The Zero Point Calvinst

Sorry…the holidays and some travel have slowed me a bit!

Dr. Zuck just wrote a review in the next Bib Sac on Back to Faith…very encouraging!

Now, to the question.  I have had a number of friends tell me that they are O Point Calvinists.  I never quizzed them because I sort of thought I knew what they meant.  Yet, now as I think about it, I know all of them believe in Eternal Security.  How can one believe in “God’s preservation of the elect unto eternity…and still deny all the points of Calvinism?

The answer may be obvious, but I’d rather know for sure than guess!

Any of you brave enough to tell us your reasoning (or that of your friend-who-will-remain-unnamed)?

Thanks much,

Fred Lybrand

14 thoughts on “The Zero Point Calvinst”

  1. It’s likely that I don’t understand enough about Calvinist’s “Perseverance of the Saints” doctrine to say this with any real authority, but to my mind there is a big difference between that and the doctrine of Eternal Security as I understand it. So if I put my foot in my mouth, well, don’t beat up on me too badly!

    Basically, eternal security amounts to nothing more than this: There is nothing you can do or fail to do that will cancel your salvation. And that “nothing” is emphatic and absolute.

    But “Perseverance” doctrine (at least as I understand it) seems to add a twist to that; a distortion; which says that all true Christians WILL persevere in faith. Again, if I’m mixing things up, please correct me. But what flows from that is the idea that if I haven’t “persevered” in faith then I was never truly saved. And at the same time, even Calvinists admit that they don’t literally, absolutely “persevere in faith” (they suffer periodic failures) and so in an attempt to reconcile that, they say that, well, you’ll “always come back.” So, I’ve heard it said, that if you DON’T “come back” to the faith (before you die, I guess) then you weren’t really saved to begin with.

    But that is a curious case of Monday-morning quarterbacking, seems to me. I know Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t line up with eternal security at all, and yet I’ve spoken to JWs who seem to have similar ideas…

    A woman came to my door, a JW, and I asked her if she could be 100% sure that she will be resurrected (JWs view of salvation) and she said “Yes, if I persevere to the end” and she cited Matt. 24:13. Interesting. I asked her if she had ever fallen away from her faith, and she said “Yes.” But then she said that she “always knew that she’d come back.” Really? You mean she knew that she WOULD NOT die before she returned to the “faith” promulgated by the Watchtower? How “convenient” is that? She may not have intended this, but what she said implied that she knew when she would die, or at least that she would NOT die before she returned to her faith. But how could she know any such thing? What if she got hit by a truck during that time of failure?

    The perseverance of the saints doctrine seems to suffer from a similar sort of flaw. People who accept the usual teaching of it seem to think a lot like the JW woman. They seem to have a confidence that even if they do fail from time to time, they’ll always come BACK from the failure before they die, thereby demonstrating that they were, in fact, genuinely saved and that this demonstrated that God was “preserving” them.

    This also seems to display an odd understanding of “persevere.” Can “persevere” include any failure at all? Doesn’t each failure reveal a LACK of perseverance? Is there such a thing as “intermittent” perseverance? Their idea of “perseverance” seems pretty watered-down, if you ask me. Makes me think of a hunger strike where you’re allowed to eat when you get hungry, but you still call it a hunger strike. Kind of defeats the whole purpose, doesn’t it?

    Anyway, the plain-old doctrine of eternal security seems to be unencumbered by all that confusion and double-talk. God preserves you, you are “hid with Christ” (Col. 3:3) and nothing you do or fail to do can ever change that, whether you persevere or not. THAT is preservation!

    If I’ve misunderstood something, by all means, tell me. I’m willing to be corrected.

    1. Pete,

      I think you have a good grasp on the issue. Perseverance is really about Eternal Security…in fact, the value of ‘validating’ works only makes sense if we are discussing Eternal Security. Oddly, however, the DORT group (and others) really did seem to mix works into the basis of assurance.

      Now assurance of Eternal Security is not the same as having Eternal Security…but so it goes. The traditional view has been that there are three things that make for the assurance of the believer:

      1. The Word (what it promises)
      2. The Inner-Testimonium of the Spirit
      3. Works coming from Faith

      You’ll notice that numbers 2 and 3 are essentially subjective (though I do accept #2 based on the Romans 8, etc.). Objectively, however, we can really only point to the Word as the real foundation.

      I think the Calvinists were caught up trying to answer the Roman Catholic complaints of the day.

      Grace,

      Fred

  2. Fred,

    How can one believe in “God’s preservation of the elect unto eternity…and still deny all the points of Calvinism?”

    While I am not a Calvinist, this does not mean that I cannot find some room for agreement with Calvinists. For example, Calvinists stress the sovereignty of God. I can give a hearty “Amen” to the doctrine of God’s sovereignty and divine providence over everything. Does this mean I am a Calvinist? One pastor remarked to me that I am a Calvinist because I believe in eternal security and still others have asserted that I am an Arminian because I believe in free will.

    Can one find agreement in either camp without being labeled a “Calvinist” or “Arminian?” I think so.

    Those who hold to a mediate position like myself can still affirm certain truths of Calvinism but deny the Calvinist understanding of that particular doctrine. Another example is “total depravity.” One can agree with the Calvinist and believe that mankind is lost (Eph. 2:1-3) but deny the Calvinist understanding of “total depravity.” We can agree with the Calvinist that we are eternally secure but deny and disagree with their understanding of it as it predicates on perseverance.

    My point is that we can find room for agreement on fine points of the ongoing debate without being labeled a “Calvinist” or “Arminian” and being fully placed in one theological camp or the other.

    1. Liam,

      I think you exactly grasp the issue and the point…thank you so much (nice to know I’m not alone).

      What is quite odd out there is the notion among some grace advocates that they are indeed Zero-Point Calvinists. Rationally this is impossible, but maybe they mean something else (rhetorically speaking).

      For me, I really do except some of the Calvinistic points as THEY mean them…but I don’t see the demand to follow all of their points of logic…the trail, as it were. Most people overlook the fact that there were other things informing their conclusion besides the simple “5 points.”

      Good thoughts…really what we all need to admit.

      Grace,

      Fred

  3. My understanding of Calvinism is that Gods soveriegnty and total depravity our foundational to the remaining three points. Firstly how can God be totally soveriegn if individuals can accept or reject his offer of salvation. Secondly if man is not totally depraved and capable within himself to either accept or reject the gospel then why do we see a few responding and so many rejecting the free gift. If there’s no prevenient grace as the catholics and arminians believe then the free will response is a rational response and as such you would expect a larger response to the message.
    Can you be a zero point Calvinist? I would imagine that if you disagreed with all the five points you would hardly qualify or want to call yourself a Calvinist. One area of weakness that is always apparent when you see criticisms of Calvinism is the weak exergesis of John 6. At a literal level the “drawring” language used certainly adds weight to election.i.e its the Father that draws not us coming and its the Father who keeps i.e eternal security.
    I have looked closely at both Calvinism and Free Grace theology and i can see the total biblical support for Calvinism in that it seems to accord more fully with scripture. Having said that i see a weakness in there doctrine of assurance as i believe that all who have the indwelling Holy Spirit will also have the testimony of the Holy Spirit as to there election into the family of God.

    1. Kevin,

      I especially like that you have the Scriptures in the forefront of you conversation. This is honestly a bit of the problem because there are honestly a lot of passages that support the doctrine of election. In fact, the arguments against them (the exegesis) is, at times, simply embarrassing!

      We are fiddling with mysteries at times, but that is no excuse for forcing the Bible to say things it simply does not.

      Personally, I think one of the weaknesses in our theologies is the weakness in our methods. Many theologs do not begin with a study of the text-at-hand before they begin ‘correlation’ (where does it fit?). They are often heard at work deciding what the text means before they even see what it is saying.

      The Parable of the Sower is a good example. Frankly, I believe in the doctrine of election…but my friends who think that THAT is what the parable is about (just read the commentaries!) have wondered off in the weeds.

      Grace,

      Fred

  4. Kevin asks a good question: “How can God be totally sovereign if individuals can accept or reject his offer of salvation?”

    In my view, the answer to the question is that God is totally sovereign, and He exercised that sovereignty by deciding to create humans with a sphere of autonomy… that is, the ability to freely choose.

    And in fact, it seems the entire angelic conflict rests on that. I like to “zoom out” on the big picture here… why was mankind created? To resolve the angelic conflict. Did God need to create mankind to resolve the angelic conflict (do away with Satan and fallen angels)? Of course not. He could have just tossed them into the Lake of Fire and be done with it. But instead He chose sovereignly to utilize mankind in order to demonstrate His grace and fairness even to Satan, seems to me. Is this not correct?

    Assuming it is correct, then why would God have ever created mankind if he was NOT going to give mankind this sphere of autonomy? If God’s doing the choosing for us, then why are we here at all?

    Kevin also asks:
    “Secondly if man is not totally depraved and capable within himself to either accept or reject the gospel then why do we see a few responding and so many rejecting the free gift.”

    Could we not ask the same question if man were NOT free to choose? If God’s the one doing the choosing, then why are so few choosing correctly? As a “free gracer” I’m not saying man’s not badly screwed up. I’m also not saying that God isn’t drawing all men to Himself in some fashion. But I am saying some are responding positively to the drawing while others are not.

    Calvinism has what seems like this very odd idea of God being perfectly just, expressing the idea that He desires all men to be saved, and yet chooses only to save some, thereby choosing to send others to Hell.

    If He desires all men to be saved, then why doesn’t He just exercise His sovereignty to make it so? Something seems to be in the way of that, and I’m suggesting that it is God’s own sovereign decision to grant mankind this sphere of autonomy… that’s what’s in the way. He wants all men to be saved, but He won’t MAKE them be saved. They have to CHOOSE.

    If there’s a flaw in my logic, I honestly would appreciate knowing what it is.

    Thank you

  5. Hi Peter, i can see that you’re a “free willer”. Its interesting when people get upset with this subject. Firstly the bible no where uses the term “free will”. And we as Gods creatures get awfully upset if someone attacks our free will to choose, but what about Gods free will.
    Was it fair that God chose the Israelite’s as his chosen people and not the Egyptians or Cananite’s.
    Also when we discuss our ability to choose (or free will), how free is that choice?. Are’nt we as fallen creatures in bondage or slaves to sin. Sure a slave can make choices but they’re limited. The interesting thing is that a person born as a slave may believe he has free will because he’s never been exposed to true freedom.
    John 6:44 “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them….”
    We then see many followers deserting Jesus, then he says again using the drawring language which has the same meaning in the original Gk of a large net of fish being hauled in. vs 65″Therefore i say to you that no one can come to me unless it has been granted to him by my Father”. That sounds like choosing, Gods choosing, language to me.
    When discussing Gods desire for all men to be saved we have to distinguish between Gods desire and Gods decree’s.
    Once again I have been blessed by many of the Free Grace writings and I appreciate Zane Hodges writtings even though I find it hard to agree with some of what he writes. Keep up the good work.

  6. Thanks for the reply, Kevin. I’m not sure whether you think I’m “upset” or whether you’re just generalizing about how this debate usually goes. I would like to assure you that I, for one, am not upset. I’m puzzled by the logic of this aspect of Calvinism, though… those are two different things altogether.

    I don’t see anything “unfair” about God’s choosing of Israel… it’s not as though salvation wasn’t available even to the Egyptians or the Canaanites if they chose it… Rahab was not a Jew, and yet she had put her faith in God and she was saved.

    I’m merely making the point that if God chooses some men to be saved while choosing others not to be, then God is being disingenuous when He tells us that “Whosoever believes in Him will have everlasting life.” If God chooses for us, then the reality is that “Whosoever God chooses will have everlasting life, and those whom He does not choose, have everlasting death.” And if that’s the case, then God has rigged the angelic conflict.

    I don’t understand how a perfectly “just” God sees fit to rig the system and then expect us to believe that He’s “fair”.

    I do understand there are certain limits to our free will. I can walk off the top of a tall building and “choose” to go up, but I will not.

    Again, it comes down to this: If God in His sovereignty chose to grant humans a sphere of autonomy, then how can this sphere of autonomy be a violation of God’s sovereignty?

    Thanks again for your comments, Kevin!

  7. Hi Peter I used “upset” not necessarilly in reference to you’re response although I know that the Calvinism/Arminian debate can fire people up.
    Firstly I would appreciate youre exergesis of John 6 particularly the parts that seem quite clear when it says that God the Father “draws” and nobody comes to the Father unless the Father “gives” vs 37, also vs 44 “No one is able to come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him”. My Amplified bible says “unless the Father who sent me attracts and draws him and gives him the desire to come…”
    I accept that it is possible that God in his sovereignity would allow his creatures to chooseto accept or reject him, and ëxperience would support that proposition, yet i am still drawn back-no pun intended-to the clear reading of scripture and in particular John 6.

  8. Kevin, thank you for your further response. I don’t know any reason why “draw” necessarily means “chosen for”. Ten years ago, my wife and I lost our first child only 18 days after he was born. My wife, at the time, was not a believer. Now she IS a believer and quite a strong one, too. We’re both convinced that the ordeal we endured was an example of God “drawing” her to Him. There were other factors, of course, and eventually she understood the gospel, she understood her position in the world and her position with respect to God, and decided to place her faith in Christ. And I see no reason to conclude from this, generally, that God’s ONLY drawing the elect. I would suppose He’s drawing EVERYONE, and this would be consistent with the fact that He desires everyone to be saved. The problem is, as I’ve said before, not everyone responds to the drawing as they should.

    The word for “draw” in verse 44 can, in fact, simply mean “attract.” This is exactly how the word is used in John 12:32, for example.

    When fishing for certain species, fishermen often attract or “draw” the target species by dropping pieces of fish into the water. This attracts the target, but it doesn’t get the fish into the boat.

    I’ll have to revisit John 6:37. Thank you again.

  9. Fred,

    There are many Calvinists who assert that a person cannot claim adherence to the points unless they regard them to be true as they are traditionally presented. There are various quotes of prominent Calvinists who state such. I outright reject some points, and would have to seriously reformulate the others, therefore, I am 0 point Calvinist.

    And concerning your view that Perseverance of the Saints is essentially Eternal Security, well, that is up for debate, as I believe that the Canons of Dort (among other confessions) clearly places a responsibility upon the believer to persevere in cooperation with God. I posted a comment to that effect on your blog about Perseverance of the Saints not having to do with works.

    Antonio da Rosa

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