Mark Cahill’s Response to Calvinism
On October 10th, 2010 Mark Cahill, a well-known evangelist, wrote a response to his beliefs about Calvinism. You can read it for yourself here.
His response caused quite a firestorm among some Christian circles, mostly from Calvinists. Calvinists tell me “we are all Christians” because we believe the “essentials” of the faith such as Christ alone, the Trinity, Christ is God, the Bible alone and so forth. Any attempt at discrediting Calvinism amounts to “causing division” among “Christians” who all believe in the “essentials.” We should stop arguing about this “non-essential” issue because unbelievers are watching Christians argue with each other, and thats not a “good” witness for the body of Christ.
In order to address this issue I am going to do something I don’t normally do in a blog post. I am not going to use scripture as often as I normally do to critique Calvinists who are upset with Mark. The reason is I do not interpret the scriptures the same way Calvinists do. Calvinists interpret according to TULIP theology and in my debates with them they ignore the verses I give them which discuss free will to obey God before regeneration or the idea God does all He can to save a people and its not enough. My time is better served here discussing something that Calvinists try to avoid, the contradictory and confusing mess they create for themselves and everyone they teach this doctrine to.
I witnessed this first hand when the evangelism team I started years ago was taken over by the doctrines of Calvinism and I have experienced the contradictory nature, the change in attitude, and the subsequent descent into error of the lives of those who believe in it.
The issue is not about Calvinism? Or is it?
Calvinists tell me “Calvinism is not the issue, its about causing division on non-essentials.” Ok, this sounds reasonable on the surface. However, as I debate Calvinists on the issues what comes to surface is the exact opposite.
Eventually I will hear “Calvinism is the gospel” or if I don’t believe in the “doctrines of grace” or “Gods sovereignty” (as Calvinists define these terms) than I believe in a “false gospel” and a “different god”, or I’m a “free willer” or some other name that shows “I am trusting in my works for salvation” which throws the idea of “we all believe in the essentials” right out the window!
Sometimes Calvinists tell me things like “When I was an Arminian I wasn’t saved, but when I became a Calvinist I was soundly saved.” This statement implies any non-Calvinist, Arminian or not, isn’t saved (I’m not an Arminian by the way).
So…I guess the issues ARE about Calvinism! But you know what, this is what Calvinists should say if they really believe in the doctrine. Lets not beat around the bush.
Isn’t the gospel about WHO God is? What if you have ideas about what God does or how God acts that is different than the bible? Are these ideas simply misunderstandings or heresy?
At my old church years ago I attended a systematic theology class and in the very first lesson we listened from a CD of a sermon about God’s sovereignty. In the sermon the speaker said if you don’t believe in God’s sovereignty (as he was defining it by TULIP) I’m an idolator. Yes, he actually said that.
The strange thing was the person running the class was a 5 point Calvinist and he thought we shouldn’t divide over Calvinism because “we all believe in the essentials.” So then why is the classroom teacher showing a sermon to the class where anyone who doesn’t believe in the Calvinist version of sovereignty is an idolator? Because thats what the teacher really believes!
So out of one side of his mouth the teacher says “we all believe the essentials” and out of the other side he believes those who aren’t Calvinists are idolators. Calvinists may use the same words as non-Calvinists such as “predestination”, “regeneration”, “ordained”, “grace” or “sovereignty” but they are defined differently by each non-Calvinsts. Different definitions for the same words can mean only one thing…somebody is lying and teaching falsely about the Creator of the universe.
Its this sort of deception, confusion and hypocrisy that permeates the Calvinism circles I’ve been involved with over the years. The Calvinists I have spoken with who believe this is not an essential issue inevitably proclaim the opposite when debating them on the subject. It happens in almost every debate I have had in 3 years.
Charles Spurgeon, a preacher whom Calvinists usually quote said “Calvinism is the gospel.” Spurgeon also says Calvinism is not an essential issue. So which is it? Lets be honest shall we and not confuse others! The issues are about Calvinism because the doctrine defines who God is, not about Mark Cahill causing “division.”
IF you have a different god you have a different gospel.
Am I saved?
During debates with Calvinists they will inevitably tell me I’m not a Christian by saying I believe in a “false gospel of free will.” Hyper-Calvinists and moderate Calvinists say this to me. You see, if I “believed” in Christ of my “own free will”…if God “persuaded” me to believe instead of “irresistibly” drawing me I am adding “works” to salvation. I’m no different than a Roman Catholic Calvinists say, which means I’m a heretic, idolator, or blasphemer according to many Calvinists I speak with….yes, they actually use those words!
The obvious conclusion to these ideas is that if I have a “false gospel of free will” then of course I am not saved and their claims of “division among Christians between Calvinists and non-Calvinists” makes no sense. After all, if I believe in “works plus faith” as some Calvinists suggest Mark Cahill and I believe in then we aren’t Christians, and therefore there are no “divisions” among “Christians.” When I tell them this they respond with “Mark is saved.” This causes more confusion. “I thought you just told me Mark and I believe in a ‘man-centered gospel’ that saves no one?”
Calvinists respond with “I did say that but since you believe in the essentials you are saved.”
Huh? (No, I am not making this up).
Then at some point in the conversation they will tell me “No one knows who the elect are but God.” If only God knows who the “elect” are then you can’t tell me Mark’s disagreements with you are causing “division” among “Christians.”
You don’t know if Mark is a Christian or me, or even yourself, only God does. So the idea that Mark is causing “division” among “Christians” is something you cannot know as a Calvinist. For all you know one of us isn’t saved or none of us are. Only God knows…remember?
I spoke with a Calvinist pastor at a church I was visiting a few years back and he said “No one knows who the elect are, even if they have faith. Only God knows.”
Is Mark really causing “division?”
A verse many Calvinists use when speaking of Mark Cahill is Romans 16:17 which says:
17 Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them.
Calvinists tell me Mark is causing division by arguing against Calvinism therefore he should be avoided. This sounds very holy and biblical but it isn’t. Does the verse say to avoid people BECAUSE they are causing division? No, it doesn’t. It says to avoid people who have contrary doctrines than what you learned because the DOCTRINE IS CAUSING DIVISION.
Calvinists tell me their doctrine on salvation and who God is completely changed when they learned Calvinism. Perhaps they should have listened to Romans 16:17 and avoided those Calvinist teachers who preach a contrary doctrine to what they originally believed. How ironic Calvinists blast Mark for not succumbing to the teachings that changed their view of who God is. Teachings which are contrary to what many Calvinists originally believed when they were saved.
Mark has free will to believe the truth or no?
What I find even more puzzling is how Calvinists emotions range from being annoyed at Mark, to downright angry at his “decision” to “believe” Calvinism is false. If Mark doesn’t believe in Calvinism perhaps its because “he isn’t one of the elect” some say. Perhaps Mark is saved so a Calvinist could say “God hasn’t opened Mark’s eyes to the truth.” So why get mad at Mark? Don’t Calvinists believe in their own doctrines like total depravity, which says sinners are “unable” to believe the truth or the doctrine that God ordains all things, including what someone believes?
A Calvinist on facebook months ago sent me an email. Here is what the email said:
Calvinist: “any time you say Calvinism is not true I will rebuke you extremely severely in the name of Jesus Christ! Calvinism is the gospel, you heretic! I read your stupid post even though you are not on my friends list.”
Me: “I am unable to believe in Calvinism because God has decided I don’t believe it. Why are you getting mad at me? I cannot help it.”
Calvinist: “you are blinded by the devil. Do not blame God for your inability to believe the gospel.”
Me: “Are the unelect ‘unable’ to believe the truth?”
Calvinist: “No one is able to believe the truth unless God opens their eyes…”
First she tells me I am responsible for believing and then tells me God is responsible for me believing. If I am “blinded by the devil” as she says thats because the sovereign god of calvin decided it. I would like to point out her ideas are Calvinistic, they contradict each other and yet she thinks they are both true. This is the product of a deluded mind. It takes many years of training and indoctrination to believe contradictory ideas are…true.
Does the bible teach sinners are unable to believe the gospel? Nope. The bible teaches sinners are unwilling to believe the gospel.
If the unregenerate are unable to believe the truth and if God is responsible for giving faith, as Calvinists believe, then its not Mark’s fault he is trashing Calvinism. He is only doing what God has ordained. After all, Calvinists interpret the bible as saying God is the potter, we are the clay and therefore God makes some for heaven and some for hell. If God wants to make Mark into a “vessel of destruction” from the foundation of the world thats His business. Why get annoyed at his decision to say Calvinism is wrong?
Calvinists act as if Mark…can believe on his own.
What difference does it make anyway if Mark tells the whole world Calvinism is false? Do you suppose his statement will drive totally “unable” sinners “further” away from the truth of God? Sinners cannot believe the truth, remember? If the gospel were broadcasted to all 6.5 billion people it is up to God to decide whether they will believe it, isn’t that right Calvinist?
Oh sure the gospel “quickens the elect” as Calvinists say, but ONLY IF GOD DECIDES IT WILL.
I have also noticed Calvinists spend a great deal of time calling out certain preachers and denominations as false teachers with false gospels. While this is not necessarily a bad thing the irony of it is Calvinists, hypocritically, do not adhere to their own standards of what is an “essential” doctrine. Especially with those like Mark Cahill who openly oppose their doctrines.
Many of the false teachers Calvinists talk about believe in the same “essentials” they do. Many believe “Jesus is God”, “Grace alone”, “Faith alone”, the “Trinity” and so forth. So then why are you going after other pastors who believe in the same essentials you do? Doesn’t Mark believe in those same essentials? Perhaps the Calvinist list of “essentials” is longer than what they lead us to believe.
It should be obvious when a Calvinist goes after a false teacher its because…(drum roll) the false teacher is preaching about a different god. When Mark Cahill goes after Calvinism… its for the same reason. Which proves something out…there is something HIGHER than the gospel…its the God behind the gospel being preached! If someone has a different god than the one in the bible, it doesn’t matter if someone says “faith alone” or “Christ alone” or “grace alone” because the meanings behind those terms may be different.
This is really the crux of the matter. Do you personally know the god someone is describing to you? Is the same spirit telling Mark and Calvinists the same things?
Ephesians 4 says
“4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all”
The same spirit cannot be telling Mark “God died for all men because He loves all eternally” and Calvinists that “God died for some men because He only loves some eternally.” Something is very wrong here.
These are different spirits!
Another argument I hear against Mark is “emotionalism.” The idea is “Mark is reacting emotionally from pride because he wants to be in charge of his salvation and not put God in charge.” This is an an unrighteous judgement of Mark based on appearance.
If a Calvinist were to simply ask Mark “Are you trying to save yourself?” or “Are you trying to be in charge of your salvation” he would gladly tell you faith in Christ is an admission that “I cannot save myself.”
I have had on countless occasions been accused of “adding works to salvation” because I dared suggest that “I” believed the gospel. When I tell a Calvinist faith in Christ is an admission of “I cannot save myself” and the bible teaches personal faith is required to be saved they continue to insist “I have pride and I want myself to be on the throne instead of God.”
It takes an indoctrinated mind to ignore the conversation at hand and repeat what they have told, regardless of what the other person says. But thats what happens when Calvinists listen to Calvinist preachers, read reformed books and spend their time studying church history instead of the bible.
Hyper vs Non-Hyper?
Some Calvinsts say Mark is mixing hyper-Calvinism and Calvinism together in some of his arguments. I have noticed the only people who mix the two together are Calvinists!
Many times a I have heard Calvinists say “God doesn’t predestine people for hell from birth, thats ‘hyper-Calvinism’, He simply passes them over so they go to hell” and then later these same people will quote a verse to me which “proves” God does indeed create people for hell…things such as “before they did anything good or bad God hated Esau” or “God creates vessels for destruction” or God “made” unbelievers to be destroyed.
There is no distinction between God predestining someone for hell and God passing a sinner over so they go to hell.
Who decided to create someone for hell before they were born? God. Who decided to pass a sinner over so they will be destroyed? God….and the difference is…what?
I suspect Calvinists try to make this distinction because it makes God “look better” to suggest God passes over a sinner because of their sin, instead of predestining someone for hell from birth. But the distinction is meaninglesss since these same Calvinists also believe God hated Esau before he was born or the potter can do whatever he wants with the clay.
Another aspect of this idea is if God does whatever He wants and isn’t moved by what men do, then logically God isn’t moved by a sinners sin either. If God is as “sovereign” as Calvinists say than He isn’t moved by a person having faith nor is God moved by a sinners sin. “God isn’t controlled by what men do” they say, but I guess that standard only applies to people responding to the gospel.
Its no wonder people turn away from Calvinism. Its a confusing mess of contradictory ideas masquerading as truth. Some people become atheists after believing in it for a time.
Contradictions are “mysteries?”
The only “division” Mark is causing is discerning a false doctrine from a true one, rightly “dividing” the word of truth! You see, true biblical doctrines do not contradict each other. True doctrines glorify God in all His attributes, not just one of them. True doctrines are sound and make logical sense because God is logical and true, Calvin and TULIP are not.
The tragic part is Calvinists KNOW their doctrines are contradictory!
This is how they get around them. They either IGNORE them or use the word “mystery” to “solve” the dilemma. “These ideas are ‘mysteries’ we cannot solve with our finite minds” I hear Calvinists say. No, the “mystery” is why you believe in it! The “mystery” is why Calvinists embrace contradictions as truth. The “mystery” is why Calvinists are not “willing” to give up their Calvinism. The “mystery” is why seemingly intelligent people make stupid comments that are illogical and irrational. Calvinists are smart people, but the doctrine of Calvinism is dumb.
The arguments Calvinists use against Mark Cahill are so contradictory to their own beliefs and sound logic I am convinced they are blinded by the doctrine. They cannot see past it. All interpretations must bow to its precepts, and they do.
I applaud Mark for telling the truth.
Are Calvinists Saved?
Speaking for myself only my opinion is if someone grew up in the faith of Calvin, being fed its doctrines from the very beginning, I find it difficult to imagine that person is saved, such as Thomas Dickerson. If however a person believed the doctrine AFTER their conversion then I believe that person is saved but deceived.
There are many sincere seemingly God-fearing people who believe in Calvinism, but of course that doesn’t make Calvinism true, nor does it make them saved. I cannot judge a doctrine by the people who believe in it, no matter how Godly they may seem in public. I have no idea how they are in private or in their thought life!
While it is true Jesus said “I will know them by their fruits” it is not “fruitful” to say things about God’s character and nature that are lies. It is not “fruitful” to depict God as Allah who predestines sinners to hell by passing them over because he enjoys torturing them to prove he is the boss! It is not “fruitful” to depict God as unholy, sadistic, insane, contradictory and unloving to most of the people made in His image. It is not “fruitful” to believe God hates people because they hated Him first, which is not perfect divine love but imperfect human love. It is not “fruitful” when Calvinists say God punishes sinners for not believing the gospel…a gospel never meant for them in the first place. Its difficult to reject an invitation to a party when the invitation was never mean’t for you! The god of calvin says “I am angry at sinners for not believing my Son died for them so I will punish them with more condemnation the more they reject my offer”…but…according to Calvinists…Christ DID NOT die for them…so God’s offer of salvation is not an offer, and their “rejection” of the gospel is not a rejection at all! God is actually LYING to them by preaching the gospel to them suggesting a forgiveness He has no intention of giving them!
Its no wonder some people become atheists after hearing these things about God. Its a confusing mess.
I think the solution to all these problems is simple. Calvinism is false.
I pray all Calvinists will reexamine what they believe, and I hope they do this by ignoring the writings of men so they can focus on the writings of God. Most of the Calvinists I have met over the years spend far more time reading reformed titles then they do the bible. The truth of who God is cannot be revealed by following what someone else says God says. If you spend more time reading what men say its no wonder you have been led astray. Their ideas permeate your brain before you read the verse!
If you seek the Lord in spirit and in truth you will find Him.