First Article in Six Weeks!
Wow. It’s been about six weeks since my last blog post. Life has been very busy: three weeks of ministry in London, a week of ministry in Baltimore, a new dog, home renovations, and a pending move from California to Iowa has left me little time to write. Those who know me well know that six weeks is a very long time for me to go without writing something. I am thankful to a woman named Vanessa for getting the writing juices flowing again.
I wasn’t planning on writing today. There is MUCH on my plate. But yesterday I received an email notification regarding a comment needing moderation for one of my blog posts.
On October 16, 2015, I posted an article titled Arminianism: An Apology and Clarification. On July 20, 2016, I received a post comment from a woman named Vanessa Burnett.
Here is Vanessa’s comments, unedited and in their entirety.
Amazing. “Calvinists are the most prideful people I have ever met, and this post is no different. Do you not see how Calvinism breeds and feeds pride? ‘I am special. I am CHOSEN! He passed by the damned goats, but He chose ME. His SHEEP! I am part of a special chosen group. I’m the elect. I get to go to heaven while everyone else rots in hell.'”
“Oh yeah, very humble. Very loving. Very biblical, since God doesn’t show favoritism, remember…?
“It also makes ZERO sense that you are so grieved for these lost and confused arminians [sic] since their eternal destiny is predetermined by God and God decided that they would go to hell (or not). Why even appeal to them to do something which is impossible – ie. ‘accept’ grace which isn’t offered to them?”
“(No, I am not arminian [sic])”
In response to Vanessa’s comments, I am going to answer each of her assertions. There may be a little sarcasm along the way, but I hope it is well-placed.
My Response to Vanessa
Vanessa wrote: “Calvinists are the most prideful people I have ever met, and this post is no different.”
I have never attended a “Calvinist Pride” event or parade. In fact, I don’t think there has ever been a “Calvinist Pride” event or parade. I wonder if Vanessa has ever met a homosexual. I wonder if Vanessa actually knows any Calvinists. I know many Calvinists. And I have met many homosexuals. While every human being battles pride (I know I do), I can think of many people and groups of people who are more prideful than my Calvinist friends.
Unfortunately, Vanessa doesn’t see her own pride in what she wrote to me. Vanessa obviously sees herself as less prideful than Calvinists, which is a rather prideful position to take.
Vanessa wrote: “Do you not see how Calvinism breeds and feeds pride? ‘I am special. I am CHOSEN! He passed by the damned goats, but He chose ME. His SHEEP! I am part of a special chosen group. I’m the elect. I get to go to heaven while everyone else rots in hell.'”
Vanessa is right and Vanessa is wrong. Calvinism can and sometimes does bring out the sinful pride in some Christians. However, the problem is not with the theology (it’s biblical). The problem is with the hearts of some of those who subscribe to the theology.
Greg Dutcher wrote an excellent, short book that addresses this subject. The title: Killing Calvinism: How to Destroy a Perfectly Good Theology from the Inside. I highly recommend this book to everyone who subscribes to Calvinism (aka: the Doctrines of Grace), especially to those who have only recently discovered the wonderful, biblical truths in this theological system.
So, yes. To Vanessa’s question: I do see how Calvinism can breed and feed pride. But again, it’s not the theology, but the heart of the people who subscribe to the theology that’s the problem. As I said, Vanessa is right and wrong. Vanessa is wrong because a right understanding of the sovereignty of God in all things, including salvation, which is what Calvinism teaches, is very humbling to the genuine follower of Christ who discovers these doctrines–doctrines of grace that are as eternal and timeless as God Himself.
Vanessa then stomps her feet dangerously close to a fine line between analogy and blasphemy. Vanessa attempts to paint a prideful picture of the prideful Calvinist. However, in doing so, she mocks biblical truths–biblical truths that should humble every genuine follower of Christ.
Yes, the born-again follower of Jesus Christ is “special,” but not in the derogatory way Vanessa uses the term.
“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9).
“as it is written:
‘None is righteous, no, not one;
no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.’
‘Their throat is an open grave;
they use their tongues to deceive.’
‘The venom of asps is under their lips.’
‘Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.’
‘Their feet are swift to shed blood;
in their paths are ruin and misery,
and the way of peace they have not known.’
‘There is no fear of God before their eyes'” (Romans 3:10-18).
So, why do I cite two starkly contrasting passages? The reason: to drive home the point regarding why Christians are special. Christians are special because of what Jesus Christ did for them, not because of who they are or anything about them.
When Jesus saves a person, He does so not because of anything intrinsically special about the person. Jesus doesn’t love people “just the way they are.” Jesus loves people in spite of who they are (Romans 3:10-18), and then He changes them so that they can be justified, sanctified, and glorified (Romans 8:29-30). He sets them apart as a people for His own possession (1 Peter 2:9). That’s very special.
Vanessa seems upset with the biblical concept of God choosing people. And this is one of the reasons I titled this article “Vanessa and Her Rant Against the God of the Bible.” People do not choose God. God chooses people. In addition to what God says in 1 Peter 2:9, God makes it clear that salvation is of the Lord and He extends mercy and forgiveness to whoever He wills.
“But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen'” (Matthew 22:11-14).
“Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them. I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen. But the Scripture will be fulfilled, ‘He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.’ I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am he. Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me” (John 13:16-20).
“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive” (Colossians 3:12-13).
“For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake” (1 Thessalonians 1:4-5).
“Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him” (James 2:5)?
“They will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with him are called and chosen and faithful” (Revelation 17:14).
“But I with the voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you; what I have vowed I will pay. Salvation belongs to the Lord” (Jonah 2:9)!
“What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For he says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.’ So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, ‘For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.’ So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.
“You will say to me then, ‘Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?’ But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, ‘Why have you made me like this?’ Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles” (Romans 9:14-24)?
Vanessa also apparently has a problem with the distinction God makes between sheep and goats. It’s clear she does not like the God of the Bible. She may profess to be a Christian, but she has a problem with Jesus.
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” (Matthew 25:31-46).
Sadly, while Vanessa professes to be a Christian, she has something against “sheep.” Fortunately, Jesus loves His sheep.
“Oh come, let us worship and bow down;
let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!
For he is our God,
and we are the people of his pasture,
and the sheep of his hand.
Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah,
as on the day at Massah in the wilderness” (Psalm 95:6-8).
I do hope Vanessa will read this in its entirety (I have emailed her the link to this article). And I hope the Lord will use it to soften her heart toward Christ and His sheep.
Here’s more of what Jesus says about His “sheep”:
“‘Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.’ This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.
“So Jesus again said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father'” (John 10:1-18).
As with other realities pertaining to God’s sovereignty, Vanessa has a problem with the doctrine of Election. For the sake of time and space, I’ll just leave this here:
- Matthew 24:22-31
- Mark 13:20-27
- Luke 18:7
- Romans 8:33
- Romans 9:11
- Romans 11:7, 28
- 2 Timothy 2:10
- Titus 1:1
- 1 Peter 1:1
- 2 Peter 1:10
- 2 John 1:1
- 2 John 1:13
Vanessa’s “I get to go to heaven while everyone else rots in hell” comment warrants no response. It’s nothing more than a comment born out of emotional, unbiblical, and sinful thinking.
Vanessa wrote: “Oh yeah, very humble. Very loving. Very biblical, since God doesn’t show favoritism, remember…?”
With the above line, Vanessa nestles her argument in amber fields filled with piles of straw resembling men. She forms these towering stacks of straw by asserting that those who believe the Doctrines of Grace are prideful, unloving, unbiblical, and have created a false and unholy God who shows favoritism. Vanessa then–like so many others who follow similar unbiblical, emotional, illogical, and judgmental trains of thought–burns those nasty stacks of straw to the ground. And she feels good about it, as if she is somehow doing God a favor (see John 16:12).
Those who truly understand, affirm, and try to apply the Doctrines of Grace to their daily lives are more often than not humble, loving, and biblical people. And they do not assign to God the sin of favoritism. They would never dream of it. God is an impartial and perfect judge who cannot be bribed.
“For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe” (Deuteronomy 10:17).
That Vanessa sees the doctrines of Predestination and Election as tantamount to favoritism reveals a heart that believes humans are basically good and deserving of God’s love. If Vanessa believes that people are good, it stands to reason that she would believe it is unfair of God to arbitrarily (in her mind) allow some people into heaven while sending other people to hell.
However, as already shown above, other than Jesus Christ there is not a person who has ever walked upon this earth, there is not a person who is walking upon this earth (including me and Vanessa), there is not a person who will ever walk upon this earth who is good (Psalm 53:1-3; Romans 3:10-18) according to God’s standards of morality (Matthew 5:48).
Vanessa wrote: “It also makes ZERO sense that you are so grieved for these lost and confused arminians [sic] since their eternal destiny is predetermined by God and God decided that they would go to hell (or not). Why even appeal to them to do something which is impossible – ie. ‘accept’ grace which isn’t offered to them?”
According to Vanessa’s worldview, it makes no sense to grieve for people who might be lost–people who profess to be Christians but might not be Christians. This does not speak to a flaw in my position or character. It reveals that Vanessa may not love lost people as much as she might pride herself in thinking so.
If a Christian believes a person or a group of people is believing a false gospel, a gospel contrary to Scripture, a gospel that does not and cannot save, then the Christian is compelled out of Holy Spirit-born love to communicate the gospel to the person or group. The Christian must, because of his love for God and his love for people (Matthew 22:34-40), speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15) to those who are or might be lost and bound for hell.
Again, to reiterate what I wrote in the article that upset Vanessa, I do NOT believe all professing Christians who classify themselves as “Arminian” are lost and bound for hell.
That being said, if Vanessa thought biblically, if Vanessa truly loved other people, it would grieve her, too, that it is not merely a prospect, but an ever-present reality, that people who die in their sins will spend eternity in hell (Luke 13:1-5; John 8:24). She would mourn not only her own sin (Matthew 5:4), but she would grieve over the reality that there will be many professing Christians who, for all kinds of different reasons, will stand before Christ and hear these ominous, frightening, heartbreaking words:
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness'” (Matthew 7:21-23).
Another thing Vanessa apparently does not understand (she makes the same errant theological leap that so many professing Arminians make) is that genuine Christians who believe and rightly understand the Doctrines of Grace do not believe they know the mind of the Lord (Romans 11:34; 1 Corinthians 2:16). They do not claim to know who the Elect are. This why I try to live my life by the biblical imperative to proclaim the gospel to the entire world, from the housetops if necessary (Matthew 10:27). This is why I travel up to 100 days each year around the United States and to other parts of the world. I know God’s Elect are out there, but I have no idea who they are. So, I want to preach the gospel to as many people as I can, as often as I can, in as many different places as I can.
Vanessa ends her rant with this parenthetical: “No, I am not arminian [sic].”
While claiming not be subscribe to Arminian doctrine, Vanessa’s emotional outburst, straw man arguments, illogical argumentation, assumption of facts not entered into evidence, and utter lack of scriptural support for anything she wrote, certainly places her as at least a welcomed visitor in many Arminian camps.
My concern for Vanessa isn’t whether or not she’s a Calvinist or Arminian. My concern for her is whether or not she actually knows Jesus Christ–the Jesus of the Bible–as her Lord and Savior.
My Message to Vanessa
Vanessa, are you sure you are born-again to a living hope (1 Peter 1:3)? Are you sure God has taken your heart of stone and given you a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 11:19; Ezekiel 36:26)? Your angry, judgmental, impossible-to-scripturally-support rant gives me no confidence that you are my sister in Christ. Granted, I am not your judge.
“There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor” (James 4:12)?
But, at the same time, Jesus does instruct Christians to judge with right judgment.
“Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment” (John 7:24).
And how can Christians possibly discern whether or not the person in front of them is a brother or sister in Christ? One way is by what the other person says. Jesus said:
“Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach and is expelled? But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone” (Matthew 15:17-20).
“For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, 44 for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thornbushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. 45 The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks” (Luke 6:43-45).
Now, Vanessa, I’m not saying that one’s speech must be perfect for that person to be a genuine follower of Christ. Simply follow me on social media for a little while, and I am sure to blow it. We all sin and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). But do you really think your note to me was in keeping with loving your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:39), in keeping with not thinking of yourself more highly than you should (Philippians 2:3-4), or in keeping with trying to be at peace with all people (Romans 12:18)?
Vanessa, do you not see the pride and meanness dripping from the words you wrote like the poison dripping from the fangs of a venomous asp (Romans 3:13-14)? Again, I’ve been guilty of acting this way, too. It’s sinful when I’ve done it; it’s sinful when you do it.
I believe the apostle Paul (one of God’s men who has taught the Bride of Christ the Doctrines of Grace) would admonish you to examine and test yourself to see if you are even in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5).
If you believe in a god who is not sovereign over all things, who is not singularly responsible for and active in a person’s salvation, who does not predestine, who has not Elected (chosen) whom He will save, who does not send people to hell (people are sent to hell; they do not merely volunteer), who does not love His sheep and “damn” the goats, then you don’t believe the Bible. You may be immature in your faith. You may be poorly taught. You may be my sister in Christ and simply lack understanding as to how Christians should believe and behave. Or, you have created a false god in your imagination to suit yourself–a god who is not only powerless to judge you, but who is also powerless to save you. I admit there could be other options. I don’t want to set up a false dichotomy.
Vanessa, I’ve responded to your short, scriptureless rant with over 4,000 words and more than 50 Scripture references. I’ve done this because I care about you, as my fellow human being and as my neighbor. I do hope and pray you’ve read this far. If so, I encourage you to continue reading here: http://www.crossencountersmin.com/message.
If you follow the link, you will go to a page that presents a detailed explanation of who God is, who man is, who Jesus is, and what Jesus came to do for sinners–people like you and me. If you take the time to read the page, you will either affirm what is written because you are a born-again follower of Jesus Christ, or you will reject what is written because you are presently lost and bound for hell, or you will repent and believe the gospel, which will be the first fruits of your salvation. I hope and pray for you, Vanessa, that the outcome will either be the first or the last options presented.
Addendum: Vanessa’s Reply
Sadly, Vanessa just replied to my email in which I sent her the link to this article. Here’s what she had to say:
“My rant isn’t against God. It’s against Calvinism. And in typical Calvinist arrogance, you desire merely to prove how smart you are, not lead people to Christ.
“So I’m not interested in you or your blog or your response.
Please pray for Vanessa