that “the prevailing method of interpretation among the Jews at the time of Christ was certainly this same method” (J. D. Pentecost), they overlook the problem that this led those Jews to misunderstand Christ and to reject him as their Messiah because he did not come as the king which their method of interpretation predicted.

25. Despite the dispensationalists’ partial defense of their so-called literalism by appealing to the method of interpretation of the first century Jews, such “literalism” led those Jews to misunderstand Christ’s basic teaching by believing that he would rebuild the destroyed temple in three days (John 2:20-21); that converts must enter a second time into his mother’s womb (John 3:4); and that one must receive liquid water from Jesus rather than spiritual water (John 4:10-11), and must actually eat his flesh (John 6:51-52, 66).

26. Despite the dispensationalists’ interpretive methodology arguing that we must interpret the Old Testament on its own merit without reference to the New Testament, so that we must “interpret ‘the New Testament in the light of the Old’” (Elliot Johnson), the unified, organic nature of Scripture and its typological, unfolding character require that we consult the New Testament as the divinely-ordained interpreter of the Old Testament, noting that all the prophecies are “yea and amen in Christ” (2 Cor 1:20); that “the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” (Rev 19:10); and, in fact, that  many Old Testament passages were written “for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come” (1 Cor 10:11) and were a “mystery which has been kept secret for long ages past” (Col. 1:26; Rev 10:7).

27. Contrary to the dispensationalists’ claim that “prophecies in the Old Testament concerning the first coming of Christ … were all fulfilled ‘literally’” (Charles Ryrie), many such prophecies were not fulfilled in a “plain” (Ryrie) literal fashion, such as the famous Psalm 22 prophecy that speaks of bulls and dogs surrounding Christ at his crucifixion (Psa 22:12, 16), and the Isaiah 7:14 prophecy regarding the virgin, that “she will call His name Immanuel” (cp. Luke 2:21), and others.

28. Despite the dispensationalists’ argument that “prophecies in the Old Testament concerning the first coming of Christ … were all fulfilled ‘literally’” (Charles Ryrie), they can defend their argument only by special pleading and circular reasoning in that they (1) put off to the Second Advent all those prophecies of his coming as a king, though most non-dispensational evangelicals apply these to Christ’s first coming in that He declared his kingdom “near” (Mark 1:15); and they (2) overlook the fact that his followers preached him as a king (Acts 17:7) and declared him to be the “ruler of the kings of the earth” (Rev 1:5) in the first century.

29. Despite the dispensationalists’ central affirmation of the “plain interpretation” of Scripture (Charles Ryrie) by which their so-called literalism provides “a coherent and consistent interpretation” (John Walvoord), it ends up with one of the most ornate and complex systems in all of evangelical theology, with differing peoples, principles, plans, programs, and destinies because interpreting Scripture is not so “plain” (despite Charles Ryrie).

30. Despite the dispensationalists’ argument for the “literal” fulfillment of prophecy, when confronted with obvious New Testament, non-literal fulfillments, they will either (1) declare that the original prophecy had “figures of speech” in them (Scofield), or (2) call these “applications” of the Old Testament rather than fulfillments (Paul Tan)—which means that they try to make it impossible to bring any contrary evidence against their system by re-interpreting any such evidence in one of these two directions.

31. Despite the dispensationalists’ strong commitment to the “plain interpretation” of Scripture (Charles Ryrie) and its dependence on Daniel’s Seventy Weeks as “of major importance to premillennialism” (John Walvoord), they have to insert into the otherwise chronological progress of the singular period of “Seventy Weeks” (Dan 9:24) a gap in order to make their system work; and that gap is already four times longer than the whole Seventy Weeks (490 year) period.

32. Despite the dispensationalists’ commitment to the non-contradictory integrity of Scripture, their holding to both a convoluted form of literalism and separate and distinct dispensations produces a dialectical tension between the “last trumpet” of 1 Cor. 15:51-53, which is held to be the signal for the Rapture at the end of the Church Age, and the trumpet in Matt. 24:31, which gathers elect Jews out of the Tribulation at the Second Coming (Walvoord).  Dispensationalists, who allegedly are ‘literalists,’ posit that this latter trumpet is seven years after the “last” trumpet.

33. Despite the dispensationalists’ desire to promote the historical-grammatical method of interpretation, their habit of calling it the “plain interpretation” (Charles Ryrie) leads the average reader not to look at ancient biblical texts in terms of their original setting, but in terms of their contemporary, Western setting and what they have been taught by others — since it is so “plain.”

34. Despite the dispensationalists’ confidence that they have a strong Bible-affirming hermeneutic in “plain interpretation” (Charles Ryrie), their so-called literalism is inconsistently employed, and their more scholarly writings lead lay dispensationalists and populist proponents simplistically to write off other evangelical interpretations of Scripture with a naive call for “literalism!”

35. Despite the dispensationalists’ attempts to defend their definition of literalism by claiming that it fits into “the received laws of language” (Ryrie), However, subsequent to Ludwig Wittgenstein’s studies in linguistic analysis, there is no general agreement among philosophers regarding the “laws” of language or the proper philosophy of language (Crenshaw).”

36.  Despite the dispensationalists’ claim to interpret all of the Bible “literally”, Dr. O.T. Allis correctly observed, “While Dispensationalists are extreme literalists, they are very inconsistent ones. They are literalists in interpreting prophecy. But in the interpreting of history, they carry the principle of typical interpretation to an extreme which has rarely been exceeded even by the most ardent of allegorizers.”

37. Despite the dispensationalists’ claim regarding “the unconditional character of the [Abrahamic] covenant” (J. Dwight Pentecost), which claim is essential for maintaining separate programs for Israel and the Church, the Bible in Deuteronomy 30 and other passages presents it as conditional; consequently not all of Abraham’s descendants possess the land and the covenantal blessings but only those who, by having the same faith as Abraham, become heirs through Christ.

38. Despite the dispensationalists’ necessary claim that the Abrahamic covenant is unconditional, they inconsistently teach that Esau is not included in the inheritance of Canaan and Abraham’s blessings, even though he was as much the son of Isaac (Abraham’s son) as was Jacob, his twin (Gen 25:21-25), because he sold his birthright and thus was excluded from the allegedly “unconditional” term of the inheritance.

39. Despite the dispensationalists’ claim that the Abrahamic covenant involved an unconditional land promise, which serves as one of the bases for the future hope of a millennium, the Bible teaches that Abraham “was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God” (Heb 11:10), and that the city, the “new Jerusalem,” will “descend from God, out of Heaven” (Rev. 21:2).

40. Despite the dispensationalists’ commitment to the “holy land” as a “perpetual title to the land of promise” for Israel (J. D. Pentecost), the New Testament expands the promises of the land to include the whole world, involving the expanded people of God, for Paul speaks of “the promise to Abraham or to his descendants that he would be heir of the world” (Rom 4:13a).

41. Despite the dispensationalists’ claim that the descendents of the patriarchs never inhabited all the land promised to them in the Abrahamic covenant and therefore, since God cannot lie, the possession of the land by the Jews is still in the future; on the contrary, Joshua wrote, “So the LORD gave to Israel all the land of which He had sworn to give to their fathers, and they took possession of it and dwelt in it… Not a word failed of any good thing which the LORD had spoken to the house of Israel. All came to pass” (Joshua 21:43,45).

42.  Despite the dispensationalists’ so-called literalism demanding that Jerusalem and Mt. Zion must once again become central to God’s work in history, in that “Jerusalem will be the center of the millennial government” (Walvoord), the new covenant sees these places as typological pointers to spiritual realities that come to pass in the new covenant Church, beginning in the first century, as when we read that “you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem” (Heb 12:22; cp. Gal 4:22-31).

43. Despite the dispensationalists’ fundamental theological commitment to the radical distinction between “Israel and the Church” (Ryrie), the New Testament sees two “Israels” (Rom. 9:6-8)—one of the flesh, and one of the spirit—with the only true Israel being the spiritual one, which has come to mature fulfillment in the Church.  (The Christian Church has not replaced Israel; rather, it is the New Testament expansion.) This is why the New Testament calls members of the Church “Abraham’s seed” (Gal 3:26-29) and the Church itself “the Israel of God” (Gal 6:16).

44. Despite the dispensationalists’ claim that Jews are to be eternally distinct from Gentiles in the plan of God, because “throughout the ages God is pursuing two distinct purposes” with “one related to the earth” while “the other is related to heaven” (Chafer and Ryrie), the New Testament speaks of the permanent union of Jew and Gentile into one body “by abolishing in His flesh the enmity” that “in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace” (Eph 2:15), Accordingly, with the finished work of Christ “there is neither Jew nor Greek” in the eyes of God (Gal 3:28).

45. Contrary to dispensationalism’s implication of race-based salvation for Jewish people (salvation by race instead of salvation by grace), Christ and the New Testament writers warn against assuming that genealogy or race insures salvation, saying to the Jews: “Do not suppose that you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father’; for I say to you, that God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham” (Matt 3:9) because “children of God” are “born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12b-13; 3:3).

46. Contrary to dispensationalism’s claim that “the Church is a mystery, unrevealed in the Old Testament” (J. D. Pentecost), the New Testament writers look to the Old Testament for its divine purpose and role in the history of redemption and declare only that the mystery was not known “to the sons of men” at large, and was not known to the same degree “as” it is now revealed to all men in the New Testament (Eph 3:4-6), even noting that it fulfills Old Testament prophecy (Hos 1:10 / Rom 9:22-26), including even the beginning of the new covenant phase of the Church (Joel 2:28-32 / Acts 2:16-19).

47. Despite dispensationalism’s presentation of the Church as a “parenthesis” (J. F. Walvoord)  in the major plan of God in history (which focuses on racial Israel), the New Testament teaches that the Church is the God-ordained result of God’s Old Testament plan, so that the Church is not simply a temporary aside in God’s plan but is the institution over which Christ is the head so that He may “put all things in subjection under His feet” (Eph 1:22; 1 Cor. 15:24-28).

48. Contrary to dispensationalism’s teaching that Jeremiah’s “New Covenant was expressly for the house of Israel … and the house of Judah” (Bible Knowledge Commentary)—a teaching that is due to its man-made view of literalism as documented by former dispensationalist (Curtis Crenshaw) and the centrality of Israel in its theological system—the New Testament shows that the new covenant includes Gentiles and actually establishes the new covenant Church as the continuation of Israel (Luke 22:20; 1 Cor 11:25; 2 Cor 3:6).

49. Contrary to dispensationalism’s claim that Christ sincerely offered “the covenanted kingdom to Israel” as a political reality in literal fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies (J. D. Pentecost), the Gospels tell us that when his Jewish followers were “intending to come and take Him by force, to make Him king” that he “withdrew” from them (John 6:15), and that he stated that “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting, that I might not be delivered up to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm” (John 18:36).

50. Despite the dispensationalists’ belief that Christ sincerely offered a political kingdom to Israel while he was on earth (J. D. Pentecost), Israel could not have accepted the offer, since God sent Christ to die for sin (John 12:27); and His death was prophesied so clearly that those who missed the point are called “foolish” (Luke 24:25-27).  Christ frequently informed His hearers that He came to die, as when He said that “the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Matt 20:28;) and Scripture clearly teaches that His death was by the decree of God (Acts 2:23) before the foundation of the world (Rev. 13:8).  Thus, dispensationalism’s claim about this offer implicitly involves God in duplicity and Christ in deception.

51. Contrary to the dispensationalists’ belief that Christ “withdrew the offer of the kingdom” and postponed it until He returns (J. D. Pentecost), Christ tells Israel, “I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you, and be given to a nation producing the fruit of it” (Matt 21:43) and “I say to you, that many shall come from east and west, and recline at the table with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven; but the sons of the kingdom shall be cast out into the outer darkness; in that place there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt 8:11-12).

52. Despite dispensationalism’s commitment to Christ’s atoning sacrifice, their doctrine legally justifies the crucifixion by declaring that he really did offer a political kingdom that would compete with Rome and made him guilty of revolting against Rome, even though Christ specifically informed Pilate that his type of kingship simply was “to bear witness to the truth” (John 18:37), leading this Roman-appointed procurator to declare “I find no guilt in Him” (John 18:38).

53. Contrary to the dispensationalists’ urging Christians to live their lives expecting Christ’s return at any moment, “like people who don’t expect to be around much longer” (Hal Lindsey), Christ characterizes those who expect his soon return as “foolish” (Matt 25:1-9), telling us to “occupy until He comes,” (Luke 19:13 ) and even discouraging his disciples’ hope in Israel’s conversion “now” by noting that they will have to experience “times or epochs” of waiting which “the Father has fixed by His own authority” (Acts 1:6-7).

54. Contrary to dispensationalism’s doctrine that Christ’s return always has been “imminent” and could occur “at any moment” (J. D. Pentecost) since his ascension in the first century, the New Testament speaks of his coming as being after a period of “delaying” (Matt 25:5) and after a “long” time (Matt 24:48; 25:19; 2 Pet. 3:1-15).

55. Contrary to dispensationalists’ tendency to date-setting and excited predictions of the Rapture, as found in their books with titles like 1980s: Countdown to Armageddon and Planet Earth 2000: Will Mankind Survive, Scripture teaches that “the son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will” (Matt 24:44), “at an hour which you do not know” (Matt 24:50).

56. Despite the dispensationalists’ frequent warning of the signs of the times indicating the near coming of Christ (Lindsey), their doctrine of imminency holds that no intervening prophecies remain to be fulfilled.  Consequently, there can be no possibility of signs (John Walvoord); and as “there was nothing that needed to take place during Paul’s life before the Rapture, so it is today for us” (Tim LaHaye).  Christ himself warned us that “of that day and hour no one knows” (Matt 24:36a).

57. Despite the dispensationalists’ claim that Christ could return at any minute because “there is no teaching of any intervening event” (John Walvoord), many of their leading spokesmen hold that the seven churches in Rev 2-3 “outline the present age in reference to the program in the church,” including “the Reformation” and our own age (J. D. Pentecost).

58. Despite the dispensationalists’ widespread belief that we have been living in the “last days” only since the founding of Israel as a nation in 1948, the New Testament clearly and repeatedly teach that the “last days” began in the first century and cover the whole period of the Christian Church (Acts 2:16-17; 1 Cor 10:11; Heb 1:1-2; 9:26)

59. Despite the dispensationalists’ claim that the expectation of the imminent Rapture and other eschatological matters are important tools for godly living, dispensationalism’s founders were often at odds with each other and divisive regarding other believers, so that, for instance, of the Plymouth Brethren it could be said that “never has one body of Christians split so often, in such a short period of time, over such minute points” (John Gerstner) and that “this was but the first of several ruptures arising from [Darby’s] teachings” (Dictionary of Evangelical Biography).

60. Contrary to the dispensationalists’ creation of a unique double coming of Christ—the Rapture being separated from the Second Advent—which are so different that it makes “any harmony of these two events an impossibility” (Walvoord), the Bible mentions only one future coming of Christ, the parousia, or epiphany, or revelation (Matt. 24:3; 1 Cor. 15:23; 1 Thess. 3:13; 4:15; 5:23; 2 Thess. 2:1, 8; Jas. 5:7; 2 Pet. 3:4; 1 Jn. 2:28), and states that He “shall appear a second time” (Heb 9:28a), not that He shall appear “again and again” or for a third time.

61. Despite the dispensationalists’ teaching that “Jesus will come in the air secretly to rapture His Church” (Tim LaHaye), their key proof-text for this “secret” coming, 1 Thess 4:16, makes the event as publicly verifiable as can be, declaring that he will come “with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God.”

62. Contrary to dispensationalism’s doctrine of two resurrections, the first one being of believers at the Rapture and the second one of unbelievers at the end of the millennium 1007 years after the Rapture, the Bible presents the resurrection of believers as occurring on “the last day” (John 6:39-40, 44, 54; 11:24), not centuries before the last day.

63. Contrary to dispensationalism’s doctrine of two resurrections, the first one being of believers at the Rapture and the second one of unbelievers at the end of the millennium 1007 years after the Rapture, the Bible speaks of the resurrection of unbelievers as occurring before that of believers (though as a part of the same complex of events), when the angels “first gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up” at the end of the age (Matt 13:30b).

64.  Despite dispensationalism’s commitment to the secret Rapture of the Church by which Christians are removed from the world to leave only non-Christians in the world, Jesus teaches that the wheat and the tares are to remain in the world to the end (Matt 13:), and he even prays that the Father not take his people out of the world (John 17:15).

65. Despite the dispensationalists’ emphasis on the “plain interpretation” of Scripture (Charles Ryrie) and the Great Tribulation in Matthew 24, admitting that Christ was pointing to the stones of the first century temple when He declared that “not one will be left upon another” (Matt 23:37-24:2), they also admit inconsistently that when the disciples asked “when shall these things be?” (Matt 24:3), Matthew records Christ’s answer in such a way that He presents matters that are totally unrelated to that event and that occur thousands of years after it (Bible Knowledge Commentary).

66. Despite the dispensationalists’ commitment to so-called literalism in prophecy and their strong emphasis on the Great Tribulation passage in Matthew 24, they perform a sleight of hand by claiming that when Jesus stated that “this generation will not pass away until all these things take place” (Matt 24:34), He did so in a way inconsistent with every other usage of “this generation” in Matthew’s Gospel (e.g., Matt 11:16; 12:41, 42) and even in the immediate context (Matt 23:36), so that “this generation” can somehow point thousands of years into the future “instead of referring this to the time in which Christ lived” (Walvoord).

67. Dispensationalism’s teaching of the rapid “national regeneration of Israel” during the latter part of the seven-year Tribulation period (Fruchtenbaum) is incomprehensible and unbiblical because the alleged regeneration occurs only after the Church and the Holy Spirit have been removed from the earth, even though they were the only agents who could cause that regeneration:  the institution of evangelism on the one hand and the agent of conversion on the other.

68. Contrary to dispensationalists’ view of the mark of the beast, most of them seeing in the beast’s number a series of three sixes, the Bible presents it not as three numbers (6-6-6) but one singular number (666) with the total numerical value of  “six hundred and sixty-six” (Rev 13:18b).

69. Contrary to many dispensationalists’ expectation that the mark of the beast is to be some sort of “microchip implant” (Timothy Demy), Revelation 13 states that it is a mark, not an instrument of some kind.

70. Contrary to dispensationalists’ belief in a still-future geo-political kingdom which shall be catastrophically imposed on the world by war at the Battle of Armageddon, the Scriptures teach that Christ’s kingdom is a spiritual kingdom that does not come with signs, and was already present in the first century, as when Jesus stated, “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed, nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or, ‘There it is!’ For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst” (Luke 17:20-21).

71. Despite the dispensationalists’ claim that their so-called literalistic premillennialism is superior to the other evangelical millennial views because Revelation 20:1-6 is one text that clearly sets forth their system, this view imposes the literalistic system unjustifiably and inconsistently on the most symbolic book in all the Bible, a book containing references to scorpions with faces like men and teeth like lions (Rev 9:7), fire-breathing prophets (Rev 11:5), a seven-headed beast (Rev 13:1), and more.

72. Dispensationalism’s claim that Revelation 20:1-6 is a clear text that establishes literalistic premillennialism has an inconsistency that is overlooked:  it also precludes Christians who live in the dispensation of the Church from taking part in the millennium, since Revelation 20:4 limits the millennium to those who are beheaded and who resist the Beast, which are actions that occur (on their view) during the Great Tribulation, after the Church is raptured out of the world.

73. Despite the dispensationalists’ view of the glory of the millennium for Christ and his people, they teach, contrary to Scripture, that regenerated Gentile believers will be subservient to the Jews, as we see, for instance, in Herman Hoyt’s statement that “the redeemed living nation of Israel, regenerated and regathered to the land, will be head over all the nations of the earth…. So he exalts them above the Gentile nations…. On the lowest level there are the saved, living, Gentile nations.”

74. Despite dispensationalism’s claim that the Jews will be dominant over all peoples in the eschatological future, the Scripture teaches that “In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria, and the Assyrians will come into Egypt and the Egyptians into Assyria, and the Egyptians will worship with the Assyrians. In that day Israel will be the third party with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing in the midst of the earth, whom the Lord of hosts has blessed, saying, ‘Blessed is Egypt My people, and Assyria the work of My hands, and Israel My inheritance.’” (Isa. 19:23-25).

75. Despite dispensationalism’s “plain and simple” method that undergirds its millennial views, it leads to the bizarre teaching that for 1000 years the earth will be inhabited by a mixed population of resurrected saints who return from heaven with Jesus living side-by-side with non-resurrected people, who will consist of unbelievers who allegedly but unaccountably survive the Second Coming as well as those who enter the millennium from the Great Tribulation as “a new generation of believers” (Walvoord).

76. Despite dispensationalists’ claim to reasonableness for their views, they hold the bizarre teaching that after 1000 years of dwelling side-by-side with resurrected saints who never get ill or die, a vast multitude of unresurrected sinners whose number is “like the sand of the seashore,” will dare to revolt against the glorified Christ and His millions of glorified saints (Rev 20:7-9).

77. Despite the dispensationalists’ fundamental principle of God’s glory, they teach a second humiliation of Christ, wherein He returns to earth to set up His millennial kingdom, ruling it personally for 1000 years, only to have a multitude “like the sand of the seashore” revolt against His personal, beneficent rule toward the end (Rev 20:7-9).

78. Despite the dispensationalists’ production of many adherents who “are excited about the very real potential for the rebuilding of Israel’s Temple in Jerusalem” (Randall Price) and who give funds for it, they do not understand that the whole idea of the temple system was associated with the old covenant which was “growing old” and was “ready to disappear” in the first century (Heb 8:13).

79. Contrary to dispensationalists’ expectation of a future physical temple in the millennium, wherein will be offered literal animal blood sacrifices, the New Testament teaches that Christ fulfilled the Passover and the Old Testament sacrificial system, so that Christ’s sacrifice was final, being “once for all” (Heb 10:10b), and that the new covenant causes the old covenant with its sacrifices to be “obsolete” (Heb 8:13).

80. Contrary to dispensationalism’s teaching that a physical temple will be rebuilt, the New Testament speaks of the building of the temple as the building of the Church in Christ, so that “the whole building, being fitted together is growing into a holy temple in the Lord” (Eph 2:21); the only temple seen in the book of Revelation is in Heaven, which is the real and eternal temple of which the earthly temporary temple was, according to the book of Hebrews, only a “shadow” or “copy” (Heb 8:5; 9:24).

81. Despite the dispensationalists’ attempt to re-interpret Ezekiel’s prophecies of a future sacrificial system by declaring that they are only “memorial” in character, and are therefore like the Lord’s Supper, the prophecies of that temple which they see as being physically “rebuilt” speak of sacrifices that effect “atonement” (Ezek. 43:20; 45:15, 17, 20); whereas the Lord’s Supper is a non-bloody memorial that recognizes Christ as the final blood-letting sacrifice.

82. Despite the dispensationalists’ commitment to the Jews as important for the fulfillment of prophecy and their charge of “anti-Semitism” against evangelicals who do not see an exalted future for Israel (Hal Lindsey), they are presently urging Jews to return to Israel even though their understanding of the prophecy of Zech 13:8 teaches that “two-thirds of the children of Israel will perish” (Walvoord) once their return is completed.

83. Contrary to dispensationalism’s populist argument for “unconditional support” for Israel, the Bible views it as a form of Judeaolotry in that only God can demand our unconditional obligation; for “we must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29); and God even expressly warns Israel of her destruction “if you do not obey the Lord your God” (Deut 28:15, 63).

84. Contrary to dispensationalism’s structuring of history based on a negative principle wherein each dispensation involves “the ideas of distinctive revelation, testing, failure, and judgment” (Charles Ryrie), so that each dispensation ends in failure and judgment, the Bible establishes a positive purpose in redemptive history, wherein “God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through Him” (John 3:17) and “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself.” (2 Cor 5:19a).

85. Despite dispensationalism’s pessimism regarding the future, which expects that “the present age will end in apostasy and divine judgment” (Walvoord) and that “almost unbelievably hard times lie ahead” (Charles Ryrie), Christ declares that He has “all authority in heaven and on earth” and on that basis calls us actually to “make disciples of all the nations” (Matt 28:18-20).

86. Despite the tendency of some dispensationalist scholars to interpret the Kingdom Parables negatively, so that they view the movement from hundredfold to sixty to thirty in Matt 13:8 as marking “the course of the age,” and in Matt 13:31-33 “the mustard seed refers to the perversion of God’s purpose in this age, while the leaven refers to the corruption of the divine agency” (J. D. Pentecost), Christ presents these parables as signifying “the kingdom of heaven” which He came to establish and which in other parables he presents as a treasure.

87. Despite dispensationalism’s historic argument for cultural withdrawal by claiming that we should not “polish brass on a sinking ship” (J. V. McGee) and that “God sent us to be fishers of men, not to clean up the fish bowl” (Hal Lindsey), the New Testament calls Christians to full cultural engagement in “exposing the works of darkness” (Eph 5:11) and bringing “every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor 10:4-5).

88. Despite dispensationalism’s practical attempts to oppose social and moral evils, by its very nature it cannot develop a long-term view of social engagement nor articulate a coherent worldview because it removes God’s law from consideration which speaks to political and cultural issues.

89.  Despite the dispensationalists’ charge that every non-dispensational system “lends itself to liberalism with only minor adjustments” (John Walvoord), it is dispensationalism itself which was considered modernism at the beginning of the twentieth century.

90. Despite the dispensationalists’ affirmation of the gospel as the means of salvation, their evangelistic method and their foundational theology, both, encourage a presumptive faith (which is no faith at all) that can lead people into a false assurance of salvation when they are not truly converted, not recognizing that Christ did not so quickly accept professions of faith (e.g., when even though “many believed in His name,” Jesus, on His part, “was not entrusting Himself to them.”—John 2:23b-24a).

91. Despite the dispensationalists’ declaration that “genuine and wholesome spirituality is the goal of all Christian living” (Charles Ryrie), their theology actually encourages unrighteous living by teaching that Christians can simply declare Christ as Savior and then live any way they desire. Similarly, dispensationalism teaches that “God’s love can embrace sinful people unconditionally, with no binding requirements attached at all” (Zane Hodges), even though the Gospel teaches that Jesus “was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, ‘If you abide in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine’” (John 8:31) and that he declared “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me” (John 10:27).

92. Despite the early versions of dispensationalism and the more popular contemporary variety of dispensationalism today teaching that “it is clear that the New Testament does not impose repentance upon the unsaved as a condition of salvation” (L. S. Chafer and Zane Hodges), the Apostle Paul “solemnly testifies to both Jews and Greeks repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:21).

93. Contrary to dispensationalism’s tendency to distinguish receiving Christ as Savior and receiving him as Lord as two separate actions, so that saving faith involves “no spiritual commitment whatsoever” (Zane Hodges), the Bible presents both realities as aspects of the one act of saving faith; for the New Testament calls men to “the obedience of faith” (Rom 16:26; James 2:14-20).

94. “Despite dispensationalism’s affirmation of “genuine and wholesome spirituality” (Charles Ryrie), it actually encourages antinomianism by denying the role of God’s law as the God-ordained standard of righteousness, deeming God’s law (including the Ten Commandments) to be only for the Jews in another dispensation.  Dispensationalists reject the Ten Commandments because “the law was never given to Gentiles and is expressly done away for the Christian” (Charles Ryrie)—even though the New Testament teaches that all men “are under the Law” so “that every mouth may be closed, and all the world may become accountable to God” (Rom 3:19).”

95. Despite dispensationalism’s teaching regarding two kinds of Christians, one spiritual and one fleshly (resulting in a “great mass of carnal Christians,” Charles Ryrie), the Scripture makes no such class distinction, noting that Christians “are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you,” so that “if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him” (Rom 8:9).

“Dispensationalism has thrown down the gauntlet: and it is high time that Covenant theologians take up the challenge and respond Biblically.”

Dr. Robert L. Reymond, author, A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith


Introductory Essay to John Owen’s Death of Death in the Death of Christ

I.The Death of Death in the Death of Christ is a polemical work, designed to show, among other things, that the doctrine of universal redemption is unscriptural and destructive of the gospel. There are many, therefore, to whom it is not likely to be of interest. Those who see no need for doctrinal exactness and have no time for theological debates which show up divisions between so-called Evangelicals may well regret its reappearance. Some may find the very sound of Owen’s thesis so shocking that they will refuse to read his book at all; so passionate a thing is prejudice, and so proud are we of our theological shibboleths. But it is hoped that this reprint will find itself readers of a different spirit. There are signs today of a new upsurge of interest in the theology of the Bible: a new readiness to test traditions, to search the Scriptures and to think through the faith. It is to those who share this readiness that Owen’s treatise is offered, in the belief that it will help us in one of the most urgent tasks facing Evangelical Christendom today—the recovery of the gospel.

This last remark may cause some raising of eyebrows, but it seems to be warranted by the facts.

There is no doubt that Evangelicalism today is in a state of perplexity and unsettlement. In such matters as the practice of evangelism, the teaching of holiness, the building up of local church life, the pastor’s dealing with souls and the exercise of discipline, there is evidence of widespread dissatisfaction with things as they are and of equally widespread uncertainty as to the road ahead. This is a complex phenomenon, to which many factors have contributed; but, if we go to the root of the matter, we shall find that these perplexities are all ultimately due to our having lost our grip on the biblical gospel. Without realising it, we have during the past century bartered that gospel for a substitute product which, though it looks similar enough in points of detail, is as a whole a decidedly different thing. Hence our troubles; for the substitute product does not answer the ends for which the authentic gospel has in past days proved itself so mighty. The new gospel conspicuously fails to produce deep reverence, deep repentance, deep humility, a spirit of worship, a concern for the church. Why? We would suggest that the reason lies in its own character and content. It fails to make men God-centred in their thoughts and God-fearing in their hearts because this is not primarily what it is trying to do. One way of stating the difference between it and the old gospel is to say that it is too exclusively concerned to be “helpful” to man—to bring peace, comfort, happiness, satisfaction—and too little concerned to glorify God. The old gospel was “helpful,” too—more so, indeed, than is the new—but (so to speak) incidentally, for its first concern was always to give glory to God. It was always and essentially a proclamation of Divine sovereignty in mercy and judgment, a summons to bow down and worship the mighty Lord on whom man depends for all good, both in nature and in grace. Its centre of reference was unambiguously God. But in the new gospel the centre of reference is man. This is just to say that the old gospel was religious in a way that the new gospel is not. Whereas the chief aim of the old was to teach men to worship God, the concern of the new seems limited to making them feel better. The subject of the old gospel was God and His ways with men; the subject of the new is man and the help God gives him. There is a world of difference. The whole perspective and emphasis of gospel preaching has changed.

From this change of interest has sprung a change of content, for the new gospel has in effect reformulated the biblical message in the supposed interests of “helpfulness.” Accordingly, the themes of man’s natural inability to believe, of God’s free election being the ultimate cause of salvation, and of Christ dying specifically for His sheep, are not preached. These doctrines, it would be said, are not “helpful”; they would drive sinners to despair, by suggesting to them that it is not in their own power to be saved through Christ. (The possibility that such despair might be salutary is not considered; it is taken for granted that it cannot be, because it is so shattering to our self-esteem.) However this may be (and we shall say more about it later), the result of these omissions is that part of the biblical gospel is now preached as if it were the whole of that gospel; and a half-truth masquerading as the whole truth becomes a complete untruth. Thus, we appeal to men as if they all had the ability to receive Christ at any time; we speak of His redeeming work as if He had done no more by dying than make it possible for us to save ourselves by believing; we speak of God’s love as if it were no more than a general willingness to receive any who will turn and trust; and we depict the Father and the Son, not as sovereignly active in drawing sinners to themselves, but as waiting in quiet impotence “at the door of our hearts” for us to let them in. It is undeniable that this is how we preach; perhaps this is what we really believe. But it needs to be said with emphasis that this set of twisted half-truths is something other than the biblical gospel. The Bible is against us when we preach in this way; and the fact that such preaching has become almost standard practice among us only shows how urgent it is that we should review this matter. To recover the old, authentic, biblical gospel, and to bring our preaching and practice back into line with it, is perhaps our most pressing present need. And it is at this point that Owen’s treatise on redemption can give us help.

II.

“But wait a minute,” says someone, “it’s all very well to talk like this about the gospel; but surely what Owen is doing is defending limited atonement—one of the five points of Calvinism? When you speak of recovering the gospel, don’t you mean that you just want us all to become Calvinists?”

These questions are worth considering, for they will no doubt occur to many. At the same time, however, they are questions that reflect a great deal of prejudice and ignorance. “Defending limited atonement”—as if this was all that a Reformed theologian expounding the heart of the gospel could ever really want to do! “You just want us all to become Calvinists”—as if Reformed theologians had no interest beyond recruiting for their party, and as if becoming a Calvinist was the last stage of theological depravity, and had nothing to do with the gospel at all. Before we answer these questions directly, we must try to remove the prejudices which underlie them by making clear what Calvinism really is; and therefore we would ask the reader to take note of the following facts, historical and theological, about Calvinism in general and the “five points” in particular.

First, it should be observed that the “five points of Calvinism,” so-called, are simply the Calvinistic answer to a five-point manifesto (the Remonstrance) put out by certain “Belgic semi-Pelagians” in the early seventeenth century. The theology which it contained (known to history as Arminianism) stemmed from two philosophical principles: first, that divine sovereignty is not compatible with human freedom, nor therefore with human responsibility; second, that ability limits obligation. (The charge of semi-Pelagianism was thus fully justified.) From these principles, the Arminians drew two deductions: first that since the Bible regards faith as a free and responsible human act, it cannot be caused by God, but is exercised independently of Him; second, that since the Bible regards faith as obligatory on the part of all who hear the gospel, ability to believe must be universal. Hence, they maintained, Scripture must be interpreted as teaching the following positions: (1.) Man is never so completely corrupted by sin that he cannot savingly believe the gospel when it is put before him, nor (2.) is he ever so completely controlled by God that he cannot reject it. (3.) God’s election of those who shall be saved is prompted by His foreseeing that they will of their own accord believe. (4.) Christ’s death did not ensure the salvation of anyone, for it did not secure the gift of faith to anyone (there is no such gift); what it did was rather to create a possibility of salvation for everyone if they believe. (5.) It rests with believers to keep themselves in a state of grace by keeping up their faith; those who fail here fall away and are lost. Thus, Arminianism made man’s salvation depend ultimately on man himself, saving faith being viewed throughout as man’s own work and, because his own, not God’s in him.

The Synod of Dort was convened in 1618 to pronounce on this theology, and the “five points of Calvinism” represent its counter-affirmations. They stem from a very different principle—the biblical principle that “salvation is of the Lord”; and they may be summarized thus: (1.) Fallen man in his natural state lacks all power to believe the gospel, just as he lacks all power to believe the law, despite all external inducements that may be extended to him. (2.) God’s election is a free, sovereign, unconditional choice of sinners, as sinners, to be redeemed by Christ, given faith and brought to glory. (3.) The redeeming work of Christ had as its end and goal the salvation of the elect. (4.) The work of the Holy Spirit in bringing men to faith never fails to achieve its object. (5.) Believers are kept in faith and grace by the unconquerable power of God till they come to glory. These five points are conveniently denoted by the mnemonic TULIP: Total depravity, Unconditional election, Limited atonement, Irresistible grace, Preservation of the saints.

Now, here are two coherent interpretations of the biblical gospel, which stand in evident opposition to each other. The difference between them is not primarily one of emphasis, but of content. One proclaims a God who saves; the other speaks of a God Who enables man to save himself. One view presents the three great acts of the Holy Trinity for the recovering of lost mankind—election by the Father, redemption by the Son, calling by the Spirit—as directed towards the same persons, and as securing their salvation infallibly. The other view gives each act a different reference (the objects of redemption being all mankind, of calling, those who hear the gospel, and of election, those hearers who respond), and denies that any man’s salvation is secured by any of them. The two theologies thus conceive the plan of salvation in quite different terms. One makes salvation depend on the work of God, the other on a work of man; one regards faith as part of God’s gift of salvation, the other as man’s own contribution to salvation; one gives all the glory of saving believers to God, the other divides the praise between God, Who, so to speak, built the machinery of salvation, and man, who by believing operated it. Plainly, these differences are important, and the permanent value of the “five points,” as a summary of Calvinism, is that they make clear the points at which, and the extent to which, these two conceptions are at variance.

However. it would not be correct simply to equate Calvinism with the “five points.” Five points of our own will make this clear.

In the first place, Calvinism is something much broader than the “five points” indicate. Calvinism is a whole world-view, stemming from a clear vision of God as the whole world’s Maker and King. Calvinism is the consistent endeavour to acknowledge the Creator as the Lord, working all things after the counsel of His will. Calvinism is a theocentric way of thinking about all life under the direction and control of God’s own Word. Calvinism, in other words, is the theology of the Bible viewed from the perspective of the Bible—the God-centred outlook which sees the Creator as the source, and means, and end, of everything that is, both in nature and in grace. Calvinism is thus theism (belief in God as the ground of all things), religion (dependence on God as the giver of all things), and evangelicalism (trust in God through Christ for all things), all in their purest and most highly developed form. And Calvinism is a unified philosophy of history which sees the whole diversity of processes and events that take place in God’s world as no more, and no less, than the outworking of His great preordained plan for His creatures and His church. The five points assert no more than that God is sovereign in saving the individual, but Calvinism, as such, is concerned with the much broader assertion that He is sovereign everywhere.

Then, in the second place, the “five points” present Calvinistic soteriology in a negative and polemical form, whereas Calvinism in itself is essentially expository, pastoral and constructive. It can define its position in terms of Scripture without any reference to Arminianism, and it does not need to be forever fighting real or imaginary Arminians in order to keep itself alive. Calvinism has no interest in negatives, as such; when Calvinists fight, they fight for positive Evangelical values. The negative cast of the “five points” is misleading chiefly with regard to the third (limited atonement, or particular redemption), which is often read with stress on the adjective and taken as indicating that Calvinists have a special interest in confining the limits of divine mercy. But in fact the purpose of this phraseology, as we shall see, is to safeguard the central affirmation of the gospel—that Christ is a Redeemer who really does redeem. Similarly, the denials of an election that is conditional and of grace that is resistible, are intended to safeguard the positive truth that it is God Who saves. The real negations are those of Arminianism, which denies that election, redemption and calling are saving acts of God. Calvinism negates these negations in order to assert the positive content of the gospel, for the positive purpose of strengthening faith and building up the church.

Thirdly, the very act of setting out Calvinistic soteriology in the form of five distinct points (a number due, as we saw, merely to the fact that there were five Arminian points for the Synod of Dort to answer) tends to obscure the organic character of Calvinistic thought on this subject. For the five points, though separately stated, are really inseparable. They hang together; you cannot reject one without rejecting them all, at least in the sense in which the Synod meant them. For to Calvinism there is really only one point to be made in the field of soteriology: the point that God saves sinners. God—the Triune Jehovah, Father, Son and Spirit; three Persons working together in sovereign wisdom, power and love to achieve the salvation of a chosen people, the Father electing, the Son fulfilling the Father’s will by redeeming, the Spirit executing the purpose of Father and Son by renewing. Saves—does everything, first to last, that is involved in bringing man from death in sin to life in glory: plans, achieves and communicates redemption, calls and keeps, justifies, sanctifies, glorifies. Sinners—men as God finds them, guilty, vile, helpless, powerless, unable to lift a finger to do God’s will or better their spiritual lot. God saves sinners—and the force of this confession may not be weakened by disrupting the unity of the work of the Trinity, or by dividing the achievement of salvation between God and man and making the decisive part man’s own, or by soft-pedaling the sinner’s inability so as to allow him to share the praise of his salvation with his Saviour. This is the one point of Calvinistic soteriology which the “five points” are concerned to establish and Arminianism in all its forms to deny: namely, that sinners do not save themselves in any sense at all, but that salvation, first and last, whole and entire, past, present and future, is of the Lord, to whom be glory for ever; amen.

This leads to our fourth remark, which is this: the five-point formula obscures the depth of the difference between Calvinistic and Arminian soteriology. There seems no doubt that it seriously misleads many here. In the formula, the stress falls on the adjectives, and this naturally gives the impression that in regard to the three great saving acts of God the debate concerns the adjectives merely—that both sides agree as to what election, redemption, and the gift of internal grace are, and differ only as to the position of man in relation to them: whether the first is conditional upon faith being foreseen or not; whether the second intends the salvation of every man or not; whether the third always proves invincible or not. But this is a complete misconception. The change of adjective in each case involves changing the meaning of the noun. An election that is conditional, a redemption that is universal, an internal grace that is resistible, is not the same kind of election, redemption, internal grace, as Calvinism asserts. The real issue concerns, not the appropriateness of adjectives, but the definition of nouns. Both sides saw this clearly when the controversy first began, and it is important that we should see it too, for otherwise we cannot discuss the Calvinist-Arminian debate to any purpose at all. It is worth setting out the different definitions side by side.

(i.) God’s act of election was defined by the Arminians as a resolve to receive sonship and glory a duly qualified class of people: believers in Christ. This becomes a resolve to receive individual persons only in virtue of God’s foreseeing the contingent fact that they will of their own accord believe. There is nothing in the decree of election to ensure that the class of believers will ever have any members; God does not determine to make any man believe. But Calvinists define election as a choice of particular undeserving persons to be saved from sin and brought to glory, and to that end to be redeemed by the death of Christ and given faith by the Spirit’s effectual calling. Where the Arminian says: “I owe my election to my faith,” the Calvinist says: “I owe my faith to my election.” Clearly, these two concepts of election are very far apart.

(ii.) Christ’s work of redemption was defined by the Arminians as the removing of an obstacle (the unsatisfied claims of justice) which stood in the way of God’s offering pardon to sinners, as He desired to do, on condition that they believe. Redemption, according to Arminianism, secured for God a right to make this offer, but did not of itself ensure that anyone would ever accept it; for faith, being a work of man’s own, is not a gift that comes to him from Calvary. Christ’s death created an opportunity for the exercise of saving faith, but that is all it did. Calvinists, however, define redemption as Christ’s actual substitutionary endurance of the penalty of sin in the place of certain specified sinners, through which God was reconciled to them, their liability to punishment was for ever destroyed, and a title to eternal life was secured for them. In consequence of this, they now have in God’s sight a right to the gift of faith, as the means of entry into the enjoyment of their inheritance. Calvary, in other words, not merely made possible the salvation of those for whom Christ died; it ensured that they would be brought to faith and their salvation made actual. The Cross saves. Where the Arminian will only say: “I could not have gained my salvation without Calvary,” the Calvinist will say: “Christ gained my salvation for me at Calvary.” The former makes the Cross the sine qua non of salvation, the latter sees it as the actual procuring cause of salvation, and traces the source of every spiritual blessing, faith included, back to the great transaction between God and His Son carried through on Calvary’s hill. Clearly, these two concepts of redemption are quite at variance.

(iii.) The Spirit’s gift of internal grace was defined by the Arminians as “moral suasion,” the bare bestowal of an understanding of God’s truth. This, they granted—indeed, insisted—does not of itself ensure that anyone will ever make the response of faith. But Calvinists define this gift as not merely an enlightening, but also a regenerating work of God in men, “taking away their heart of stone, and giving unto them a heart of flesh; renewing their wills, and by His almighty power determining them to that which is good; and effectually drawing them to Jesus Christ; yet so as they come most freely, being made willing by his grace.” Grace proves irresistible just because it destroys the disposition to resist. Where the Arminian, therefore, will be content to say: “I decided for Christ,” “I made up my mind to be a Christian,” the Calvinist will wish to speak of his conversion in more theological fashion, to make plain whose work it really was:

“Long my imprisoned spirit lay
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night:
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray;
I woke; the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off: my heart was free:
I rose, went forth, and followed thee.

Clearly, these two notions of internal grace are sharply opposed to each other.

Now, the Calvinist contends that the Arminian idea of election, redemption and calling as acts of God which do not save cuts at the very heart of their biblical meaning; that to say in the Arminian sense that God elects believers, and Christ died for all men, and the Spirit quickens those who receive the word, is really to say that in the biblical sense God elects nobody, and Christ died for nobody, and the Spirit quickens nobody. The matter at issue in this controversy, therefore, is the meaning to be given to these biblical terms, and to some others which are also soteriologically significant, such as the love of God, the covenant of grace, and the verb “save” itself, with its synonyms. Arminians gloss them all in terms of the principle that salvation does not directly depend on any decree or act of God, but on man’s independent activity in believing. Calvinists maintain that this principle is itself unscriptural and irreligious, and that such glossing demonstrably perverts the sense of Scripture and undermines the gospel at every point where it is practised. This, and nothing less than this, is what the Arminian controversy is about.

There is a fifth way in which the five-point formula is deficient. Its very form (a series of denials of Arminian assertions) lends colour to the impression that Calvinism is a modification of Arminianism; that Arminianism has a certain primacy in order of nature, and developed Calvinism is an offshoot from it. Even when one shows this to be false as a matter of history, the suspicion remains in many minds that it is a true account of the relation of the two views themselves. For it is widely supposed that Arminianism (which, as we now see, corresponds pretty closely to the new gospel of our own day) is the result of reading the Scriptures in a “natural,” unbiased, unsophisticated way, and that Calvinism is an unnatural growth, the product less of the texts themselves than of unhallowed logic working on the texts, wresting their plain sense and upsetting their balance by forcing them into a systematic framework which they do not themselves provide. Whatever may have been true of individual Calvinists, as a generalisation about Calvinism nothing could be further from the truth than this. Certainly, Arminianism is “natural” in one sense, in that it represents a characteristic perversion of biblical teaching by the fallen mind of man, who even in salvation cannot bear to renounce the delusion of being master of his fate and captain of his soul. This perversion appeared before in the Pelagianism and semi-Pelagianism of the Patristic period and the later Scholasticism, and has recurred since the seventeenth century both in Roman theology and, among Protestants, in various types of rationalistic liberalism and modern Evangelical teaching; and no doubt it will always be with us. As long as the fallen human mind is what it is, the Arminian way of thinking will continue to be a natural type of mistake. But it is not natural in any other sense. In fact, it is Calvinism that understands the Scriptures in their natural, one would have thought, inescapable meaning; Calvinism that keeps to what they actually say; Calvinism that insists on taking seriously the biblical assertions that God saves, and that He saves those whom He has chosen to save, and that He saves them by grace without works, so that no man may boast, and that Christ is given to them as a perfect Saviour, and that their whole salvation flows to them from the Cross, and that the work of redeeming them was finished on the Cross. It is Calvinism that gives due honour to the Cross. When the Calvinist sings:

“There is a green hill far away,
Without a city wall,
Where the dear Lord was crucified,
Who died to save us all;
He died the we might be forgiven,
He died to make us good;
That we might go at last to Heaven,
Saved by His precious blood.

—he means it. He will not gloss the italicised statements by saying that God’s saving purpose in the death of His Son was a mere ineffectual wish, depending for its fulfilment on man’s willingness to believe, so that for all God could do Christ might have died and none been saved at all. He insists that the Bible sees the Cross as revealing God’s power to save, not His impotence. Christ did not win a hypothetical salvation for hypothetical believers, a mere possibility of salvation for any who might possibly believe, but a real salvation for His own chosen people. His precious blood really does “save us all”; the intended effects of His self-offering do in fact follow, just because the Cross was what it was. Its saving power does not depend on faith being added to it; its saving power is such that faith flows from it. The Cross secured the full salvation of all for whom Christ died. “God forbid,” therefore, “that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Now the real nature of Calvinistic soteriology becomes plain. It is no artificial oddity, nor a product of over-bold logic. Its central confession, that God saves sinners, that Christ redeemed us by His blood, is the witness both of the Bible and of the believing heart. The Calvinist is the Christian who confesses before men in his theology just what he believes in his heart before God when he prays. He thinks and speaks at all times of the sovereign grace of God in the way that every Christian does when he pleads for the souls of others, or when he obeys the impulse of worship which rises unbidden within him, prompting him to deny himself all praise and to give all the glory of his salvation to his Saviour. Calvinism is the natural theology written on the heart of the new man in Christ, whereas Arminianism is an intellectual sin of infirmity, natural only in the sense in which all such sins are natural, even to the regenerate. Calvinistic thinking is the Christian being himself on the intellectual level; Arminian thinking is the Christian failing to be himself through the weakness of the flesh. Calvinism is what the Christian church has always held and taught when its mind has not been distracted by controversy and false traditions from attending to what Scripture actually says; that is the significance of the Patristic testimonies to the teaching of the “five points,” which can be quoted in abundance. (Owen appends a few on redemption; a much larger collection may be seen in John Gill’s The Cause of God and Truth.) So that really it is most misleading to call this soteriology “Calvinism” at all, for it is not a peculiarity of John Calvin and the divines of Dort, but a part of the revealed truth of God and the catholic Christian faith. “Calvinism” is one of the “odious names” by which down the centuries prejudice has been raised against it. But the thing itself is just the biblical gospel. In the light of these facts, we can now give a direct answer to the questions with which we began.

“Surely all that Owen is doing is defending limited atonement?” Not really. He is doing much more than that. Strictly speaking, the aim of Owen’s book is not defensive at all, but constructive. It is a biblical and theological enquiry; its purpose is simply to make clear what Scripture actually teaches about the central subject of the gospel—the achievement of the Saviour. As its title proclaims, it is “a treatise of the redemption and reconciliation that is in the blood of Christ: with the merit thereof, and the satisfaction wrought thereby.” The question which Owen, like the Dort divines before him, is really concerned to answer is just this: what is the gospel? All agree that it is a proclamation of Christ as Redeemer, but there is a dispute as to the nature and extent of His redeeming work: well, what saith the Scripture? what aim and accomplishment does the Bible assign to the work of Christ? This is what Owen is concerned to elucidate. It is true that he tackles the subject in a directly controversial way, and shapes his book as a polemic against the “spreading persuasion…of a general ransom, to be paid by Christ for all; that he dies to redeem all and every one.” But his work is a systematic expository treatise, not a mere episodic wrangle. Owen treats the controversy as providing the occasion for a full display of the relevant biblical teaching in its own proper order and connection. As in Hooker’s Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, the polemics themselves are incidental and of secondary interest; their chief value lies in the way that the author uses them to further his own design and carry forward his own argument.

That argument is essentially very simple. Owen sees that the question which has occasioned his writing—the extent of the atonement—involves the further question of its nature, since if it was offered to save some who will finally perish, then it cannot have been a transaction securing the actual salvation of all for whom it was designed. But, says Owen, this is precisely the kind of transaction that the Bible says it was. The first two books of his treatise are a massive demonstration of the fact that according to Scripture the Redeemer’s death actually saves His people, as it was meant to do. The third book consists of a series of sixteen arguments against the hypothesis of universal redemption, all aimed to show, on the one hand, that Scripture speaks of Christ’s redeeming work as effective, which precludes its having been intended for any who perish, and, on the other, that if its intended extent had been universal, then either all will be saved (which Scripture denies, and the advocates of the “general ransom” do not affirm), or else the Father and the Son have failed to do what they set out to do—“which to assert,” says Owen, “seems to us blasphemously injurious to the wisdom, power and perfection of God, as likewise derogatory to the worth and value of the death of Christ.”

Owen’s arguments ring a series of changes on this dilemma. Finally, in the fourth book, Owen shows with great cogency that the three classes of texts alleged to prove that Christ died for persons who will not be saved (those saying that He died for “the world,” for “all,” and those thought to envisage the perishing of those for whom He died), cannot on sound principles of exegesis be held to teach any such thing; and, further, that the theological inferences by which universal redemption is supposed to be established are really quite fallacious. The true evangelical evaluation of the claim that Christ died for every man, even those who perish, comes through at point after point in Owen’s book. So far from magnifying the love and grace of God, this claim dishonours both it and Him, for it reduces God’s love to an impotent wish and turns the whole economy of “saving” grace, so-called (“saving” is really a misnomer on this view), into a monumental divine failure. Also, so far from magnifying the merit and worth of Christ’s death, it cheapens it, for it makes Christ die in vain. Lastly, so far from affording faith additional encouragement, it destroys the Scriptural ground of assurance altogether, for it denies that the knowledge that Christ died for me (or did or does anything else for me) is a sufficient ground for inferring my eternal salvation; my salvation, on this view, depends not on what Christ did for me, but on what I subsequently do for myself. Thus this view takes from God’s love and Christ’s redemption the glory that Scripture gives them, and introduces the anti-scriptural principle of self-salvation at the point where the Bible explicitly says: “not of works, lest any man should boast.” You cannot have it both ways: an atonement of universal extent is a depreciated atonement. It has lost its saving power; it leaves us to save ourselves. The doctrine of the general ransom must accordingly be rejected, as Owen rejects it, as a grievous mistake. By contrast, however, the doctrine which Owen sets out, as he himself shows, is both biblical and God-honouring. It exalts Christ, for it teaches Christians to glory in His Cross alone, and to draw their hope and assurance only from the death and intercession of their Saviour. It is, in other words, genuinely Evangelical. It is, indeed, the gospel of God and the catholic faith.

It is safe to say that no comparable exposition of the work of redemption as planned and executed by the Triune Jehovah has ever been done since Owen published his. None has been needed. Discussing this work, Andrew Thomson notes how Owen “makes you feel when he has reached the end of his subject, that he has also exhausted it.” That is demonstrably the case here. His interpretation of the texts is sure; his power of theological construction is superb; nothing that needs discussing is omitted, and (so far as the writer can discover) no arguments for or against his position have been used since his day which he has not himself noted and dealt with. One searches his book in vain for the leaps and flights of logic by which Reformed theologians are supposed to establish their positions; all that one finds is solid, painstaking exegesis and a careful following through of biblical ways of thinking. Owen’s work is a constructive, broad-based biblical analysis of the heart of the gospel, and must be taken seriously as such. It may not be written off as a piece of special pleading for a traditional shibboleth, for nobody has a right to dismiss the doctrine of the limitedness of atonement as a monstrosity of Calvinistic logic until he has refuted Owen’s proof that it is part of the uniform biblical presentation of redemption, clearly taught in plain text after plain text. And nobody has done that yet.

“You talked about recovering the gospel,” said our questioner; “don’t you mean that you just want us all to become Calvinists?”

This question presumably concerns, not the word, but the thing. Whether we call ourselves Calvinists hardly matters; what matters is that we should understand the gospel biblically. But that, we think, does in fact mean understanding it as historic Calvinism does. The alternative is to misunderstand and distort it. We said earlier that modern Evangelicalism, by and large, has ceased to preach the gospel in the old way, and we frankly admit that the new gospel, insofar as it deviates from the old, seems to us a distortion of the biblical message. And we can now see what has gone wrong. Our theological currency has been debased. Our minds have been conditioned to think of the Cross as a redemption which does less than redeem, and of Christ as a Saviour who does less than save, and of God’s love as a weak affection which cannot keep anyone from hell without help, and of faith as the human help which God needs for this purpose. As a result, we are no longer free either to believe the biblical gospel or to preach it. We cannot believe it, because our thoughts are caught in the toils of synergism. We are haunted by the Arminian idea that if faith and unbelief are to be responsible acts, they must be independent acts; hence we are not free to believe that we are saved entirely by divine grace through a faith which is itself God’s gift and flows to us from Calvary. Instead, we involve ourselves in a bewildering kind of double-think about salvation, telling ourselves one moment that it all depends on God and next moment that it all depends on us. The resultant mental muddle deprives God of much of the glory that we should give Him as author and finisher of salvation, and ourselves of much of the comfort we might draw from knowing that God is for us.

And when we come to preach the gospel, our false preconceptions make us say just the opposite of what we intend. We want (rightly) to proclaim Christ as Saviour; yet we end up saying that Christ, having made salvation possible, has left us to become our own saviours. It comes about in this way. We want to magnify the saving grace of God and the saving power of Christ. So we declare that God’s redeeming love extends to every man, and that Christ has died to save every man, and we proclaim that the glory of divine mercy is to be measured by these facts. And then, in order to avoid universalism, we have to depreciate all that we were previously extolling, and to explain that, after all, nothing that God and Christ have done can save us unless we add something to it; the decisive factor which actually saves us is our own believing. What we say comes to this—that Christ saves us with our help; and what that means, when one thinks it out, is this—that we save ourselves with Christ’s help. This is a hollow anticlimax. But if we start by affirming that God has a saving love for all, and Christ died a saving death for all, and yet balk at becoming universalists, there is nothing else that we can say. And let us be clear on what we have done when we have put the matter in this fashion. We have not exalted grace and the Cross; we have cheapened them. We have limited the atonement far more drastically than Calvinism does, for whereas Calvinism asserts that Christ’s death, as such, saves all whom it was meant to save, we have denied that Christ’s death, as such, is sufficient to save any of them. We have flattered impenitent sinners by assuring them that it is in their power to repent and believe, though God cannot make them do it. Perhaps we have also trivialised faith and repentance in order to make this assurance plausible (“it’s very simple—just open your heart to the Lord…”). Certainly, we have effectively denied God’s sovereignty, and undermined the basic conviction of religion—that man is always in God’s hands. In truth, we have lost a great deal. And it is, perhaps, no wonder that our preaching begets so little reverence and humility, and that our professed converts are so self-confident and so deficient in self-knowledge, and in the good works which Scripture regards as the fruit of true repentance.

It is from degenerate faith and preaching of this kind that Owen’s book could set us free. If we listen to him, he will teach us both how to believe the Scripture gospel and how to preach it. For the first: he will lead us to bow down before a sovereign Saviour Who really saves, and to praise Him for a redeeming death which made it certain that all for whom He died will come to glory. It cannot be over-emphasised that we have not seen the full meaning of the Cross till we have seen it as the divines of Dort display it—as the centre of the gospel, flanked on the one hand by total inability and unconditional election, and on the other by irresistible grace and final preservation. For the full meaning of the Cross only appears when the atonement is defined in terms of these four truths. Christ died to save a certain company of helpless sinners upon whom God had set His free saving love. Christ’s death ensured the calling and keeping—the present and final salvation—of all whose sins He bore. That is what Calvary meant, and means. The Cross saved; the Cross saves. This is the heart of true Evangelical faith; as Cowper sang—

“Dear dying Lamb, Thy precious blood
Shall never lose its power,
Till all the ransomed church of God
Be saved to sin no more
.”

This is the triumphant conviction which underlay the old gospel, as it does the whole New Testament. And this is what Owen will teach us unequivocally to believe.

Then, secondly, Owen could set us free, if we would hear him, to preach the biblical gospel. This assertion may sound paradoxical, for it is often imagined that those who will not preach that Christ died to save every man are left with no gospel at all. On the contrary, however, what they are left with is just the gospel of the New Testament. What does it mean to preach “the gospel of the grace of God”? Owen only touches on this briefly and incidentally, but his comments are full of light. Preaching the gospel, he tells us, is not a matter of telling the congregation that God has set His love on each of them and Christ has died to save each of them, for these assertions, biblically understood, would imply that they will all infallibly be saved, and this cannot be known to be true. The knowledge of being the object of God’s eternal love and Christ’s redeeming death belongs to the individual’s assurance, which in the nature of the case cannot precede faith’s saving exercise; it is to be inferred from the fact that one has believed, not proposed as a reason why one should believe. According to Scripture, preaching the gospel is entirely a matter of proclaiming to men, as truth from God which all are bound to believe and act on, the following four facts:

(1.) that all men are sinners, and cannot do anything to save themselves;

(2.) that Jesus Christ, God’s Son, is a perfect Saviour for sinners, even the worst;

(3.) that the Father and the Son have promised that all who know themselves to be sinners and put faith in Christ as Saviour shall be received into favour, and none cast out (which promise is “a certain infallible truth, grounded upon the superabundant sufficiency of the oblation of Christ in itself, for whomsoever [few or more] it be intended”);

(4.) that God has made repentance and faith a duty, requiring of every man who hears the gospel “a serious full recumbency and rolling of the soul upon Christ in the promise of the gospel, as an all-sufficient Saviour, able to deliver and save to the utmost them that come to God by him; ready, able and willing, through the preciousness of his blood and sufficiency of his ransom, to save every soul that shall freely give up themselves unto him for that end.”

The preacher’s task, in other words, is to display Christ: to explain man’s need of Him, His sufficiency to save, and His offer of Himself in the promises as Saviour to all who truly turn to Him; and to show as fully and plainly as he can how these truths apply to the congregation before him. It is not for him to say, nor for his hearers to ask, for whom Christ died in particular. “There is none called on by the gospel once to enquire after the purpose and intention of God concerning the particular object of the death of Christ, every one being fully assured that his death shall be profitable to them that believe in him and obey him.” After saving faith has been exercised, “it lies on a believer to assure his soul, according as he find the fruit of the death of Christ in him and towards him, of the good-will and eternal love of God to him in sending his Son to die for him in particular”; but not before. The task to which the gospel calls him is simply to exercise faith, which he is both warranted and obliged to do by God’s command and promise.

Some comments on this conception of what preaching the gospel means are in order.

First, we should observe that the old gospel of Owen contains no less full and free an offer of salvation than its modern counterpart. It presents ample grounds of faith (the sufficiency of Christ, and the promise of God), and cogent motives to faith (the sinner’s need, and the Creator’s command, which is also the Redeemer’s invitation). The new gospel gains nothing here by asserting universal redemption. The old gospel, certainly, has no room for the cheap sentimentalising which turns God’s free mercy to sinners into a constitutional soft-heartedness on His part which we can take for granted; nor will it countenance the degrading presentation of Christ as the baffled Saviour, balked in what He hoped to do by human unbelief; nor will it indulge in maudlin appeals to the unconverted to let Christ save them out of pity for His disappointment. The pitiable Saviour and the pathetic God of modern pulpits are unknown to the old gospel. The old gospel tells men that they need God, but not that God needs them (a modern falsehood); it does not exhort them to pity Christ, but announces that Christ has pitied them, though pity was the last thing they deserved. It never loses sight of the Divine majesty and sovereign power of the Christ whom it proclaims, but rejects flatly all representations of Him which would obscure His free omnipotence. Does this mean, however, that the preacher of the old gospel is inhibited or confined in offering Christ to men and inviting them to receive Him? Not at all. In actual fact, just because he recognises that Divine mercy is sovereign and free, he is in a position to make far more of the offer of Christ in his preaching than is the expositor of the new gospel; for this offer is itself a far more wonderful thing on his principles than it can ever be in the eyes of those who regard love to all sinners as a necessity of God’s nature, and therefore a matter of course. To think that the holy Creator, who never needed man for His happiness and might justly have banished our fallen race for ever without mercy, should actually have chosen to redeem some of them! and that His own Son was willing to undergo death and descend into hell to save them! and that now from His throne He should speak to ungodly men as He does in the words of the gospel, urging upon them the command to repent and believe in the form of a compassionate invitation to pity themselves and choose life! These thoughts are the focal points round which the preaching of the old gospel revolves. It is all wonderful, just because none of it can be taken for granted. But perhaps the most wonderful thing of all—the holiest spot in all the holy ground of gospel truth—is the free invitation which “the Lord Christ” (as Owen loves to call Him) issues repeatedly to guilty sinners to come to Him and find rest for their souls. It is the glory of these invitations that it is an omnipotent King who gives them, just as it is a chief part of the glory of the enthroned Christ that He condescends still to utter them. And it is the glory of the gospel ministry that the preacher goes to men as Christ’s ambassador, charged to deliver the King’s invitation personally to every sinner present and to summon them all to turn and live. Owen himself enlarges on this in a passage addressed to the unconverted.

“Consider the infinite condescension and love of Christ, in his invitations and calls of you to come unto him for life, deliverance, mercy, grace, peace and eternal salvation. Multitudes of these invitations and calls are recorded in the Scripture, and they are all of them filled up with those blessed encouragements which divine wisdom knows to be suited unto lost, convinced sinners…. In the declaration and preaching of them, Jesus Christ yet stands before sinners, calling, inviting, encouraging them to come unto him.

“This is somewhat of the word which he now speaks unto you: Why will ye die? why will ye perish? why will ye not have compassion on your own souls? Can your hearts endure, or can your hands be strong, in the day of wrath that is approaching?… Look unto me, and be saved; come unto me, and I will ease you of all sins, sorrows, fears, burdens, and give rest unto your souls. Come, I entreat you; lay aside all procrastinations, all delays; put me off no more; eternity lies at the door…do not so hate me as that you will rather perish than accept of deliverance by me.

“These and the like things doth the Lord Christ continually declare, proclaim, plead and urge upon the souls of sinners…. He doth it in the preaching of the word, as if he were present with you, stood amongst you, and spake personally to every one of you…. He hath appointed the ministers of the gospel to appear before you, and to deal with you in his stead, avowing as his own the invitations which are given you in his name, 2 Cor. v. 19, 20.”

These invitations are universal; Christ addresses them to sinners, as such, and every man, as he believes God to be true, is bound to treat them as God’s words to him personally and to accept the universal assurance which accompanies them, that all who come to Christ will be received. Again, these invitations are real; Christ genuinely offers Himself to all who hear the gospel, and is in truth a perfect Saviour to all who trust Him. The question of the extent of the atonement does not arise in evangelistic preaching; the message to be delivered is simply this—that Christ Jesus, the sovereign Lord, who died for sinners, now invites sinners freely to Himself. God commands all to repent and believe; Christ promises life and peace to all who do so. Furthermore, these invitations are marvellously gracious; men despise and reject them, and are never in any case worthy of them, and yet Christ still issues them. He need not, but He does. “Come unto me…and I will give you rest” remains His word to the world, never cancelled, always to be preached. He whose death has ensured the salvation of all His people is to be proclaimed everywhere as a perfect Saviour, and all men invited and urged to believe on Him, whoever they are, whatever they have been. Upon these three insights the evangelism of the old gospel is based.

It is a very ill-informed supposition that evangelistic preaching which proceeds on these principles must be anaemic and half-hearted by comparison with what Arminians can do. Those who study the printed sermons of worthy expositors of the old gospel, such as Bunyan (whose preaching Owen himself much admired), or Whitefield, or Spurgeon, will find that in fact they hold forth the Saviour and summon sinners to Him with a fulness, warmth, intensity and moving force unmatched in Protestant pulpit literature. And it will be found on analysis that the very thing which gave their preaching its unique power to overwhelm their audiences with broken-hearted joy at the riches of God’s grace-and still gives it that power, let it be said, even with hard-boiled modern readers—was their insistence on the fact that grace is free. They knew that the dimensions of Divine love are not half understood till one realises that God need not have chosen to save nor given his Son to die; nor need Christ have taken upon him vicarious damnation to redeem men, nor need He invite sinners indiscriminately to Himself as He does; but that all God’s gracious dealings spring entirely from His own free purpose. Knowing this, they stressed it, and it is this stress that sets their evangelistic preaching in a class by itself. Other Evangelicals, possessed of a more superficial and less adequate theology of grace, have laid the main emphasis in their gospel preaching on the sinner’s need of forgiveness, or peace, or power, and of the way to get them by “deciding for Christ.” It is not to be denied that their preaching has done good (for God will use His truth, even when imperfectly held and mixed with error), although this type of evangelism is always open to the criticism of being too man-centred and pietistic; but it has been left (necessarily) to Calvinists and those who, like the Wesleys, fall into Calvinistic ways of thought as soon as they begin a sermon to the unconverted, to preach the gospel in a way which highlights above everything else the free love, willing condescension, patient long-suffering and infinite kindness of the Lord Jesus Christ. And, without doubt, this is the most Scriptural and edifying way to preach it; for gospel invitations to sinners never honour God and exalt Christ more, nor are more powerful to awaken and confirm faith, than when full weight is laid on the free omnipotence of the mercy from which they flow. It looks, indeed, as if the preachers of the old gospel are the only people whose position allows them to do justice to the revelation of Divine goodness in the free offer of Christ to sinners.

Then, in the second place, the old gospel safeguards values which the new gospel loses. We saw before that the new gospel, by asserting universal redemption and a universal Divine saving purpose, compels itself to cheapen grace and the Cross by denying that the Father and the Son are sovereign in salvation; for it assures us that, after God and Christ have done all that they can, or will, it depends finally on each man’s own choice whether God’s purpose to save him is realised or not. This position has two unhappy results. The first is that it compels us to misunderstand the significance of the gracious invitations of Christ in the gospel of which we have been speaking; for we now have to read them, not as expressions of the tender patience of a mighty sovereign, but as the pathetic pleadings of impotent desire; and so the enthroned Lord is suddenly metamorphosed into a weak, futile figure tapping forlornly at the door of the human heart, which He is powerless to open. This is a shameful dishonour to the Christ of the New Testament. The second implication is equally serious: for this view in effect denies our dependence on God when it comes to vital decisions, takes us out of His hand, tells us that we are, after all, what sin taught us to think we were—masters of our fate, captain of our souls—and so undermines the very foundation of man’s religious relationship with his Maker. It can hardly be wondered at that the converts of the new gospel are so often both irreverent and irreligious, for such is the natural tendency of this teaching. The old gospel, however, speaks very differently and has a very different tendency. On the one hand, in expounding man’s need of Christ, it stresses something which the new gospel effectively ignores—that sinners cannot obey the gospel, any more than the law, without renewal of heart. On the other hand, in declaring Christ’s power to save, it proclaims Him as the author and chief agent of conversion, coming by His Spirit as the gospel goes forth to renew men’s hearts and draw them to Himself. Accordingly, in applying the message, the old gospel, while stressing that faith is man’s duty, stresses also that faith is not in man’s power, but that God must give what He commands. It announces, not merely that men must come to Christ for salvation, but also that they cannot come unless Christ Himself draws them. Thus it labours to overthrow self-confidence, to convince sinners that their salvation is altogether out of their hands, and to shut them up to a self-despairing dependence on the glorious grace of a sovereign Saviour, not only for their righteousness but for their faith too.

It is not likely, therefore, that a preacher of the old gospel will be happy to express the application of it in the form of a demand to “decide for Christ,” as the current phrase is. For, on the one hand, this phrase carries the wrong associations. It suggests voting a person into office—an act in which the candidate plays no part beyond offering himself for election, and everything then being settled by the voter’s independent choice. But we do not vote God’s Son into office as our Saviour, nor does He remain passive while preachers campaign on His behalf, whipping up support for His cause. We ought not to think of evangelism as a kind of electioneering. And then, on the other hand, this phrase obscures the very thing that is essential in repentance and faith—the denying of self in a personal approach to Christ. It is not at all obvious that deciding for Christ is the same as coming to Him and resting on Him and turning from sin and self-effort; it sounds like something much less, and is accordingly calculated to instil defective notions of what the gospel really requires of sinners. It is not a very apt phrase from any point of view.

To the question: what must I do to be saved? the old gospel replies: believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. To the further question: what does it mean to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ? its reply is: it means knowing oneself to be a sinner, and Christ to have died for sinners; abandoning all self-righteousness and self-confidence, and casting oneself wholly upon Him for pardon and peace; and exchanging one’s natural enmity and rebellion against God for a spirit of grateful submission to the will of Christ through the renewing of one’s heart by the Holy Ghost. And to the further question still: how am I to go about believing on Christ and repenting, if I have no natural ability to do these things? it answers: look to Christ, speak to Christ, cry to Christ, just as you are; confess your sin, your impenitence, your unbelief, and cast yourself on His mercy; ask Him to give you a new heart, working in you true repentance and firm faith; ask Him to take away your evil heart of unbelief and to write His law within you, that you may never henceforth stray from Him. Turn to Him and trust Him as best you can, and pray for grace to turn and trust more thoroughly; use the means of grace expectantly, looking to Christ to draw near to you as you seek to draw near to Him; watch, pray, read and hear God’s Word, worship and commune with God’s people, and so continue till you know in yourself beyond doubt that you are indeed a changed being, a penitent believer, and the new heart which you desired has been put within you. The emphasis in this advice is on the need to call upon Christ directly, as the very first step.

“Let not conscience make you linger,
Nor of fitness fondly dream;
All the fitness He requireth
Is to feel your need of Him”

—so do not postpone action till you think you are better, but honestly confess your badness and give yourself up here and now to the Christ who alone can make you better; and wait on Him till His light rises in your soul, as Scripture promises that it shall do. Anything less than this direct dealing with Christ is disobedience of the gospel. Such is the exercise of spirit to which the old evangel summons its hearers. “I believe—help thou mine unbelief”: this must become their cry.

And the old gospel is proclaimed in the sure confidence that the Christ of whom it testifies, the Christ who is the real speaker when the Scriptural invitations to trust Him are expounded and applied, is not passively waiting for man’s decision as the word goes forth, but is omnipotently active, working with and through the word to bring His people to faith in Himself. The preaching of the new gospel is often described as the task of “bringing men to Christ” if only men move, while Christ stands still. But the task of preaching the old gospel could more properly be described as bringing Christ to men, for those who preach it know that as they do their work of setting Christ before men’s eyes, the mighty Saviour whom they proclaim is busy doing His work through their words, visiting sinners with salvation, awakening them to faith, drawing them in mercy to Himself.

It is this older gospel which Owen will teach us to preach: the gospel of the sovereign grace of God in Christ as the author and finisher of faith and salvation. It is the only gospel which can be preached on Owen’s principles, but those who have tasted its sweetness will not in any case be found looking for another. In the matter of believing and preaching the gospel, as in other things, Jeremiah’s words still have their application: “Thus saith the Lord, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls.” To find ourselves debarred, as Owen would debar us, from taking up with the fashionable modern substitute gospel may not, after all, be a bad thing, either for us, or for the Church.

More might be said, but to go further would be to exceed the limits of an introductory essay. The foregoing remarks are made simply to show how important it is at the present time that we should attend most carefully to Owen’s analysis of what the Bible says about the saving work of Christ.

III.

It only remains to add a few remarks about this treatise itself. It was Owen’s second major work, and his first masterpiece. (Its predecessor, A Display of Arminianism, published in 1642, when Owen was twenty-six, was a competent piece of prentice-work, rather of the nature of a research thesis.)

The Death of Death is a solid book, made up of detailed exposition and close argument, and requires hard study, as Owen fully realised; a cursory glance will not yield much. (“READER…. If thou art, as many in this pretending age, a sign or title gazer, and comest into books as Cato into the theatre, to go out again—thou has had thy entertainment; farewell!”) Owen felt, however, that he had a right to ask for hard study, for his book was a product of hard work (“a more than seven-years’ serious inquiry…into the mind of God about these things, with a serious perusal of all which I could attain that the wit of man, in former or latter days, hath published in opposition to the truth”), and he was sure in his own mind that a certain finality attached to what he had written. (“Altogether hopeless of success I am not; but fully resolved that I shall not live to see a solid answer given unto it.”) Time has justified his optimism.

Something should be said about his opponents. He is writing against three variations on the theme of universal redemption: that of classical Arminianism, noted earlier; that of the theological faculty at Saumur (the position known as Amyraldism, after its leading exponent); and that of Thomas More, a lay theologian of East Anglia. The second of these views originated with a Scots professor at Saumur, John Cameron; it was taken up and developed by two of his pupils, Amyraut (Amyraldus) and Testard, and became the occasion of a prolonged controversy in which Amyraut, Daillé and Blondel were opposed by Rivet, Spanheim and Des Marets (Maresius). The Saumur position won some support among Reformed divines in Britain, being held in modified form by (among others) Bishops Usher and Davenant, and Richard Baxter. None of these, however, had advocated it in print at the time when Owen wrote.

Goold’s summary of the Saumur position may be quoted. “Admitting that, by the purpose of God, and through the death of Christ, the elect are infallibly secured in the enjoyment of salvation, they contended for an antecedent decree, by which God is free to give salvation to all men through Christ, on the condition that they believe on him. Hence their system was termed hypothetic[al] universalism. The vital difference between it and the strict Arminian theory lies in the absolute security asserted in the former for the spiritual recovery of the elect. They agree, however, in attributing some kind of universality to the atonement, and in maintaining that, on a certain condition, within the reach of fulfilment by all men…all men have access to the benefits of Christ’s death.” From this, Goold continues, “the readers of Owen will understand…why he dwells with peculiar keenness and reiteration of statement upon a refutation of the conditional system…. It was plausible; it had many learned men for its advocates; it had obtained currency in the foreign churches; and it seems to have been embraced by More.”

More is described by Thomas Edwards as “a great Sectary, that did much hurt in Lincolnshire, Norfolk, and Cambridgeshire; who was famous also in Boston, (King’s) Lynn, and even in Holland, and was followed from place to place by many.” Baxter’s description is kinder: “a Weaver of Wisbitch and Lyn, of excellent Parts.” (More’s doctrine of redemption, of course, was substantially Baxter’s own.) Owen, however, has a poor view of his abilities, and makes no secret of the fact. More’s book, The Universality of God’s Free Grace in Christ to Mankind, appeared in 1646 (not, as Goold says, 1643), and must have exercised a considerable influence, for within three years it had evoked four weighty works which were in whole or part polemics against it: A Refutation…of Thomas More, by Thomas Whitfield, 1646; Vindiciae Redemptionis, by John Stalham, 1647; The Universalist Examined and Convicted, by Obadiah Howe, 1648; and Owen’s own book, published in the same year.

More’s exposition seems to be of little intrinsic importance; Owen, however, selects it as the fullest statement of the case for universal redemption that had yet appeared in English and uses it unmercifully as a chopping-block. The modern reader, however, will probably find it convenient to skip the sections devoted to refuting More (I. viii., the closing pages of II. iii. and IV. vi.) on his first passage through Owen’s treatise.

Finally, a word about the style of this work. There is no denying that Owen is heavy and hard to read. This is not so much due to obscure arrangement as to two other factors. The first is his lumbering literary gait. “Owen travels through it (his subject) with the elephant’s grace and solid step, if sometimes also with his ungainly motion.” says Thomson. That puts it kindly. Much of Owen’s prose reads like a roughly-dashed-off translation of a piece of thinking done in Ciceronian Latin. It has, no doubt, a certain clumsy dignity; so has Stonehenge; but it is trying to the reader to have to go over sentences two or three times to see their meaning, and this necessity makes it much harder to follow an argument. The present writer, however, has found that the hard places in Owen usually come out as soon as one reads them aloud. The second obscuring factor is Owen’s austerity as an expositor. He has a lordly disdain for broad introductions which ease the mind gently into a subject, and for comprehensive summaries which gather up scattered points into a small space. He obviously carries the whole of his design in his head, and expects his readers to do the same. Nor are his chapter divisions reliable pointers to the structure of his discourse, for though a change of subject is usually marked by a chapter division, Owen often starts a new chapter where there is no break in the thought at all. Nor is he concerned about literary proportions; the space given to a topic is determined by its intrinsic complexity rather than its relative importance, and the reader is left to work out what is basic and what is secondary by noting how things link together. The reader will probably find it helpful to use a pencil and paper in his study of the book and jot down the progress of the exposition; and it is hoped that the subjoined Analysis will also be of service in helping him keep his bearings.

We would conclude by repeating that the reward to be reaped from studying Owen is worth all the labour involved, and by making the following observations for the student’s guidance. (1.) It is important to start with the epistle “To the Reader,” for there Owen indicates in short compass what he is trying to do, and why. (2.) It is important to read the treatise as a whole, in the order in which it stands, and not to jump into parts III. and IV. before mastering the contents of Parts I. and II., where the biblical foundations of Owen’s whole position are laid. (3.) It is hardly possible to grasp the strength and cogency of this massive statement on a first reading. The work must be read and re-read to be appreciated.

James Innel Packer


A Brief Survey of the Origin and Contents of the “Five Points” of Calvinism

I. The Origin of the “Five Points”

To understand how and why the system of theology known to history as Calvinism came to bear this name and to be formulated into five points, one must understand the theological conflict which occurred in Holland during the first quarter of the seventeenth century.

A. The Protest of the Arminian Party

In 1610, just one year after the death of James Arminius (a Dutch seminary professor) five articles of faith based on his teachings were drawn up by his followers. The Arminians, as his followers came to be called, presented these five doctrines to the State of Holland in the form of a “Remonstrance” (i.e., a protest) . The Arminian party insisted that the Belgic Confession of Faith and the Heidelberg Catechism (the official expression of the doctrinal position of the Churches of Holland) be changed to conform to the doctrinal views contained in the Remonstrance. The Arminians objected to those doctrines upheld in both the Catechism and the Confession relating to divine sovereignty, human inability, unconditional election or predestination, particular redemption, irresistible grace, and the perseverance of the saints. It was in connection with these matters that they wanted the official standards of the Church of Holland revised.

B. The “Five Points” of Arminianism

Roger Nicole summarizes the five articles contained in the Remonstrance as follows:

“I. God elects or reproves on the basis of foreseen faith or unbelief.

II. Christ died for all men and for every man, although only believers are saved.

III. Man is so depraved that divine grace is necessary unto faith or any good deed.

IV. This grace may be resisted.

V. Whether all who are truly regenerate will certainly persevere in the faith is a point which needs further investigation.” [1]

The last article was later altered so as to definitely teach the possibility of the truly regenerate believer’s losing his faith and thus losing his salvation. Arminians however have not been in agreement on this point – some have held that all who are regenerated by the Spirit of God are eternally secure and can never perish.

C. The Philosophical Basis of Arminianism

J. I. Packer, In analyzing the system of thought embodied in the Remonstrance, observes

“The theology which it contained (known to history as Arminianism) stemmed from two philosophical principles: first, that divine sovereignty is not compatible with human freedom, nor therefore with human responsibility; second, that ability limits obligation . . . . From these principles, the Arminians drew two deductions: first, that since the Bible regards faith as a free and responsible act, it cannot be caused by God, but is exercised independently of Him; second, that since the Bible regards faith as obligatory on the part of all who hear the gospel, ability to believe must be universal. Hence, they maintained, Scripture must be interpreted as teaching the following positions:

(1.) Man is never so completely corrupted by sin that he cannot savingly believe the gospel when it is put before him, nor

(2.) is he ever so completely controlled by God that he cannot reject it.

(3.) God’s election of those who shall be saved is prompted by His foreseeing that they will of their own accord believe.

(4.) Christ’s death did not ensure the salvation of anyone, for it did not secure the gift of faith to anyone (there is no such gift); what it did was rather to create a possibility of salvation for everyone if they believe.

(5.) It rests with believers to keep themselves in a state of grace by keeping up their faith; those who fail here fall away and are lost. Thus, Arminianism made man s salvation depend ultimately on man himself, saving faith being viewed throughout as man’s own work and, because his own, not God’s in him.” [2]

D. The Rejection of Arminianism by the Synod of Dort and the Formation of the Five Points of Calvinism.

A national Synod was called to meet in Dort in 1618 for the purpose of examining the views of Arminius in the light of Scripture. The Great Synod was convened by the States-General of Holland on November 13, 1618. There were 84 members and 18 secular commissioners. Included were 27 delegates from Germany, the Palatinate, Switzerland and England. There were 154 sessions held during the seven months that the Synod met to consider these matters, the last of which was on May 9, 1619.

“The Synod,” Warburton writes,

“had given a very close examination to the ‘five points’ which had been advanced by the Remonstrants, and had compared the teaching advanced in them with the testimony of Scripture. Failing to reconcile that teaching with the Word of God, which they had definitely declared could alone be accepted by them as the rule of faith, they had unanimously rejected them. They felt, however, that a mere rejection was not sufficient. It remained for them to set forth the true Calvinistic teaching in relationship to those matters which had been called into question. This they proceeded to do, embodying the Calvinistic position in five chapters which have ever since been known as ‘the five points of Calvinism.’ ” [3]

The name Calvinism was derived from the great French reformer, John Calvin (1509-1564), who had done so much in expounding and defending these views.

No doubt it will seem strange to many in our day that the Synod of Dort rejected as heretical the five doctrines advanced by the Arminians, for these doctrines have gained wide acceptance in the modern Church. In fact, they are seldom questioned in our generation. But the vast majority of the Protestant theologians of that day took a much different view of the matter. They maintained that the Bible set forth a system of doctrine quite different from that advocated by the Arminian party. Salvation was viewed by the members of the Synod as a work of grace from beginning to end; in no sense did they believe that the sinner saved himself or contributed to his salvation. Adam’s fall had completely ruined the race. All men were by nature spiritually dead and their wills were in bondage to sin and Satan. The ability to believe the gospel was itself a gift from God, bestowed only upon those whom He had chosen to be the objects of His unmerited favor. It was not man, but God, who determined which sinners would be shown mercy and saved. This, in essence, is what the members of the Synod of Dort understood the Bible to teach.

In the chart which follows, the five points of Arminianism (rejected by the Synod) and the five points of Calvinism (set forth by the Synod) are given, side by side, so that it might be readily seen wherein and to what extent these two systems of doctrine differ.

A Brief Comparison of Calvinism and Arminianism

III. The Basic Concepts of Each System Are Much Older Than the Synod of Dort

A. The Controversy between Pelagius and Augustine

Neither John Calvin nor James Arminius originated the basic concepts which undergird the two systems that bear their names. The fundamental principles of each system can be traced back many centuries prior to the time when these two men lived. For example, the basic doctrines of the Calvinistic position had been vigorously defended by Augustine against Pelagius during the fifth century. Cunningham writes,

“As there was nothing new in substance in the Calvinism of Calvin, so there was nothing new in the Arminianism of Arminius;The doctrines of Arminius can be traced back as far as the time of Clemens Alexandrinus, and seem to have been held by many of the fathers of the third and fourth centuries, having been diffused in the church through the corrupting influence of pagan philosophy. Pelagius and his followers, in the fifth century, were as decidedly opposed to Calvinism as Arminius was, though they deviated much further from sound doctrine than he did.” [4]

Pelagius denied that human nature had been corrupted by sin. He maintained that the only ill effects which the race had suffered as the result of Adam’s transgression was the bad example which he had set for mankind. According to Pelagius, every infant comes into the world in the same condition as Adam was before the fall. His leading principle was that man’s will is absolutely free. Hence every one has the power, within himself, to believe the gospel as well as to perfectly keep the law of God.

Augustine, on the other hand, maintained that human nature had been so completely corrupted by Adam’s fall that no one, in himself, has the ability to obey either the law or the gospel. Divine grace is essential if sinners are to believe and be saved, and this grace is extended only to those whom God predestined to eternal life before the foundation of the world. The act of faith, therefore, results, not from the sinner’s free will (as Pelagius taught) but from God’s free grace which is bestowed on the elect only.

B. Semi-Pelagianism, the Forerunner of Arminianism

Smeaton, in showing how Semi-Pelagianism (the forerunner of Arminianism) originated, states that

“Augustin’s unanswerable polemic had so fully discredited Pelagianism in the field of argument, that it could no longer be made plausible to the Christian mind. It collapsed. But a new system soon presented itself, teaching that man with his own natural powers is able to take the first step toward his conversion, and that this obtains or merits the Spirit’s assistance. Cassian . . . was the founder of this middle way, which came to be called SEMI-PELAGIANISM, because it occupied intermediate ground between Pelagianism and Augustinianism, and took in elements from both. He acknowledged that Adam’s sin extended to his posterity, and that human nature was corrupted by original sin. But on the other hand he held a system of universal grace for all men alike making the final decision in the case of every individual dependent on the exercise of free will.”

Speaking of those who followed Cassian, Smeaton continues,

“they held that the first movement of the will. in the assent of faith must be ascribed to the natural powers of the human mind. This was their primary error. Their maxim was: ‘it is mine to be willing to believe, and it is the part of God’s grace to assist.’ They asserted the sufficiency of Christ’s grace for all, and that every one, according to his own will, obeyed or rejected the invitation, while God equally wished and equally aided all men to be saved The entire system thus formed is a half-way house containing elements of error and elements of truth, and not at all differing from the Arminianism which, after the resuscitation of the doctrines of grace by the Reformers, diffused itself in the very same way through the different Churches.” [5]

C. Calvinism, the Theology of the Reformation

The leaders of the Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century rejected Pelagianism and Semi-Pelagianism on the ground that both systems were unscriptural. Like Augustine, the Reformers held to the doctrines of the sovereignty of God, the total depravity of man, and of unconditional election. As Boettner shows, they stood together in their view of predestination.

“It was taught not only by Calvin, but by Luther, Zwingli, Melancthon (although Melancthon later retreated toward the Semi-Pelagian position), by Bullinger, Bucer, and all of the outstanding leaders in the Reformation. While differing on some other points they agreed on this doctrine of Predestination and taught it with emphasis. Luther’s chief work, ‘The Bondage of the Will,’ shows that he went into the doctrine as heartily as did Calvin himself.” [6]

Packer states that

“all the leading Protestant theologians of the first epoch of the Reformation, stood on precisely the same ground here. On other points, they had their differences; but in asserting the helplessness of man in sin, and the sovereignty of God in grace, they were entirely at one. To all of them, these doctrines were the very life-blood of the Christian faith . . . . To the Reformers, the crucial question was not simply, whether God justifies believers without works of law. It was the broader question, whether sinners are wholly helpless in their sin, and whether God is to be thought of as saving them by free, unconditional, invincible grace, not only justifying them for Christ’s sake when they come to faith, but also raising them from the death of sin by His quickening Spirit in order to bring them to faith. Here was the crucial issue: whether God is the author, not merely of justification, but also of faith; whether, in the last analysis, Christianity is a religion of utter reliance on God for salvation and all things necessary to it, or of self reliance and self-effort.” [7]

Thus it is evident that the five points of Calvinism, drawn up by the Synod of Dort in 1619, was by no means a new system of theology. On the contrary, as Dr. Wyllie asserts of the Synod,

“It met at a great crisis and it was called to review, re-examine and authenticate over again, in the second generation since the rise of the Reformation, that body of truth and system of doctrine which that great movement had published to the world.” [8]

IV. The Difference between Calvinism and Arminianism

The issues involved in this historic controversy are indeed grave, for they vitally affect the Christian’s concept of God, of sin, and of salvation. Packer, in contrasting these two systems, is certainly correct in asserting that

“The difference between them is not primarily one of emphasis, but of content. One proclaims a God Who saves; the other speaks of a God Who enables man to save himself. One view [Calvinism] presents the three great acts of the Holy Trinity for the recovering of lost mankind-election by the Father, redemption by the Son, calling by the Spirit-as directed towards the same persons, and as securing their salvation infallibly. The other view [Arminianism] gives each act a different reference (the objects of redemption being all mankind, of calling, those who hear the gospel, and of election, those hearers who respond), and denies that any man’s salvation is secured by any of them. The two theologies thus conceive the plan of salvation in quite different terms. One makes salvation depend on the work of God, the other on a work of man; one regards faith as part of God’s gift of salvation, the other as man s own contribution to salvation; one gives all the glory of saving believers to God, the other divides the praise between God, Who, so to speak, built the machinery of salvation, and man, who by believing operated it. Plainly, these differences are important, and the permanent value of the ‘five points,’ as a summary of Calvinism, is that they make clear the points at which, and the extent to which, these two conceptions are at variance.” [9]

V. The One Point which the “Five Points” of Calvinism Are Concerned to Establish

While recognizing the permanent value of the five points as a summary of Calvinism, Packer warns against simply equating Calvinism with the five points. He gives several excellent reasons why such an equation is incorrect, one of which we quote:

“. . . the very act of setting out Calvinistic soteriology [the doctrine of salvation] in the form of five distinct points (a number due, as we saw, merely to the fact that there were five Arminian points for the Synod of Dort to answer) tends to obscure the organic character of Calvinistic thought on this subject. For the five points, though separately stated, are really inseparable. They hang together; you cannot reject one without rejecting them all, at least in the sense in which the Synod meant them. For to Calvinism there is really only one point to be made in the field of soteriology: the point that God saves sinners. God–the Triune Jehovah, Father, Son and Spirit; three Persons working together in sovereign wisdom, power and love to achieve the salvation of a chosen people, the Father electing, the Son fulfilling the Father’s will by redeeming, the Spirit executing the purpose of Father and Son by renewing. Saves–does everything, first to last, that is involved in bringing man from death in sin to life in glory: plans, achieves and communicates redemption, calls and keeps, justifies, sanctifies, glorifies. Sinners–men as God finds them, guilty, vile, helpless, powerless, unable to lift a finger to do God’s will or better their spiritual lot. God saves sinners–and the force of this confession may not be weakened by disrupting the unity of the work of the Trinity, or by dividing the achievement of salvation between God and man and making the decisive part man’s own, or by soft-pedalling the sinner’s inability so as to allow him to share the praise of his salvation with his Saviour. This is the one point of Calvinistic soteriology which the ‘five points’ are concerned to establish and Arminianism in all its forms to deny: namely, that sinners do not save themselves in any sense at all, but that salvation, first and last, whole and entire, past, present and future, is of the Lord, to whom be glory for ever; amen.” [10]

This brings to completion Part One of our survey. No attempt whatsoever has been made in this section to prove the truthfulness of the Calvinistic doctrines. Our sole purpose has been to give a brief history of the system and to explain its contents. We are now ready to consider its Biblical support.

[1] Roger Nicole, “Arminianism,” Baker’s Dictionary of Theology, p. 64.

[2] James I. Packer, “Introductory Essay,” John Owen, The Death of Death in the Death of Christ, pp.3, 4.

[3] Ben A. Warburton, Calvinism, p.61. Although there were five Calvinistic Articles, there were only four chapters. This was because the third and fourth Articles were combined into one chapter. Consequently, the third chapter is always designated as Chapter III-IV.

[4] William Cunningham, Historical Theology. Vol.11, p. 374.

[5] George Smeaton, The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit, pp.300, 301. Italics and capitalizations are his. Semi-Pelagianism was repudiated by the Synod of Orange in 529 A. D., just as Arminianism was repudiated by the Synod of Dort almost eleven hundred years later.

[6] Loraine Boettner, The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination, p. 1.

[7] James I. Packer and 0. R. Johnston, “Historical and Theological Introduction,” Martin Luther, Bondage of the Will, pp.58, 59. In speaking of the English Reformation, Buis shows that “the advocates of that Reformation were definitely Calvinistic.” To substantiate this he quotes the following from Fisher, ” ‘The Anglican Church agreed with the Protestant Churches on the continent on the subject of predestination. On this subject, for a long period, the Protestants generally were united in opinion.’ ‘The leaders of the English Reformation, from the time when the death of Henry VIII placed them firmly upon Protestant ground, profess the doctrine of absolute as distinguished from conditional predestination.’ ” Harry Buis, Historic Protestantism and Predestination, p.87.

[8] Quoted by Warburton, Calvinism, p.58. Smeaton says of the work of the Synod of Dort that “it may be questioned whether anything more valuable as an ecclesiastical testimony for the doctrines of sovereign, special, efficacious grace was ever prepared on this important theme since the days of the apostles.” George Smeaton, TA° Doctrine of the Holy Spirit, p.320.

[9] Packer, “Introductory Easay,” (above, fn. 2), pp.4, 5.

[10] Packer, “Introductory Essay,” (above, fn. 2), p.6. Italics are his [GospelPedlar made them Bold].


The Five Points Of Calvinism – Defined, Defended, Documented. David N. Steele, Curtis C. Thomas. Presbyterian & Reformed Publishing Co. Box 817, Phillipsburg, N.J. 08865. 1979. Pages 13-23.


The Five Solas Of the Reformation

The Five Solas Of the Reformation

SOLI DEO GLORIA

TO GOD ALONE BE THE GLORY

Sing to the Lord, all the earth; proclaim good tidings of His salvation from day to day.
Tell of His glory among the nations, His wonderful deeds among all the peoples.
For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; He is also to be feared above all gods.
For all the gods of the peoples are idols, but the Lord made the heavens.
Splendor and majesty are before Him, strength and joy are in His place.
Ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
Ascribe to the Lord the glory due His name;
Bring an offering, and come before Him; worship the Lord in holy array.
Tremble before Him, all the earth;
Indeed, the world is firmly established, it will not be moved.
Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice;
And let them say among the nations, “The Lord reigns.”
1 Chronicles 16:23-31

Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!
For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor?
Or who has first given to Him that it might be paid back to him again?
For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever.
Amen.
Romans 11:33-36

Let us, therefore, labour to submit to the sovereignty of God. God insists, that his sovereignty be acknowledged by us, and that even in this great matter, a matter which so nearly and infinitely concerns us, as our own eternal salvation. This is the stumbling-block on which thousands fall and perish; and if we go on contending with God about his sovereignty, it will be our eternal ruin. It is absolutely necessary that we should submit to God, as our absolute sovereign, and the sovereign over our souls; as one who may have mercy on whom he will have mercy, and harden whom he will.

– Jonathan Edwards, God’s Sovereignty In The Salvation Of Men

RESOURCES ON THIS SITE
GOD – Master List of Articles

SOLO CHRISTO


CHRIST ALONE

And there is salvation in no one else;
For there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.
Acts 4:12

For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,
who gave Himself as a ransom for all,
the testimony given at the proper time.
1 Timothy 2:5-6

That there is no remedy but in Jesus Christ; there is nothing else will give you true quietness. If you could fly into heaven, you would not find it there; if you should take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the earth, in some solitary place in the wilderness, you could not fly from your burden. So that if you do not come to Christ, you must either continue still weary and burdened, or, which is worse, you must return to your old dead sleep, to a state of stupidity; and not only so, but you must be everlastingly wearied with God’s wrath.

Consider that Christ is a remedy at hand. You need not wish for the wings of a dove that you may fly afar off, and be at rest, but Christ is nigh at hand, if you were but sensible of it. Romans 10:6, 7, 8. “But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise, Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above:) or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.) But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart; that is, the word of faith which we preach.” There is no need of doing any great work to come at this rest; the way is plain to it; it is but going to it, it is but sitting down under Christ’s shadow. Christ requires no money to purchase rest of him, he calls to us to come freely, and for nothing. If we are poor and have no money, we may come. Christ sent out his servants to invite the poor, the maimed, the halt, and the blind. Christ does not want to be hired to accept of you, and to give you rest. It is his work as Mediator to give rest to the weary, it is the work that he was anointed for, and in which he delights. “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound.”

– Jonathan Edwards, Safety, Fulness and Sweet Refreshment in Christ

RESOURCES ON THIS SITE
JESUS CHRIST – Master List of Articles

SOLA SCRIPTURA

SCRIPTURE ALONE

The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul;
the testimony of the Lord is sure,
making wise the simple.
Psalm 19:7

You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of,
knowing from whom you have learned them,
and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings
which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation
through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable
for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;
so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.
2 Timothy 3:14-17

The Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, Having Been Given By Inspiration of God, Are the All-Sufficient and Only Rule of Faith and Practice, and Judge of Controversies.

Whatever God teaches or commands is of sovereign authority. Whatever conveys to us an infallible knowledge of his teachings and commands is an infallible rule. The Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are the only organs through which, during the present dispensation, God conveys to us a knowledge of his will about what we are to believe concerning himself, and what duties he requires of us.

RESOURCES ON THIS SITE
BIBLE – Master List of Articles

SOLA FIDE

FAITH ALONE

Therefore, having been justified by faith,
we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand,
and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
Romans 5:1-2

For by grace you have been saved through faith,
and that not of yourselves;
it is the gift of God, not of works,
lest anyone should boast.
Ephesians 2:8-9

The truth which we plead has two parts:

That the righteousness of God imputed to us, unto the justification of life, is the righteousness of Christ, by whose obedience we are made righteous.

That it is faith alone which on our part is required to interest us in that righteousness, or whereby we comply with God’s grant and communication of it, or receive it unto our use and benefit; for although this faith is in itself the radical principle of all obedience,– and whatever is not so, which cannot, which does not, on all occasions, evidence, prove, show, or manifest itself by works, is not of the same kind with it,–yet, as we are justified by it, its act and duty is such, or of that nature, as that no other grace, duty, or work, can be associated with it, or be of any consideration. And both these are evidently confirmed in that description which is given us in the Scripture of the nature of faith and believing unto the justification of life.

– John Owen, The Doctrine Of Justification By Faith

RESOURCES ON THIS SITE
FAITH – Master List of Articles

SOLA GRATIA

GRACE ALONE

He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness,
but according to His mercy,
by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit,
whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior,
so that being justified by His grace
we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
Titus 3:7

But the free gift is not like the offense.
For if by the one man’s offense many died,
much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man,
Jesus Christ, abounded to many.
Romans 5:15

I think it well to turn a little to one side that I may ask my reader to observe adoringly the fountain-head of our salvation, which is the grace of God. “By grace are ye saved.” Because God is gracious, therefore sinful men are forgiven, converted, purified, and saved. It is not because of anything in them, or that ever can be in them, that they are saved; but because of the boundless love, goodness, pity, compassion, mercy, and grace of God. Tarry a moment, then, at the well-head. Behold the pure river of water of life, as it proceeds out of the throne of God and of the Lamb! What an abyss is the grace of God! Who can measure its breadth? Who can fathom its depth? Like all the rest of the divine attributes, it is infinite.

– Charles H. Spurgeon, All Of Grace

RESOURCES ON THIS SITE
GRACE – Master List of Articles


CALVINISME

Calvinisme adalah sistem teologi yang dirumuskan oleh Johannes Calvin dalam karyanya yang utama yaitu institutio dan diterima dengan banyak perubahan oleh gereja-gereja non-Lutheran.

Alkitab dipandang sebagai aturan bagi iman. Ia cukup berisi segala yang perlu mengenai Allah dan tugas-tugas orang percaya terhadap Allah dan sesama manusia. Kewibawaan Alkitab terjamin oleh pekerjaan Roh Kudus.

Sebelum manusia jatuh ke dalam dosa, ia dapat mencapai kebajikan melalui kuasa-kuasa alamiah, namun kejatuhan manusia ke dalam dosa telah mengubah hakekat manusia sehingga sekarang semua manusia berada di bawah kuasa dosa. Manusia tidak lagi bebas, sehingga ia memerlukan rahmat Allah. Semua perbuatan manusia pada hakekatnya dosa dan manusia hanya dibenarkan karena rahmat Allah saja. Perbuatan baik tidak mempunyai andil apa pun dalam tindakan pembenaran Allah terhadap manusia berdosa. Pembenaran Allah hanya dapat disambut oleh manusia dengan iman.

Dalam Calvinisme terdapat ajaran tentang predestinasi. Calvin mengajarkan bahwa sebelum manusia jatuh ke dalam dosa, bahkan sebelum penciptaan, Allah telah menetapkan beberapa orang untuk memperoleh keselamatan dan yang lainnya untuk memperoleh penghukuman. Pokok ajaran ini membawa banyak perdebatan dan perbedaan pandangan di kalangan Calvinis sendiri, serta mengakibatkan perpecahan-perpecahan dalam kalangan Calvinis.

Calvinisme membela teokrasi di dalam gereja. Negara harus bersama-sama dengan gereja untuk menegakkan keadilan serta memuliakan Allah. Kedua-duanya harus berdampingan dan masing-masing mendapat tugas tertentu dari Allah yang harus dipertanggungjawabkannya kepada Tuhan Allah. Mengenai sakramen, terutama Perjanjian Kudus, Calvin berusaha untuk mencari jalan tengah antara ajaran Luther dengan Zwingli. Calvinisme dianut di mana-mana. Dalam kalangan Huguenot di Perancis, Belanda, Skotlandia, Inggris dan Amerika Serikat. Calvinisme memperlihatkan pengaruhnya yang sangat besar. Pada abad ke-18 dan 19 pengaruh Calvinisme merosot karena pengaruh rasionalisme, namun kemudian pada permulaan abad ke-20 Calvinisme menjadi kuat kembali karena karya Karl Barth.

Ajaran dari ke lima pokok Calvinisme datangnya dari era Reformasi, dan ini bukan hanya dari Calvin saja tetapi dari banyak ahli-ahli teologi selama zaman Reformasi kira-kira 400 tahun yang lalu pada waktu gereja-gereja di Eropah pada dasarnya mulai sampai pada kebenaran Alkitab.

Hal ini terjadi pada taraf yang tinggi di Jerman, Swiss, Hungaria, Belanda, dst-nya; mereka telah benar-benar merenungkan ke lima dasar yang sangat penting ini yang menyatakan kepada kita suatu dasar dari keselamatan sejati berdasarkan “kasih karunia” atau “anugrah” yang disingkat menjadi TULIP, yaitu:

– Total Depravity (Kerusakan Moral Yang Total)
– Unconditional Election (Pemilihan Tanpa Syarat)
– Limited Atonement (Penebusan Yang Terbatas)
– Irresistible Grace (Karunia Yang Tak Dapat Ditolak)
– Perseverance of the saint (Penjagaan Orang-orang Kudus)

Ini dimulai dengan pendapat tentang “kerusakan moral yang total”, yaitu bahwa secara moral manusia adalah rusak sepenuhnya. Hal ini didasarkan dari Roma pasal 3 yang menyatakan bahwa dari dalam dirinya sendiri tidak ada satu orangpun yang benar dan tidak ada satu orangpun yang mencari Allah, yaitu Allah yang benar. Dengan demikian hal ini juga sangat sesuai dengan Yohanes 6:44 yang berkata:

“Tidak ada seorangpun yang dapat datang kepada-Ku, jikalau ia tidak ditarik oleh Bapa yang mengutus Aku, dan ia akan Kubangkitkan pada akhir zaman.”

Dan dalam Roma 3:10-11 kita membaca demikian:

“seperti ada tertulis: “Tidak ada yang benar, seorangpun tidak. Tidak ada seorangpun yang berakal budi, tidak ada seorangpun yang mencari Allah.”

Kemudian ini diteruskan dengan “pemilihan tanpa syarat”, yaitu kita tidak diselamatkan berdasarkan usaha atau pekerjaan apapun yang dapat kita lakukan sendiri (injil pekerjaan), keselamatan yang sejati diberikan 100% sebagai “kasih karunia” yang seluruhnya merupakan pekerjaan Tuhan (Injil Anugrah). Hal ini bisa ditemukan di Roma pasal 9 dan di Efesus 2:8 kita baca demikian:

“Sebab karena kasih karunia kamu diselamatkan oleh iman; itu bukan hasil usahamu, tetapi pemberian Allah”

Dan kemudian ini menunjuk kepada “penebusan yang terbatas”, yaitu Kristus pergi ke kayu salib bukan untuk menebus dosa-dosa semua orang yang ada diseluruh dunia, tetapi Kritus hanya menebus dosa-dosa umat pilihan-Nya yang sudah ditentukan sejak semula ketika dunia dijadikan, hal ini didasarkan atas sejumlah besar bagian-bagian seperti Yohanes 6:37, Yohanes 17:9, Wahyu 13:8, dan Efesus 1:4 berkata sebagai berikut:

“Sebab di dalam Dia Allah telah memilih kita sebelum dunia dijadikan, supaya kita kudus dan tak bercacat di hadapan-Nya.”

Lalu ini berbicara tentang “kasih karunia” yang begitu kuat yang tidak dapat ditolak, yaitu Tuhan akan menyelamatkan semua orang-orang yang Ia ingin untuk selamatkan, dan tidak satu orangpun yang dapat menghalangi rencana Tuhan. Di Yohanes 6:39 kita baca demikian:

“Dan Inilah kehendak Dia yang telah mengutus Aku, yaitu supaya dari semua yang telah diberikan-Nya kepada-Ku jangan ada yang hilang, tetapi supaya Kubangkitkan pada akhir zaman.”

Kemudian pokok yang terakhir berbicara mengenai “penjagaan orang-orang kudus”, yaitu mereka yang sudah betul-betul diselamatkan (mendapatkan kebangkitan jiwa yang baru) tidak dapat kehilangan keselamatan mereka. Ini didasarkan atas ayat-ayat seperti di Yohanes 10, tidak ada sesuatu apapun yang dapat merampas orang-orang pilihan dari tangan Kristus. Dan kitab Ibrani 12 menyatakan bahwa Kristus adalah “pencipta dan penyelesai” iman kita, dan juga satu bagian dalam Roma pasal 8.

Menurut kalangan Calvinisme, ke lima pokok-pokok tersebut adalah benar-benar tepat, dan benar-benar didasarkan atas Alkitab. Hal inilah yang menjadi landasan dasar dari kebanyakan gereja-gereja Kristen Protestan di dalam era Perjanjian Baru. Tetapi walaupun ada banyak dari mereka yang mengikuti atau mulai menghadapi doktrin-doktrin Injil anugrah ini tetapi ada banyak juga yang menentang dan ingin untuk melemahkannya, dan hal itu terus berlangsung sampai hari sekarang ini.

eInjil.com


reformed providence

Tujuan session / pelajaran ini adalah untuk membuktikan bahwa doktrin ini memang merupakan ajaran Calvin dan tokoh-tokoh Reformed. Jadi, sekalipun saya yakin ajaran ini benar / Alkitabiah, dan saya bisa membuktikannya, tetapi tujuan saya saat ini bukan membuktikan ajaran ini benar atau tidak, Alkitabiah atau tidak. Tujuan saya saat ini adalah membuktikan bahwa ini ajaran adalah Calvin / para tokoh Reformed.Mengapa perlu ada pelajaran ini? Karena banyak orang-orang yang tidak bertanggung jawab yang mengatakan bahwa doktrin ini adalah ajaran Hyper-Calvinisme. Dalam pelajaran ini saya akan membuktikan bahwa tuduhan itu tidak benar, yang berarti bahwa para penuduh itu, atau tidak mengerti apa itu Calvinisme dan Hyper-Calvinisme, atau lebih buruk lagi, adalah pemfitnah. Untuk membuktikan bahwa ajaran ini adalah ajaran dari Calvin / para tokoh Reformed, tidak bisa tidak saya harus mengajar dengan memberikan kutipan dari tulisan Calvin / para tokoh Reformed. Karena itu, jangan heran kalau pelajaran ini dipenuhi dengan kutipan-kutipan.Beberapa point yang ingin saya tekankan adalah:1)  Calvin / Reformed mengajarkan bahwa Allah menentukan segala sesuatu.

Yes 25:1 – “Ya TUHAN, Engkaulah Allahku; aku mau meninggikan Engkau, mau menyanyikan syukur bagi namaMu; sebab dengan kesetiaan yang teguh Engkau telah melaksanakan rancanganMu yang ajaib yang telah ada sejak dahulu”.

Calvin (tentang Yes 25:1): “… all things were undoubtedly ordained by him before the creation of the world” (= … tak diragukan bahwa segala sesuatu ditentukan oleh Dia sebelum penciptaan dunia / alam semesta) – hal 191.

Maz 135:6-7 – “(6) TUHAN melakukan apa yang dikehendakiNya, di langit dan di bumi, di laut dan di segenap samudera raya; (7) Ia menaikkan kabut dari ujung bumi, Ia membuat kilat mengikuti hujan, Ia mengeluarkan angin dari dalam perbendaharaanNya”.

Calvin (tentang Maz 135:6,7): “we must hold by this as a firm principle, that nothing happens without the divine will and decree. … nothing takes place of itself, but by the hand and counsel of God.” (= kita harus memegang / mempercayai dengan ini sebagai suatu prinsip yang teguh, bahwa tidak ada apapun yang terjadi tanpa kehendak dan ketetapan ilahi. … tidak ada apapun yang terjadi dengan sendirinya, kecuali oleh tangan / kuasa dan rencana Allah) – hal 175.

John Calvin: “… we make God the ruler and governor of all things, who in accord­ance with his wisdom has from the farthest limit of eternity decreed what he was going to do, and now by his might carries out what he has decreed. From this we declare that not only heaven and earth and the inanimate creatures, but also the plans and intentions of men, are so governed by his providence that they are borne by it straight to their appointed end” (= … kami membuat Allah pengatur dan pemerintah segala sesuatu, yang sesuai dengan kebijaksanaanNya telah menetapkan sejak batas terjauh dari kekekalan apa yang akan Ia lakukan, dan sekarang dengan kuasaNya melaksanakan apa yang telah Ia tetapkan. Dari sini kami menyatakan bahwa bukan hanya surga dan bumi dan makhluk tak bernyawa, tetapi juga rencana dan maksud manusia begitu diperintah / diatur oleh providensiaNya sehingga mereka dilahirkan olehnya langsung menuju tujuan yang ditetapkan bagi mereka) – ‘Institutes of the Christian Religion’, Book I, Chapter XVI, no 8.

John Calvin: “But anyone who has been taught by Christ’s lips that all the hairs of his head are numbered (Matt 10:30) will look farther afield for a cause, and will consider that all events are governed by God’s secret plan” [= Tetapi setiap orang yang telah diajar oleh bibir Kristus bahwa semua rambut kepalanya terhitung (Mat 10:30) akan melihat lebih jauh untuk suatu penyebab, dan akan menganggap bahwa semua kejadian / peristiwa diatur oleh rencana rahasia Allah] – ‘Institutes of the Christian Religion’, Book I, Chapter XVI, no 2.

Louis Berkhof: “Reformed Theology stresses the sovereignty of God in virtue of which He has sovereignly determined from all eternity whatsoever will come to pass, and works His sovereign will in His entire creation, both natural and spiritual, according to His predetermined plan. It is in full agreement with Paul when he says that God ‘worketh all things after the counsel of His will’ (Eph 1:11)” [= Theologia Reformed menekankan kedaulatan Allah atas dasar mana Ia secara berdaulat telah menentukan dari sejak kekekalan apapun yang akan terjadi, dan mengerjakan kehendakNya yang berdaulat dalam seluruh ciptaanNya, baik yang bersifat jasmani maupun rohani, menurut rencanaNya yang sudah ditentukan sebelumnya. Ini sesuai dengan Paulus pada waktu ia berkata bahwa Allah ‘mengerjakan segala sesuatu menurut keputusan kehendakNya’ (Ef 1:11)] – ‘Systematic Theology’, hal 100.

R. L. Dabney: “The decrees of God are His eternal purpose according to the counsel of His will, whereby, for His own glory, He hath foreordained whatso­ever comes to pass” (= Ketetapan-ketetapan Allah adalah rencana kekalNya menurut kehendakNya, dengan mana, untuk kemuliaanNya sendiri, Ia telah menentukan lebih dulu apapun yang akan terjadi) – ‘Lectures in Systematic Theology’, hal 121.

Charles Hodge: “The doctrine of the Bible is, that all events, whether necessary or contingent, good or sinful, are included in the purpose of God, and that their futurition or actual occurrence is rendered absolutely certain” (= Doktrin dari Alkitab adalah, bahwa semua peristiwa, apakah mutlak perlu atau bersifat tergantung / kebetulan, baik atau berdosa, tercakup dalam rencana Allah, dan bahwa akan terjadinya atau sungguh-sungguh terjadinya mereka digambarkan pasti secara mutlak) – ‘Systematic Theology’, vol I, hal 542.

William G. T. Shedd: “The Divine decree is universal. It includes ‘whatsoever comes to pass,’ be it physical or moral, good or evil” (= Ketetapan ilahi adalah universal. Itu mencakup ‘apapun yang akan terjadi’, apakah itu bersifat fisik atau moral, baik atau jahat) – ‘Shedd’s Dogmatic Theology’, vol I, hal 400.B. B. Warfield: “His works of providence are merely the execution of His all-embracing plan” (= PekerjaanNya dalam providensia semata-mata merupakan pelaksanaan dari rencanaNya yang mencakup segala sesuatu) – ‘Biblical and Theological Studies’, hal 281.

B. B. Warfield: “this God is a Person who acts purposefully; there is nothing that is, and nothing that comes to pass, that He has not first decreed and then brought to pass by His creation or providence” (= Allah ini adalah seorang Pribadi yang bertindak dengan mempunyai rencana / tujuan; tidak ada sesuatu yang ada atau yang akan terjadi, yang tidak lebih dulu ditetapkanNya dan lalu dilaksanakanNya oleh penciptaan atau providensiaNya) – ‘Biblical and Theological Studies’, hal 284.

B. B. Warfield: “But, in the infinite wisdom of the Lord of all the earth, each event falls with exact precision into its proper place in the unfolding of His eternal plan; nothing, however small, however strange, occurs without His ordering, or without its peculiar fitness for its place in the working out of His purpose; and the end of all shall be the manifestation of His glory, and the accumulation of His praise” (= Tetapi, dalam hikmat yang tidak terbatas dari Tuhan dari seluruh bumi, setiap peristiwa / kejadian jatuh dengan ketepatan yang tepat pada tempatnya dalam pembukaan / penyingkapan dari rencana kekalNya; tidak ada sesuatupun, betapapun kecilnya, betapapun anehnya, yang terjadi tanpa pengaturan / perintahNya, atau tanpa kecocokannya yang khusus untuk tempatnya dalam pelaksanaan RencanaNya; dan akhir dari semua adalah akan diwujudkannya kemuliaanNya, dan pengumpulan pujian bagiNya) – ‘Biblical and Theological Studies’, hal 285.

Loraine Boettner: “The Pelagian denies that God has a plan; the Arminian says that God has a general plan but not a specific plan; but the Calvinist says that God has a specific plan which embraces all events in all ages” (= Penganut Pelagianisme menyangkal bahwa Allah mempunyai rencana; penganut Arminianisme berkata bahwa Allah mempunyai rencana yang umum tetapi bukan rencana yang specific; tetapi penganut Calvinisme mengatakan bahwa Allah mempunyai rencana yang specific yang mencakup semua peristiwa / kejadian dalam semua jaman) – ‘The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination’, hal 22-23.

John Owen: “Out of this large and boundless territory of things possible, God by his decree freely determineth what shall come to pass, and makes them future which before were but possible. After this decree, as they commonly speak, followeth, or together with it, as others more exactly, taketh place, that prescience of God which they call ‘visionis,’ ‘of vision,’ whereby he infallibly seeth all things in their proper causes, and how and when they shall some to pass” (= Dari daerah yang besar dan tak terbatas dari hal-hal yang mungkin terjadi ini, Allah dengan ketetapanNya secara bebas menentukan apa yang akan terjadi, dan membuat mereka yang tadinya ‘mungkin terjadi’ menjadi ‘akan datang’. Pada umumnya orang mengatakan bahwa setelah ketetapan ini, atau lebih tepat lagi, bersama-sama dengan ketetapan itu, terjadilah ‘pengetahuan yang lebih dulu’ dari Allah yang mereka sebut VISIONIS, ‘dari penglihatan’, dengan mana Ia, secara tidak mungkin salah, melihat segala sesuatu dalam penyebabnya yang tepat, dan bagaimana dan kapan mereka akan terjadi) – ‘The Works of John Owen’, vol 10, hal 23.

Herman Hoeksema: “For this same reason the Bible always emphasizes the fact that God ordained all things and knew them from before the foundation of the world” (= Untuk alasan yang sama Alkitab selalu menekankan fakta bahwa Allah menentukan segala sesuatu dan mengetahui mereka sejak sebelum dunia dijadikan) – ‘Reformed Dogmatics’, hal 157.

Herman Bavinck: “God’s decree is his eternal purpose whereby he has foreordained whatsoever comes to pass. Scripture everywhere affirms that whatsoever is and comes to pass is the realization of God’s thought and will, and has its origin and idea in God’s eternal counsel or decree, …” (= Ketetapan Allah adalah rencana kekalNya dengan mana Ia telah menentukan lebih dulu apapun yang akan terjadi. Kitab Suci dimana-mana menegaskan bahwa apapun yang ada dan yang akan terjadi merupakan realisasi dari pemikiran dan kehendak Allah, dan mempunyai asal mula dan gagasannya dalam rencana atau ketetapan kekal) – ‘The Doctrine of God’, hal 369.

John Murray: “It is true that all our choices and acts are foreordained, and only foreordained acts come to pass” (= Adalah benar bahwa semua pilihan dan tindakan kita ditentukan lebih dulu, dan hanya tindakan-tindakan yang ditentukan lebih dulu yang akan terjadi) – ‘Collected Writings of John Murray’, vol II, hal 64.

Gresham Machen: “How much is embraced in that eternal counsel of God? The true answer to that question is very simple. The true answer is ‘Everything’. Everything that happens is embraced in the eternal purpose of God; nothing at all happens outside of His eternal plan” (= Berapa banyak yang dicakup dalam rencana kekal Allah itu? Jawaban yang benar terhadap pertanyaan itu sangat sederhana. Jawaban yang benar adalah ‘segala sesuatu’. Segala sesuatu yang terjadi tercakup dalam rencana kekal Allah; sama sekali tidak ada apapun yang terjadi di luar rencana kekalNya) – ‘The Christian View of Man’, hal 35.

R. C. Sproul: “That God in some sense foreordains whatever comes to pass is a necessary result of his sovereignty. … everything that happens must at least happen by his permission. If he permits something, then he must decide to allow it. If He decides to allow something, then is a sense he is foreordaining it. … To say that God foreordains all that comes to pass is simply to say that God is sovereign over his entire creation. If something could come to pass apart from his sovereign permission, then that which came to pass would frustrate his sovereignty. If God refused to permit something to happen and it happened anyway, then whatever caused it to happen would have more authority and power than God himself. If there is any part of creation outside of God’s sovereignty, then God is simply not sovereign. If God is not sovereign, then God is not God. … Without sovereignty God cannot be God. If we reject divine sovereignty then we must embrace atheism” (= Bahwa Allah dalam arti tertentu menentukan apapun yang akan terjadi merupakan akibat yang harus ada dari kedaulatanNya. … segala sesuatu yang terjadi setidaknya harus terjadi karena ijinNya. Jika Ia mengijinkan sesuatu, maka Ia pasti memutuskan untuk mengijinkannya. Jika Ia memutuskan untuk mengijinkan sesuatu, maka dalam arti tertentu Ia menentukannya. … Mengatakan bahwa Allah menentukan segala sesuatu yang akan terjadi adalah sama dengan mengatakan bahwa Allah itu berdaulat atas segala ciptaanNya. Jika ada sesuatu yang bisa terjadi di luar ijinNya yang berdaulat, maka apa yang terjadi itu menghalangi kedaulatanNya. Jika Allah menolak untuk mengijinkan sesuatu dan hal itu tetap terjadi, maka apapun yang menyebabkan hal itu terjadi mempunyai otoritas dan kuasa yang lebih besar dari Allah sendiri. Jika ada bagian dari ciptaan berada di luar kedaulatan Allah, maka Allah itu tidak berdaulat. Jika Allah tidak berdaulat, maka Allah itu bukanlah Allah. … Tanpa kedaulatan Allah tidak bisa menjadi / adalah Allah. Jika kita menolak kedaulatan ilahi, maka kita harus mempercayai atheisme) – ‘Chosen By God’, hal 26-27.2)

Calvin / Reformed mengajarkan bahwa Allah menentukan dosa.

John Calvin: “… so that in a wonderful and ineffable manner nothing is done without God’s will, not even that which is against his will. For it would not be done if he did not permit it, yet he does not unwillingly permit it, but willingly; nor would he, being good, allow evil to be done, unless being also almighty he could make good even out of evil” (= … sehingga dalam cara yang indah dan tidak terkatakan tidak ada sesuatupun yang terjadi tanpa kehendak Allah, bahkan apa yang bertentangan dengan kehendakNya. Karena, itu tidak akan terjadi jika Ia tidak mengijinkannya, tetapi Ia tidak mengijinkannya dengan terpaksa, tetapi dengan sukarela; dan Ia, karena Ia adalah baik, tidak akan mengijinkan kejahatan terjadi, kecuali Ia, yang juga adalah mahakuasa, bisa membuat yang baik bahkan dari hal yang jahat) – ‘Institutes of the Christian Religion’, Book I, Chapter XVIII, no 3.

Catatan:

  • bagian ini dikutip oleh Calvin dari Agustinus.
  • dalam bagian yang saya garis-bawahi itu, kata ‘kehendak’ yang pertama menunjuk pada Rencana / penetapan Allah, sedangkan kata ‘kehendak’ yang kedua menunjuk pada perintah / larangan / hukum-hukum Allah (Firman Tuhan).

Yeh 5:8-10 – “(8) sebab itu beginilah firman Tuhan ALLAH: Lihat, Aku, ya Aku sendiri akan menjadi lawanmu dan Aku akan menjatuhkan hukuman kepadamu di hadapan bangsa-bangsa. (9) Oleh karena segala perbuatanmu yang keji akan Kuperbuat terhadapmu yang belum pernah Kuperbuat dan yang tidak pernah lagi akan Kuperbuat. (10) Sebab itu di tengah-tengahmu ayah-ayah akan memakan anak-anaknya dan anak-anak memakan ayahnya dan Aku akan menjatuhkan hukuman kepadamu, sedang semua yang masih tinggal lagi dari padamu akan Kuhamburkan ke semua penjuru angin”.

Calvin (tentang Yeh 5:9-10): “I know not why Jerome invented this difference, which is altogether futile. For he says, that when a thing is honourable and becoming it should be ascribed to God, but when the thing itself is base, God averts the infamy from himself. For when this wonder is treated of here, God does not say I will cause the people to eat their sons, but he says, fathers shall eat their sons, and sons their fathers. But there is nothing solid in this comment, because the cruelty which the Chaldeans exercised towards the Jews certainly was not either honourable or becoming, and yet God ascribes to himself whatever the Chaldeans did. Again, what was baser than the incest of Absalom, in debauching his father’s wives? and even that was not sufficient, but he wished the whole people, at the sound of a trumpet, to be witnesses of his crime; and yet what does God say? ‘I will do this before the sun,’ says he. (2Sam. 12:12, and 16:21,22.) We see, then, that this man was not familiar with the Scriptures, and yet that he offered his comments too hastily” [= Saya tidak tahu mengapa Jerome menemukan / menciptakan perbedaan ini, yang seluruhnya sia-sia. Karena ia mengatakan, bahwa pada waktu sesuatu itu terhormat dan selaras, itu harus dianggap berasal dari Allah, tetapi pada waktu sesuatu itu sendiri adalah jelek / hina, Allah memalingkan / menghindarkan keburukan itu dari diriNya sendiri. Karena pada waktu hal yang luar biasa ini dibahas di sini, Allah tidak mengatakan ‘Aku akan menyebabkan orang-orang memakan anak-anak mereka’, tetapi Ia mengatakan ‘Bapa-bapa akan memakan anak-anak mereka, dan anak-anak memakan bapa-bapa mereka’. Tetapi tidak ada yang kokoh dalam komentar ini, karena kekejaman yang dilakukan oleh orang-orang Kasdim terhadap orang-orang Yahudi pasti bukan merupakan sesuatu yang terhormat ataupun selaras, tetapi Allah menganggap apa yang dilakukan orang-orang Kasdim itu berasal dari diriNya sendiri. Juga, apa yang lebih buruk / hina dari incest yang dilakukan oleh Absalom, dalam merusakkan istri-istri ayahnya? dan bahkan hal itu belum cukup, tetapi ia ingin seluruh umat / bangsa, pada saat terompet dibunyikan, menjadi saksi-saksi dari kejahatannya, tetapi apa yang Allah katakan? ‘Aku akan melakukan ini di depan matahari / secara terang-terangan’, kataNya. (2Sam 12:12, dan 16:21,22). Jadi, kita melihat bahwa orang ini (Jerome) tidak akrab dengan Kitab Suci, tetapi ia memberikan komentarnya dengan terlalu tergesa-gesa] – hal 204.

Bdk. 2Sam 12:11-12 – “(11) Beginilah firman TUHAN: Bahwasanya malapetaka akan Kutimpakan ke atasmu yang datang dari kaum keluargamu sendiri. Aku akan mengambil isteri-isterimu di depan matamu dan memberikannya kepada orang lain; orang itu akan tidur dengan isteri-isterimu di siang hari. (12) Sebab engkau telah melakukannya secara tersembunyi, tetapi Aku akan melakukan hal itu di depan seluruh Israel secara terang-terangan.’”.

Bdk. 2Sam 16:21-22 – “(21) Lalu jawab Ahitofel kepada Absalom: ‘Hampirilah gundik-gundik ayahmu yang ditinggalkannya untuk menunggui istana. Apabila seluruh Israel mendengar, bahwa engkau telah membuat dirimu dibenci oleh ayahmu, maka segala orang yang menyertai engkau, akan dikuatkan hatinya.’ (22) Maka dibentangkanlah kemah bagi Absalom di atas sotoh, lalu Absalom menghampiri gundik-gundik ayahnya di depan mata seluruh Israel”.

Yes 10:5-6 – “(5) Celakalah Asyur, yang menjadi cambuk murkaKu dan yang menjadi tongkat amarahKu! (6) Aku akan menyuruhnya terhadap bangsa yang murtad, dan Aku akan memerintahkannya melawan umat sasaran murkaKu, untuk melakukan perampasan dan penjarahan, dan untuk menginjak-injak mereka seperti lumpur di jalan”.

Calvin (tentang Yes 10:6): “‘I will command him to take the spoil and to take the prey.’ He says that he has given a loose rein to the fierceness of enemies, that they may indulge without control in every kind of violence and injustice. Now, this must not be understood as if the Assyrians had a command from God by which they could excuse themselves. There are two ways in which God commands; by his secret decree, of which men are not conscious; and by his law, in which he demands from us voluntary obedience. … It is of importance, I say, to make a judicious distinction between these two ways of commanding” (= ‘Aku akan memerintahkan dia untuk merampas dan memangsa’. Ia berkata bahwa Ia telah melonggarkan kekang pada kebuasan dari musuh-musuh, supaya mereka bisa memuaskan nafsu tanpa kontrol dalam setiap jenis kekerasan dan ketidak-adilan. Nah, ini tidak boleh dimengerti seakan-akan orang-orang Asyur mendapat perintah dari Allah dengan mana mereka bisa memberikan alasan yang memaafkan diri mereka sendiri. Ada dua cara dalam mana Allah memerintah; oleh ketetapan rahasiaNya, tentang mana manusia tidak menyadarinya; dan oleh hukumNya, dalam mana Ia menuntut dari kita ketaatan sukarela) – hal 341.

Louis Berkhof: “There are other things, however, which God included in His decree and thereby rendered certain, but which He did not decide to effectuate Himself, as the sinful acts of His rational creatures” (= Tetapi ada hal-hal lain, yang Allah masukkan dalam ketetapanNya dan dengan demikian dibuat jadi pasti, tetapi yang Ia putuskan bahwa bukan Ia sendiri yang melaksanakannya, seperti tindakan-tindakan berdosa dari makhluk-makhluk rasionilNya) – ‘Systematic Theology’, hal 103.

Charles Hodge: “The crucifixion of Christ was beyond doubt foreordained of God. It was, however, the greatest crime ever committed. It is therefore beyond all doubt the doctrine of the Bible that sin is foreordained” (= Penyaliban Kristus tidak diragukan lagi ditentukan lebih dulu oleh Allah. Tetapi itu adalah tindakan kriminal terbesar yang pernah dilakukan. Karena itu tidak perlu diragukan lagi bahwa dosa ditentukan lebih dulu merupakan doktrin / ajaran dari Alkitab) – ‘Systematic Theology’, vol I, hal 544.

William G. T. Shedd: “Whatever undecreed must be by hap-hazard and accident. If sin does not occur by the Divine purpose and permission, it occurs by chance. And if sin occurs by chance, the deity, as in the ancient pagan theologies, is limited and hampered by it. He is not ‘God over all’. Dualism is introduced into the theory of the universe. Evil is an independent and uncontrollable principle. God governs only in part. Sin with all its effects is beyond his sway. This dualism God condemns as error, in his words to Cyrus by Isaiah, ‘I make peace and create evil’; and in the words of Proverbs 16:4, ‘The Lord hath made all things for himself; yea, even the wicked for the day of evil’” (= Apapun yang tidak ditetapkan pasti ada karena kebetulan. Jika dosa tidak terjadi karena rencana dan ijin ilahi, maka itu terjadi karena kebetulan. Dan jika dosa terjadi karena kebetulan, keilahian, seperti dalam teologi kafir kuno, dibatasi dan dirintangi olehnya. Ia bukanlah ‘Allah atas segala sesuatu’. Dualisme dimasukkan ke dalam teori alam semesta. Kejahatan merupakan suatu elemen hakiki yang tak tergantung dan tak terkontrol. Allah memerintah hanya sebagian. Dosa dengan semua akibatnya ada di luar kekuasaanNya. Dualisme seperti ini dikecam Allah sebagai salah, dalam kata-kata Yesaya kepada Koresy, ‘Aku membuat damai dan menciptakan malapetaka / kejahatan’; dan dalam kata-kata dari Amsal 16:4, ‘Tuhan telah membuat segala sesuatu untuk diriNya sendiri; ya, bahkan orang jahat untuk hari malapetaka’) – ‘Calvinism: Pure & Mixed’, hal 36.

Catatan: kata-kata Yesaya kepada Koresy itu diambil dari Yes 45:7 versi KJV. Demikian juga Amsal 16:4 diambil dan diterjemahkan dari KJV.

William G. T. Shedd: “Nothing comes to pass contrary to his decree. Nothing happens by chance. Even moral evil, which he abhors and forbids, occurs by ‘the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God’” (= Tidak ada yang terjadi bertentangan dengan ketetapanNya. Tidak ada yang terjadi karena kebetulan. Bahkan kejahatan moral, yang Ia benci dan larang, terjadi oleh ‘rencana yang ditentukan dan pengetahuan lebih dulu dari Allah’) – ‘Calvinism: Pure & Mixed’, hal 37.

B. B. Warfield: “neither is God’s relation to the sinful acts of His creatures ever represented as purely passive … it remains true that even the evil acts of the creature are so far carried back to God that they too are affirmed to be included in His all-embracing decree, and to be brought about, bounded and utilized in His providential government” [= hubungan Allah dengan tindakan-tindakan berdosa dari makhluk-makhlukNya tidak pernah digambarkan sebagai pasif secara murni … adalah benar bahwa bahkan tindakan-tindakan jahat dari makhluk ciptaan dibawa kembali kepada Allah sedemikian rupa sehingga mereka juga disahkan untuk termasuk dalam ketetapanNya yang mencakup segala sesuatu, dan ditimbulkan / diadakan, dibatasi dan digunakan dalam pemerintahan providensiaNya] – ‘Biblical and Theological Studies’, hal 284.

Loraine Boettner: “His choice of the plan, or His making certain that the creation should be on this order, we call His foreordination or His predestina­tion. Even the sinful acts of men are included in this plan. They are foreseen, permitted, and have their exact place. They are controlled and overruled for the divine glory” (= Pemilihan rencanaNya, atau penetapanNya supaya penciptaan terjadi sesuai urut-urutan ini, kami sebut penentuan lebih dulu atau predestinasi dari Allah. Bahkan tindakan-tindakan berdosa dari manusia tercakup dalam rencana ini. Mereka itu dilihat lebih dulu, diijinkan, dan mempunyai tempat mereka yang persis / tepat. Mereka dikontrol dan dikuasai untuk kemuliaan ilahi) – ‘The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination’, hal 24.

Loraine Boettner: “The crucifixion, which is beyond doubt the most sinful event in history of the world, is even declared to have been fore-ordained” (= Penyaliban, yang tidak diragukan lagi merupakan peristiwa yang paling berdosa dalam sejarah dunia, bahkan dinyatakan telah ditentukan lebih dulu) – ‘Studies in Theology’, hal 174.

Loraine Boettner lalu mengutip ayat-ayat ini:

·         Kis 4:27-28 – “(27) Sebab sesungguhnya telah berkumpul di dalam kota ini Herodes dan Pontius Pilatus beserta bangsa-bangsa dan suku-suku bangsa Israel melawan Yesus, HambaMu yang kudus, yang Engkau urapi, (28) untuk melaksanakan segala sesuatu yang telah Engkau tentukan dari semula oleh kuasa dan kehendakMu”.

·         Kis 2:23 – “Dia yang diserahkan Allah menurut maksud dan rencanaNya, telah kamu salibkan dan kamu bunuh oleh tangan bangsa-bangsa durhaka”.

·         Kis 3:18 – “Tetapi dengan jalan demikian Allah telah menggenapi apa yang telah difirmankanNya dahulu dengan perantaraan nabi-nabiNya, yaitu bahwa Mesias yang diutusNya harus menderita”.

·         Kis 13:27-29 – “(27) Sebab penduduk Yerusalem dan pemimpin-pemimpinnya tidak mengakui Yesus. Dengan menjatuhkan hukuman mati atas Dia, mereka menggenapi perkataan nabi-nabi yang dibacakan setiap hari Sabat. (28) Dan meskipun mereka tidak menemukan sesuatu yang dapat menjadi alasan untuk hukuman mati itu, namun mereka telah meminta kepada Pilatus supaya Ia dibunuh. (29) Dan setelah mereka menggenapi segala sesuatu yang ada tertulis tentang Dia, mereka menurunkan Dia dari kayu salib, lalu membaringkanNya di dalam kubur”.

Herman Bavinck: “All events are included in that counsel, even the sinful deeds of man” (= Semua kejadian / peristiwa termasuk / tercakup dalam rencana itu, bahkan juga tindakan-tindakan berdosa dari manusia) – ‘The Doctrine of God’, hal 342.

John Murray: “The fall was foreordained by God and its certainty was therefore guaranteed. … The first sin, like all other sins, was committed within the realm of God’s all-sustaining, directing and governing power. Outside the sphere of his foreordination and providence the fall could not have occurred. The arch-crime of history – the crucifixion of our Lord – was perpetrated in accordance with the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God (Acts 2:23). So, too, was the fall” [= Kejatuhan (Adam) ditentukan lebih dulu oleh Allah dan karena itu kepastiannya dijamin. … Dosa pertama, seperti semua dosa yang lain, dilakukan dalam batas-batas kuasa Allah yang menopang segala sesuatu, mengarahkan dan memerintah. Di luar ruang lingkup penentuan lebih dulu dan providensiaNya kejatuhan itu tidak akan bisa terjadi. Kejahatan terbesar dalam sejarah – penyaliban Tuhan kita – dilakukan sesuai dengan rencana yang sudah ditentukan dan pengetahuan lebih dulu dari Allah (Kis 2:23). Demikian juga dengan kejatuhan (Adam) ke dalam dosa] – ‘Collected Writings of John Murray’, vol II, hal 72-73.

Edwin H. Palmer: “It is even Biblical to say that God has foreordained sin. If sin was outside the plan of God, then not a single important affair of life would be ruled by God. For what action of man is perfectly good? All of history would then be outside of God’s foreordination: the fall of Adam, the crucifixion of Christ, the conquest of the Roman Empire, the battle of Hastings, the Reformation, the French Revolution, Waterloo, the American Revolution, the Civil War, two World Wars, presidential assassinations, racial violence, and the rise and fall of nations” (= Bahkan adalah sesuatu yang Alkitabiah untuk mengatakan bahwa Allah telah menentukan dosa lebih dulu. Jika dosa ada di luar rencana Allah, maka tidak ada satupun peristiwa kehidupan yang penting yang diperintah / dikuasai / diatur oleh Allah. Karena tindakan apa dari manusia yang baik secara sempurna? Seluruh sejarah juga akan ada di luar penentuan lebih dulu dari Allah: kejatuhan Adam, penyaliban Kristus, penaklukan kekaisaran Romawi, pertempuran Hastings, Reformasi, Revolusi Perancis, Waterloo, Revolusi Amerika, Perang saudara Amerika, kedua perang dunia, pembunuhan presiden, kejahatan / kekejaman rasial, dan bangkitnya dan jatuhnya bangsa-bangsa) – ‘The Five Points of Calvinism’, hal 82.

Edwin H. Palmer: “If sin were outside of God’s decree, then very little would be included in this decree. All the great empires would have been outside of God’s eternal, determinative decrees, for they were built on greed, hate, and selfishness, not for the glory of the Triune God. Certainly the following rulers, who influenced world history and countless numbers of lives, did not carry out the expansion of their empires for the glory of God: Pharaoh, Nebuchadnezzar, Cyrus, Alexander the Great, Ghenghis Khan, Caesar, Nero, Charles V, Henry VIII, Napoleon, Bismarck, Hitler, Stalin, Hirohito. If sin were beyond the foreordination of God, then not only were these vast empires and their events outside God’s plan, but also all the little daily events of every non Christians are outside of God’s power. For whatever is not done to the glory of the Christian God and out of faith in Jesus Christ is sin. … The acts of the Christian are not perfect – even after he is born again and Christ is living in him. Sin still clings to him; he is not perfect until he is in heaven. For example, he does not love God with all of his heart, mind, and soul, nor does he truly love his neighbor as himself. Even his most admirable deeds are colored by sin. … if sin is outside the decree of God, then the vast percentage of human actions – both the trivial and the significant – are removed from God’s plan. God’s power is reduced to the forces of nature, such as spinning of the galaxies and the laws of gravity and entropy. Most of history is outside His control” [= Seandainya dosa ada di luar ketetapan Allah, maka sangat sedikit yang termasuk dalam ketetapan ini. Semua kekaisaran yang besar akan ada di luar ketetapan Allah yang kekal dan bersifat menentukan, karena mereka dibangun pada keserakahan, kebencian, dan keegoisan, bukan untuk kemuliaan Allah Tritunggal. Pasti pemerintah-pemerintah di bawah ini, yang mempengaruhi sejarah dunia dan tak terhitung banyaknya jiwa, tidak melakukan perluasan kekaisaran mereka untuk kemuliaan Allah: Firaun, Nebukadnezar, Koresy, Alexander yang Agung, Jengggis Khan, (Yulius) Caesar, Nero, Charles V, Henry VIII, Napoleon, Bismarck, Hitler, Stalin, Hirohito. Seandainya dosa ada di luar penentuan lebih dulu dari Allah, maka bukan saja kekaisaran-kekaisaran yang luas ini dan semua peristiwa yang berhubungan dengan mereka ada di luar rencana Allah, tetapi juga semua peristiwa sehari-hari yang remeh dari setiap orang non Kristen ada di luar kuasa Allah. Karena apapun yang tidak dilakukan bagi kemuliaan Allah orang Kristen dan di luar iman dalam Yesus Kristus adalah dosa. … Tindakan-tindakan dari orang Kristenpun tidak sempurna – bahkan setelah ia dilahirkan kembali dan Kristus hidup dalam dia. Dosa tetap melekat padanya; ia tidak sempurna sampai ia ada di surga. Misalnya, ia tidak mengasihi Allah dengan segenap hati, pikiran, dan jiwanya, juga ia tidak sungguh-sungguh mengasihi sesamanya seperti dirinya sendiri. Bahkan tindakan-tindakannya yang paling mengagumkan / terpuji diwarnai oleh dosa. … jika dosa ada di luar ketetapan Allah, maka sebagian besar dari tindakan-tindakan manusia – baik yang remeh maupun yang penting – dikeluarkan dari rencana Allah. Kuasa Allah direndahkan sampai pada kekuatan-kekuatan alam, seperti menggerakkan galaxy dan hukum-hukum gravitasi dan entropi. Bagian terbesar dari sejarah ada di luar kontrolNya] – ‘The Five Points of Calvinism’, hal 97,98.

Dalam pelaksanaan dari penetapan dosa itu, Calvin / Reformed percaya bahwa Allah menggunakan second causes (= penyebab-penyebab kedua), antara lain setan.

Contoh komentar Calvin:

a)   Tentang Firaun yang dikeraskan hatinya oleh Allah, Calvin berkata: “Did he harden it by not softening it? This is indeed true, but he did something more. He turned Pharaoh over to Satan to be confirmed in the obstinacy of his breast” (= Apakah Ia mengeraskannya dengan tidak melunakkannya? Ini memang benar, tetapi Ia melakukan sesuatu yang lebih dari itu. Ia menyerahkan Firaun kepada Setan untuk diteguhkan dalam kekerasan hatinya) – ‘Institutes of the Christian Religion’, Book II, Chapter IV, No 4.

b)   Kej 50:20 – “Memang kamu telah mereka-rekakan yang jahat terhadap aku, tetapi Allah telah mereka-rekakannya untuk kebaikan, dengan maksud melakukan seperti yang terjadi sekarang ini, yakni memelihara hidup suatu bangsa yang besar”.

Calvin (tentang Kej 50:20): “This truly must be generally agreed, that nothing is done without his will; because he both governs the counsels of men, and sways their wills and turns their efforts at his pleasure, and regulates all events: but if men undertake anything right and just, he so actuates and moves them inwardly by his Spirit, that whatever is good in them, may justly be said to be received from him: but if Satan and ungodly men rage, he acts by their hands in such an inexpressible manner, that the wickedness of the deed belong to them, and the blame of it is imputed to them. For they are not induced to sin, as the faithful are to act aright, by the impulse of the Spirit, but they are the authors of their own evil, and follow Satan as their leader” (= Ini harus disetujui secara umum, bahwa tidak ada apapun dilakukan tanpa kehendakNya; karena Ia memerintah rencana manusia, dan mengubah kehendak mereka dan membelokkan usaha mereka sesuai dengan kesenanganNya, dan mengatur semua peristiwa / kejadian: tetapi jika manusia melakukan apapun yang baik dan benar, Ia menjalankan dan menggerakkan mereka dari dalam oleh RohNya, sehingga apapun yang baik dalam mereka, bisa dengan benar dikatakan diterima dari Dia: tetapi jika Setan dan orang-orang jahat marah, Ia bertindak oleh tangan mereka dalam suatu cara yang tak terkatakan, sehingga kejahatan dari tindakan itu hanya menjadi milik mereka, dan kesalahan dari tindakan itu diperhitungkan kepada mereka. Karena mereka tidak dibujuk kepada dosa, seperti orang yang setia pada waktu melakukan hal yang benar, oleh dorongan Roh, tetapi mereka adalah pencipta dari kejahatan mereka sendiri, dan mengikuti Setan sebagai pemimpin mereka) – hal 488.

Jadi, ada perbedaan cara Allah bekerja dalam pelaksanaan penetapan sesuatu yang baik (aktif) dengan pelaksanaan penetapan sesuatu yang bersifat dosa (pasif, menggunakan second causes / penyebab-penyebab kedua). Allah bukan pencipta dosa, dan dosa tetap menjadi tanggung jawab pelakunya.

Louis Berkhof: “In the case of some things God decided, not merely that they would come to pass, but that He himself would bring them to pass, either immediately, as in the work of creation, or through the mediation of secondary causes, which are continually energized by His power. He himself assumes the responsibility for their coming to pass. There are other things, however, which God included in His decree and thereby rendered certain, but which He did not decide to effectuate Himself, as the sinful acts of His rational creatures” (= Dalam kasus dari sebagian hal, Allah memutuskan, bukan hanya bahwa mereka akan terjadi, tetapi bahwa Ia sendiri akan menyebabkan mereka terjadi, baik secara langsung, seperti dalam pekerjaan penciptaan, atau melalui perantaraan dari ‘penyebab kedua’, yang secara terus menerus diberi kekuatan / diaktifkan oleh kuasaNya. Ia sendiri bertanggung jawab untuk bisa terjadinya hal-hal itu. Tetapi ada hal-hal lain, yang Allah masukkan dalam ketetapanNya dan dengan demikian dibuat jadi pasti, tetapi yang Ia putuskan bahwa bukan Ia sendiri yang melaksanakannya, seperti tindakan-tindakan berdosa dari makhluk-makhluk rasionilNya) – ‘Systematic Theology’, hal 103.3)

Calvin / Reformed menentang ajaran yang mengatakan bahwa Allah semata-mata mengijinkan dosa, tetapi tidak menentukannya.Memang baik Calvin maupun para tokoh Reformed sering menggunakan istilah ‘Allah mengijinkan dosa’, tetapi mereka tidak pernah memaksudkan bahwa istilah itu berarti bahwa Allah hanya sekedar mengijinkan, tidak menentukan maupun mengatur terjadinya dosa tersebut, tetapi hanya menjadi penonton pada waktu dosa tersebut terjadi.

1Raja 22:19-23 – “(19) Kata Mikha: ‘Sebab itu dengarkanlah firman TUHAN. Aku telah melihat TUHAN sedang duduk di atas takhtaNya dan segenap tentara sorga berdiri di dekatNya, di sebelah kananNya dan di sebelah kiriNya. (20) Dan TUHAN berfirman: Siapakah yang akan membujuk Ahab untuk maju berperang, supaya ia tewas di Ramot-Gilead? Maka yang seorang berkata begini, yang lain berkata begitu. (21) Kemudian tampillah suatu roh, lalu berdiri di hadapan TUHAN. Ia berkata: Aku ini akan membujuknya. TUHAN bertanya kepadanya: Dengan apa? (22) Jawabnya: Aku akan keluar dan menjadi roh dusta dalam mulut semua nabinya. Ia berfirman: Biarlah engkau membujuknya, dan engkau akan berhasil pula. Keluarlah dan perbuatlah demikian! (23) Karena itu, sesungguhnya TUHAN telah menaruh roh dusta ke dalam mulut semua nabimu ini, sebab TUHAN telah menetapkan untuk menimpakan malapetaka kepadamu.’”.

John Calvin: “God wills that the false king Ahab be deceived; the devil offers his services to this end; he is sent, with a definite command, to be a lying spirit in the mouth of all the prophets (1Kings 22:20,22). If the blinding and insanity of Ahab be God’s judgment, the figment of bare permission vanishes: because it would be ridiculous for the Judge only to permit what he wills to be done, and not also to decree it and to command its execution by his ministers” [= Allah menghendaki bahwa raja Ahab yang tidak benar ditipu; setan menawarkan pelayanannya untuk tujuan ini; ia dikirim, dengan perintah yang pasti, untuk menjadi roh dusta dalam mulut semua nabi (1Raja 22:20,22). Jika pembutaan dan kegilaan Ahab adalah penghakiman Allah, isapan jempol tentang ‘sekedar ijin’ hilang: karena adalah menggelikan bagi sang Hakim untuk hanya mengijinkan apa yang Ia kehendaki untuk dilakukan, dan tidak juga menetapkannya dan memerintahkan pelaksanaannya oleh pelayan-pelayanNya] – ‘Institutes of the Christian Religion’, Book I, Chapter XVIII, no 1.

John Calvin: “Those who are moderately versed in the Scriptures see that for the sake of brevity I have put forward only a few of many testimonies. Yet from these it is more than evident that they babble and talk absurdly who, in place of God’s providence, substitute bare permission – as if God sat in a watchtower awaiting chance events, and his judgments thus depended upon human will” (= Mereka yang betul-betul mengetahui Kitab Suci melihat bahwa untuk singkatnya saya hanya memberikan sedikit dari banyak kesaksian. Tetapi dari kesaksian-kesaksian ini adalah lebih dari jelas bahwa mereka mengoceh dan berbicara secara menggelikan yang, menggantikan providensia Allah dengan ‘sekedar ijin’ – seakan-akan Allah duduk di menara pengawal menunggu kejadian-kejadian yang terjadi secara kebetulan, dan dengan demikian penghakimanNya tergantung pada kehendak manusia) – ‘Institutes of the Christian Religion’, Book I, Chapter XVIII, no 1.

Kej 45:8 – “Jadi bukanlah kamu yang menyuruh aku ke sini, tetapi Allah; Dialah yang telah menempatkan aku sebagai bapa bagi Firaun dan tuan atas seluruh istananya dan sebagai kuasa atas seluruh tanah Mesir”.
Calvin (tentang Kej 45:8): “Good men, who fear to expose the justice of God to the calumnies of the impious, resort to this distinction, that God wills some things, but permits others to be done. As if, truly, any degree of liberty of action, were he to cease from governing, would be left to men. If he had only permitted Joseph to be carried into Egypt, he had not ordained him to be the minister of deliverance to his father Jacob and his sons; which he is now expressly declared to have done. Away, then, with that vain figment, that, by the permission of God only, and not by his counsel or will, those evils are committed which he afterwards turns to a good account” (= Orang-orang saleh, yang takut membuka keadilan Allah terhadap fitnahan dari orang-orang jahat, memutuskan untuk mengadakan pembedaan ini, yaitu bahwa Allah menghendaki beberapa hal, tetapi mengijinkan hal-hal yang lain untuk dilakukan. Seakan-akan Ia berhenti dari tindakan memerintah, dan memberikan kebebasan bertindak tertentu kepada manusia. Jika Ia hanya mengijinkan Yusuf untuk dibawa ke Mesir, Ia tidak menetapkannya untuk menjadi pembebas bagi ayahnya Yakub dan anak-anaknya; yang dinyatakan secara jelas telah dilakukanNya. Maka singkirkanlah isapan jempol yang sia-sia yang mengatakan bahwa hanya karena ijin Allah, dan bukan karena rencana atau kehendakNya, hal-hal yang jahat itu dilakukan, yang setelah itu Ia balikkan menjadi sesuatu yang baik) – hal 378.

Kel 4:21 – “Firman TUHAN kepada Musa: ‘Pada waktu engkau hendak kembali ini ke Mesir, ingatlah, supaya segala mujizat yang telah Kuserahkan ke dalam tanganmu, kauperbuat di depan Firaun. Tetapi Aku akan mengeraskan hatinya, sehingga ia tidak membiarkan bangsa itu pergi”.

Calvin (tentang Kel 4:21): “He declares that the king of Egypt would not be thus obstinate contrary to His will; … but rather that He would harden his heart … Since the expression seems harsh to delicate ears, many soften it away by turning the act into mere permission; as is there were no difference between doing and permitting to be done; or as if God would commend his passivity, and not rather his power. As to myself, I am certainly not ashamed of speaking as the Holy Spirit speaks, nor do I hesitate to believe what so often occurs in Scripture, that God gives the wicked over to a reprobate minds and hardens their hearts. … But those who substitute his permission in the place of his act, not only deprive him of his authority as a judge, but in their repining, subject him to a weighty reproach, since they grant him no more of justice than their senses can understand” (= Ia menyatakan bahwa raja Mesir menjadi tegar tengkuk seperti itu bukan bertentangan dengan kehendakNya; … Karena ungkapan itu kelihatannya keras bagi telinga-telinga yang lembut, banyak orang yang melunakkan ungkapan itu dengan mengubah ‘tindakan itu’ menjadi sekedar / semata-mata ‘suatu ijin’; seakan-akan tidak ada perbedaan antara ‘melakukan’ dan ‘mengijinkan terjadi’; atau seakan-akan Allah menghargai kepasifannya, dan bukannya kuasaNya. Untuk saya sendiri, saya jelas tidak malu untuk berbicara sebagaimana Roh Kudus berbicara, juga saya tidak ragu-ragu untuk mempercayai apa yang begitu sering muncul dalam Kitab Suci, bahwa Allah menyerahkan orang jahat pada pikiran yang jahat dan mengeraskan hati mereka. … Tetapi mereka yang menggantikan ijinNya di tempat dari tindakanNya, bukan hanya mencabut / menghilangkan otoritasNya sebagai Hakim, tetapi dalam ketidak-puasan mereka, menjadikan Dia sasaran celaan yang berat, karena mereka memberiNya keadilan tidak lebih dari yang bisa dimengerti oleh pikiran mereka) – hal 101.

Louis Berkhof: “It is customary to speak of the decree of God respecting moral evil as permissive. … It should be carefully noted, however, that this permissive decree does not imply a passive permission of something which is not under the control of the divine will. It is a decree which renders the future sinful acts absolutely certain, but in which God determines (a)not to hinder the sinful self-determination of the finite will; and (b)to regulate and control the result of this sinful self-determination” [= Merupakan kebiasaan untuk berbicara tentang ketetapan Allah berkenaan dengan kejahatan moral sebagai bersifat mengijinkan. … Tetapi harus diperhatikan baik-baik bahwa ketetapan yang bersifat mengijinkan tidak berarti suatu ijin pasif dari sesuatu yang tidak ada di bawah kontrol dari kehendak ilahi. Itu merupakan suatu ketetapan yang membuat tindakan berdosa yang akan datang itu pasti secara mutlak, tetapi dalam mana Allah menentukan (a) tidak menghalangi keputusan yang berdosa yang dilakukan sendiri oleh kehendak terbatas / kehendak manusia; dan (b) mengatur dan mengontrol akibat / hasil dari keputusan berdosa ini] – ‘Systematic Theology’, hal 105.

R. L. Dabney: “By calling it permissive, we do not mean that their futurition is not certain to God; or that He has not made it certain; we mean that they are such acts as He efficiently brings about by simply leaving the spontaneity of other free agents, as upheld by His providence, to work of itself, under incitements, occasions, bounds and limitations, which His wisdom and power throw around. To this class may be attributed all the acts of rational free agents, except such are evoked by God’s own grace, and especially, all their sinful acts” (= Dengan menyebutnya ‘mengijinkan’, kita tidak memaksudkan bahwa terjadinya hal-hal itu tidak pasti bagi Allah; atau bahwa Ia belum membuatnya pasti; kita memaksudkan bahwa mereka merupakan tindakan-tindakan yang Ia adakan / timbulkan secara efisien dengan hanya membiarkan spontanitas dari agen-agen bebas lainnya, seperti disokong oleh providensiaNya, bekerja dari dirinya sendiri, di bawah dorongan, kesempatan, ikatan dan pembatasan, yang disebarkan oleh hikmat dan kuasaNya. Yang termasuk dalam golongan ini adalah semua tindakan dari agen bebas berakal, kecuali tindakan yang ditimbulkan oleh kasih karunia Allah sendiri, dan khususnya semua tindakan berdosa mereka) – ‘Lectures in Systematic Theology’, hal 214.

Charles Hodge: “Whatever occurs, He for wise reasons permits to occur. He can prevent whatever He sees fit to prevent. If, therefore, sin occurs, it was God’s design that it should occur. If misery follows in the train of sin, such was God’s purpose” (= Apapun yang terjadi, Ia mengijinkan hal itu terjadi karena alasan yang bijaksana. Ia bisa mencegah apapun yang Ia anggap layak untuk dicegah. Karena itu, jika dosa terjadi, adalah rencana Allah bahwa itu terjadi. Jika kesengsaraan menyusul dalam rentetan dosa, maka demikianlah rencana Allah) – ‘Systematic Theology’, vol II, hal 332.

William G. T. Shedd: “When God executes his decree that Saul of Tarsus shall be ‘a vessel of mercy’, he works efficiently within him by his Holy Spirit ‘to will and to do’. When God executes his decree that Judas Iscariot shall be ‘a vessel of wrath fitted for destruction’, he does not work efficiently within him ‘to will and to do’, but permissively in the way of allowing him to have his own wicked will. He decides not to restrain him or to regenerate him, but to leave him to his own obstinate and rebellious inclination and purpose; and accordingly ‘the Son of man goeth, as it was determined, but woe unto that man by whom he is betrayed’ (Luke 22:22; Acts 2:23). The two Divine methods in the two cases are plainly different, but the perdition of Judas was as much foreordained and free from chance, as the conversion of Saul” [= Pada waktu Allah melaksanakan ketetapanNya bahwa Saulus dari Tarsus akan menjadi ‘bejana / benda belas kasihan’, Ia bekerja secara efisien di dalamnya dengan Roh KudusNya ‘untuk mau / menghendaki dan untuk melakukan’. Pada waktu Allah melaksanakan ketetapanNya bahwa Yudas Iskariot akan menjadi ‘bejana kemurkaan yang cocok untuk kehancuran / benda kemurkaan yang telah dipersiapkan untuk kebinasaan’, Ia tidak bekerja secara efisien dalam dirinya ‘untuk mau / menghendaki dan untuk melakukan’, tetapi dengan cara mengijinkan dia mempunyai kehendak jahatnya sendiri. Ia memutuskan untuk tidak mengekang dia atau melahirbarukan dia, tetapi membiarkan dia pada kecondongan dan rencananya sendiri yang keras kepala dan bersifat memberontak; dan sesuai dengan itu dikatakan ‘Anak Manusia memang akan pergi seperti yang telah ditetapkan, akan tetapi, celakalah orang yang olehnya Ia diserahkan’ (Luk 22:22; Kis 2:23). Kedua metode ilahi dalam kedua kasus ini jelas berbeda, tetapi kebinasaan Yudas sudah ditentukan lebih dahulu dan bebas dari kebetulan, sama seperti pertobatan Saulus] – ‘Calvinism: Pure & Mixed’, hal 31.

R. C. Sproul: “That God in some sense foreordains whatever comes to pass is a necessary result of his sovereignty. … everything that happens must at least happen by his permission. If he permits something, then he must decide to allow it. If He decides to allow something, then is a sense he is foreordaining it. … To say that God foreordains all that comes to pass is simply to say that God is sovereign over his entire creation. If something could come to pass apart from his sovereign permission, then that which came to pass would frustrate his sovereignty. If God refused to permit something to happen and it happened anyway, then whatever caused it to happen would have more authority and power than God himself. If there is any part of creation outside of God’s sovereignty, then God is simply not sovereign. If God is not sovereign, then God is not God. … Without sovereignty God cannot be God. If we reject divine sovereignty then we must embrace atheism” (= Bahwa Allah dalam arti tertentu menentukan apapun yang akan terjadi merupakan akibat yang harus ada dari kedaulatanNya. … segala sesuatu yang terjadi setidaknya harus terjadi karena ijinNya. Jika Ia mengijinkan sesuatu, maka Ia pasti memutuskan untuk mengijinkannya. Jika Ia memutuskan untuk mengijinkan sesuatu, maka dalam arti tertentu Ia menentukannya. … Mengatakan bahwa Allah menentukan segala sesuatu yang akan terjadi adalah sama dengan mengatakan bahwa Allah itu berdaulat atas segala ciptaanNya. Jika ada sesuatu yang bisa terjadi di luar ijinNya yang berdaulat, maka apa yang terjadi itu menghalangi kedaulatanNya. Jika Allah menolak untuk mengijinkan sesuatu dan hal itu tetap terjadi, maka apapun yang menyebabkan hal itu terjadi mempunyai otoritas dan kuasa yang lebih besar dari Allah sendiri. Jika ada bagian dari ciptaan berada di luar kedaulatan Allah, maka Allah itu tidak berdaulat. Jika Allah tidak berdaulat, maka Allah itu bukanlah Allah. … Tanpa kedaulatan Allah tidak bisa menjadi / adalah Allah. Jika kita menolak kedaulatan ilahi, maka kita harus mempercayai atheisme) – ‘Chosen By God’, hal 26-27.

Banyak orang senang menggunakan istilah ‘Allah mengijinkan’ ini untuk melindungi kesucian Allah. Mereka berpikir bahwa kalau Allah menentukan dosa maka Allah sendiri berdosa / tidak suci. Tetapi kalau Allah hanya mengijinkan terjadinya dosa, maka Allah tidak bersalah dan tetap suci. Tetapi ini salah, karena kalau ‘penentuan Allah tentang terjadinya dosa’ dianggap sebagai dosa, maka ‘pemberian ijin dari Allah sehingga dosa terjadi’ juga harus dianggap sebagai dosa, yaitu dosa pasif. Sama halnya kalau saya membunuh orang, maka itu adalah dosa (dosa aktif). Tetapi kalau saya membiarkan / mengijinkan seseorang bunuh diri, padahal saya bisa mencegahnya, maka saya juga berdosa (dosa pasif) – bdk. Yak 4:17 – “Jadi jika seorang tahu bagaimana ia harus berbuat baik, tetapi ia tidak melakukannya, ia berdosa”.

Herman Hoeksema: “Nor must we, in regard to the sinful deeds of men and devils, speak only of God’s permission in distinction from His determination. Holy Scripture speaks a far more positive language. We realize, of course, that the motive for speaking God’s permission rather than of His predetermined will in regard to sin and the evil deeds of men is that God may never be presented as the author of sin. But this purpose is not reached by speaking of God’s permission or His permissive will: for if the Almighty permits what He could just as well have prevented, it is from an ethical viewpoint the same as if He had committed it Himself. But in this way we lose God and His sovereignty: for permis­sion presupposes the idea that there is a power without God that can produce and do something apart from Him, but which is simply permitted by God to act and operate. This is dualism, and it annihilates the complete and absolute sovereignty of God. And therefore we must main­tain that also sin and all the wicked deeds of men and angels have a place in the counsel of God, in the counsel of His will. Thus it is taught by the Word of God. For it is certainly according to the deter­minate counsel of God that Christ is nailed to the cross, and that Pilate and Herod, with the Gentiles and Israel, are gathered together against the holy child Jesus. It is therefore much better to say that the Lord also in His counsel hates sin and determined that that which He hates should come to pass in order to reveal His hatred and to serve the cause of God’s covenant” (= Juga kita tidak boleh, berkenaan dengan tindakan-tindakan berdosa dari manusia dan setan, berbicara hanya tentang ijin Allah dan membedakannya dengan penentuan / penetapanNya. Kitab Suci berbicara dengan suatu bahasa yang jauh lebih positif. Tentu saja kita menyadari bahwa motivasi untuk menggunakan istilah ‘ijin Allah’ dari pada ‘kehendakNya yang sudah ditetapkan lebih dulu’ berkenaan dengan dosa dan tindakan-tindakan jahat dari manusia adalah supaya Allah tidak pernah dinyatakan sebagai pencipta dosa. Tetapi tujuan ini tidak tercapai dengan menggunakan ‘ijin Allah’ atau ‘kehendak yang mengijinkan dari Allah’: karena jika Yang Maha Kuasa mengijinkan apa yang bisa Ia cegah, dari sudut pandang etika itu adalah sama seperti jika Ia melakukan hal itu sendiri. Tetapi dengan cara ini kita kehilangan Allah dan kedaulatanNya: karena ijin mensyaratkan suatu gagasan bahwa ada suatu kekuatan di luar Allah yang bisa menghasilkan dan melakukan sesuatu terpisah dari Dia, tetapi yang diijinkan oleh Allah untuk bertindak dan beroperasi. Ini merupakan dualisme, dan ini menghapuskan kedaulatan Allah yang lengkap dan mutlak. Dan karena itu kita harus mempertahankan bahwa juga dosa dan semua tindakan-tindakan jahat dari manusia dan malaikat mempunyai tempat dalam rencana Allah, dalam keputusan kehendakNya. Demikianlah diajarkan oleh Firman Allah. Karena adalah pasti bahwa sesuai dengan rencana yang sudah ditentukan dari Allah bahwa Kristus dipakukan di kayu salib, dan bahwa Pilatus dan Herodes, dengan orang-orang non Yahudi dan Israel, berkumpul bersama-sama menentang Yesus, Anak yang kudus. Karena itu lebih baik berkata bahwa Tuhan juga dalam rencanaNya membenci dosa dan menentukan hal itu supaya apa yang Ia benci itu terjadi sehingga Ia bisa menyatakan kebencianNya atas hal itu dan untuk melayani penyebab dari perjanjian Allah) – ‘Reformed Dogmatics’, hal 158.

4)  Calvin / Reformed mengajarkan bahwa:a)  Adanya penentuan Allah tidak menyebabkan manusia menjadi seperti robot (kehilangan kebebasan).

Calvin (tentang Yes 10:15): “If God controls the purposes of men, and turns their thoughts and exertions to whatever purpose he pleases, men do not therefore cease to form plans and to engage in this or the other undertaking. We must not suppose that there is a violent compulsion, as if God dragged them against their will; but in a wonderful and inconceivable manner he regulates all the movements of men, so that they still have the exercise of their will” (= Jika Allah mengontrol tujuan / rencana manusia, dan membelokkan pikiran dan tindakan mereka pada tujuan / rencana apapun yang berkenan padaNya, itu bukan alasan bagi manusia untuk berhenti membentuk rencana dan ikut serta dalam usaha ini atau yang lain. Kita tidak boleh menganggap bahwa disana ada suatu pemaksaan yang hebat, seakan-akan Allah menyeret mereka bertentangan dengan kehendak mereka; tetapi dengan suatu cara yang indah dan tak bisa dimengerti Ia mengatur semua gerakan manusia, sehingga mereka tetap menggunakan kehendak mereka) – hal 352.

Loraine Boettner: “But while the Bible repeatedly teaches that this providential control is universal, powerful, wise, and holy, it nowhere attempts to inform us how it is to be reconciled with man’s free agency. All that we need to know is that God does govern His creatures and that His control over them is such that no violence is done to their natures. Perhaps the relationship between divine sovereignty and human freedom can best be summed up in these words: God so presents the outside inducements that man acts in accordance with his own nature, yet does exactly what God has planned for him to do” (= Tetapi sementara Alkitab berulangkali mengajar bahwa penguasaan providensia ini bersifat universal, berkuasa, bijaksana, dan suci, Alkitab tidak pernah berusaha untuk memberi informasi kepada kita tentang bagaimana hal itu bisa diperdamaikan / diharmoniskan dengan kebebasan manusia. Semua yang perlu kita ketahui adalah bahwa Allah memang memerintah atas ciptaanNya dan bahwa penguasaan / kontrolNya atas mereka adalah sedemikian rupa sehingga tidak ada pemaksaan terhadap mereka. Mungkin hubungan antara kedaulatan ilahi dan kebebasan manusia bisa disimpulkan dengan cara terbaik dengan kata-kata ini: Allah memberikan dorongan / bujukan dari luar sedemikian rupa sehingga manusia bertindak sesuai dengan dirinya, tetapi melakukan secara tepat apa yang Allah telah rencanakan baginya untuk dilakukan) – ‘The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination’, hal 38.b) Adanya penentuan Allah tak menyebabkan manusia kehilangan tanggung jawab.Sekalipun Allah menentukan segala sesuatu, termasuk dosa, tetapi manusia tetap mempunyai tanggung jawab.

John Calvin: “… thieves and murderers and other evildoers are the instruments of divine providence, and the Lord himself uses these to carry out the judgments that he has determined with himself. Yet I deny that they can derive from this any excuse for their evil deeds” (= … pencuri dan perampok dan pembuat kejahatan yang lain adalah alat dari providensia ilahi, dan Tuhan sendiri menggunakan mereka untuk melaksanakan keputusan-keputusan yang telah Ia tentukan dengan diriNya sendiri. Tetapi saya menyangkal bahwa mereka bisa mendapatkan dari sini alasan untuk memaafkan tindakan-tindakan mereka yang jahat) – ‘Institutes of the Christian Religion’, Book I, Chapter XVII, no 5.

Luk 22:22 – “Sebab Anak Manusia memang akan pergi seperti yang telah ditetapkan, akan tetapi, celakalah orang yang olehnya Ia diserahkan”.Bdk. Mat 26:24 – “Anak Manusia memang akan pergi sesuai dengan yang ada tertulis tentang Dia, akan tetapi celakalah orang yang olehnya Anak Manusia itu diserahkan. Adalah lebih baik bagi orang itu sekiranya ia tidak dilahirkan.’”.

Calvin (tentang Mat 26:24): “… the providence of God, which Judas himself, and all wicked men – though it is contrary to their wish, and though they have another end in view – are compelled to obey. … And yet Christ does not affirm that Judas was freed from blame, on the ground that he did nothing but what God had appointed. For though God, by his righteous judgment, appointed for the price of our redemption the death of his Son, yet nevertheless, Judas, in betraying Christ, brought upon himself righteous condemnation, because he was full of treachery and avarice. In short, God’s determination that the world should be redeemed, does not at all interfere with Judas being a wicked traitor. Hence we perceive, that though men can do nothing but what God has appointed, still this does not free them from condemnation, when they are led by a wicked desire to sin. For though God directs them, by an unseen bridle, to an end which is unknown to them, nothing is farther from their intention than to obey his decrees. Those two principles, no doubt, appear to human reason to be inconsistent with each other, that God regulates the affairs of men by his Providence in such a manner, that nothing is done but by his will and command, and yet he damns the reprobate, by whom he has carried into execution what he intended. But we see how Christ, in this passage, reconciles both, by pronouncing a curse on Judas, though what he contrived against God had been appointed by God; not that Judas’s act of betraying ought strictly to be called the work of God, but because God turned the treachery of Judas so as to accomplish His own purpose.” [= … providensia Allah, yang terpaksa ditaati oleh Yudas sendiri dan semua orang-orang jahat, sekalipun itu bertentangan dengan keinginan mereka dan sekalipun mereka mempunyai tujuan yang lain. … Tetapi Kristus tidak menegaskan bahwa Yudas bebas dari kesalahan, karena ia hanya melakukan apa yang telah Allah tetapkan. Karena sekalipun Allah, oleh penghakimanNya yang benar, menetapkan sebagai harga penebusan kita kematian dari AnakNya, tetapi sekalipun demikian, Yudas, dalam mengkhianati Kristus, membawa kepada dirinya sendiri penghukuman yang benar, karena ia penuh dengan pengkhianatan dan ketamakan. Singkatnya, penentuan Allah bahwa dunia harus ditebus, sama sekali tidak mencampuri keberadaan Yudas sebagai seorang pengkhianat yang jahat. Karena itu kita memahami bahwa sekalipun manusia tidak bisa melakukan apapun kecuali apa yang telah Allah tetapkan, hal ini tetap tidak membebaskan manusia dari penghukuman, pada waktu mereka dibimbing pada dosa oleh suatu keinginan yang jahat. Karena sekalipun Allah mengarahkan mereka, oleh suatu kekang yang tak terlihat, pada suatu tujuan yang tidak mereka ketahui, mereka sama sekali tidak bermaksud untuk mentaati ketetapan-ketetapanNya. Tidak diragukan bahwa dua prinsip itu terlihat bagi akal manusia sebagai tidak konsisten satu dengan yang lain, bahwa Allah mengatur urusan-urusan / perkara-perkara manusia oleh ProvidensiaNya dengan cara sedemikian rupa, sehingga tidak ada yang terjadi kecuali oleh kehendak dan perintahNya, tetapi Ia menyalahkan / menghukum orang-orang jahat, oleh siapa Ia melaksanakan apa yang Ia maksudkan. Tetapi kita melihat bagaimana Kristus, dalam text ini, memperdamaikan keduanya, dengan mengumumkan suatu kutukan pada Yudas, sekalipun apa yang ia buat / rencanakan terhadap Allah telah ditetapkan oleh Allah; bukan bahwa tindakan pengkhianatan Yudas secara ketat harus disebut sebagai pekerjaan Allah, tetapi karena Allah membelokkan pengkhianatan Yudas supaya mencapai tujuan / rencanaNya sendiri] – hal 199-200.

J. I. Packer: “God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility are taught us side by side in the same Bible; sometimes, indeed, in the same text. … Man is a responsible moral agent, though he is also divinely controlled; man is divinely controlled, though he is also a responsible moral agent” (= Kedaulatan Allah dan tanggung jawab manusia diajarkan bersama-sama dalam Alkitab yang sama; kadang-kadang bahkan dalam text yang sama. … Manusia adalah agen moral yang bertanggung jawab, sekalipun ia juga dikontrol oleh Allah; manusia dikontrol oleh Allah, sekalipun ia juga adalah agen moral yang bertanggung jawab) – ‘Evangelism & The Sovereignty of God’, hal 22-23.

Charles Hodge: “God can control the free acts of rational creatures without destroying either their liberty or their responsibility” (= Allah bisa mengontrol tindakan-tindakan bebas dari makhluk-makhluk rasionil tanpa menghancurkan kebebasan ataupun tanggung jawab mereka) – ‘Systematic Theology’, vol II, hal 332.

Tetap adanya kebebasan dan tanggung jawab manusia ini, menyebabkan dalam theologia Calvin / Reformed manusia berbeda dengan robot / wayang. Ini juga menyebabkan Calvinisme / Reformed berbeda dengan Fatalisme maupun dengan Hyper-Calvinisme, yang karena percaya bahwa Allah telah menetapkan segala sesuatu, lalu hidup secara apatis / acuh tak acuh dan secara tak bertanggung jawab! Hendaknya ini diperhatikan oleh orang-orang yang menuduh / memfitnah ajaran tentang Providence of God / penentuan dosa dsb ini sebagai Hyper-Calvinisme! Untuk bisa mengerti apa Hyper-Calvinisme itu, di sini saya memberikan sebuah kutipan, yang menjelaskan Hyper-Calvinisme tersebut.

Edwin H. Palmer: “Hyper-Calvinism. Diametrically opposite to the Arminian is the hyper-Calvinist. He looks at both sets of facts – the sovereignty of God and the freedom of man – and, like the Arminian, says he cannot reconcile the two apparently contradictory forces. Like the Arminian, he solves the problem in a rationalistic way by denying one side of the problem. Whereas the Arminian denies the sovereignty of God, the hyper-Calvinist denies the responsibility of man. He sees the clear Biblical statements concerning God’s foreordination and holds firmly to that. But being logically unable to reconcile it with man’s responsibility, he denies the latter. Thus the Arminian and the hyper-Calvinist, although poles apart, are really very close together in their rationalism” (= Hyper-Calvinisme. Bertentangan frontal dengan orang Arminian adalah orang yang hyper-Calvinist. Ia melihat pada kedua fakta – kedaulatan Allah dan kebebasan manusia – dan, seperti orang Arminian, ia mengatakan bahwa ia tidak dapat mendamaikan kedua kekuatan yang tampaknya bertentangan itu. Seperti orang Arminian, ia memecahkan problem itu dengan cara yang logis dengan menyangkal satu sisi dari problem itu. Sementara orang Arminian menyangkal kedaulatan Allah, maka penganut Hyper-Calvinisme meninggalkan fakta tanggung jawab manusia. Ia melihat pernyataan yang jelas dari Alkitab mengenai penentuan lebih dulu dari Allah dan memegang hal itu dengan teguh. Tetapi karena tidak mampu mendamaikannya secara logis dengan tanggung jawab manusia, ia menyangkal tanggung jawab manusia itu. Jadi orang Arminian dan orang hyper-Calvinist, sekalipun merupakan kutub-kutub yang bertentangan, sebetulnya sangat dekat dalam cara berpikirnya) – ‘The Five Points of Calvinism’, hal 84.

Saya sendiri sekalipun menekankan penetapan Allah, tetapi saya juga sangat menekankan tanggung jawab manusia. Karena itu adalah omong kosong kalau ajaran saya adalah Hyper Calvinisme. Kalau saya adalah seorang Hyper Calvinist, maka pastilah Calvin sendiri juga adalah seorang Hyper Calvinist, dan demikian juga dengan para ahli theologia Reformed yang lain, karena ajaran ini saya dapatkan dari mereka.

Jadi, ajaran providence of God / penentuan dosa ini, merupakan ajaran Calvin / Reformed. Lalu bagaimana dengan orang-orang yang tidak mempercayainya?

Loraine Boettner: “The Pelagian denies that God has a plan; the Arminian says that God has a general plan but not a specific plan; but the Calvinist says that God has a specific plan which embraces all events in all ages” (= Penganut Pelagianisme menyangkal bahwa Allah mempunyai rencana; penganut Arminianisme berkata bahwa Allah mempunyai rencana yang umum tetapi bukan rencana yang specific; tetapi penganut Calvinisme mengatakan bahwa Allah mempunyai rencana yang specific yang mencakup semua peristiwa / kejadian dalam semua jaman) – ‘The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination’, hal 22-23.

Mereka disebut sebagai Arminianisme!
-AMIN-

(Pdt. Budi Asali, M. Div.)


Doktrin / Pandangan Ernst Troeltsch tentang Keunikan Calvinisme Pandangan Ernst Troeltsch tentang Keunikan Calvinisme

Penulis : Hendry Ongkowidjojo

Jika kita menoleh ke belakang, kita mungkin tidak lagi merasa terlalu heran dengan kondisi saat ini karena di sepanjang sejarahnya, Gereja memang tidak sering berhasil melakukan perannya di tengah-tengah dunia. Namun demikian, tidak selamanya hal ini benar. Masih ada masa- masa dimana Gereja berhasil menjalankan tugasnya, dimana dampaknya masih dapat dirasakan bahkan hingga saat ini. Salah satunya ialah di masa Reformasi.

Seperti yang Schaeffer katakan di dalam bukunya How Should We Then Live, masa Reformasi memang tidak dapat disebut sebagai masa keemasan. Ia berpendapat bahwa masa Reformasi “jauh dari sempurna, dan dalam beberapa hal tokoh-tokoh reformasi bertindak secara tidak konsisten dengan pengajaran Alkitab…

Akan tetapi, tetap tidak dapat dipungkiri bahwa keberlangsungan Kekristenan sangat bergantung kepada gerakan ini. Seperti yang juga diakui oleh Schaeffer bahwa “Meskipun memang terdapat beberapa kelemahan yang serius di dalamnya namun gerakan Reformasi telah kembali kepada instruksi-instruksi Kitab Suci dan kepada contoh dari Gereja mula-mula.”

Satu hal yang penting untuk dicatat adalah bahwa semua ini dicapai bukanlah di saat Gereja berada di jaman keemasan, namun justru di saat Gereja berada di titik terendah di sepanjang sejarah keberadaannya. Pada awal abad ke-16, Gereja sungguh berada di dalam kondisi yang parah dan sangat membutuhkan pembaharuan total. Salah satu contoh kecil dari kebobrokan itu dapat dilihat dari catatan sejarah tentang Uskup Agung Antoine du Prat yang muncul hanya sekali dalam upacara ibadah di katedralnya, yaitu di saat upacara penguburannya!

Dengan latar belakang yang serba tidak menguntungkan inilah, Gerakan Reformasi lahir dan berhasil tumbuh menjadi suatu kekuatan tandingan yang besar bagi Roma Katolik, sebuah kekuatan yang sanggup mengubah jalannya sejarah gereja dan sejarah dunia.

Reformasi dapat dikatakan dibentuk oleh dua aliran besar, yaitu aliran Calvinis dan Lutheran, yang disamping mempunyai kesamaan, juga mempunyai berbagai pengajaran yang berbeda. Namun demikian, teologia Calvin lah yang kemudian lebih terbukti memberikan pengaruh sosial kepada dunia ini. Oleh karena itu, di dalam tulisan ini kita akan mencoba untuk melihat apakah keunikan yang ada di dalam diri dan pengajaran John Calvin.

  • PENGARUH PRIBADI CALVIN
    Pertama-tama, keunggulan ini nampaknya dapat ditelusuri sumbernya dari dalam diri Calvin sendiri.
    William J. Bouwsma dalam ulasannya yang baik tentang Calvin dan ajarannya berkata bahwa seperti halnya para tokoh humanisme Renaissance pada waktu itu, Calvin pun percaya bahwa jamannya telah dicengkeram oleh krisis moral dan spiritual dimana pemecahannya menuntut ia untuk mengerahkan seluruh kekuatannya. Oleh sebab itu, Calvin tidak beranggapan bahwa panggilan hidupnya adalah sebagai teolog. Ia mempunyai hal yang lebih penting untuk dilakukan.
  • PENGARUH PENGAJARAN CALVIN
    Tetapi jelas bahwa Calvin tidak hanya memberikan teladan hidup namun juga sebuah sistematika pengajaran. Ernst Troeltsch dalam magnum opusnya yang berjudul, The Social Teaching of the Christian Churches, menjabarkan lima karakteristik Teologia Cavin yang unik dan yang tidak dimilki baik oleh teologi Roma Katolik maupun teologi Lutheran, yaitu: predestinasi, peranan individu, komunitas kudus, etika Calvinisme dan pandangan sosial Calvinisme. Kelima hal inilah yang akan menjadi kerangka dasar kita di dalam mencoba untuk mengerti mengapa Calvin dapat menjadi sebuah dorongan yang besar bagi orang percaya masa itu.

Predestinasi:
Menurut Troeltsch, keunikan pertama yang dimiliki oleh Calvin adalah pandangannya tentang predestinasi. Meskipun Troeltsch berkata bahwa Calvin berhutang pada Luther dalam hal ini namun ia juga melihat bahwa di balik doktrin Calvin tentang predestinasi, terdapat suatu pandangan yang unik tentang Allah. Calvin tidak sekedar ingin menekankan anugerah cuma-cuma di dalam predestinasi, tetapi ia juga mencoba untuk menyatakan karakter Allah sebagai Yang Berdaulat Mutlak. Bagi Calvin, kedaulatan mutlak Allahlah yang menentukan siapakah yang akan dipilih dan siapa yang dibiarkan binasa, dan dalam hal ini akal manusia harus tunduk tanpa perlu berusaha bertanya lebih lanjut tentang mengapa si A dipilih dan si B tidak.

Troeltsch kemudian membandingkan karakter Allah yang paling ditekankan oleh Lutheran dengan karakter Allah yang oleh Calvin dianggap sebagai yang terutama. Ia menyimpulkan bahwa jika di dalam Lutheran, karakter Allah yang paling utama adalah kasih-Nya maka bagi Calvin, kasih Allah hanyalah salah satu metode untuk menyatakan kemuliaan Allah.

Baik mereka yang dipilih maupun yang dibiarkan binasa, sama-sama menyatakan kemuliaan Allah. Mereka yang dipilih merupakan simbol dari belas kasihan Allah dan mereka yang binasa merupakan simbol dari murka Allah.

Ini jelas tidak berarti Calvin memandang remeh kasih Allah. Phillip Wogaman berkata bahwa bagi Calvin: “Allah adalah Allah yang mulia dan juga penuh kasih. Kemuliaan Allah sesungguhnya diekspresikan secara paling penuh dan paling khas melalui kasih.”

Alasan mengapa sebagian dipilih dan sebagian tidak memang tetap merupakan misteri dari kehendak Allah yang tak terselami. Namun, menurut Calvin tanpa mengontraskan keselamatan dengan penghukuman, maka kebesaran kemuliaan Allah dan bahkan kedalaman kasihNya, akan tetap tinggal tersembunyi dari kita.

Perbedaan konsep tentang Allah ini ternyata membawa perbedaan yang besar di dalam hal praktis. Karena keselamatan bukan semata-mata untuk menyatakan belas kasihan Tuhan, tetapi yang terutama adalah untuk memuliakan Dia, maka tujuan dari keselamatan pun bukan sekedar supaya jiwa yang telah diselamatkan dapat hidup di dalam dunia ini dengan penuh damai dan ucapan syukur, tetapi supaya jiwa yang telah dibebaskan dari dosa itu melayani Dia sebagai instrumen dari KehendakNya.

Oleh karena itu, jika di dalam Lutheran, bukti keselamatan yang sejati terletak pada perasaan bahagia yang tidak dapat diberikan oleh dunia maka menurut Calvin, pembenaran tidak tinggal di dalam batin atau di kedalaman perasaan melainkan di dalam tindakan. Jika di dalam Lutheran, kesatuan dengan Kristus di dalam sakramen Ekaristi merupakan bukti tertinggi kebahagiaan maka menurut Calvin, kesatuan dengan Kristus hanya dapat dimengerti di dalam arti penyerahan diri kaum pilihan, pembaharuan kehendak Allah dan tindakan Allah yang terus-menerus aktif di dalam diri orang percaya. Selain itu, Alkitab juga tidak lagi dipandang melulu sebagai sarana untuk memperoleh jaminan akan kasih Tuhan, tetapi sebagai manifestasi yang seharusnya menciptakan komunitas yang di dalamnya kemuliaan Allah dapat direalisasikan.

Peranan Individu:
Troeltsch melihat bahwa Luther tidak lebih lanjut mengembangkan ajaran predestinasinya sehingga Lutheran masih menganggap bahwa keselamatan yang telah diperoleh dapat hilang, baik saat orang percaya jatuh kepada dosa maut atau saat ia bersandar pada kekuatannya sendiri. Akibatnya, yang ditekankan adalah bagaimana orang percaya dapat mempertumbuhkan kehidupan rohaninya.

Akan tetapi tidak demikian halnya dengan para pengikut Calvin. Mereka percaya bahwa panggilan dan keselamatan telah dipastikan sehingga dengan itu mereka bebas untuk berkonsentrasi memikirkan bagaimana membentuk dunia dan masyarakat seturut kehendak Allah. Mereka sadar bahwa tugas mereka bukanlah untuk memelihara “ciptaan baru” namun untuk menyatakannya.

Dari sini Troeltsch menyimpulkan bahwa individualisme di dalam Reformed lebih mendorong kepada aktivitas, dimana masing-masing individu didorong untuk masuk ke dalam tugas pelayanan di dalam dunia: “Sebagai orang pilihan, individu di dalam dirinya sendiri tidaklah bernilai apa-apa, namun sebagai instrumen yang digunakan bagi tugas Kerajaan Allah, nilainya amat lah besar”.

Komunitas Kudus:
Bagi Calvin, Gereja bukanlah sekedar menyediakan sarana anugerah melalui mana segala sesuatu harus dibangun. Gereja sesungguhnya juga merupakan titik pijak melalui mana kefasikan dunia harus ditanggulangi dengan kesabaran dan kerendahan hati. Gereja harus menyediakan sarana-sarana pengudusan. Gereja harus berusaha agar komunitas menerima nilai-nilai Kristen sehingga seluruh aspek kehidupan dapat ditempatkan di bawah kontrol prinsip-prinsip Kekristenan.

Di lain pihak, penekanan Luther pada doktrin keimamatan seluruh orang percaya membuatnya harus menarik diri dari usaha untuk merealisasikan otonomi Gereja dari negara. Hal ini dikarenakan doktrin keimamatan seluruh orang percaya amat memutlakkan kebebasan individu sehingga dapat dengan mudah membawa akibat sampingan berupa gerakan revolusioner. Oleh sebab itu Luther lebih memilih untuk puas dengan memastikan bahwa doktrin yang sejati dapat tetap diproklamasikan walaupun harus dengan cara bergantung pada kuasa pemerintahan.

Berbeda dengan Luther, Calvin lebih tertarik pada ba119mana membuat kontrol dan usaha pengudusan Gereja dapat menjadi efektif.

Troeltsch mencatat bahwa yang penting disini adalah keyakinan Calvin bahwa dalam usaha pengudusan ini pun, Alkitab akan menyediakan dukungan dan nasehat yang ia butuhkan.

Dengan menekankan komunitas kudus dan dengan adanya penghargaan sedemikian terhadap Alkitab (dan bukannya doktrin keimamatan seluruh orang percaya), maka Calvin berhasil menghindar dari ekses-ekses revolusi serta dari bahaya subyektifitas agama. Partisipasi jemaat dimungkinkan tetapi di dalam batasan-batasan yang telah ditetapkan oleh Kitab Suci, di dalam hierarki yang telah ditetapkan, sehingga doktrin keimamatan seluruh orang percaya dapat tetap terus berjalan tanpa membawa musibah dan tanpa adanya bahaya dibelokkan kepada sekularisme.

Etika Calvinisme:
Troetsch menggarisbawahi tiga pandangan unik yang mendasari prinsip etika Calvinisme, yaitu

  • Pandangan Calvin tentang peran Sepuluh Perintah Allah,
  • Ajarannya tentang progresif sanctification dan
  • Kehidupan asketis yang didasarkan atas pandangan yang terarah pada kehidupan di masa yang akan datang, dan atas pemisahan secara jelas antara Allah dan ciptaan.

Berkenaan dengan Sepuluh Perintah Allah sebagai standar etika, ada dua hal yang menurut Troeltsch menjaga Calvin sehingga tidak jatuh kepada legalisme hukum Taurat, yaitu penegasan Calvin bahwa:

  • Yang dinyatakan di dalam Hukum Taurat adalah isi iman di dalam aspek etikanya dan
  • Nilai dari suatu pencapaian secara moral tidak ditentukan oleh satu atau dua tindakan, melainkan terletak di dalam jiwa yang telah dilahirbarukan, yaitu di dalam perubahan hati secara menyeluruh melalui pertobatan.

Melalui Hukum Taurat, Roh Kudus menerangi orang pilihan sehingga mereka dapat mengerti bagaimana mereka harus hidup demi untuk merealisasikan Kerajaan Kristus. Bagi Calvin, hal ini tidak dapat begitu saja dibiarkan tergantung pada kebebasan orang Kristen, sehingga dalam hal ini ia meninggalkan kebebasan idealistik yang dipegang oleh Luther dan menegaskan bahwa manusia masih membutuhkan adanya otoritas.

Selain keunikan pengajaran Calvin tentang hukum, pengajarannya tentang progressive sanctification juga berperan besar di dalam pembentukan etika Calvinisme. Doktrin ini menyatakan bahwa anugerah keselamatan semakin lama akan semakin disadari artinya oleh orang percaya dan semakin lama akan semakin membawa mereka kepada kedewasaan kehidupan Kristen.

Namun bagi Troeltsch, masih ada satu hal lagi yang merupakan sumbangan terbesar Calvin dalam etika, yaitu berkenaan dengan kehidupan asketis yang dihasilkan oleh pengharapan akan masa depan dan oleh pemisahan secara jelas antara Allah dan ciptaan. Keunikan dari asketisme Calvin adalah karena ia justru bersikap yang amat positif terhadap pekerjaan orang percaya. Ini merupakan pandangan yang amat berbeda terhadap asketisisme yang selama ini selalu amat merendahkan nilai-nilai kehidupan di dalam dunia dan amat berhasrat untuk mengekang kehidupan daging dengan menggunakan serangkaian sistem disiplin. Di dalam Katolik, asketisisme seperti ini memunculkan kehidupan biara.

McGrath menyoroti pandangan Calvin yang berkata bahwa pengenalan akan Allah Sang Pencipta tidak dapat dipisahkan dari pengenalan ciptaan.

Orang-orang Kristen diharapkan memperlihatkan penghargaan, keprihatinan dan komitmen pada dunia oleh karena kesetiaan, ketaatan dan cintanya kepada Allah. Dengan demikian, menjadi seorang Kristen tidak dapat berarti meninggalkan dunia, sebab meninggalkan dunia berarti meninggalkan Allah yang secara ajaib telah menciptakannya. Akan tetapi di lain pihak, karena ia dengan jelas membedakan Allah dengan dunia ciptaan maka bagi dia, usaha apapun untuk mencari kepuasan di dalam ciptaan merupakan suatu tindakan pemberhalaan. Calvin selalu menekankan bahwa ciptaan adalah sarana dan bukan tujuan akhir. Menurut Wogaman, Calvin memang menghargai milik pribadi namun baginya, semua kekayaan pribadi harus dipergunakan bagi kemuliaan Allah.

Inilah alasan mengapa orang Calvinis berjuang dengan sungguh-sungguh di dalam politik, namun bukan demi politik itu sendiri, berjuang di dalam ekonomi, tetapi bukan demi kemakmuran itu sendiri.

Pandangan Calvin akan hal ini tidak hanya unik jika dibandingkan dengan Katolik tetapi juga berbeda dengan pandangan Luther. Lutheran menangisi dunia ini dan kemudian menerimanya apa adanya sambil terus menjaga diri mereka dari pengaruh dunia. Bagi mereka, dunia berdosa memang sudah seharusnya mempunyai kondisi yang seperti ini.

Calvin menolak sikap seperti ini. Ia tidak dapat meninggalkan dunia ini di dalam kengeriannya sementara ia menenangkan diri karena telah menerima anugerah keselamatan. Fakta bahwa ciptaan adalah ciptaan yang berdosa justru semakin mendorongnya bekerja keras untuk menaklukkannya demi kemuliaan Tuhan. Akan tetapi, Calvin sadar bahwa dunia hanya dapat ditaklukkan dengan cara terlebih dahulu menyadari nilai dari kehidupan di dalam dunia. Jadi, kita harus masuk ke dalam dunia, menyadari semua sarana sekular yang ada, namun kemudian memakai semua itu hanya semata-mata sebagai alat untuk menciptakan komunitas kudus.

McGrath menilai tansformasi historis dari status kerja ini amatlah mengagumkan. Kerja yang dahulunya dipandang sebagai suatu kegiatan yang merendahkan martabat, sekarang menjadi cara yang berharga dan mulia untuk memuji dan mengakui Allah.

Oleh karena itu bukanlah hal yang kebetulan bila daerah-daerah Eropa yang menerima Calvinisme segera menjadi negara-negara yang makmur secara ekonomis sehingga Weber sampai menyimpulkan adanya hubungan antara Calvinisme dengan kapitalisme.

Teori Sosial Calvinisme:
Troeltsch melihat bahwa bagi Calvin, Negara dan Gereja masing-masing independen, namun karena tunduk kepada Allah maka masing-masing harus saling melayani. Gereja dan Pemerintahan sangat terkait dan saling mempengaruhi satu dengan lain.

Troeltsch kemudian mengaitkan predestinasi dengan teori sosial Calvin. Predestinasi ternyata dapat menyeimbangkan penekanan Calvin terhadap aspek individu dan komunitas. Berkenaan dengan aspek individu, predestinasi memberikan keyakinan terhadap para Calvinis akan harga diri mereka sebagai pribadi yang dipilih dari sejumlah besar orang. Jadi, mereka sadar bahwa mereka hanyalah minoritas, namun mereka juga sadar bahwa suara minoritas yang terdiri dari orang-orang kudus sesungguhnya dipanggil untuk mengatur mayoritas masyarakat yang adalah orang berdosa. Namun demikian, karena mereka percaya bahwa otoritas juga merupakan penetapan Allah maka selama pemerintah tidak melanggar Firman, mereka harus mau merendahkan diri dan taat.

Berkenaan dengan aspek komunitas, predestinasi menegaskan bahwa Allah tidak hanya sekedar menetapkan individu-individu tertentu untuk diselamatkan dan kemudian membiarkan mereka bertumbuh sendiri-sendiri. Allah ternyata juga menetapkan untuk meletakkan orang percaya di tengah-tengah jemaat sehingga mereka dapat saling mendorong dan menasehati satu sama lain.

  • REFLEKSI UNTUK HARI INI
  • Satu kecelakaan besar yang terjadi pada akhir-akhir ini adalah karena mayoritas orang Kristen tidak lagi dapat melihat relevansi dari apa yang Alkitab katakan dengan kehidupan mereka sehari-hari, seolah-olah Alkitab diberikan hanya sekedar untuk menuntun mereka agar mereka dapat berbagian di dalam kehidupan yang akan datang. Namun demikian Calvin telah memperlihatkan bahwa Alkitab tidak hanya berbicara mengenai kehidupan nanti di dunia sana, tetapi juga kehidupan saat ini disini. Bahkan seorang Liberal seperti Troeltsch harus mengakui bahwa doktrin seperti predestinasi ternyata berdampak besar di dalam kehidupan sosial. Semangat inilah yang harus kembali dihidupkan di dalam diri jemaat. Firman digali bukan demi untuk penemuan itu sendiri, demikian pula doktrin diajarkan bukan untuk pengajaran itu sendiri, namun untuk memperlengkapi orang Kristen agar dapat semakin memuliakan Tuhan di dalam kehidupannya hari lepas hari, sehingga kalimat “gereja ada di dalam dunia tetapi dunia bahkan tidak sadar jika gereja ada di dalamnya” tidak akan pernah lagi terucap.