My ‘thesis’ behind this paper:
I am concerned that the ‘theologians’ that people place all their faith into about telling them what the scripture says are not telling them what the scripture actually says. The following sermon is based on a belief that man isn’t dead in sins and trespasses, so we are able to first have faith and then God will save us. Norman Geisler pulls out the scriptures that back up what he wants to prove instead of letting the scripture tell him what it says is true.
On the surface it appears that this type of sermon doesn’t matter when speaking of people coming to know Christ, but if you place man in the seat of the one doing the saving, what is the point of even sharing the Gospel? I am concerned that we are taking God too lightly. Mr. Geisler takes glory away from God in this sermon. This is basically the premise behind Paul’s letter to the Colossians. They were elevating man and devaluing the Gospel. So what I did with this paper is just take his statements and see if what he said was true to what the Word was actually saying.
Yes, this does change the reality of sin and Christ and atonement. So let’s pretend like it doesn’t matter who makes the decision, God or man, to be saved. If a pastor believes that, then anything they say becomes the Gospel, not what God says is the Gospel. That pastor can give a whole speech about feeling better if Jesus is in your life, but if he never says what Jesus did, or why we need Him then he has taken the Gospel and turned it into a self-help answer. If you can save yourself, then why do we need Christ to help us? I know I’m taking this too far but I think you understand what I’m getting at, and this is where the church is headed if we don’t stand up for God’s glory.
I feel in my gut that I have to stand up for the Gospel and not let it get watered down or thrown out. The thing about heresies is that they start small but then they grow.. we can see that played out in the Bible over and over. I can’t just sit by and let it happen, and I know that is why God has filled me with this desire to write and push people to think about what they are reading and what they are listening to.
Being a Christian is not all about feeling good, or feeling refreshed. Sometimes we have to get our hands dirty to protect the truth of who God is and what He has done. That was the whole point of the reformation back in the 1600’s. People were martyred over it. I feel like the same type of thing is happening now, but it’s on a much larger scale. Now, instead of the Catholics vs. the Protestants, it’s the church vs. false teachers inside the church. It’s pretty scary and awesome at the same time to see Peter’s prophecy about the church coming to pass.
I just want to wake up everyone I know who believes in Christ and get them studying for themselves instead of relying on a pastor to make them feel good. The Gospel isn’t about feeling good, it’s about saving lives. If we don’t spread the Gospel, we don’t save lives. Ask questions. Think, think, think… don’t just accept what someone says… study the scriptures… KNOW what it says… there is so much abundance of life inside those words. It’s all about God’s glory, and my aim is to place the attention back on Him.
**The following paper is representative of 25+ hours of reading and research through the Bible alongside the Greek & Hebrew translations of the texts being used in this sermon. Please allow yourself the time to look at each passage for yourself before coming to any conclusions about what the text says. We are called as Christians to come before the Word of God as a Holy text, representative of God’s character and work of Salvation. It is not to be taken lightly or at a glance. While doing this research I had many times where reservations set in about if I should even be doing this. What is the point of expounding on Scripture when everyone is set in what they think it says? This is why I came to Scripture with an open heart and idea that I do not belong to any side – Arminian or Calvinist – nor did I ascribe myself to a certain denomination while studying. I am simply someone that wants to know what the word of God says, and let Scripture interpret Scripture. I humbly ask that if you decide to read this, that you please pray and ask for God to reveal the truth to you about what the Scriptures say.**
A Biblical Response to Norman Geisler’s Sermon
‘5 Reasons Why I’m Not a 5 Point Calvinist’
(find sermon here: http://media.calvaryftl.org/player/index.cfm?fn=G5146&a=1)
Reason #1 (Total Depravity, minute 5:35)
- Geisler explains that Calvinists believe that total depravity means that man is completely spiritually dead and is unable to hear God’s voice or make a decision for Him. He says that Calvinist’s use the text in 1 Corinthians 2:14 to prove their point saying that natural man cannot understand God.
In response: This verse is speaking to other believers about how they came to saving faith in Christ. The mysteries of salvation were revealed by the Spirit, which was given freely by God. In the contextual sense of this verse, we read in verse 9 that no human mind has conceived the things of God – they cannot because they do not naturally have the Spirit of God inside them. The Spirit must be given to us and it is He who helps us understand the means of salvation (i.e. what Christ accomplished on the cross). Without the Spirit, we cannot fully understand what Christ has done.
- Geisler says natural man can understand (going against what Paul explains to the Corinthians) but does not welcome it; that he can perceive it but may not choose to receive it. He uses Romans 1:18 saying man has to be aware of God to reject God; that an unsaved person is able to perceive the truth of God thru general revelation. He says they do not receive awareness, but perceive it, and therefore choose to disbelieve.
In response: The opening chapter of Romans is a case being laid out by Paul against mankind because of their sinful nature. If we continue into verses 19 and 20 we read that man has suppressed their knowledge about God, not about Christ. Continuing on in the chapter we understand that it is because of their suppression of their knowledge of God that they are being given over to sin and will perish. Take for example the scientists who believe in evolution. There is no proof of a species changing into another species which gives way to the Biblical truth that this is not all chaos but that there is intelligent design (intelligence has to have a source: a Creator), and yet they refuse to look at the evidence. Romans 1explains that man knows about God and His laws but chooses to ignore Him. There is no mention of man being aware of Christ, which Geisler later says in this sermon we must be told about Him to believe in Him anyway.
- Geisler states that he agrees with Calvinism in that we are born in sin, and children of wrath, with a propensity to sin, and no ability to save ourselves. However, he says that we are not so depraved that we cannot respond to the Gospel (contradicting himself). He uses Ephesians 1:13 and 2:8 saying “unsaved people can and must believe”.
In response: I agree that he uses the Eph. 1:13 verse correctly, that we were included into Christ when we heard the Gospel message. However his use of 2:8 is incorrect. He uses it in the way that he means we first used our faith and then God gave us grace. In fact, in the verses directly preceding this one, from the opening of the chapter, Paul explains that while we were dead God made us alive with Christ. Paul says that God first gives us His grace, and then when we exercise our faith we are saved. Without God’s grace there is no faith, because we are already dead and unable to make a decision for Christ. And in verse 18 we see the reason we understand about what Christ has done: the Spirit. The Spirit is our free gift to recognize our need for Christ and then to accept His sacrifice on our behalf.
- Using Genesis 3 Geisler says Adam and Eve had already sinned and then in verse 8 heard God walking in the garden and they hid. He says Adam should not have been able to hear God speaking if he had died spiritually and is now considered totally depraved. Geisler argues that Adam (now fallen & in the depraved category) is still able to respond to God.
In response: Adam and Eve were in the garden before during and after their spiritual death. While in the garden they had regular access to God in person form. God was dwelling in the garden with them, and though Adam had already sinned, they had not yet been cursed. Adam was not a ‘natural man‘ as described by Paul in Ephesians 2:3. He had no sin until he disobeyed God’s one command to not eat from the tree. Because of his disobedience, all of humanity was cursed from then on, and awarded the title of ‘naturally sinful’ – naturally wanting to disobey God. We can read this played out in Romans 5.
- Geisler uses Isaiah 59:2 saying our sins have merely separated us and Philippians 1:23, & 2 Corinthians 5 saying our bodies are separated from our spirits, so our bodies are dead but not our spirits. He says we are made in the image of God, so we need to respect the image in fallen man – the marred image of God – that is not so totally depraved that we cannot respond to truth.
In response: While he is correct that we are separated from God because of our iniquities, the passage in Isaiah is speaking to the Israelites who are facing trials because of their unrighteousness to God who has given them every opportunity to change. The Philippians passage is taken out of context. Here Paul is speaking of whether or not it would be better to die and be with Christ or stay here on this earth and help the church. This has nothing to do with our spirits’ desiring to be with God prior to salvation, or even the depravity of our spirit. I don’t see how this fits. In 2 Corinthians 5:1-10 Paul talks about receiving a heavenly body that is not corruptible by sin. I’m not sure how this fits either with total depravity. In regards to the last argument about respecting the image of God inside of us, I don’t find this in the Bible. In Genesis 9:6 we read that if anyone sheds another’s blood theirs should be shed because we are God’s creation (in His image), and He is the one who decides life and death and He will demand an accounting. It seems like Mr. Geisler is trying to impart that because we are made in God’s image that we have the ability to save ourselves, but I do not see that in scripture.
All that is needed is a good hard look at Romans 1:18-32 to see the truth of man’s inner self and the depravity of his heart and then continue reading thru Romans 3 where we see that there are none righteous, none seek after God… not one.
Reason #2 (Unconditional Election, minute 17:00)
- Geisler explains that Calvinists believe in predestination, and he agrees that there is such a thing as predestination. He uses Eph. 1:4-5 and explains that God knew man would fall, so He provided for salvation for those who He knew would accept His message. He uses Romans 8:29 saying that God foreknew who would choose Him and who would not.
In response: I agree that we have been predestined to be with God and be elect since before the foundation of the world as the scriptures Geisler quotes explain. However, Geisler’s use of the word foreknew is incorrect. Yes God, in His omniscience, knows what will happen before it happens – therefore He foreknew who would say yes. However, the Bible clearly explains that this is not what this foreknowledge is about. God ‘foreknew’ us – who we are, and who we would be – intimately. The bible says in Matthew 10 that God has numbered every hair on our head; this is how closely He knows us. According to Romans 8:29 God predestined us to know Him back. What is predestination? The word in the Greek is pro-or-id’-zo which means to decide beforehand. In English the word destiny means ‘events that will necessarily happen’. So to be ‘pre-destined’ is to be set up – or arranged – for things to necessarily happen. It is not a question of if, but of when. Who is it that makes the decision? And when is the decision made, before what? Ephesians 1:4-5 explains the answers. God chose us to be in Him before the creation of the world. And then amazingly in verse 6 we can understand the ‘why’ – for God’s praise because of His grace (grace = unmerited favor = you can‘t earn it). To say that God looked down the corridor of time to see what we would choose is to take away the reasoning behind the predestination. God does not get the praise and glory for the work if it is man’s decision. “When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed.” – Acts 13:48
- Geisler now poses the question: ‘Is election unconditional?’ He says the love of God – His election – is unconditional from God’s stand point – He loves us unconditionally, no strings attached. He uses 2 Timothy 2:13 saying salvation is not based on what I do, but according to His mercy. Geisler says there are no conditions for salvation because it is not based on us but on Jesus, just as He exclaimed “it is finished” on the cross. He uses Hebrews 1 saying Jesus has purged our sins. Geisler says the biblical view says there are no conditions on which God gave salvation, but there is 1 condition on us – we have to accept that salvation, and decide to believe.
In response: I have to disagree that there is no condition on the part of God. God does not love sin; therefore He cannot accept us without some sort of atoning work to free us from that sin. Since we are unable to cleanse ourselves of sin, God has to do it (just like Mr. Geisler says when using Hebrews 1 as a reference, although Hebrews 2 is more fitting). So really it is God who has a condition for our salvation – He has to decide to give it to us through the imputation of Christ’s work onto us (see Romans 5:1-10). While Geisler is correct in saying that salvation is not based on what we do but according to God’s mercy, his use of 2 Timothy 2:13 does not fit. In this part of the letter to Timothy, Paul is explaining the reasons why he keeps going even during persecution. The specific verse Geisler uses says, “if we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot disown Himself”. If you use this in the pre-salvation sense then you are saying that God is already living in us before we are saved. This would mean that the entire world has God living in them already, and that they are all already saved. I believe this is taken out of context by Mr. Geisler, and what Paul is actually referring to are the Christians who have the Holy Spirit residing in them, that even if they are faithless to God, He will not be faithless to them because they are now indwelt with Him, and He cannot disown Himself. (This would also be a great verse to use for the Perseverance of the Saints.)
- Moving on, Mr. Geisler goes to Romans 6:23 which says, “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life”. Geisler focuses on the word gift in that we have to receive it. He uses an example of someone wanting to give a million dollars to you but you have to receive it.
In response: In Romans 6 Paul is discussing the two ways in which we can live our lives, either obeying sin or obeying God – slaves to sin or slaves to God. If we use the same analogy that Mr. Geisler uses about the million dollars, we could say that salvation is somewhat like that. The person who gives the money has shown it to you and made it known to you. Now you have to decide if you want it or not. I would venture to say that most everyone would take the money. Now that you are free from poverty what do you think about the person who gave you the money? Are you eternally indebted to them or do you hate them for revealing the money in the first place? Though it was a free gift, you are now indebted to that person because you accepted. You will never be able to escape the fact that the person gifted you with something you couldn’t refuse. In essence you are a slave to that person, always wanting to give them your best because they gave you their best. Now look at salvation. God makes you aware of it. You see that there are 2 options: heaven or hell. Which would you choose? If you choose hell you will remain a slave to sin, doing whatever pleases the flesh. If you choose heaven you receive the Holy Spirit who enables you to break free from that sin and do righteous acts instead because you want to please the one who saved you. The over-arching point here is that before you can choose anything you have to be given a choice. Who is it that decides you get a choice – you or God?
- He uses John 1:13 saying we are born not out of – but through something we do – our faith – the means of getting grace.
In response: The entire verse of John 1:12-13 reads, “But to all who have received him – those who believe in his name – he has given the right to become God’s children – children not born by human parents or by human desire or a husband’s decision, but by God.” The verses just before this one talk about Jesus (the light) coming into the world, to his own, but they did not recognize him or receive him. Most commentaries believe this is all in reference to Jesus being born as an Israelite – people who had the law and knew the prophecies, but didn’t recognize Him as fulfilling them. So when verse 12 starts (knowing this) we understand that even though his own people didn’t accept him, there were those that did. Once they believed Christ was the Son of God they were ‘born of God’. Those people were not born as Israelites (so didn‘t inherit re-birth), or by a humans’ desire or decision (they didn’t decide to be re-born), but because God re-birthed them. We are born of God, and because we believe in His name He adopts us. Adoption comes after birth. It is very dangerous of Mr. Geisler to add that we had a decision to be re-born when the text here clearly states the opposite – ‘not by human desire‘.
- Geisler says all people are given grace but not all accept it. He uses Niagara Falls as an illustration saying God’s love is like the water pouring out over everyone and we are all standing there with our cups upside-down, so we have to turn our cups right side up to receive it. He argues against the Calvinists view that: ‘saying it is our responsibility to be saved is the same as saying Christ died ‘in hopes’ of someone accepting it‘.
In response: I agree that all people are given some kind of grace, but not all people are given saving grace. In Matthew 5:43-48 Jesus tells His disciples that God causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, the rain to fall on the righteous and the unrighteous. God gives out common grace to all, even though it is not due and we are to imitate that. I have to agree that if we put the ball in our court there is reason to believe that Jesus died for no one. Being that we are incapable of believing in the person and work of Christ without God first revealing Him to us, how can we say that it is possible for us to be the ones who initiated it? In Matthew 16:16-17 Jesus has asked the question, “Who do people say I am?” and Peter answers, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God”. Then Jesus says, “this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood but by my Father in heaven.” He says this after the Pharisees and Sadducees have asked for a sign that He is the Messiah. Why did the people who saw Jesus not accept Him as the Messiah and have faith in Him? Because God did not allow the mystery to be revealed to them. As Paul explains in Romans 11:7-8, “What the people of Israel sought so earnestly they did not obtain. The elect among them did, but the others were hardened, as it is written: ‘God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes that could not see and ears that could not hear, to this very day.’” Oppositely, the power of God’s saving grace as revealed in Titus 3: “3 At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. 4 But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit,6 whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.”
- Geisler says in order to receive grace you must repent and receive His grace and that everyone in the world is a ‘missing heir’ to salvation. He explains that the inheritance is waiting for you to accept – ‘just sign on the dotted line and you will receive that inheritance’.
In response: As we’ve already researched, the only way to receive grace is to be given it, and not all are given God’s merciful grace. That being said, once He has revealed Himself to you, you will need to make a decision. It is the most important decision of your life. How can we say we believe in Christ, having been chosen to be His elect, and not show Him the respect and honor He is due? If you are saved then it is your responsibility to make Him your Lord – your King. Your King desires that you live for Him, and by reading His word you will know what that means. There is no magic signature required, but there is dedication due.
Reason #3 (Limited Atonement, minute 28:37)
- Mr. Geisler argues that Christ did indeed die for all (not just for the elect). He says Calvinists will quote John 17:9 to prove their position. He says that verse only proves that Jesus is praying for the elect and not that He only died for them. Geisler says there is no where that says Jesus didn’t love or die for the non-elect.
In response: In John 17 Jesus is offering a prayer to God prior to His being arrested. In verses 1-5 Jesus thanks God for the authority given Him over all people, and that because of that He was able to give eternal life to those people the Father had given Him. He says He has finished the work He was sent to do in His earthly ministry. In verses 6-19 Jesus prays for His disciples and specifically says not the world. Jesus is not praying for all elect here, only the disciples, as He later explains, because they have brought Him glory while in His earthly ministry and they will later carry on His words to others. He prays that God protect them specifically because of the task of sharing the gospel that lay ahead of them. It is not until verse 20 that Jesus prays for all those who will believe in Him (and that through the disciple’s message). These that will be saved are known as the ‘elect’. Mr. Geisler is correct that these verses do not prove that Christ died only for the elect; however, there are Scriptures that do (see next point). When it comes to who Jesus loves and gives His life for we can be certain that it is the same with the Father: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.” – John 5:19. God does not love the wicked as David explains in Psalm 11:4-7, ”The Lord is in his holy temple; the Lord is on his heavenly throne. He observes everyone on earth; his eyes examine them. The Lord examines the righteous, but the wicked, those who love violence, he hates with a passion.On the wicked he will rain fiery coals and burning sulfur; a scorching wind will be their lot.For the Lord is righteous, he loves justice; the upright will see his face.”
- Geisler uses Ephesians 5:25 saying it doesn’t say Jesus only died for the church and saying Calvinists add the word ‘only’ to the bible. He says Jesus wants everyone to be part of His bride and uses John 3:16 for reference.
In response: The book of Ephesians is written to the people of the church, who would understand the reference Paul gives in 5:21-33 pertaining to how a husband and wife should love each other just as Christ loves the church. Who is the ‘church’ that Paul references? They are those people who are or will be saved. They are God’s elect, predestined to that election since before the foundations of the world (Eph. 1:4-6). The church then is who Christ died for. The church is understood not as a building, but as a people. “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” – 1 Peter 2:9-10. In the book of John, in verses 16-21, we get a glimpse as to why Christ died – because God loved the world. The word for world in the Greek is kos’-mos which entails all creation – heaven and earth. It is true that God loved His original creation which He deemed ‘good’. He therefore sent Christ into that creation to redeem it from the fall, including any person who would believe in Christ. We know that God did not impute salvation to all because there are those that will never believe in Christ and will ultimately go to hell. If Christ died for all men (though His death was sufficient for all) then all men would be saved.
- Mr. Geisler uses Romans 8:29, and 1 pet 1:2 to say that God knew who would believe and who wouldn’t and then God chose them because He knew they would say yes. Geisler says God woos us, begging us to be with Him.
In response: Before I even go to the verses I want to lay out the definition of God. What is God, or rather who? Is God omnipotent (having unlimited power; able to do anything)? Yes. Is He omnipresent and omniscient (present everywhere at the same time, and all knowing)? Yes. Is He transcendent (outside space and time, and therefore eternal and unable to be changed by forces within the universe)? Yes. Is He limited in power by anything? No. Does His will come to pass every single time? Yes. If these are not your definitions of God then you do not believe in the same God I believe in. If you say that a man has a choice to make before God can destine him to salvation, then you are saying that He is not God, because He has to wait for a man to decide something that affects Himself. These truths about who God must be – if He is indeed God – have got to be at the forefront of our understanding when it comes to Scripture and the interpretation of it. The Scriptures were not written as a self-help guide or just for posterity. The Bible is our only source of revelation when it comes to knowing who God is and what His purpose for humanity is. Romans 8:29 says: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” So we understand by this passage (knowing who God is) that He works all things out for good (even if they don’t seem good to us) for those who love Him. Who loves God? The ones who have been called. What were they called for? His purposes. If we continue reading into Romans 8 we see that God is the one who calls, justifies, and glorifies – there is no place in scripture that says man is the one who justifies himself before God. On the contrary: “It is God who justifies.” – Romans 8:33. In 1 Peter 1:2 we read, “To God’s elect, … 2 who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to be obedient to Jesus Christ and sprinkled with his blood: Grace and peace be yours in abundance.” Here the word foreknowledge in Greek is prognosis – or forethought / pre-arrangement. Even if we ignore the Greek word and look at the context of the verse we can see that the ones in this passage to whom Peter is addressing were chosen to be sanctified through the work of the Spirit, not by their own desires, and that to be obedient to Christ. So they were chosen to do what Christ wants them to do. As opposed to the example given by Mr. Geisler of a man trying to marry a woman, the ‘woman’ in this story has already been decided to marry the man by His father, and she is expected to obey Him.
- Mr. Geisler says Calvinists believe God zaps us into believing against our will.
In response: “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” – Proverbs 19:21. In Western society we have come to believe in ‘free will’ – our ability to choose or do anything we want or desire at our own discretion. However, we are not able to transport our bodies through space or fly at will. We do not in actuality have a ‘free’ will. We do make decisions but these decisions are based on the things happening around us. What causes the things around us? Who has created this world and everything in it? When you were born did you decide what parents you would be born to? Job is the best book in the Bible for answers like these. He was a man considered blameless and upright. He feared God and shunned evil. In Job 1:8-12 we read about how God has given Job everything he desires and Satan argues that as the reason for his uprightness. Then God gives Satan permission to take away all that Job has. By the end of the book we read where God is telling Job who is in charge, and who knows what is best; Job 40:7-14 “Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me. 8 “Would you discredit my justice? Would you condemn me to justify yourself? 9 Do you have an arm like God’s, and can your voice thunder like his? 10 Then adorn yourself with glory and splendor, and clothe yourself in honor and majesty. 11 Unleash the fury of your wrath, look at all who are proud and bring them low, 12 look at all who are proud and humble them, crush the wicked where they stand. 13 Bury them all in the dust together; shroud their faces in the grave. 14 Then I myself will admit to you that your own right hand can save you.” Even if we did have free will to save ourselves the Bible clearly tells us what our will looks like: “Jews and Gentiles alike are all under the power of sin. As it is written: There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one. Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit. The poison of vipers is on their lips. Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood; ruin and misery mark their ways, and the way of peace they do not know. There is no fear of God before their eyes.” – Romans 3:9-18
- Geisler uses Romans 5:6 saying if God died for the ungodly, but only the elect, then the elect are the only ungodly. He then uses 2 Corinthians 5:14 arguing over the word ‘all’ saying that it means the whole world, not just the elect.
In response: In chapter 5 of Romans, Paul is speaking to believers and in continuing says, “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Paul places us in the realm of all humanity when he says we were ‘still sinners’, because we had not yet been called out of that into new life with Christ. Taken in context with verses 14 and 15 the Corinthians passage says, “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.” Here Paul again is speaking to believers and explaining that just as Jesus died, all believers died, and because Christ is alive, we too are alive and should therefore live for Him because of what He has done. He has saved us and we owe Him our full lives. This is a great picture of what baptism represents.
- Mr. Geisler uses 1Timothy 2:4 saying God desires all men to be saved, quoting “give thanks for all men”. He quotes 2 Peter 2:1 saying unsaved people were also bought and that Christ shed his blood for them as well, speaking about Judas.
In response: I agree that in 1Timothy 2 Paul is explaining that God does indeed want all men to be saved, however, that does not mean that He wills all men to be saved. There is a mystery to God that we will not know until we see Him face to face: His will. We cannot fathom the why of His will, but we can be sure that He does everything for a specific purpose, and that purpose is His glory. All things are done with the outcome in mind that He receives the ultimate amount of glory. Because we do not know who is reserved for salvation and who is not, it is our duty to God to pray for all men and their salvation. “See, I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction. For my own sake, for my own sake, I do this. How can I let myself be defamed? I will not yield my glory to another.” – Isaiah 48:10-11. The 2 chapter of 2 Peter is almost scary and can be difficult to understand. On the one hand Peter says there are false prophets who have been bought, and on the other he says that the ‘blackest darkness’ is reserved for them, indicating they will be going to hell. As we have discussed before, Jesus’ work on the cross was sufficient for all, but effective for some. The word ‘bought’ here could mean that these teachers (false prophets) claim to be bought, and have a saving knowledge about Christ, though they deny His sovereignty. Peter explains that these false teachers are wolves in sheep’s clothing, meaning they look just like every other believer, but inside they have denied Christ. This would help us to understand the next verse talking about the swift destruction that will be brought on them for introducing heresy among those who really are saved – just because they appear as good teachers in the church doesn’t mean they are. (This is why it is so important for us to know the Word for ourselves.) Jesus mentioned that there is one sin that is unforgivable in Mark 3:28-29; blasphemy of the Holy Spirit and His work. One of the main things the Holy Spirit does is to bring us to a saving knowledge about Christ. It is by the Spirit that we are able to recognize who Christ is and what He has done, and then by that faith created through that knowledge and given by Christ, believe. Christ is the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). This is all related to God’s sovereignty, that He is the one who works in all things to bring about the outcome for His glory. As it says in 2 Peter 2:21, “It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them.” Unfortunately having knowledge about Christ does not mean you are saved, and denying the work of the Holy Spirit is unforgivable. I’d like to point out that it is possible to read 2 Peter 2 and come to an understanding that a person may lose their salvation, however, upon knowing the entire council of God’s word this cannot be further from the truth. We will discuss this further under ‘Perseverance of the Saints’. As Peter clearly describes, the false teachers he speaks of in these passages are ‘wild beasts, meant to be caught and destroyed’. They were and never will be part of God’s chosen people.
- Geisler uses 2 peter 3:9 saying God is unwilling that any should perish. Mr. Geisler uses 1 John 2:2 saying when the text says the ‘whole world’ it means everyone, not just Christians in the world, and also uses verse 15 as an example.
In response: 2 Peter 3:9 comes on the heels of the passages about false teachers. Peter writes to believers and explains through his 2 letters that persecution will come from the outside and from the inside of the church. He exhorts them to remain patient even when scoffers come and say that the Lord will never return. This is the context to which he says, “But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. 9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” We understand then that Peter is speaking to the church and to the future church, wanting us to be aware that the Lord is not going to return until all who will be saved are saved. In 1 John 2:2 it says, “He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” Mr. Geisler is correct in his usage here saying that Christ’s sacrifice was for us and for the whole world, however it is only good for the whole world should they accept Christ. If we say that the entire world has been given pardon for sin already, with or without coming to faith, then every person is already saved. We know this is untrue because the Bible talks about things like false teachers and where they will spend eternity. So we could say that it should read, ‘and also for the sins of the whole world, God permitting’. John would not need to write that last part because he was writing to believers and they would have understood the context. I also agree that verse 15 does in fact mean the entire world.
- Mr. Geisler now uses an analogy (which he calls a parable) for how a Calvinist views God. He says that God is like a farmer with a pond. Three little boys come along and ignore the ‘no swimming’ sign and decide to go swimming. The farmer comes over and sees the boys drowning. He decides to let the boys die in the pond because there was a sign but they ignored it. Then the farmer decides to throw in a rope and save one but go ahead and let the other two die. Geisler says that this is not the God of the Bible, but that God would try to save them. He poses a question saying God could allow us all to go to hell but if He decides to save some, who’s to blame if He doesn’t save the others? He asks why we would love God if he lets people go to hell. He says the Calvinistic God is not loving and compassionate and makes no attempt to save everyone. Mr. Geisler asks, “Is that the kind of God we see in the Bible?” He says God didn’t just try to save one person but has thrown out a life line to all people.
In response: Firstly, when dealing with analogies or parables about God and heaven, we must understand that we do not know everything there is to know about the topic. We are not God and we are not in heaven, so we cannot give full accounts of what it is truly like. Jesus gives many parables about what the kingdom of heaven is like. Why does He give so many? Because it is not fully explainable in human terms. Secondly, the way this analogy should read, based on Biblical knowledge of our current state is this: A farmer comes up to his pond and sees 3 boys already dead. He takes one of them out of the pond and gives him life. Or, we could use a more accurate analogy which will help us better understand the state of our souls and why what God does is so merciful: There are 3 men on death row who worked together to kill a man. The man they killed was the only son of the Judge who convicts them. They have no bail and will be killed at midnight. The judge, out of the kindness of his heart decides that one of them can be exonerated. The other two continue on with the death sentence as they deserve. Now let’s ask the questions Mr. Geisler poses. Is this the God of the Bible? Yes. Not everyone mentioned in the Bible is saved (take the Hittites for example). Who’s to blame if God doesn’t save everyone – the people who are not saved. We must come to understand that there is no reason for God to save us at all. We have done nothing to deserve His love and have in fact broken the commands He laid out, therefore we are guilty and punishable by death. This is why Ephesians 2:1 says “You were dead in your transgressions and sins”. We are already dead because we have sinned since we were born. One sin = death. One time of looking your parents in the eye and saying ‘no’ = death. So why would we love God if He lets people go to hell? We are all destined for hell; we love God because He saves us from that hell. According to Mr. Geisler this God is not loving and compassionate, but I would have to disagree seeing that we are all deserving of hell and yet He decides to give some of us grace. Is this the God we see in the Bible? Yes. Over and over again God opens someone’s eyes to Himself. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Samuel, David, Paul.. the list is endless. None of these men deserved forgiveness, and yet God pardoned them. On the other hand, we can see that God is not a God who throws out a lifeline to all. Each person was picked and appointed a specific task that only God knew, before they were ever born, not based on any merit of the man, but based on God’s will, and ultimately for His glory. God does not need us to further His cause, He desires to make us a part of it as He sees fit.
Reason #4 (Irresistible Grace, minute 49:52)
- Mr. Geisler says he doesn’t agree that regeneration comes before faith, but says that faith comes before regeneration. He uses Acts 16:31 to prove his case. He tests saying, “Show me a verse that says ‘wait for God to save you, and then you can believe.’” He uses Ephesians 2:8 saying salvation is through faith.
In response: In the story of the jailer who was saved in Acts 16, prior to the moment when Paul and Silas tell the man he has to believe, the jailer asks them, “What must I do to be saved?”. Why did the jailer ask this question? What caused him to want to be saved? In the story we see that he was sleeping during the time when they were singing hymns and praises to God. In fact the jailer was not privy as to why they were even in the prison in the first place, he was told just to keep watch over them. So how could it be that he knew Paul and Silas could tell him how to be saved? If we look at Abraham we get a great example of what happens at conversion. Genesis 12 begins, “The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.” Prior to this encounter with God there is no mention of Abraham speaking with God or seeking Him. It simply says that God started speaking to him, and then Abraham did what God said. In Romans 4 we see that because he obeyed, it was credited to Abraham as righteousness. God came to him, he believed that God was real, and then he was saved. We can also see this same example in Paul’s life. It is true that Paul had head knowledge about God, but He did not believe that Christ was the Messiah until Christ came to him personally and told him. “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked. “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” – Acts 9:5-6. By his actions to obey Paul showed his faith in that Christ was who He said He was and he was saved. In the Ephesians passage that Mr. Geisler uses to prove faith comes first, he disregards the verses directly before and after. In context it says, “Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. 4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Highlights added for emphasis).
- Geisler says Calvinists’ believe that God goes against our will and changes us without permission. He uses a brain transplant analogy – in which God comes in and replaces our brains and we go from rebellion to waking up one morning and wanting God. He says that God doesn’t work that way; that love never works coercively, only persuasively. Mr. Geisler says Calvinists believe that God ‘rapes’ us and forces us to love him. He explains that God is a gentleman, respects our will and that God will not twist our arm or force us to love him, but will persuade us to love him.
In response: I can assure the reader that this is not what a Calvinist believes. From the outside it may seem so, because of the belief that God has to first give you life before you can decide to follow Him. However that does not mean that a Calvinist has been ‘raped’ by God. As we have discussed previously in this paper, the examples of men who placed their faith in Christ throughout the Bible were first made aware that a decision even needed to be made. A better analogy might be that God comes to you and turns on the light so you can see which way you need to go. “Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. 2 Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. 3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5 For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.” – 2 Corinthians 4:1-6. Though Mr. Geisler says that God doesn’t work that way, I have to disagree. I can use my own salvation as an example. One minute I hated God and didn’t want to have anything to do with Him, and the next minute while being forced to listen to quoted scripture I wanted to know Him. I couldn’t get the thoughts out of my head that I wanted to know Him. Each day has been more of the same. God came to me, opened my eyes to Himself, and I had no choice but to go the way of salvation – why would I want to perish? There was no persuasion needed. For the first time in my life I could see that death was a reality, and that I was either going to be with God in Heaven, or be forever separated from Him in hell. I chose life. I’m so thankful that God did not respect my will at that moment, because if He had, I would not know the way of righteousness. My will was to reject God, just as all men who have not been enlightened by the truth.
- Geisler quotes Matt. 23:37 emphasizing that Jerusalem was not willing to accept God. He also uses Stephen’s address to those who are persecuting him (Acts 7) saying the people were resisting the Holy Spirit. Mr. Geisler asks, “Why do Calvinists say the Spirit cannot be resisted?
In response: In Matthew 23 Jesus is pronouncing judgment upon Israel for her many sins and for her continuing rejection of God and His prophets. As we have previously discussed, each person’s natural state is to reject God; and not just God but authority in general. This resistance by Israel is her natural state. Though Jesus has longed for her, Israel refuses to see Him as Messiah because she is plainly unable. In Ezekiel 36:26-27 we see what plans await Israel when God is ready for her to be cleaned, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.” When Stephen is facing the persecution that will ultimately take his life, he says in Acts 7:51, “You stiff-necked people! Your hearts and ears are still uncircumcised. You are just like your ancestors: You always resist the Holy Spirit!” Just as Jesus had spoken to Israel, now Stephen does the same. The people are blinded to the truth. Paul explains why in 2 Corinthians 4:3-4 “And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” The god of this age is Satan, and he has a firm grasp over the dead. Let us not misjudge him, because he is very powerful, but our God created him, and can change a person’s heart despite the rule that Satan has over it.
- Mr. Geisler now turns his attention to one of the most spoken Scriptures by Calvinists and uses Romans 9. He explains that it’s not talking about Jacob and Esau before they were born. He says it’s looking back because the quote Paul uses is taken from Malachi. Geisler says Paul is talking about the nation of Jacob and the nation of Esau. He explains that these verses are not talking about salvation or Heaven or hell, but about these nations’ purposes to bring the message of the Bible. He says the word hate means love-less and that God really didn’t harden pharaoh’s heart. Geisler says it’s about the receptivity of our hearts and that we determine if we harden our hearts to God.
In response: If we take a close look at the book of Romans as a whole we understand that Paul is laying out a condensed version of the entire Bible and Gospel message. Chapter 9 discusses God’s freedom in election and His mercy upon those whom He chooses. Let it be noted that we cannot understand grace until we understand mercy. While Mr. Geisler is correct that Paul is talking about the nation of Israel here, Paul is also talking specifically about the founder of the nation, and about things that happened before his birth. In verses 11-13 we read, “Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad—in order that God’s purpose in election might stand: 12 not by works but by him who calls—she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 Just as it is written: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” Paul speaks of these things to point out that God’s election of Israel has not failed (though they reject Him) because His true bride of Israel is not by flesh but by the promise that came through Abraham. What was the promise? That Sarah would have a son. Now to show that it isn’t just everyone who comes from the womb of Sarah; Paul uses the example of Jacob and Esau because they are twins. They came from the same mother who was under the ‘promise’; however God only chose one of them. So the ‘promise’ only applies to those whom God chooses; His elect. Paul specifically states in verse 11 that God chose Jacob before he was born, and emphasizes that He chose him before he had done anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose in election might stand. What is God’s purpose in election? As we have already noted, everything is done for the ultimate glory of God. Continuing further into the chapter in verses 14-21 Paul uses an imaginary questioner to confirm what he has stated about God’s choice in election. The questioner, now made aware that God has chosen each person for election asks, “Then why does God still blame us? For who is able to resist his will?” It is a fair question when realizing that if God has chosen some for election then by reason He has not chosen others, and their fate is to perish because of their sins. But Paul also addresses this, “Who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’” 21 Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use?” These verses are hard to take in but as people who believe in God, and who have been given new life through Christ, we are commanded to search the Scriptures and know them. We cannot and should not try to avoid the things which we do not understand or like. If we come to a place in Scripture that bothers us then we need to figure out why we are bothered. The Scripture is without error, a revelation to man from God, and we are to hold ourselves up to it, not the other way around. If you have a problem with Scripture then you have a problem with God, and a time of prayer for clarity is in order. Moving on, we come back to verse 17 where Paul talks about Pharaoh. In Exodus 7-11 we read about the 10 plagues God brought upon Egypt so that Pharaoh would let Israel leave. For the first 5 plagues the text says that Pharaoh hardened his heart, but during the last 5 plagues it says that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart. This is reminiscent of Romans 1:21-23, “21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.” Pharaoh came face to face with men from God and yet he refused to heed the warnings, so because he hardened his own heart, God gave him over to that hardness and allowed it to overtake him. Let us be mindful that God is not the author of evil, nor does He produce it. The evil is already present in us and all He has to do is remove His hand from our lives and the evil takes over. His grace is on all people at this moment, for if it wasn’t there would be hell on earth, in all places, because we are all evil and born into sin. But God will have mercy on whomever He chooses.
Reason #5 (Perseverance of the Saints, minute 1:04:40)
- Mr. Geisler explains that a Calvinist believes ‘Those who are faithful unto God till the end will be saved; those who are not will not be saved’. He says Calvinists are legalistic about the Sabbath and gives an account told by an unnamed Calvinist. The story goes that the Calvinist said that if he took a plane on the Sabbath and crashed and died that it was because God was mad at him for doing something on the Sabbath and that was why he was killed, and that it means he was not saved. Mr. Geisler says Calvinists don’t know if they are elect until they die. ‘Nobody knows for sure if he’s one of the elect until he dies’. He then uses the following verses to give us ample reason to believe that we can be sure of our salvation, and that we do not have to maintain it because God maintains it: Job 19:25, 2 Timothy 1:12, Philippians 1:6, Romans 8:36-37, 1 John 5:13. Geisler again confirms that it doesn’t depend on him to remain faithful to the end because God cannot deny himself (uses 2 Timothy 2:13).
In response: In 1610, the Arminians prepared a document, comprised of five articles, known as the Remonstrance. This Remonstrance was the source of much controversy, and as such, the National Synod of Dordt was convened in 1618 to examine the problem and arrive at a resolution. The Canons of Dordt are the outcome of the Synod of Dordt, and the outcome was thoroughly against Armenian doctrine. The structure of the Canons of Dordt is similar to the Remonstrance, laid out in five articles, each rebutting one of the five articles of the Remonstrance. The first 3 articles from the original definition of Perseverance of the Saints, laid forth by the Synod of Dordt in 1618 are as follows:
ARTICLE 1. Those whom God, according to His purpose, calls to the communion of His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, and regenerates by the Holy Spirit, He also delivers from the dominion and slavery of sin, though in this life He does not deliver them altogether form the body of sin and from the infirmities of the flesh.
ARTICLE 2. Hence spring forth the daily sins of infirmity, and blemishes cleave even to the best works of the saints. These are to them a perpetual reason to humiliate themselves before God and to flee for refuge to Christ crucified; to mortify the flesh more and more by the spirit of prayer and by holy exercises of piety; and to press forward to the goal of perfection, until at length, delivered from this body of death, they shall reign with the Lamb of God in heaven.
ARTICLE 3. By reason of these remains of indwelling sin, and also because the temptations of the world and of Satan, those who are converted could not persevere in that grace if left to their own strength. But God is faithful, who, having conferred grace, mercifully confirms and powerfully preserves them therein, even to the end.
The rest can be found here: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/anonymous/canonsofdort.v.i.html
I write all of this to show that Mr. Geisler has actually laid out a case with his scriptures to confirm the doctrine of Perseverance of the Saints. I’m not sure where the quote about the airplane comes from, but this is not the belief of someone who agrees with the actual doctrines that have come to be known as TULIP. Unfortunately, Calvin has gotten a bad wrap for these doctrines even though he was not responsible for writing them, though he would have agreed with them, as they are the backbone for reformed theology. Also, it must be stated that the acronym TULIP was not set forth by the Synod of Dordt, but showed up some time in the early 1900’s.
- In conclusion Mr. Geisler says a Calvinist cannot say that God loves us even if we are not saved. He says that God loves those who believe and those who don’t believe, and that all that is needed is to turn our cup right-side-up.
In response: We have seen in Scripture throughout this study that there are those whom God dislikes very much, and there are those whom God has loved since before time began. We have also seen that man is not in the decision maker when it comes to being given an understanding of what Christ has done. It is only after that knowledge that we can respond positively to the Gospel. While it is true that we will not know for sure who is eternally saved and who is not outside of ourselves, we can be secure in our own knowledge of salvation, just as Mr. Geisler has lain out.
- Mr. Geisler’s sermon: http://media.calvaryftl.org/player/index.cfm?fn=G5146&a=1
- Biblical translations: https://net.bible.org
- The Bible (NIV): www.biblegateway.com
- The Synod of Dordt: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/anonymous/canonsofdort.toc.html
- The Remonstrance: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/encyc09.html?term=Remonstrants
- T.U.L.I.P. / The Cannons of Dordt: http://home.comcast.net/~wittenberggate/TULIP_with_scriptures.htm