Monday, April 29, 2013

The Rapture

What is it and where did it come from?

All contents copyright © 2013 by M.L. Wilson. All rights reserved. No part of this document or the related files may be reproduced or transmitted in any form, by any means (electronic, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of the publisher.
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Next to the Holy Trinity, there are few other contentious issues within the interpretations of scripture which rival that of the theory variously called “The Rapture.” This is a theory that had one specific meaning to Christians for nearly two millennia until the early nineteenth century. From approximately 1832 on, this theory began to morph into something else entirely. My point in writing this commentary is to simply give my view and opinion as to what caused this change in thought, why we have cleaved to the latter meaning and what the implications of embracing such a belief are to us as Christians.
It is important to outline just what the Rapture Theory is because the term has come to take on two different essential meanings. There is the older view which is based upon the scripture found in 1st Thessalonians 4:14-17, “We believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in Him. According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive who are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to greet the Lord in the air.”

In this older view, the Rapture was the calling of believers to Christ upon His return to earth to setup His new Kingdom. This “calling up” came after all of the various judgments and tribulations had concluded. The newer incarnation came about much, much later and introduced a new concept which had never been heard of before. Both will be discussed at length in this commentary.
First, one must understand that within the Canon of scripture, there is no such word or term as “Rapture”. The Rapture is a “shorthand” term used to explain an event; a happening. The actual word “Rapture” is defined thus: 
This from the Free Online Dictionary by Farlex (
1. The state of being transported by a lofty emotion; ecstasy.
2. An expression of ecstatic feeling. Often used in the plural.
3. The transporting of a person from one place to another, especially to heaven.
tr.v. rap·turedrap·tur·ingrap·tures
To enrapture.

[Obsolete French, abduction, carrying off, from raptcarried away, from Old French rat, from Latin raptus; see rapt.]
In addition to the  dictionary version, it is also believed the word “Rapture” is derived from the Latin word “rapio” which means, “to seize, to take by force.”, and interestingly enough, is thought to be the root for the English word for “Rape”. The Greek word used in scripture is “Harpazo” which is translated as “caught up” or “snatched.” One question which can be legitimately asked if there is no Hebrew word used, and the Greek word used is Harpazo would be, “Why is it called The Rapture Theory then?” The answer comes from the fact that in the late 3rd Centuries and early 4th Century, Jerome of Stridon (a border town between Dalmatia and Pannonia which is located in modern-day Croatia.) translated the Greek Septuagint into the Latin Vulgate. (Vulgate essentially means common, ergo “translation into the common language”.) Hence, the term Harpazo in the Greek was translated by Jerome into “rapio” or “rapere” or the more common term of “rapture” depending up the version one read in Latin. There are subtle differences in each word, yet they all could easily be applied to the usage of the Greek word “Harpazo” found in the Septuagint.
Once established in its most broad sense, “Rapture” means, “To take up” or “To take away”, we can proceed into the exploration of the different schools of thought respecting the application of the term. In order to do that properly, we have to understand cultures and eras have an effect on interpretation of scripture. One cannot view scripture without understanding the era in which it was written. In the case of 1st Thessalonians, we are looking at one of the oldest letters written by the Apostle Paul. His letters to the Church at Thessalonica date back to the early 50’s AD.
Here I must digress somewhat and ask you to bear with me. I bring this notion of dates and eras up only because there is a tendency to believe such Biblical giants as Paul, John and Peter , et al, remained static in their spiritual growth. What I mean by that is as observers from the 21st Century, we tend to look at these early church fathers as somehow already knowing everything God intended for them to know, and having worked out all of the problems which could possibly confront them from a spiritual perspective by the time they wrote what would become the scriptures. Since that is the presumption we tend to believe as we delve into their works (e.g. The Bible is the inerrant word of God), we therefore regard such works as infallible. Such notions should not be considered; Paul, John and Peter were just people who put down on papyrus, the chronicle of Christ’s trek on earth and the essential teachings they encompassed. Such work was “Divinely Inspired”, but such works are NOT infallible or inerrant. These are misconceptions resulting from a misunderstanding of terms. 
It is of interest to note the very thought of infallibility with respect to the Apostles or their written works is debunked within the pages of scripture by the Apostles themselves. We see this when Paul is forced to correct Peter on the subject of circumcision (Galatians 2:11-17) or when both he and Barnabas find themselves at odds with one another. (Acts 15:36-39) We can look back on the Paul and Peter argument and perhaps make a determination Paul was correct based upon our knowledge of doctrine, but do we know who was correct between Paul and Barnabas? Both remain silent on the points of disagreement. Can such be construed that neither was wrong, or both? What if it turns out Paul was wrong in his position? Would that error therefore invalidate all his works? Such a conclusion could only be reached if we impute a weight to such works which was never intended. Here is where it is important to remember the very reason these letters were written to begin with; many were to answer questions that these early churches had with respect to the teaching they had been given.
It is important to remember that just as God works in our lives and allows us to grow and learn, the same held true with these Apostles. Yes they were Divinely Inspired to write their works and they have been used to educate scores of people over two millennia, but scripture is not inerrant; the Word of God is. The misconception is the belief the Word of God is the printed word; the Bible. However, the Bible as it exists today was not compiled until at least three hundred years after Christ and continued to be molded and tinkered with up until the late 19th Century. To clarify, the Word of God is Jesus Christ; the Bible is scripture.
It is in this light we must look at scripture and take what the individuals say and make certain it aligns correctly with what Christ taught. Paul was a man and had opinions. If one looks at the attitude of Paul in the letters he wrote to the Church at Thessalonica and compares them with the attitude of his later works—his letters to Timothy thought to have been written in the early to mid-60’s AD, one will see a change in his language and his concepts. This is reflective in the growth the ten years or more which separates the two letters clearly points out. When we deny these early church fathers the benefit of that growth, we nullify their lives and the experiences they had to endure. 

Thus those who have created an entire theology around one passage of one letter written very early in his public ministry without finding harmony within Christ’s teachings, err considerably. I am cognizant of the fact this will sound somewhat heretical to some, but all I am really saying is that to regard the written text of the Bible as being without error is to impute far more into what the Bible is than what was intended. Scripture was Divinely Inspired, not conceived through something akin to automatic handwriting.
This from Wikipedia:
Automatic writing or psychography is writing which the writer claims to be produced from a subconscious, and/or external and/or spiritual source without conscious awareness of the content.
Almighty God did not take possession of the Apostles and write the Bible for them; He imbued them with His essence through RELATIONSHIP and these men wrote about the outgrowth of that relationship. The very presence of a Bible—while common to us today, was an extreme rarity even after it was compiled in the 3rd and 4th centuries and very few people set eyes upon one and even if they did, most likely would not have been able to read it; most people were illiterate. The early church had memorized creeds and used those creeds to guide them in their knowledge of Christ; the concept of a book which was without error was unknown to them.

The most common of these creeds, but by no means the first was introduced somewhere around 390 AD as mentioned by Ambrose, Archbishop of Milan. The creed reads:
 I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of Heaven and earth; and in Jesus Christ, His only Son Our Lord, Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into Hell; the third day He rose again from the dead; He ascended into Heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of God, the Father almighty; from thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and life everlasting. Amen.
For some three hundred years before Constantine the Great and many hundreds of years afterward, uncounted numbers of people lived and died regarding themselves fortunate only to have been able to have heard a creed such as this one. These were people who were persecuted, and martyred in horrific ways in attempts to get them to renounce their belief in Christ. These people had no scriptures to pour over for answers and had only the Holy Spirit to guide their way. It would be my humble opinion that despite their lack of scriptures, these people possessed far more faith than any modern Christian—if only because of the dearth of a Bible.
It would be a fair statement to say most all people grow as they learn; tomorrow, most people will know more than they do today. I would not want to be held to the level of spiritual understanding I possessed in my youth no matter how erudite I may have felt I was on such matters. I therefore struggle to make certain I am as accurate on what I disseminate today, being mindful of the fact that I will know more tomorrow than I know today.
Paul, Peter, John, et al—no matter how much regard we hold for these men, were just men and they wrote what they knew in the context they knew it and in the culture of their day. The Spirit guided them—just as I believe He guides you or me, but we get to make the final determination as to what is put on the paper. Thus as a writer, I am divinely inspired in just what it is I write, but it will remain open to debate as to whether I am correct or incorrect in my conclusions; whether my words are inerrant. I explain this position with respect to the scriptures only to place into proper context the scripture passages used to buttress the Rapture argument.
There are three basic thoughts on the modern understanding of The Rapture Theory within the Evangelical Church today. These break down to:
  •          Pre-Tribulation Rapture
  •          Mid-Tribulation Rapture
  •          Post-Tribulation Rapture
Briefly in order, Pre-Trib believers will be taken at the start of the great Tribulation. Mid-Trib believers will be taken after the first three and one half years have passed and Post-tribulation believers will be taken at the end of the Great Tribulation. This latter view is essentially the view long held by the Church dating back to the time of Constantine the Great.
In the first and second Rapture theories, the arrival of Christ is a “secret” coming where He gathers His faithful—believers in Him—and whisks them off, thus they avoid God’s wrath against the sinners and unbelievers left behind during the Great Tribulation. Since the situation on earth does not degrade into violence until after the first forty months of the Tribulation, Christians can still be “rescued” even though the Tribulation has begun. Few adherents of The Rapture theory believe in a Post-Tribulation Rapture as that “misses the point” of the Rapture as they see it.
One would believe that if this was what was going to occur at the end of the age, Christ would have spoken about it. However the most those who favor the Rapture theory can come up with is a parable told by Christ to support their theory. In both the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Luke: 

“As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the Ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.” Matthew 24:37-41

Two things to be mindful of in this: Firstly, there is no explicit mention such is a “secret” coming of Christ. The Patriarch Enoch, Noah's great-great-grandfather, had first prophesied of the coming deluge more than six hundred years before it occurred. He preached about this coming cataclysm up to the day he was taken. Similarly his son, Methuselah was also told about and preached the coming deluge. Noah's father, Lamech was also made aware as, of course, was Noah. Few within proximity of the Ark and Noah's family did not know of the story of the coming cataclysm, but it remained just a story. Of course once it hit, they became aware of the accuracy of the story instantly. They also knew Noah’s strange boat could provide them rescue, but it was already closed up. Again we see absolutely no secrecy about the arrival of the cataclysm and only one avenue of deliverance. To reiterate, we see a scenario that Christ pointed out to us (Matthew 24:37) where upon there was no "secret" delivery. It was long announced, but the coming abrupt and only once.
The second point is there was an immediate and irreversible end to the earth the inhabitants all were familiar with; their world ceased to exist. The antediluvian world was vastly different from the world we inhabit today. Even archaeologists will contend the earth has gone through different phases of weather and conditions resulting in forming the earth we now experience. Few of them will attach themselves to what is called “The Hydro-Plate Theory” (Conceptualized by Dr. Walter Brown Ph.D. I have some disagreements on many of Browns attendant theories, but such is for another commentary.), but they are all in general agreement that there have been episodes in earth’s history which saw catastrophic and abrupt changes.
The “Left Behind” scenario held by “Rapturists” does not follow this Noahic model as outlined by Christ. With the exception of a small group of Christians suddenly vanishing from the face of the earth, nothing else would immediately change. Everything else would go on as it always had after this “secret” taking away of only faithful, believing Christians.
In answering the number of actual people Raptured, it is important to note such a person can only be Raptured if they are a Christian and have confessed any overt or secret sins and have not slid back into the errant behavior. As a result of such parameters, the number of Christians which would be affected by such a Rapture would actually be rather small. This is from Dr. Timothy La Haye’s Newsletter entitled “Pre-Trib Perspectives”.  In the May 2003 issue (Volume VIII, Number 1) he writes the following on page 3:
Many countries I am sad to say, will hardly notice when Christians are suddenly missing.  For example, would it be ten percent in Germany or France?  Probably not. In such countries the attitude will probably be, "good riddance"!
Not so America.  Last month I cited the December 2002 Gallup Poll that found 46 percent of the American people have had a "born again experience with Jesus Christ."  I hope and pray that is true!  If it is, what about the many others who believe Jesus is the Son of God, that He lived a sinless life, died a sacrificial death for our sins and that He rose again from the dead, but have never been introduced to the term "born again," which occurs only twice in the Scripture.  Would God reject from His heaven any soul who goes out into eternity believing Jesus is the only way to God, who trusts Him for his soul's salvation?  I think not. 
So how many would that make who will be raptured?  Only God knows, of course, but we should not be surprised if it is well over fifty percent.
Think about it.  If 50 or more percent of the doctors, nurses, teachers, craftsmen and workers from all walks of life including military personnel from every branch of service were suddenly missing - that would be a devastating blow to the American economy and way of life.  Into that leadership vacuum that the rapture may cause, the world would be vulnerable to domination by Germany and France, both socialist forms of government with weak leaders or a globalist organization that would propose equality of nations.  A perfect setup for the Man of  Sin to move in and take over.
Many adherents of The Rapture Theory were actually critical of La Haye's figures as they believed them to be too inflated. So whereas La Haye believes maybe a bit over 50% in America would be raptured, a good number of “Christians” believe the percentage will be far, far lower.
A personal anecdote: My brother was a young Christian when this incident took place more than thirty years ago in a small Baptist Church. He noticed the pastor was upset about the reception he received from the congregation to his sermon. He asked the pastor what the matter was and the pastor abruptly responded with, “I doubt there are ten saved people in this congregation!” (The present congregation stood at roughly one hundred.) This alarmed my brother as he had to wonder if he could possibly be one of those ten fortunate people. Surely the pastor was included as was his wife and his child. That left only seven spots remaining for the rest of the congregation. One would have to wonder that if the pastor truly believed 90% of his congregation—friends, family and acquaintances—were destined to an eternal torment in Hell, why he wasn't on his knees in a prayerful wail to God, rending his clothing at his failure to reach these people. Instead we see a man self-possessed and angry. Thus, the “fruit” of such a theory is to build a wall between man and God rather than a bridge.
I tell this only to illustrate that as Christians we are not to focus on our salvation; such was not part of the Great Commission. We are to use our energies to introduce others into a relationship with Christ. We can do this because Christ took care of the salvation part already to free us from that burden. Consider this passage from Matthew:
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden light.” – Matthew 11:28-30
Here Christ is explaining that unlike being under The Law, which crushed the people with its awesome burden of rituals and regulations, Christ took the heavy burden from us. There was no longer the restrictions to adhere to and labyrinth of rules and regulations to surmount in order to find favor with God.
Now consider this from the author of the book of Hebrews:
“We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.” – Hebrews 5:11-14
As a Christian, there comes a point where we are free; being mature means being able to take upon us the responsibilities of adulthood and NOT go astray. A child must be watched at all times lest they stray into danger; an adult is supposed to have the ability to discern the danger and avoid it. The Law was designed to take the discernment from the people whereas Christ has freed us from the burden—and that gilded cage. God does not desire a relationship with mindless sheep; He desires an intimate relationship with those who can empathize with Him. That means we all have to grow up and growth can sometimes be a painful experience, however it is of note that most things worthwhile in life usually are.
Christ said that we would encounter trials as His followers, that we would be persecuted and killed for His namesake. The mere fact that the Rapture of the Church essentially spares the believer from the “honor” of serving Christ in this manner seems to be a departure from what it is that Christ said and what it is that the Christian walk is all about.
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The Cultural and historical conditions which led to The Rapture Theory:
At every step in human history, culture has played a primary role in how humanity regarded their creator. Since as humans we tend to need a thread of commonality—a point of reference in order to comprehend the incomprehensible, we tend to anthropomorphize that which is intellectually beyond our grasp. I will also hasten to add this is typical behavior; by anthropomorphizing that which we do not understand, we make a connection—no matter how tenuous. Through this connection, we feel a semblance of control and it is this faux foundation upon which most of our theology is created.
I do not mean to make it sound as though every connection we have with God is based upon some vague feeling, but for the most part, such is in fact the case. The need for humans to control God on an intellectual level kept humans from being paralyzed with fear over the prospect of some massively powerful entity invading and controlling their lives. The ancient “gods” were not prone to kindness and instead demanded much from their “creation”, the converse of which could mean death—or worse. Thus the gods of the pre-Christian era were stern, taciturn, and perpetually angry. They did not suffer fools gladly—or at all. In reality, the gods were unknowable to mankind—as was their intention.
It is the god of the Hebrews which is the one most familiar to the West, but there were gods of similar fashion in other portions of the world who had their own people to tend to as well. I will not dwell on this bit of theology too much here, but only to mention it as a point of context. The God of the Universe has to be the God of all or He is not really God. It is important to note that while the god of the Hebrews was dealing with Moses and the Jews in the desert, there were other people who lived and existed in such faraway places as China, Australia and the Americas. These people all worshiped gods as well and had expected outcomes from their prayers. When we dismiss their gods as somehow lesser because they are not the “true god” of the Hebrews, the question one should ask then is, “By what measure does one so quickly dismiss their god without also dismissing the god of the Hebrews?” Remember, all gods must be measured against Christ. “I and the Father are one.” –John 10:30.
So culture played an important role in how each people saw their god. Each god spoke their native language and understood their customs; each god knew the terrain and understood the people; each god warned his people of the danger posed by “the others”. Each god protected his people from the other gods and from the children of those gods, spelling out just how these invaders were to be dealt with. In this, the Hebrews were not alone or unique.
The Judeo-Christian culture we have been raised in and are familiar with rose out of many years of tumult, wars, bloodshed and terror. This particular faith was battered both from within and from outside in order to assume its present shape. Battles between Jews and Christians were predated by battles between Jews and Gentiles (or pagans if you will). Both Jews and Christians sometimes found themselves as unlikely allies when the specter of Islam finally made its way into their midst. Eventually a fashion of Christianity formed in the guise of the Catholic Church through Constantine the Great, Roman Emperor in the early fourth century AD. Rules were established which neither Jews nor Muslims obeyed. Soon it didn't matter as those who swore allegiance to Christianity found themselves as the power brokers of the Western world. More bloody battles were fought to establish and maintain this dominance.
The earlier schisms within the Church in the 11th (the split into the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church in the West.) and 16th centuries (The Protestant Reformation) notwithstanding, by the latter half of the Seventeenth Century, a new way of viewing God which was held primarily by those of the Protestant faith had emerged. Deism has been traced as a concept to Lord Herbert Cherbury (1582 – 1648). Though not regarded as a Deist, it was Cherbury who laid much of the foundation for Deistic thought which was predominate in that time.
So what is Deism and what part does it have to play in a commentary on the Rapture Theory? Deism is essentially the belief that reason and observation of the natural world are sufficient to determine the existence of God, accompanied with the rejection of revelation and authority as a source of religious knowledge. In so defining the means by which one would quantify God, Deists took much power and authority away from the established Christian religions of their day. Deism was regarded as a “reasonable” means by which to view God and became a major influence in the lives of men who were responsible for the French and American Revolutions. Many are well familiar with the knowledge that such giants in American History as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were Deists. The error which is propagated by some historians is that these men were not Christians.
There is today a popular misconception the Forefathers of our Republic were not Christians because they claimed to be Deists. To dismiss their belief in Christ because they did not hold to the specific theology of Catholicism or Protestantism is to be both ignorant and misinformed. Such men came to appreciate the science and philosophies of their day and found that if much of the untried and tested traditionally held theological beliefs were brushed aside, another view of God emerged; one which was far more in keeping with their understanding of their world at that time. To clarify, these men eschewed the prevailing established religious thought of the day in favor of a religious thought they found reasonable; that does not negate their faith and belief in Christ. In interjecting their personal agendas, many historians are doing a grave disservice to their chosen fields of study and will be lost to history. People do not long follow liars. 
Deism has been also called “The Watchmaker God” theology. This reasoning was because from all the evidence one had on hand, it was inarguable an intelligence created the universe and the earth beneath their feet, but it also seemed inarguable this “god” had long since moved on to other things, but making certain the natural order of the realm would continue as designed. Thus, God created the watch, wound it and then set it down on a table, confident that even in his absence the watch would continue on as he had designed it to do.
Cherbury’s views were published in his seminal work in 1624. In his book, he outlines five “Common Notions” which govern Deistic thought:
  • There is a Supreme God.
  • This Sovereign Deity ought to be worshipped.
  • The connection of Virtue and Piety is and always has been held to be the  most important part of religious practice.
  • The minds of men have always been filled with horror for their wickedness. Their vices and crimes have been made obvious to them. They must be expiated by repentance.
  • There is reward and punishment after this life.
The understanding of Deism is—in my opinion—necessary in order to understand how we came to believe in Dispensationalism and the Rapture. One can clearly see the “evolution” of religious thought as times dictated and men began to contemplate their role on the earth. George Washington in his inaugural address in 1789 invoked God Almighty and ceded the fact that this God ruled the Universe, giving this God the credit for America’s defeat over the British Empire.  Though a Deist, Washington’s level of understanding of God certainly doesn’t sound like a man who was not Christian. In fact, his writings show quite the contrary viewpoint.

As our country began to grow and mature, the defeat of the British allowed them to grow and mature as well. Suddenly God's ordination didn't seem quite as clear to the British Crown. What had went wrong? What was going on? Did God not care what His Chosen People had to endure? The United States struggled to gain its footing and the British Empire struggled to make sense out of their defeat. In the midst of all of this, the Bourbon Monarchy in France crumbled and was replaced by a truly secular dictatorship under General Napoleon Bonaparte. Was the fall of France just punishment for helping the Americans? The British were then attacked by the French and the British attacked the Americans.

All of this chaos began to give people pause. Whose side was God on anyway? The French had largely been Catholic, the British largely Anglican and the Americans an eclectic mix.  Clearly something more was going on here that was not heretofore understood by anyone. Perhaps God didn't act as people believed He should because people had misunderstood God’s limitations.
A Plymouth Brethren preacher named John Nelson Darby (1800 – 1882) soon changed all of that. Born in Westminster, London, Darby started out as an Anglican clergyman in Ireland. In this position, Darby claimed to have converted many Catholics to Anglicanism.  As a result of a contentious issue regarding these converted Irish peasants and the demand for their sworn allegiance to the British Crown, Darby resigned his position in protest. Shortly thereafter in 1827, Darby was thrown from a horse and was seriously injured. During his recovery, Darby began to contemplate God and the Bible. He began to believe the “Kingdom” described in the Book of Isaiah and elsewhere in the Old Testament was different than that manifest by the Christian Church. Given the tumult he had just personally witnessed in Ireland as well as the religious tumult in recent history, to regard a “better” kingdom than that populated by the “Christians” he was familiar with was not a great leap to make.
Over the next five years, Darby developed the principles which would make up his theology. One of Darby’s revelations is similar to the revelation which Martin Luther had experienced; that the Spirit can speak to all men, not just “appointed” individuals. With Luther, the error that the Spirit spoke only to the Pope was revealed; to Darby, it was that the Spirit could take to anyone, not just members of the clergy.
By 1832, Darby had completely split from the Anglican Church and had formed a new religious congregation along with some other like-minded people and called themselves the Plymouth Brethren. It was during this time Darby began to expand his reach by giving lectures in Ireland and England; writing papers on his beliefs which were also widely disseminated. Out of this “maturing” of his theological beliefs came the theology known as Dispensationalism.
Essentially in dispensationalist theology, God is understood to relate to humans in different ways under different Biblical covenants or “dispensations” in history.  In dispensationalist theology, Israel is seen as distinct from the Christian Church and that God has yet to fulfill his promises to Israel. Ergo, Christians and Jews are looked upon and have different tracks to God under Dispensationalism; the two groups are dealt with separately.
The theology of Dispensationalism was adopted by and made popular by American minister and theologian, Cyrus Scofield. Scofield used Darby’s dispensationalist theology and the attendant Rapture Theory as part of his Scofield Reference Bible, published in 1909. This was a King James translation with notes whereupon Scofield explained what the scriptures actually were saying. The Scofield Reference Bible asserted such beliefs as latter writing of the Book of Revelation to 96 AD, the “Gap Theory”, and the date of creation as being set at 4004 BC.
The Scofield’s Reference Bible was then adopted by the founders of the Dallas Theological Seminary, Dr. Lewis Sperry Chafer and William Henry Griffith Thomas. Their vision was that there be a school where expository Bible preaching was taught simply. The Dallas Theological Seminary has become a cornerstone of the modern Fundamentalist movement of the Twentieth Century with impressive alumni which includes: 
·         Gregory Beale, former president of the Evangelical Theological Society
·         Michael J. Easley, former president of Moody Bible Institute
·         Tony Evans, pastor and widely-syndicated radio broadcaster
·         Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church (Dallas, Texas)
·         David Klingler, former NFL player and current director of DTS' Houston extension campus
·         Hal Lindsey, author of The Late, Great Planet Earth
·         Duane Litfin, former president of Wheaton College
·         J. Vernon McGee, founder of "Thru the Bible Radio Network" program
·         Scott O'Grady, pilot whose story formed the basis for Behind Enemy Lines
·         Jim Rayburn, founder of Young Life
·         Kenneth N. Taylor, creator of the The Living Bible and the founder of Tyndale House
·         Dr. John Townsend, award-winning co-author of Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life 
·         Bruce Wilkinson, founder of Walk Thru the Bible and author of The Prayer of Jabez
·         Dr. Charles Swindoll, Chancellor of the Dallas Theological Seminary
With this array of Christian luminaries, it is easy to see how a theology which did not exist in any form only one hundred eighty years ago, dominates the Evangelical landscape today. Do their opinions matter in light of the tenuous origins of their theology? That is a debate which will not be resolved anytime soon, but further exploration as to what the Rapture Theory is and its ramifications for not only Christians, but for Israel will be explored next.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Five points of Calvinism:
What is really going on here?

By M.L. Wilson

All contents copyright © 2013 by M.L. Wilson. All rights reserved. No part of this document or the related files may be reproduced or transmitted in any form, by any means (electronic, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of the publisher.
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In this commentary, I am going to give my analysis of each of the 5 Points which make up the essence of what is regarded as Calvinism. In the course of this commentary it is important to note that these 5 Points were actually not penned by John Calvin, a French theologian and philosopher (1509 – 1564) who was instrumental in outlining the theology that gave birth to the Protestant Reformation. The 5 Points were essentially a rebuttal of the theology that made up what has been come to be known as Arminianism, named after Dutch theologian Jacobus Arminius (The Latinized name of Jakob Hermanszoon). Arminius (1560 – 1609) did not even outline his theology until after Calvin had already died leaving the actual 5 Point rebuttal to one of Calvin’s disciples who sought to continue his teachings. Regardless the authorship, people have argued for centuries over why the 5 Points of Calvinism is correct or incorrect, but here I will give my impressions. Feel free to read up and compare the scripture quotes I use and offer your feedback.

Before I begin, I must bring up one very important point that guides my rationale; we cannot as a people continue to assert that God is love and then turn around and ladle condemnation on others because they don’t hold to the exact same beliefs. Christ came to us in a world that was in utter chaos, his country of birth was under foreign occupation, the leaders were absolutely corrupt and few had any rights regardless they be Roman or Hebrew. Despite these societal hardships, Christ did not use His time to march with protest signs or exclude others due to theological differences. He welcomed all and reached out to those who were marginalized and forgotten by society, making them aware that while they might not be regarded very highly by their fellow man at the present, God loved them and desperately wanted a relationship with them.

John Calvin and his followers were a product of their times and knowledge base, but as Christians we are called to more than mere traditions; we are called to emulate Christ. This becomes the basis of our relationship with Him and without such emulation, there is no real relationship; it all becomes an academic exercise. The Apostle Paul said it best, “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but I have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.” (1st Corinthians 13:1) 

When one contemplates Paul’s thought in that passage and then marries it with his thoughts in Galatians 5:22, a picture of who God is begins to emerge that is vastly removed from the entity that the Orthodox church—and John Calvin, among others in his time—are familiar with. In Galatians 5:22, Paul points out the very character attributes of God. My belief, therefore, is that if one cannot see God in the example given by Christ or outlined in Galatians 5:22, it is a reasonable conclusion that such is NOT god.

Below are each of the 5 Points as were written to directly rebut the points raised in Arminian Remonstrance. These are my conclusions and the essential errors as I see them. Arminianism has never had quite the exposure as had Hyper-Calvinism (What Calvin’s teachings had morphed into upon his death) and therefore if any are interested in comparing the 5 Points raised by Calvin’s disciples along with the rebuttal of Arminianism and then with my conclusions, that would make for an interesting contrast. I may do it myself one day, but for now I will contain my thoughts to these 5 Points.

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1. Original Sin: This is a concept not well understood by John Calvin nor the people who followed him. Many presumptions are made with respect to original sin based upon who is regarded as the one talking to Adam in the Garden of Eden. If one assumes that the “god” speaking to Adam and Eve is Creator God Almighty, then one must also answer this question: What exactly does Jesus mean in John 6:46 when he states, “No one has seen the Father except the One who is from God; only He has seen the Father.”

Christ also points out in John 5:37 that, “ have never heard His voice nor seen His form.”

Paul also states in 1st Timothy 6:16 that, “…God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in an unapproachable light whom no one has seen or can see.”

John also concurs in 1st John 4: 12 when he states, “No one has ever seen God.”

So this puts us all in something of a quandary as to exactly what is going on. If we've never seen God or heard His voice, who is Moses talking to in his Tent of Meeting where the bible says in Exodus 33:11, “The Lord would speak to Moses face to face as a man speaks with his friend.”

Orthodoxy came up with a novel approach to answer this question, though it is absolutely unsupported by scripture. It is called a Theophany. Essentially a Theophany is defined as the visible manifestation of a deity. The origins of the Theophany are medieval in conception with the first known usage occurring in 1633. (Merriam-Webster)

The Theophany is also conflated with the theory of the pre-incarnate Christ. This is also a belief without a shred of biblical support, but plenty of tradition.

What is actually occurring is something far off the path of orthodox belief, yet Christ pointed it out, Paul pointed it out, John pointed it out and the Book of Hebrews was written specifically to debunk the belief that Christ had ever been to the earth prior to his fleshly incarnation. (Hebrews 9:24-26 for example) Orthodoxy dismisses all of this because it does not fit in with the traditional model they've come to know.

Now if one accepts that the entity which spoke to Adam and Eve in the Garden WAS NOT Creator God Most High (or Almighty God – whichever is your preference), then suddenly the concept of Original Sin really does not have the impact which Calvin gave to it. One no longer has to rely on a “feeling” that it is wrong; one only has to look to the Gospels to see that it IS wrong.

In John 8:44, Christ is addressing some Jews who were believers, but were wrestling with the concept of Christ juxtaposed with the god of the Old Testament. It is important to understand that in this passage, Christ is not addressing “evil” Pharisaic Jews, but just Jews who had come to believe Him who never-the-less had legitimate questions. Christ responds to them by stating, “If God were your Father (Patri in the Greek), you would love me, for I came from God and now am here. I have not come on my own; but He sent me. Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. You belong to your father (Patros in the Greek), the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. Yet because I tell you the truth, you do not believe me.”

Why would Christ call these people children of the devil? Did we not just read a few passages earlier that these were Jews who believed him and just had honest questions? Yes, we did. (John 8:31) What Christ is actually saying here is that the Jews are following the rules and restrictions set forth by their god who stands opposed to Christ. In that sense, their god is the devil. But is not their god also the god of the Old Testament? It certainly seems that in this context, that is exactly who their god is. Christ is attempting to point out to these Jews that they now have a choice: Follow the god of the Old Covenant or recognize that Creator God Most High, Emmanuel, has come to bring them news of a different direction.

Thus the very insightful first point of Calvinisim is both correct and incorrect. The flesh is an imperfect construct by its very nature which he points out, but that does not mean that the spirit which imbues that flesh—the spirit that came from Creator God Almighty—is also corrupt by default. Christ gives us the admonition to surmount the flesh and follow the spirit within. The Calvinist merely assumed that the flesh was the sum total of the man, when the flesh is merely a conveyance - like a car. The Calvinist absolutely does not understand this and cites a well bred, genteely reared young lady as the least sinful specimen. Christ tells us that as a man (read person) thinks in their heart, so are they. A well bred, genteel lady can have some of the darkest thought of anyone. (E. L. James, author of the uninspired and oversexed “50 Shades of Gray is one such “well bred, genteel young woman, having attended the University of Kent in England. Could this be the type of woman the Calvinist here was alluding to? Hmm...)

The Calvinist presumes that God looks upon man in the same way that man looks upon man, yet Christ painted a completely different picture of how God views man. In Galatians 5:22, Paul outlines the character attributes of God. If one can find a way to mesh these character attributes with the god portrayed in the Old Testament that would be a rather neat trick. To aid in your comparative analysis, I’ll point out a rather benign passage in Deuteronomy 20:10 – 20. This is merely god giving Moses basic instructions on how he is to deal with their enemies. When you are done reading that, it might be of some help to you to read up on how slaves—especially woman and children—were treated by their captors in those ancient times. It isn't a pretty picture. Keep that in mind when you then flip over to Galatians and read God’s character in chapter 5, verse 22.

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2. Effectual Calling: As was noted in the first of the five points, here with the second, the Calvinist proceeds upon the false premise that sin is an errant destination or goal for the human animal that is essentially bad. While it may seem a splitting of hairs, it has to be understood by all people that we AS people are a duel creation. We enjoy a fleshly body that we use while here upon this planet and in this spatial, finite realm. The bodies we inhabit are necessary because without them, there would be no way to interact with the realm as Almighty God intended for us.

In order to fully understand what the Calvinist is talking about with this “Effectual Calling”, we have to look at how they saw the world as opposed to how the world actually exists. The Calvinist looked at the world through the very slim view to which he was made privy; what Paul called, “Seeing through a glass darkly.” (1st Corinthians 13:12) There is so much more to God and the “world” which He exists, that words truly cannot do it justice. Regardless, I will endeavor to try, begging the reader’s indulgence with the dearth of analogies. Quite plainly when dealing with God as a concept and seeking to not anthropomorphize Him, painting an image of what is going on from His perspective is not an easy task. I am instead endeavored to use evidence within the realm of that which is known or acceptably theorized as a guide pointing to what God really is and where such a being would exist and how such a being would exist.

An interesting concept which escapes most people is the concept of eternity. When one thinks of eternity, one is prone to think of such within the vastness of linear time. Thus while we seem to grapple with time stretching off into “forever”, we at least can conceptualize on some level that eternity means that we will never die. We try not to think about what we will do with all of that time we have on our hands because we trust that God has something planned that will be fulfilling and not leave us idle.

The Bible talks about eternity in a different way, however. Eternity is not limited to a linear time line. What that means is that while we as human beings understand the concept of time as a straight line with a beginning point and an end point, God would more accurately demonstrate this as a closed circle; there is in effect no beginning and no end. Thus time within the bounds of eternity does not adhere to the same laws as chronological time. Think of it in ways of dimensions: The First dimension is merely a line in space. This line has no width and no depth. This is difficult for us to conceptualize because every line we see has some width and depth  even if it is miniscule. Mathematically, however, a first dimension line lacks both width and depth. A second dimension line now has width, but still lacks depth. However with a second dimension line, conceptual understanding increases because we can see 2D represented in Drawings. The third Dimension line is even more familiar since it has width and depth; it can be an object. We exist in this third dimension world and are quite familiar with length, width and depth.

As we progress beyond the third dimension, the concepts begin to get fuzzy once again. Mathematically they work, but if you are not a mathematician, it makes little sense to you. The fourth dimension was identified by Physicist Albert Einstein as Time. So upon progression of our spatial realm, we have a point (the Zero dimension, actually), a line without width or depth, a line with width, but no depth and then a line with both width and depth. The fourth dimension introduces us to the concept of that line when it was first conceptualized and its eventual dissolution. If it exists in this realm, it is subject to time.

The fifth dimension is essentially an extension of the fourth in that you have an infinite number of these chronological timelines. Infinite is a big number laden with concepts that can only be answered in the following dimensions. (Science has theorized ten dimensions in all while some mathematicians believe that it can range up to forty or more.)

Why bring up dimensions and their effect to a commentary written by disciples of John Calvin hundreds of years ago? The answer is that these Calvinists worked with the knowledge they had available to them in their day. The Calvinist’s knowledge was not just the sciences, but also their understanding of God. Sadly this understanding was tainted by those who had come before them and sought to hide the truth. As a result, the concept of Sin enters into the equation without it being properly understood. Those Calvinists operated and then proceeded with the 5 Point commentary based upon this flawed premise and in effect, added to the lie. It was wholly unintentional, but the end result is the same: The truth of God is hidden from view.

The fleshly body which we are housed in while on this earth is a construct of this realm. It was not designed to ever leave this realm, only to be “borrowed” by us humans for a short while. The human body in this realm absent the spiritual force which inhabit them, are merely biological machines. As biological machines, they have needs of their own which are as much a part of their design and this realm as any other living organism. It is this argument that the Calvinist attempts to tackle and why I believed that an understanding of the difference in approach was necessary.

While many of us would accept Calvinism’s beliefs as truth, one must step back and analyze the structure of humanity as understood by Calvinism. Exactly what is it that the Calvinist understands then? Let us explore that just a bit. Calvinists did not look at the human body and the spirit from God which imbues us as being separate, but rather as one and the same. Calvinists understood that some human beings upon accepting Christ were given life eternal by the Most High God and that upon passing from this earth, would then live forever. This is typical Christian theology, but it is pregnant with presumption. If we can accept as outlined in point one of my answer to the Calvinist’s commentary, that “Sin” is an arbitrary line of demarcation set by an ambassador of God Most High and not by God Most High Himself, then “Sin” as understood does not carry with it the same meaning as is taught in the church. It was this concept which Christ was attempting to impart on his “Sermon on the Mount” in Matthew chapter 5. Here Christ is trying to teach the Jews of his day the difference between their limited concept of “Sin” and the expansive concept of living through the spirit which is from God Most High. The Calvinist only marginally get’s this concept because they do not see humanity in its true duel construct.

In Romans 7:14 – 25, Paul discusses this duality. In verse 18, he calls it the “sinful nature”, but a more accurate rendering of the word in Greek is Sarx which literally means a fleshly body.  I illustrate this here because the connotation associated with “Sin nature” is a negative while the connotation of a fleshly body is not. What Paul is really attempting to point out here is that our fleshly bodies left to their own devices will lead us to operate in a fleshly manner. As spirit in essential construct, however, we are called to surmount the flesh and instead follow the spirit. This is what Christ was attempting to point out in Matthew 5 and what Paul is attempting to point out in Romans 7.

The flesh is neither good nor bad; the flesh is a construct of this realm. If we could separate the two, the body would do that which was necessary for the body; the body does have sentience and will do what it desires, but where would be the judgment against what would be regarded as good as opposed to bad? This is where the Law comes into the picture.  The Law dealt effectively with the body with the hope that the spirit would follow. Christ painted a picture that was diametrically opposed, believing that through relationship with Him we would come to understand the duality and follow Christ using our spiritual ears and spiritual eyes rather than our flesh.

Why is this distinction between the spirit and the flesh important? Firstly we must know who we are—not just in the flesh, but who we are before God Almighty. If we believe that we are a repugnant, lost creature who is essentially hopeless, then for many of us it becomes difficult to reconcile that wretched creature with a Holy God.  If, however, we look upon our construct here in this realm as such that our “default setting” is the flesh and the “spiritual setting” must actually be turned on, then suddenly we begin to see ourselves in a different light. The turning on of this spiritual setting is what is referred to as being born again. As Christ pointed out in John 3:3, “…I tell you the truth, no one can see the Kingdom of God unless he is born again.”

What does “Born again” actually mean though? Nicodemus wanted an answer to that question because he thought that Christ’s statement was foolishness. Christ had to explain what he meant. In so doing, Christ gives a more expansive answer. When one sees the order and inclusion of what is necessary to see the Kingdom of God (the salient point here), one might come to a better understanding of what it is we’re going through and being taught. (As opposed to angels.) Christ said that we must first be born of water (physical birth into the temporal, corporeal realm) and then of the Spirit (knowledge of Christ and that relationship.)

What is curious is that those are both requirements to see the Kingdom of God. For those who errantly believe that the Kingdom of God is a place—Heaven, say—then the question can be legitimately asked as to whether the angels can see the Kingdom of God. My answer to that question is no. Why would I say that? Actually Paul says that in Ephesians 3:10 when he says, “His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the Rulers and Authorities in the heavenly realms, according to His eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Calvinism’s conclusion is that some people are taken out of the mire that is humanity by God’s hand and set apart while the remainder is left to live out their sinful lives. What exactly prompts God to choose some over others is left unclear. This is from Calvin’s commentary:

The different effects of the same preached gospel at the same time and place prove that regeneration is from sovereign grace: "Some believed the things which were spoken, and some believed not" (Acts 28:24). This is because, "As many as were ordained to eternal life believed" (Acts 13:48). Often those remain unchanged whose social virtues, good habits, and amiability should seem to offer least obstruction to the gospel; while some old, profane, sensual, and hardened sinners become truly converted, whose wickedness and long confirmed habits of sinning must have presented the greatest obstruction to gospel truth. Like causes should produce like effects. Had outward gospel inducements been the real causes, these results of preaching would be impossible. The facts show that the gospel inducements were only instruments, and that in the real conversion the agency was almighty grace.
As Christians, should we not be acquainted with who and what we are before God? Is it enough to simply throw up our hands and say, “I haven’t the slightest idea why I believe in God and someone else doesn’t?” That is a vexing question when we witness the absolute evil that pervades our world. How could such people even begin to hope that they are saved if they lead such depraved lives and never acknowledge Christ? I suppose such a question has to be asked in light of what Paul said in Romans 3:10 where he actually quotes from Psalm 51:4, “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands’ no one who seeks God. All have turned away; they have together become worthless…” Christians point this passage out to underscore what it was that Calvinists believed, but Paul makes it clear that this was the god of the Old Covenant. He goes on to say in verse 20, “Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the Law; rather, through the Law we become conscious of sin.” (The word sin here is rendered as Hamartia in the Greek and it means, “To miss the mark.” Harkening back to my point in the first part of the commentary, one must again ask themselves, “Whose mark?”

This brings me to my point on eternity and it being more accurately representative as a circle rather than a really, really long line. In Matthew 25:46, “Christ describes us as entering into eternal life.
This is from Dictionary.Com:

Eternal  (adjective)
Without beginning or end; lasting forever; always existing (opposed to temporal ): eternal life. 
Perpetual; ceaseless; endless: eternal quarreling; eternal chatter.
Enduring; immutable: eternal principles.
Metaphysics. Existing outside all relations of time; not subject to change.
Something that is eternal. 
The Eternal, God.
Words mean things and when one does not clearly understand the definition of a word or one merely presumes an intended meaning based upon prior knowledge or understanding, one may wind up with a flawed conclusion. If we were to focus for a moment on the word Eternal and then contemplate that it is an existence without beginning or end, then how can we possibly become eternal. It would be reasonable to assume based upon the meaning of the word that we already are eternal. So if we all exist and have been ever existent within this framework, the only real question is one of our final dispositions before God. (…or ever existent disposition before God, if you prefer.)

This may seem confusing, but it really is not. How we wish to view it may be what winds up confusing us, but that is because we are locked in a linear time construct with all points moving in a chronological order. God does not view it that way and thus, is not in the least surprised by any of the events of any of our lives. Calvin only vaguely understood this concept and his followers understood it even less, perverting his beliefs into what has since become known as Hyper-Calvinism.

From Wikipedia:

Hyper-Calvinism, previously known as High Calvinism, is a branch of Protestant theology that denies a general design in the death of Jesus Christ, the idea of an indiscriminate free offer of the gospel to all persons and a universal duty to believe the Lord Jesus Christ died for them. It is at times regarded as a variation of Calvinism, but critics emphasize its differences to traditional Calvinistic beliefs.

God made us to reside in this “bubble” of linear time to teach us more about Him. He placed his spiritual ambassadors in positions of authority over us to aid in that teaching. However since the mightiest of the Celestial creation has never been born first of water, ergo the mightiest of the Celestial creation can never understand the heart and mind of God in the way that we as human beings can. In our struggle and in our pain, we surpass those who would seek only to subjugate us.

Consider James 1:2 “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face various trials, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that’s you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” 

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3. God's Election: When one tackles the concepts of preordination or predestination, it is helpful to understand completely what those terms mean. I will therefore start out this point by defining these two terms because they play such a major role here.

This from the Free Online Dictionary by  Farlex (

preordination - (theology) being determined in advance; especially the doctrine (usually associated with Calvin) that God has foreordained every event throughout eternity (including the final salvation of mankind)

Predestination, in theology, is the doctrine that all events have been willed by God. John Calvin interpreted biblical predestination to mean that God willed eternal damnation for some people and salvation for others.[1] Explanations of predestination often seek to address the so-called "paradox of free will," whereby God's omniscience seems incompatible with human free will.
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Both terms are similar in meaning and application. What needs to be explored is how Calvinism applied this thought with respect to the position of mankind before a Holy God. Thus far we have seen that Calvinism has approached God as a severe being; one almost entirely bereft of anything approaching compassion. The reason for this goes into the contemporary thought towards God in his day. Even though Calvin lived three hundred years before the author of the theology of Dispensationalism, John Nelson Darby(1800 - 1882), there was still a clear understanding that the God of the Old Testament and Jesus Christ operated quite differently from one another. God was pure justice while Christ was mercy. I will hasten to add here that Christ never illustrated any such disparity between God Most High and Himself; Christ said in John 10:30, “…I and the Father are one.”

Never the less, Calvin had to address some observational facts of his day with the limited vision he possessed. The first of these dealt with the calling of a Christian. In essence, what is the role of a Christian? This is where we find that building upon a flawed premise leads one to a flawed conclusion.  Calvin, though a part of what would become the Protestant reformation, was still very much inculcated with the teachings of the Catholic Church and drew from that wealth of knowledge. The essential divide between the Protestants and the Catholics had more to do with national (or kingdom) sovereignty than anything else. This encompassed such positions as Doctrines, rituals, leadership and the ecclesiastical structure of the Roman Catholic Church. What it did not necessarily call into question was how each side saw God Most High and Jesus Christ. Both sides, irrespective of the doctrinal divide, tended to retain the view of God as the stern taskmaster and Christ as the merciful sacrifice.

One thing often overlooked by people of faith when studying the early Protestant reformers is the politics of the era. It is vitally important that we keep in mind that in the 16th century, politics and religion were inextricably intertwined. Most of Europe was a collection of monarchies and kingdoms and prior to the Reformation, most all of these monarchies with few exceptions answered to the Holy See. Ergo, the greatest push for the reformation wasn’t so much Martin Luther’s realization of “Justification by faith apart from works.” as much as it was a means by which these monarchies could wrest control of their kingdoms away from the Holy Roman Empire.

But in the early 16th century, Calvin, like Luther, only had their knowledge of God and Jesus as was taught to them by the Catholic Church. It is in that light that we can see how stilted Calvin’s view of God truly is. The third point that Calvin makes is how one is decided to be destined for either Heaven or Hell. It is within the structure of this third point that Calvin does much to diminish God and Christ without really realizing it.

There are a few more terms that are necessary to understand when dealing with the limitations Calvinism has placed upon God here in this third point.

The first of these is Omniscience. Briefly, it means to have the capacity to know everything that there is to know, hence “All Knowing”.

The second of these is Eternal. Briefly, to be eternal is to have no beginning and no end; to be everlasting  and infinite.

The third is Atemporal. Briefly, to be free from the limitations of time and causality.

It is important to understand here that a man like John Calvin could not conceptualize a God who existed outside the linear structure of time. He, like most all of his contemporaries, believed that God being God simply would decide matters as He saw them. With His infinite wisdom and knowing that no human would actually seek Him on their own, God had to simply choose whom He would save.

It is instructive to point out at this juncture that when Jesus was still amongst us here upon this earth—but after His resurrection (very important!), His admonition to us as Christians in a relationship was to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. To make a disciple is to make one a student, to usher one into a knowledge of Christ. To enter into this new relationship, one is to make a public declaration—in this case Baptism. It is not unlike taking public vows for a wedding. The vows themselves do not make you married, but they show your intent. That brings us to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. God Most High, “…who lives in an unapproachable light whom no one has seen or can see.”  (1st Timothy 6:16)

As human beings, we therefore interact with God Most High in one of two ways: In the pre-Christian era it was through his angelic agency. Later on, Christ came and we found ourselves now able to communicate with God Most High in the flesh. (“I and the Father are one” – John 10:30) Upon Christ taking his leave of this earth, His Spirit (what I like to refer to as “Relational Causality”) became available to those who have entered into this relationship with Him.  I highlight these points because by the time of Constantine the Great and the first of the Ecumenical Councils in Nicea in 325 AD, God was viewed as three distinct and disparate beings in what was later called the Holy Trinity. This was a concept that was utterly foreign to the early church, but had a major impact on how we came to see God Most High (not Christ or the Holy Spirit) later on.

Calvinism was able to use God in a way that perverted the very essence of what God Most High truly is: Love. By introducing a mix of three deities into the equation, Calvinism reduced God to the role of disciplinarian, a stern ogre bereft of compassion while Christ was placed into the role of longsuffering grace, willing to forgive any and all transgressions if only He was believed. If He was not, the hammer came down, but not by his hand; it came down by the hand of an angry God who did not suffer fools gladly and “justly” paid back the wicked with an eternal torment.

Lastly we have this ethereal being that no one quite understood then—or even today. Exactly what or who is the Holy Spirit? Is it God? Is it Christ? Is it something else entirely?  Calvinists didn’t know either. In fact the Holy Spirit did not even become a part of the Triune Godhead until approximately 186 AD.

Calvinism theorizes that God had worked out who was to be saved and damned before the “experiment” ever began. Such a God by definition would have to extremely limited in ability, but in an era where so much misinformation predominated, the fathers of the Protestant Reformation had very few with the acumen to question them on point. What they said was therefore accepted as truth and has prevailed to this day.

But Calvinism raises an interesting point: Who is saved and who is damned and how does that come about with a sovereign God? As we saw earlier in this commentary, God operates on a plane vastly superior to what we can see.  Let us try to put it into a comprehensible comparison. Light is part of what is regarded as the Electromagnetic Spectrum. This spectrum is essentially infinite. Within this spectrum is:  Gamma Rays, Hard X-Rays, Soft X-Rays, Extreme Ultraviolet Light, Near Ultraviolet Light, Visible Light, Near Infrared, Far Infrared, Extremely High Frequency (Microwaves), Super High Frequency (Microwaves), Ultra High Frequency (Radio), etc.

Since our understanding of the Electromagnetic spectrum goes off as far as can be measured in both the low and high end, it makes the measurable percentage of visible light essentially zero. Mathematically, the electromagnetic spectrum is so vast, that visible light cannot be measured as a percentage of the whole. This is merely one spectrum we’re talking about here and we cannot even measure visible light placed beside all else that exists within this one spectrum. How is it that we believe that we know all that there is to know about God Most High then? Would it not be reasonable to conclude based upon what Christ Himself told us about God that He is far more vast then we are able to discern?

The Calvinist author of the 5 Points commentary stumbled into his conclusions by not contemplating the true majesty that is God Most High and all that He is. By believing that God was sum total of what the Calvinist was able to see and comprehend, he erred in formulating his conclusions with respect to who is saved and who is damned. One can reasonably ask whether this default of damnation makes any rational or logical sense. Again if God desires that all be saved (1st Timothy 2:3-4), who is there to stop Him? If according to Calvinism no one will seek God on their own, then God is saving all whom He chooses. How is it any different if He chooses to save a few or all? Again we see here a human rationalization to explain that which is God’s alone.

The theological doctrine that claims that all will be saved is called Universalism. The study of this would comprise a lesson all of its own, but suffice to say that many people have already concluded that if God desires something, then there is little to stand in His way.

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4. Particular Redemption: There comes a point in the Calvinist’s 5 Point expository where the question of who can participate in Christ’s sacrifice is broached. The author seems confused on this point because as was already established in points two and three, God chose who was to be “saved” making the question raised in point four irrelevant. Assuming that the Calvinist is merely asking the question as a stand-alone point; a independent concept, then the question suddenly becomes very relevant.

It is of particular interest to note that in our imperfect humanity, we all feel a sense of justice that does not seem to be shared by Jesus Christ. As limited and imperfect humans, we can find a shared feeling of this type of justice with the god of the Old Testament. When we look back at Calvinism’s first point—that of Original Sin, we see that the only reason that we find ourselves in this present predicament is as a result of our failure as a people NOT to do as was demanded of us by the very One who created us. This seems to be the perfect definition of a conundrum; we do not surmount the obstacles placed before us for to have done so would have rendered the greater good beyond our reach.

Calvinism looks upon humanity’s inability to “obey” god in the garden as a failure that has dogged us as humans ever since; that by “missing the mark”, we have marred ourselves beyond the point or ability for God Almighty to conceive of reconciliation. In taking stock of the situation, God brought forth Jesus Christ to act as a bridge between He and humanity. But here, orthodox theology gets even muddier. If Christ is described as an eternal being (John 1:1, 1st John 5:20), then it would seem that Christ would have also been on hand to witness the creation of this “Line of demarcation” established by God Almighty and—if the two are indeed acting in one accord—should be in complete agreement with this line and its defense. Clearly, orthodoxy does not view the Triune structure this way. There is a clear hierarchy implied, with God Almighty as the absolute head, Christ as His loyal assistant and the Holy Spirit as a ombudsman of sorts. 

The question remains, however; for whom did Christ die for and why? This is an important question because according to established orthodoxy and to Calvinism, God already picked who was to be saved and who was to be damned. There is a thought in theology that the sacrifice of Christ upon the cross was essentially meaningless except to serve as an example of living a selfless life. However such an example would be germane only to those chosen for salvation and would be meaningless to those already damned.

The predominate theory as to why Christ had to die was labeled “The Ransom Theory—Victory Over the Forces of Evil”. This theory was the one that dominated the orthodox thought from the time of Constantine until the time of Anselm of Canterbury in the 11th century. The Ransom theory essentially explained that Christ had to die as a ransom paid to Satan for the souls of humans chosen to be saved.

In other words—and I am breaking this down to a simplistic point of view, God walks into a pawn shop. He picks out only a few items from a large bin of many like items—say, marbles. Of course Satan owns the pawn shop (earth and the universe) as well as the marbles (humans). God would like to have all of the marbles, but he decides to only take a handful (no other explanation as to why God can’t take all the marbles is offered.) The payment for these few marbles that God has chosen is His Son, Jesus Christ. So God allows his Son to be used to make payment for the marbles and He and the marbles are free to go. But God isn't finished yet, the payment of His Son in the guise of Jesus Christ as the ransom payment is akin to a check drawn on insufficient funds. Once God leaves with the marbles, the check written on the Jesus account bounces and Satan is left with neither the ransom nor the marbles. As ridiculous as this scenario may sound, it remained the understanding behind Christ’s death upon the cross for just about 800 years.

With Anselm of Canterbury, a new theory was conceptualized which asserted that rather than the ransom having to be paid to Satan for the marbles, the actual payment was made to God. Christ in effect offered Himself freely to God Almighty to act as a ransom or payment for the evil that was manifest in the human creation.  As God is pure Holiness, there was no way for God Almighty to suffer their presence without there having been made some level of recompense for dishonoring Him in the very beginning.

In other words—again I’m making this simplistic for the sake of the analogy—God saw himself as somehow being ripped off by His creation for choosing to listen to Satan in the Garden rather than continue to obey God. No allowances are made for the fact that the entire Garden scenario was created by the very same God who is now angry and aloof towards His human creation. Put cookies out on the counter in full view of your young kids and tell them not to eat them and then leave the room. How many kids will disobey and eat the cookies? How many parents would then kill their children for eating the cookies? Is there not some level of responsibility on the part of the parent for acting irresponsibly by leaving the cookies in proximity of the kids? Would it not have been better of the parents NOT to have put the cookies in front of the kids to begin with?

I only highlight the absurdity of these various scenarios to show their absurdity. However, it must be noted that such beliefs about God and Christ with respect to their human creation still exist within the church today; orthodoxy is still not agreed as to why Christ had to die for something that has been long regarded as fait accompli.

In short, Christ died for all humanity period. In 1st Peter 3:18, this is spelled out quite clearly, “For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.” What is it that is accomplished in this sacrificial act? Is belief in Christ the line that separates those who are saved from those who are not? If one looks at John 3:16-18, one might come to that conclusion, but one would also be reading into something that is not expressly highlighted in scripture. Peter also pointed something else out regarding those who are “saved” which is usually over-looked by pastors, Sunday school teachers and theologians; that Christ ALSO died for those, “… who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the Ark was being built.” 1st Peter 3:19-20. Is it really necessary to point out that Christ did not exist in the flesh on this planet in the days of Noah? If those people had lived and died, not being found worthy enough for salvation aboard the actual Ark, then why is Peter telling us that these same people are now “saved” by Christ? And there is the little, niggling sticking point with orthodox thought that enrages most people; this inherent injustice which God seems to apply to humans. In essence, some folks get to take another bite of the apple. Is that fair?

You see, if Christ died for those who lived millennia before His earthly incarnation, then clearly hearing about Jesus Christ is not necessarily a prerequisite for being “saved”. One would only have to take a look at the world in the times of Christ to see the abject injustice of condemning a person merely because of a logistical problem. If one found themselves born in New Zealand in the year 8 AD for example, then one would not ever have learned of Christ regardless the type of life one lead. Ergo, God is thought to have consigned MOST humans to eternal damnation in a burning, vile Hell because they were born outside of this proximity. Humans, who tend to be rather limited, judgmental creatures themselves, do not see the Spiritual flaw with this line of thinking.

The ancients believed that the gods appointed certain people to positions of leadership and to the aristocracy because they were inherently superior to others and thus, more deserving. This rationale was used to set up empires from the ancients in Egypt and Asia all the way through to feudal kingdoms in Europe. The concept of Manifest Destiny which dominated the thoughts of the settlers of the United States throughout the 19th century was used to pit them against the Native peoples. One had to first dehumanize the enemy and then position themselves as something superior; consigned to a high position by God, in order to kill. The god of the Old Testament did this very same thing to Joshua when he commanded them to go into the Land of Canaan and kill or enslave all who were there and seize the land. (Deuteronomy 20:10-20) This “Manifest Destiny” scenario sets up a disparity that uses power as a lever. It is interesting to note that such behavior is NOT sanctioned by Christ. “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, slave nor free, male nor female, for all are one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28. Again, read that and then read the passage in Deuteronomy.

Orthodoxy is an adherence to established religious norms. Such accepted norms are conceptualized by people and in the case of Christianity, orthodoxy was put into place by Constantine the Great, Roman Emperor from 306AD to 337AD (his death). He was an adherent to the Egyptian Sun God, Amun Ra throughout his life up until his death whereupon it is part of lore that he had a deathbed conversion to Christianity. Because most of Christian orthodoxy was established by a Roman Emperor who was looking more closely at the political opportunity that could be gained by usurping the faith, the essential tenets were radically changed into something that is on its face, decidedly UNCHRISTIAN. I will hasten to add that it is upon this foundation that the 5 Points of Calvinism were built.

While it is easy to point out the flaws of man with respect to a relationship with God, it is far more problematic to codify that relationship with the individual. Calvinism paints with a very broad, dull brush with respect to mankind and sees it all through the lens of the Catholic Church and the feudal kingdoms that made up the bulk of the thinking of the people of the 16th Century. It is not surprising that the Calvinist author of the 5 Point Commentary came to such conclusions giving the societal climate of his day; what is surprising is that we as a Christ seeking people continue to adhere to these teachings today when we can clearly see the inconsistencies. Any one of us today has far more access to information regarding world history and scripture than Calvin or his followers could have ever conceived of, yet we will not take the time to learn, preferring to leave that task to others. Would any regard it as a sign of a healthy relationship if they witnessed a husband hire an intermediary to learn all there was to know about his wife and take care of all interactions with her? We would look upon that relationship and shake our heads, knowing with certainty that it is doomed. Christ already has a relationship with your pastor (supposedly); He wants a relationship with YOU and that means that you have to do your part.

Calvinism concludes that while Christ certainly could save anyone He wanted, the hard truth is that He will not. Because of Free Will, God will not save those who do not ask to be saved. There is absolutely no thought as to the fact that any one individual did not have any say into which family they were born, which country they were born, which sex they were born, which race they were born or which time frame they were born. For people vastly dependent upon the Free Will concept for securing salvation, it is interesting just how much wasn’t within our control which set us up to accept or not accept. If one were to hold to the Free Will concept as a determining factor in eternal life or eternal damnation, would it not be logical to presume that God would have put us all on an even footing? (But God KNEW that those people would be sinners and reject Him!) Well then there is no real component of Free Will at play here; we cannot have it both ways.

As Christians we need to be cognizant of the fact that Christ gave us one basic directive: “…Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing then in the name of the Father, The Son and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”  Matthew 28:19-20.

When we overcomplicate what we are supposed to do because we impute some skewed sense of justice, we stray from what it is that God has commanded. God seeks to be reconciled with His creation and accomplished this feat through His coming to earth in the flesh and surmounting the barriers put into place by His angelic ambassadors. We see this clearly in Romans 5:10. “For while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.”

The word “reconciled” used here translates into the word katallage in the Greek. This is a clean translation of the Greek word that is used to convey His intents.

This from The Free Dictionary by Farlex: (www.,
v. rec·on·ciled, rec·on·cil·ing, rec·on·ciles
1. To reestablish a close relationship between.
2. To settle or resolve.
3. To bring (oneself) to accept: He finally reconciled himself to the change in management.
4. To make compatible or consistent: reconcile my way of thinking with yours. See Synonyms at adapt.
1. To reestablish a close relationship, as in marriage: The estranged couple reconciled after a year.
2. To become compatible or consistent: The figures would not reconcile.

It is of note that the two first definitions talk about reestablishing relationship. You cannot reestablish what has never been. One would need to ask when the earlier relationship existed if it has:

1.      Been broken before most of us existed.

2.      Is irrelevant if God has chosen just a handful of His creation only and is discarding the rest.

3.      Seemed to have already mended this “broken” relationship by intimately interacting with His human   creation throughout the Old Testament. (see Exodus 33:11)

In fact it appears as though the structure of the God/Man relationship enjoyed no such “brokenness” as is explained through orthodoxy nor was it ever actually broken at all if God has already chosen those who are to be saved.

While it is an unpopular position and is regarded as the height of heretical thinking within the Orthodox Church today, it seems that from Christ’s perspective, all human beings are indeed saved from the Spiritual separation from God Almighty which is what is referred to as death. If that is true, then what is the point of being a Christian? Why can’t we just carry on like anyone else and not get caught up in such restrictive practices that the Church demands? The answer to that question begs a question of its own. That question is: How many enter into a relationship with any other merely as a means to get something without giving back? If there are those who comport themselves in such a manner, I would submit that such people are NOT in the type of Love relationship that Christ desires with all of us.

When we take wedding vows, we promise to love, honor and cherish, in sickness and in health; good times and bad. The breadth of a love relationship is designed to cover over the deficits that occasionally occur so that the relationship itself—the union as a construct—is preserved. This is the greater good that Christ is attempting to impart to all of us. We must be careful, therefore, NOT to impute our limited and shallow understanding of relationships upon God Almighty. We will never be able to capture to true beauty of such a Spiritual construct in the flesh.

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5. Perseverance of the Saints: The Author of the 5 Points summates with the good news that once God has chosen those who are to be saved, they can be secure in their salvation. This would seem to be an axiomatic statement, but when dealing with religious doctrine it is best to never presume. What is evidently meant here is that while God has chosen an individual and that individual can rest in the knowledge that their eternal disposition is secure, there is no special “message” or “communiqué” which explicitly spells that out. In other words, the individual’s actions will bespeak whether or not one is truly saved.

There are passages within scripture that speak of the Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22 is a primary source) and that when one does not exemplify these fruits, one most likely is not saved. If one is saved, one will exemplify the fruits of that salvation. This is a circular argument that becomes quite convoluted within the narrow corridor of Hyper-Calvinism. What I mean by that is simply this: If God chooses who is to be saved—in effect, picking certain people out of the mire that holds most of humanity in its grip to live eternally with Him—then the question must be asked upon which point in the individual’s life did God decide to save? Was it at conception? Was it at birth? Was it at some point in childhood? Was it at a point in adolescence whereupon the individual was able to contemplate their actions before a Holy God?  The reason I ask such questions with respect to chronology is that from a “GOD” perspective, such is absolutely irrelevant. If God has chosen select people to be saved from damnation, then in effect, those people were never condemned to begin with; they were, in effect, born sinless since sin has had absolutely no impact on their eventual disposition. This may seem like a parsing of language, but think the logic through for a moment.

Before we go on, however, it is important to explore the belief that one will know that he is saved based upon the “fruits of the Spirit” exemplified by them. The primary passage used to buttress this claim is found in Matthew, chapter 7. “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them.”Matthew 7:15-16

So what exactly is Christ saying here? He is talking about how a person behaves and that by their behavior, you can see pretty clearly—especially if you already have an intimate relationship with Christ yourself and can tell the difference—that they are not behaving like people in a like relationship.  Because Christ goes on to say a few verses later that, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my father who is in heaven.” Matthew 7:21,we assume that the “Kingdom of Heaven” is a physical place whereas it would more accurately be described as a condition of being. Let me explain: Think of the Kingdom of Heaven as akin to the place occupied by “Wedded Bliss.” Absent an intimate, loving and mutually caring relationship, few people are going to be able to enter into this place called Wedded Bliss no matter how many times they say to their spouse, “Dear, Dear!”; asserting that they've done everything that was required of them when in fact, they have not—and their spouse knows it. Does the dearth of intimacy end the marriage? Not necessarily; the marriage is still intact, if not frayed, but it can also still be restored.

What we as human beings have done here, is equate the Kingdom of Heaven—spoken of in this passage by Christ—with “Heaven” proper; our eventual destination. I would submit that given our eternal disposition before God, upon His rescue of humanity from the Celestial rulers, we have already entered into that state of final disposition and are now merely dealing with a logistical problem. This may sound convoluted, but again the larger battle here is breaking humans free from the bondage of rules and regulations ladled upon them by these same Celestial rulers who have a vested interest in keeping all of us ignorant of the truth of God. If we can step away from our preconceived notion that what Christ is talking about here is the difference between eternal life and eternal death and is instead addressing those who have succeeded in establishing that intimate relationship and those who are still in the dark about that relationship, the picture changes dramatically.

Cause and effect is a very powerful and immutable condition. Physicist Isaac Newton explained in his "Laws of Motion" that every action has an opposite and equal reaction. This would be no less true when dealing with God. Consider that to those who were chosen by a Holy God to avoid the agonizing taste of the flames of Hell, their sin literally was of no consequence for in all reality, these were people immune from the causality of sin; no cause, no effect. Contrasted with those who find themselves outside of God’s favor, these beings also find themselves immune from the causality of Grace; again no cause, no effect. When one looks at the relationship that God has thus established with His creation given these Calvinistic parameters, one must ask the question as to why life as we have experienced it was even necessary to begin with; God already made all our choices for us. In such a situation, can any one of us be found guilty or worthy since there is no ultimate cause and effect, but only a determined outcome. Cause and effect becomes irrelevant.

The question of why we are here has dogged philosophers, theologians and people in general since the inception of mankind. For those who eschew any belief of a Creator God or a higher life-force which is greater than themselves, the question becomes largely irrelevant; they exist and that is all that really matters for the moment. One can then decide how they wish to fill their days until life escapes from their bodies and they return to the “nothingness” from which they came. However for those who possess a belief in God or a “higher power”, this question becomes very important. Most people of faith tend to believe that life in the flesh is but a brief sojourn on a much longer voyage. Thus, the purpose of their lives—the reason they exist at all—is very relevant.

Hyper-Calvinism tends to blunt the impact of their doctrinal belief to unbelievers by asserting that those who are not chosen for salvation by God are left unaware and thus, will not suffer the torment of knowing that they are not those so chosen. If such are not chosen for salvation and were created to be condemned from the start by God, why would He concern Himself with their thoughts or feelings on the matter? These are essentially sentient beings that were created for an unknown reason who are destined to be punished eternally for actions beyond their control. It would seem, therefore, a useless exercise for God to then concern Himself with their feelings on the matter unless God was trying to “keep the peace” or “maintain a level of order” so as not to harm the over-all “human experiment”. I am not attempting to be flippant here; rather I am trying to illustrate the absurd conclusions that are drawn when the Calvinist does not think through the logic of their doctrine.

Humans tend to anthropomorphize that which they do not understand in an effort to find threads of commonality. As humans, we all do this to a greater or lesser degree every day. How many have held just a slight pang of sorrow for a beloved possession like a car or a pair of shoes or whatever? We think about the old car or old pair of shoes feeling badly that they have been replaced by a new car and a new pair of shoes. When we find ourselves doing that, we are anthropomorphizing an inanimate object and imputing our feelings into the object. The object, of course, is inanimate and cares not whether they are used or discarded; they are inanimate objects, not living and sentient.

 Nowhere is the affect of anthropomorphizing more evident than in the conceptualization of God. Since we are humans existing in a limited scope of experience and awareness, the first resort is to bring God down to our level in an effort to understand Him. This is a mistake as God is not a human being and does not exist in the stilted, limited realm that we do. Despite knowing this on an intellectual level, we all tend to continue to anthropomorphize and impute our sense of justice and morality—as well as our reactions—into the image of God we have conceptualized on an emotional level. Thus, Calvin had an image of who he believed God to be in his mind and created a doctrine that encompassed this image. Calvin’s followers continued this trend and skewed Calvin’s teachings to more closely align with their modified beliefs. This trend continues on and on and misses the point that Christ was attempting to make to all of us.

If God is as we have already established: Not a human being; all knowing, eternal, atemporal, then is it reasonable to continue on with a thought process that limits God to that of a human being? Would it not be logical to assume that given what we do know about God that He would not create a sentient being to be extraneous? Additionally, if we concede that God did create all humans with purpose, then if He were to mark one for salvation, then He would mark all for salvation. What would be the logic in doing otherwise?

Hyper-Calvinism asserts that God chooses only a few who will be saved from eternal damnation, but it does not explain why there are only a few chosen and not all. In their skewed sense of justice and parity, human beings tend to need a loser in order to make winning meaningful. While that mindset works perfectly in our corporeal, temporal world with limited space and resources, it does not work in the eternal majesty that is God. Such a thought presumes that God is working from a finite trove of resources and must choose only those who are of benefit to Him. Suffice to say that this is the result of human reasoning and is in no way supported by Christ’s teaching.

In 1st Timothy chapter two, the Apostle Paul states that, “I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone—for kings and those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness, This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.”Saved in the Greek used here is 
σωζω (sṓzō) which means to be saved; to heal; to restore. (Strongs 4982) Why would Paul contradict God by contradict God by lying to Timothy about God’s desires towards humanity? If it is as the Hyper-Calvinist believes—only a few that God has chosen are to be saved, then Paul’s claim to Timothy is a blatant lie; clearly God does not desire all to be saved or He would have chosen to save them. One cannot simply respond to such observations with, “Well God really does want all men to be saved, but not all men will choose Him.” in light of the established Calvinistic doctrine that asserts that God had to choose the very ones that are saved because NONE would choose Him otherwise. Again, we cannot have it both ways.

All of the above merely highlights what many have already come to conclude: Orthodoxy is woefully short in describing the totality that is God Almighty. By attempting to understand Him on our terms, we first had to diminish Him to our level of understanding. We seem to ignore the fact that God already reached across the divide by presenting Himself to us in the guise of a man who could speak to us in our language, who could feel what we feel, who could understand our concerns and our fears. God did this for us because He is not an aloof, distant spiritual being who is more comfortable in the master/slave relationship dynamic that is favored by the Celestial angels; rather God desires that intimacy that comes from a parent/child relationship and is asking each one of us to trust Him—just as a child will trust the parent—to protect and teach and allow that relationship to grow.

So as we near the end of this Hyper-Calvinistic response to the Arminian argument, we must be mindful of the fact that we are dealing with people of great thought and intellect who were never-the-less hampered by their dearth of knowledge and mightily influenced by their culture. I believe that both sides—Calvinists and Arminians—are just as desirous of what they believe to be God’s wishes, but too much of the flesh creeps through pitting them against one another—and by extension, also those who disagree with their theology. These were tumultuous times in world history—especially in Europe—and taking a type of position with respect to God such that I have outlined here in my commentary would have most likely resulted in the offender being branded a heretic, tortured into recanting and then burned at the stake. To the orthodox teachings of that day, such torture and execution would have been regarded as a “Godly” response to something so abjectly sinful. We can still see the marks of such unyielding, stilted and bunkered doctrine within the Christian church today—as well as in most other faiths such as Islam.

When we categorize humans as being in either one of two groups, we set up an “us and them” mentality. In the case of “the saved” and “the unsaved”, it is interesting that the aggressor always place themselves into the more favored of the two categories, giving them the “upper hand” as it were. When the subject is eternal life or eternal damnation, those who believe they are going to share in eternal life can sometimes regard themselves as something better than those who God has already marked for eternal damnation. As we have already seen in other examples in this commentary, this type of thinking has resulted in the butchering of tens of millions of people over the years—all in the name of God; people who were discarded for no other reason than an “accident of birth”.  This is not what Christ came to this earth to do and regardless our biases, as Christians we need to start focusing on the truth that salvation IS NOT our task here; introducing Christ to our fellow man is. Were both the Calvinists and the Arminians to have focused on that “Great Commission” instead of bickering over who was or was not going to Hell, it is my contention that our world would have been made much better for it.

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“Tradition is a bit like being addicted to Crystal Meth; it may seem nice at first, but it is rarely good for you and is a hard habit to break.”