The Bible says that, “A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump” (Gal. 5:9). A small amount of controversy can disrupt the whole fellowship in a congregation. As a young pastor of a small church in the hills of Pennsylvania during the late 1980s, I witnessed this biblical truth when a disgruntled deacon secretly distributed to various church members a copy of the pamphlet by Curtis Hudson, “Why I Disagree with All Five Points of Calvinism.”
The church had a history as a Particular Baptist congregation. Particular Baptist Churches are so called because they hold to a “particular” (limited / definite) atonement, in contrast to other Baptist groups who hold to a “general” (unlimited / universal) atonement. The introduction of material inconsistent with the historical beliefs of the fellowship proved to be very disruptive. A few years later, when I went to Ghana, Africa, to preach the gospel of God’s redeeming grace, the pastor of a Baptist church told me how this very pamphlet had made its way, across the ocean, and into the congregation, with predictable results of confusion, chaos, and concern, for people were questioning the historic faith of the Reformation, and beyond that, of the Bible.
For many years I have felt the need to respond to the ideas in the pamphlet for the deliberate misrepresentation of some facets of the teachings of Calvinism, and the ad hominin attacks against a large segment of God’s people set forth in, “Why I Disagree with All 5 Points of Calvinism.” I do not intend for my response here to be mean-spirited, or personal, but engaging the main points set forth against the doctrines of grace. The Scriptures are turned to for discussion. The writing of Mr. Hudson is in bold type. My response follows each section. I have provided some additional subheadings to guide the reader, and identify the sections more clearly.
Mr. Hudson, (July 10, 1934–March 5, 1995), a former Independent Fundamental Baptist pastor, and editor of The Sword of the Lord (1980-1995), is with the Lord now. Without doubt his semi-Pelagian theological bias has been corrected in the land of glory. Nevertheless, the damage his writing has done within the body of Christ, and continues to do, through a wide distribution of his pamphlet on college campuses, in churches, and elsewhere, lives on.
May the Lord have mercy on those who have been led away from the foundational Reformation principles of the Christian heritage: Sola scriptura: “Scripture alone”; Sola fide: “faith alone”; Sola gratia: “grace alone”; Solo Christo: “Christ alone”; and Soli Deo gloria: “to the glory of God alone.”
“Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3).
The term “Calvinism” is loosely used by some people, who do not hold Calvin’s teaching on predestination, and do not understand exactly what Calvin taught.
Dr. Loraine Boettner in his book, “The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination” says, “The Calvinistic system especially emphasizes five distinct doctrines. These are technically known as “The Five Points of Calvinism.” And they are the main pillars upon which the superstructure rests.”
Dr. Boettner further says, “The five points may be more easily remembered if they are associated with the word T-U-L-I-P, T, Total Inability; U, Unconditional Election; L, Limited Atonement; I, Irresistible (efficacious) Grace; and P, Perseverance of the Saints.” These are the points of Calvinism.
I have heard preachers say, “I am a one-point Calvinist.” I have heard others say, “I am a two- or three-point Calvinist.” I want us to look at all five points of Calvinism, as taught by John Calvin, then see what the Bible has to say on each point.
I. Total Inability
By total inability, Calvin meant that a lost sinner cannot come to Jesus Christ and trust Him as Saviour, unless he is foreordained to come to Christ. By total inability he meant, that no man has the ability to come to Christ. And unless God overpowers him and gives him that ability, he will never come to Christ
The Bible teaches total depravity, and I believe in total depravity. But that simply means that there is nothing good in man to earn, or deserve, salvation. The Bible says in Jeremiah 17:9, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.”
A preacher brought a wonderful sermon on the depravity of the human heart. And when he finished his message, someone came to him and said,” I want you to know I can’t swallow that depraved heart that you preached about.”
The preacher smiled and said, “You don’t have to swallow it. It’s already in you!”
While the Bible teaches the depravity of the human race, it nowhere teaches total inability. The Bible never hints that people are lost because they have no ability to come to Christ. The language of Jesus was, “Ye will not come to me, that ye might have life” (John 5:40). Notice, it is not a matter of whether or not you can come to Christ; it is a matter of whether or not you will come to Christ.
Jesus looked over Jerusalem and wept, and said, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem . . .how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” (Matt. 23:37). Here again notice, He did not say, “How often would I have gathered you together, but you could not.” No. He said, “Ye would not!” It was not a matter of whether they could; it was a matter of whether they would. . .
Calvinism points out the reason why so many in Jerusalem would not come to Christ is rooted in the fact that the unregenerate, of their own Free Will, choose not to receive Christ because they are enslaved to sin (Rom. 6:14-20), cannot receive spiritual things (1 Cor. 2:14), and can do no good that would please God (Rom. 3:10-12). Individuals have Free Will to choose, but they freely choose to do what is contrary to the known will of God. To the citizens of Jerusalem Jesus said, “And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life” (John 5:40).
“If there is one thing more stubborn than the heart it is the will. “My lord; Will-be-will,” as Bunyan calls him in his “Holy War,” is a fellow who will not easily be bent. The will, especially in some men, is a very stubborn thing, and in all men, if the will is once stirred up to opposition, there is nothing can be done with them. Freewill somebody believes in. Freewill many dream of. Freewill! wherever is that to be found?
Once there was free will in Paradise, and a terrible mess free will made there, for it all spoiled all Paradise and turned Adam out of the garden. Free will was once in heaven, but it turned the glorious archangel out and a third part of the stars of heaven fell into the abyss. I want nothing to do with free will, but I will try to see whether I have got a free will within. And I find I have. Very free will to evil, but very poor will to that which is good. Free will enough when I sin, but when I would do good evil is present with me, and how to do that which I would I find not.
Yet some boast of free will. I wonder whether those who believe in it have any more power over persons wills than I have. I know I have not any. I find the old proverb very true, “One man can bring a horse to the water, but a hundred cannot make him drink.” I find that I can bring you all to the water, and a great many more than can get into this chapel; but I cannot make you drink; and I don’t think a hundred ministers could make you drink. I have read old Rowland Hill, and [George] Whitfield, and several others to see what they did; but I cannot discover a plan of turning your wills.
I cannot coax you; and you will not yield by any manner of means. I do not think any man has power over his fellow creature’s will, but the Spirit of God has. “I will make them willing in the day of my power.” He maketh the unwilling sinner so willing that he is impetuous after the gospel; he who was obstinate, now hurries to the cross.
He who laughed at Jesus, now hangs on his mercy; and he who would not believe, is now made by the Holy Spirit to do it, not only willingly, but eagerly; he is happy, is glad to do it, rejoices in the sound of Jesus’ name, and delights to run in the way of God’s commandments. The Holy Spirit has power over the will.Charles Spurgeon
Curtis continues his objections:
Revelation 22:17, the last invitation in the Bible, says, “And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.”
Calvinism asks the question, “Who is it that wills to come to Christ and drink of the living water?” Not man in his natural condition “for in Adam all die” (1 Cor. 15:22a). Because the natural man is dead towards God, he must be regenerated by the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5). Only those whom the Father draws will come to drink and be thirsty no more. “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:44).
If it is true that no person has the ability to come to Christ, then why would Jesus say in John 5:40, “Ye will not come to me.” Why didn’t He simply say, “You cannot come to me”?
Calvinism agrees that the natural men is depraved, and will not come to Christ, for the natural man, of his own Free Will, wills not to come to Christ in and of himself. He does not even bother to seek after the Lord. “There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God” (Rom. 3:11). The natural man has an aversion to Jesus. He is not willing to take Christ as He is, and as He is offered in the gospel. The natural man is not willing to part with all his sins. Jonathan Edwards says, “When men are truly willing to come to Christ, they are freely willing. It is not what they are forced, and driven to by threatenings; but they are willing to come, and choose to come without being driven.”
Man, Not God, Determines Salvation
The only thing that stands between the sinner and salvation is the sinner’s will. God made every man a free moral agent. And God never burglarizes the human will.
D. L. Moody addressed a large group of sceptics. He said, “I want to talk about the word believe, the word, receive, and the word, take.” When Mr. Moody had finished his sermon, he asked, “Now who will come and take Christ as Saviour?”
One man stood and said, “I can’t.”
Mr. Moody wept and said, “Don’t say, ‘I can’t.’ Say, ‘I won’t!'”
And the man said, “Then, I won’t!”
But another man said, “I will!” Then another said, “I will!” And another said, “I will!” Until scores came to trust Christ as Saviour.
When a person says, “I will” to the gospel invitation, it is because they have been regenerated by the Holy Spirit, and been granted repentance unto eternal life (Acts 11:18). “It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life” (John 6:63). No man will say, “I will” to Christ, unless the gift of faith was granted him by the Father. “Therefore, said I unto you, that no man can come unto me [Jesus], except it were given unto him of my Father” (John 6:65). “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Eph. 2:8, 9). How God regenerates the soul so that a person says, “I will,” is a great mystery. The honest believer does not give their will, their wisdom in making a wise decision. No, they give glory to God for their salvation, and humbly confess they do not understand the mystery of the new birth.
The Work of God the Father
Some Calvinists use John 6:44 in an effort to prove total inability. Here the Bible says, “No man can come to me except the Father which hath sent me draw him. . . .”
Calvinism maintains that John 6:44 teaches exactly what the Arminians deny. No man, in and of himself, has the ability to come to Christ “except the Father which hath sent me draw [Gk. Helkuo; to drag (literally or figuratively)] him: and I will raise him up at the last day.”
Because of the just judgment of God pronounced in the Garden of Eden when Adam sinned and plunged all of his posterity into spiritual death, because of a natural love for darkness, fallen individuals have no natural ability to come to Christ. By nature, souls do not have the power, or ability to prepare themselves for conversion. The only spiritual fruit of the natural person is unbelief, moral, and spiritual, corruption.
It is a glorious truth that the Father shall draw, in an irresistible manner, many, the elect unto Himself, as a net of big fishes was dragged ashore (John 21:6,11), as Paul and Silas were dragged into the forum (Acts 16:19), as Paul was dragged out of the temple (Acts 21:30) and as the rich drag the poor before the judgment seats (James 2:6). The word “draw” does not mean “to woo” but to overcome any and all resistance.
All Men Are Drawn to Christ
But the Bible makes it plain in John 12:32 that Christ will draw all men unto Himself. Here the Bible says, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.” All men are drawn to Christ, but not all men will trust Christ as Saviour. Every man will make his own decision to trust Christ or to reject Him. The Bible makes it clear that all men have light.
Calvinism notes that the word “all” has various meanings in normal usage. For example, the word can mean either “the entire number of something” or, “those of every sort.” In this verse “all” can only mean “men of all sorts” since it is obvious that the entire human race is not drawn to Christ for salvation (Luke 11:42; Acts 2:17; 10:12). All sorts of men without distinction, are drawn to Christ, but not all men without exception.
Jesus Does NOT Reveal Himself to All in a Saving Manner
Calvinism teaches there must be a divine drawing of the elect to Christ for salvation because the gospel is foolishness to those who perish. Judas (not Iscariot), understood that not all men are drawn to Christ in a saving manner. One day he asked Jesus, “Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world?” (John 14:22). Notice, Christ does NOT manifest himself in a salvific manner unto those who perish. To such people, Jesus speaks in parables. Jesus explained why. There is judicial judgment on the unbelieving. They are condemned already.
“I speak to them in parables: because they seeing, see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. 14 And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: 15 For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them” (Matt. 13:13-15).
The plight of the natural man is much more serious than Arminianism teaches.
A Light for Every Man
John 1:9 says, “That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.”
Calvinism believes the words of John refers to every person without distinction, not every person without exception. It is obvious that babies die, that not all have intellectual comprehension, and that many reject the gospel after living every day of life hostile to the Lord of Glory. The Bible also makes it clear that God leaves people in spiritual and moral darkness “That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them” (Mark 4:12).
The Voice of Creation
Romans 1:19,20 indicates that every sinner has been called through the creation about him.
Calvinism agrees that, though God is in His essence incomprehensible and utterly transcending of all human thought, yet He has revealed Himself within all men through the knowledge of the things that are made.
The Voice of Conscience
And Romans 2:11-16 indicates that sinners are called through their conscience, even when they have not heard the Word of God.
Calvinism agrees that unbelievers are called to faith in God, and repentance through their conscience. However, a distinction is made between a General Call of the Gospel, and a Specific Call of the gospel.
In the General, or External Call, the gospel is preached to all people indiscriminately. Anyone can hear it, but not all will respond to the spiritual truths communicated. Jesus made this point in parabolic form in Matthew 22:3-9.
The Specific, or Internal Call of the gospel is different than the External Call. The Internal Call of the gospel is the voice of the Holy Spirit effectively applying the gospel message to the hearts of individuals with sovereign power to repentance, faith, salvation, and service. Study Romans 8:30; 1 Cor. 1:9; Gal. 1:15; 2 Thess. 2:13; 2 Tim. 1:9; Heb. 9:15; 1 Peter 2:9; and 2 Peter 1:3.
The Rest of the Story
So, in the final analysis, men go to Hell, not because of their inability to come to Christ, but because they will not come to Christ-“Ye will not come to me, that ye might have life.”
Calvinism also maintains that, in the final analysis, men go to heaven because they are the trophies of God’s redeeming grace. Individuals go to hell because they will not come to Christ. But when asked why men will not come to Christ, the answer is not simply a matter of free agency. There is the problem of sin, and what it has done to every facet of the soul.
The Condition of the Natural Man
1) The Natural Man is blind to spiritual truths (John 9:41).
2) The Natural Man is without understanding (1 Corinthians 2:14).
3) The Natural Man is dead in trespasses and sin (Ephesians 2:1).
4) The Natural Man is without hope (Ephesians 2:12).
5) The Natural Man is without God (Ephesians 2:12).
6) The Natural Man is incapable of changing himself (Jeremiah 13:23).
7) The Natural Man is hostile to God and the gospel (Romans 3:11).
To say that “in the final analysis” that salvation depends upon a person “simply” coming to Christ is to fail to understand that GOD must work in the heart, GOD must regenerate the soul, GOD must sovereignly give repentance (Acts 11:18), so that it can be said, SALVATION IS OF THE LORD! (Jonah 1:17) The Psalmist said, “He [God] saved them for His name’s sake” (Psalm 106:8).
But some reply, “Well, sir, but men convert themselves.” Yes, they do, and a fine conversion it is. Very frequently they convert themselves. But then that which man did, man undoes. He who converts himself one day, unconverts himself the next; he tieth a knot which his own fingers can loosen.
Remember this—you may convert yourselves a dozen times over, but “that which is born of the flesh is flesh,” and “cannot see the kingdom of God.” It is only “that which is born of the Spirit” that “is Spirit,” and is therefore able to be gathered at last into the spirit-realm, where only spiritual things can be found before the throne of the Most High.
We must reserve this prerogative wholly to God. If any man state that God is not Creator, we call him infidel; if any man entrenches upon this doctrine, that God is the absolute Maker of all things, we hiss him down in a moment; but he is an infidel of the worst kind, because more specious, who puts God out of the mercy throne, instead of putting him out of the creation throne, and who tells men that they may convert themselves, whereas God doth it all.
“He” only, the great Jehovah—Father, Son, and Holy Ghost—”he saved them for his name’s sake. –Charles Spurgeon
Holding to a Basic Tenet
The teaching that men, women, and children are totally unable to come to Christ and truth Him as Saviour is not a scriptural doctrine. The language itself is not scriptural.
The teaching that men, women, and children, are totally unable to come to Christ, and trust Him as Saviour, in and of themselves is a scriptural doctrine. The Reformed Anglican minister, August Toplady, knew he was helpless to save himself, or come to faith by himself, and, in 1763, wrote these words while hiding from a storm in Burrington Combe.
“Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee;
Let the water and the blood,
From Thy riven side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure,
Save me from its guilt and power.
Not the labor of my hands
Can fulfill Thy law’s demands;
Could my zeal no respite know,
Could my tears forever flow,
All could never sin erase,
Thou must save, and save by grace.
Nothing in my hands I bring,
Simply to Thy cross I cling;
Naked, come to Thee for dress,
Helpless, look to Thee for grace:
Foul, I to the fountain fly,
Wash me, Savior, or I die.”