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Free to Decide: Confessions of a Former Calvinist

The story is told of a group of people who disagreed over the issue of predestination so they divided themselves into two separate camps. One camp existed for the predestinarians and another for those who emphasized the free will of man. A single undecided man was stranded in between. Since he wasn’t sure what to do, he went and tried to join the predestinarian camp. They refused to allow his entrance, saying, “You can’t be here if you choose to be here, you must be called.” So in concession, he made his way to the free will camp. They too, rejected the poor man, stating, “You can’t be here if you were sent, you must choose to be here of your own free will.”

I have often felt like that man in my own struggle to understand and reconcile God’s sovereignty and man’s free agency. My own struggle began shortly after my surrender to the gospel ministry, as I entered the student body at Central Baptist College in Conway, Arkansas. Calvinism and the “doctrines of grace” were a constant source of controversy among the overzealous ministerial students. We would often stay up until the wee hours of the mourning in our dorm rooms, debating the eternal decrees of the Almighty. Our pursuit was not so much to understand the God who had saved us, but rather to have a keen grasp on our theology, and if I might admit, to entertain ourselves by feeling intellectually astute.

My pursuit of an understanding continued as I devoured the writings of John Calvin, Lorraine Boettner, and R. C. Sproul. John Piper’s popularity had not yet reached our small school in central Arkansas but we were quite familiar with the scholarly perspective of Dr. John MacArthur. (May I make an aside to say that these are godly men who have done much good for the cause of biblical inerrancy and other areas of conservative theology.) I was particularly drawn to the well-known Reformed writers because of the great appeal of their emphasis on the “five solas:” (in English only…) the Scriptures alone teach us salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone to the glory of God alone. I affirm these solas to this day, but I no longer believe them to be the product of the Reformation, but rather the natural conclusion of a right exegesis of the Bible. Thankfully the Reformers simply stumbled onto truths held by the ancients, and by ancestral Baptists throughout their centuries of underground faith as well.

Only a few years ago, I would have proudly labeled myself a Calvinist and I had my arguments in tact to defend my position. I found myself teaching these truths in my pulpit ministry, unwilling to give a universal invitation to anyone who would want to be saved. Rather I qualified my invitations with such phrases as, “If God is dealing with you, then come…” My intent was to avoid “casting my pearls before swine.” I had two basic approaches to defending my incorrect theology. One approach was to run to the familiar proof texts such as Ephesians 1:3-14, John 6:43-46, and Romans 8:28-30. The other was to twist my opponents’ words using human logic. In fact, my first confession would be that Calvinism had a strong appeal to my own appetite for that which was intellectually challenging.

That Calvinism is a logical system cannot be denied. If in fact all are totally depraved and unable to respond to God, then God must unconditionally elect some to believe. If He elects some, yet they cannot believe on their own, then He must draw them and give them faith. Further, if He draws them and gives them faith, then they surely could not be lost, so His grace must be irresistible. And if only some will be elected, drawn, and saved, then Jesus must have died only for the elect, else His blood would have been spilled in vain and the non-elect would, in their own damnation, cause God to judge their sin twice. The perseverance of the saints must be a right doctrine if God’s sovereignty in electing lines up with His wisdom of the future lifestyle of the elect. So it all made sense to me. Being able to state the doctrines of grace and convince others of their truthfulness fed my own ego and gave me the feeling of being in the ranks of the world’s great theological thinkers. But what I felt was Calvinism’s great strength (the fact that it was ultimately logical to the intellectual person) turned out to be Calvinism’s great weakness.

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The Bible is full of paradoxes. Believers are alive and dead at the same time. We are servants and sons. We are saints and sinners. We are chosen, and free! None of these paradoxes are logical. None of them make any human sense but when we see the Scriptures through a heart of faith, they seem sensible to us after all. Calvinism ultimately creates a mindset that blocks out the possibility of man having anything at all to do with his own salvation. Indeed, man cannot purchase it with his good works, nor can he suffer for its penalty and be freed from sin’s curse. Nonetheless, the Scriptures plainly record the necessity that man, in his divinely granted freedom, choose Christ of his own volition. The logic of Calvinism sees only the sensible side of God’s sovereignty but can never reconcile it with man’s freedom to act in faith.

Beyond the appeal of the logic of Calvinism was the second draw upon my soul… the ability to line up with the great theological thinkers of my day. The popularity of Calvinism is growing, thanks to the growing popularity of some of its great advocates such as R. Albert Mohler, John Piper, and John MacArthur. As I mentioned before, I believe these to be godly and conservative men of profound intellectual insight and personal character. I so wanted to fit in with the great scholars of my day that I was willing to overlook apparent uncertainties about my theology. In reality, I was taking an apologetic approach to Calvinism within my own heart! I was consistently attempting to convince myself!

The final straw came for me in the summer of 2005 when I purchased and listened to the well-known sermon by Dr. Adrian Rogers entitled Predestined for Hell? Absolutely Not! One of my strongest arguments for Calvinism was my eisogesis of Romans, chapter nine. I listened, dumbfounded, as Dr. Rogers decimated every supporting argument I had given in asserting that God had created people who were forordained to damnation, simply to show forth His justice. Dr. Rogers’ masterful exegesis of this oft-studied passage convinced me to do a thorough re-evaluation of my own theology. Very few Calvinists today would claim to be hyper-Calvinists. In fact, any Calvinist I’ve ever met would always label those a little more extreme than themselves as the “hypers.” Suddenly I was faced with the evidence which proved my own leaning toward a hyper-Calvinist theology.

I began reading all that I could again on the subject of Calvinism, this time from an objective position. Formerly I had sought proof of Calvinism, now I simply wanted God’s answers to my deepest questions. My mind was stirred to re-consider my theological position, but my emotions were wrenched by a question I had subtly ignored when a loved one asked, “what if your little girl (two years of age at the time) isn’t chosen, but instead was created simply to be damned forever in hell?” Though an emotional reaction is never the basis for a solid affirmation of truth, I would beg the same question of any Calvinistic reader… what if all of your loved ones were simply “fitted for destruction?”

Dave Hunt reflects my final conclusion in this way, “…the ultimate aim of Calvinism… is to prove that God does not love everyone, is not merciful to all, and is pleased to damn billions. If that is the God of the Bible, Calvinism is true. If that is not the God of the Bible, who ‘is love’ (1 John 4:8, emphasis added), Calvinism is false…”

My confessions as a former Calvinist could be summed up in this way: I twisted various passages of Scripture so that I might have a system of theology that appealed to my intellectual ego, could reconcile itself with my own logic, and which would include me in a great class of Christian scholars, past and present. None of these motivations are glorifying to God, neither are they the motivations placed before us in Scripture.

Having recanted my affirmation of Calvinism, let me affirm my believe in a sovereign God who is always in control, but Who never forces or coerces converts to His Son. I believe in a God who sent His only Son to the cross so that anyone who believed on Him might be saved. I believe in a God whose knowledge is truly “past finding out” and who cannot be defined by any system of theology that is not firmly rooted in Scripture. Put simply, there is no acrostic that will summarize God. Sixty-six books, written over a span of 1500 years, at least seven genres of literature and multiple eras of God’s relating Himself in different ways to mankind were required to produce a single document that could even begin to tell of the mysteries of God’s deity and person. Calvinism is a partial explanation of God’s ways, presenting to us the sovereign God, divorced from His limitless love and His universal provision for the sins of all of His lost creatures. Let the reader beware that impenitence is damning, but let the reader behold the “great love wherewith He hath loved us.” To quote the Author of all theological truth, “And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:39-40)

Adrian Rogers, in his rebuttal of extreme predestination, stated it so well, “If you want mercy, you may have it.” I would urge you to fling yourself upon the foot of the cross where Jesus died and claim His mercy, receive His forgiveness, and take hold of the promise of a future resurrection to be with Jesus forever. For the Scriptures conclude with this great thought… “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.” (Revelation 22:17)

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  • Bob

    That’s a bummer man, I’m a calvinist and I don’t think calvinism is for everyone (but it is what the bible teaches). I really fought against accepting God’s soveriegn predestination (being a default Arminian) and really didn’t want to believe these things. I wouldn’t have been willing to accept a mere logical system but an expostion of scripture on these matters alone. Well you’ve heard it all before so I won’t bore you with key scriptures, but I do not think that it hinders the gospel proclamation at all to hold to a particular redemption. I in no way feel I need to tone done my invitation of sinners to come to Christ because its not my job to decide who is elect and not.

  • Brandon Cox

    Bob, Thanks for the comment. I feel I need to clarify that I would not label myself an Arminianist either. Further, I am appreciative that Calvinism emphasizes a God-centered theology instead of a man-centered one. However, one need not be a Calvinist to see the sovereignty of God clearly.

  • Tim


    Thanks for your “confession”. I have struggled for several years with this arguement between Calvinist and Arminianism. I agree with you that I am first and last a believer in Christ and I believe the Bible is the the authority, not man. Hyper-Calvinism and Hyper-Arminianism are divisive… and since God is not the author of confusion, I think the truth is in God’s Word.

    Tim Carroll

  • Brandon Cox

    Tim, thanks for your comment. You’re absolutely right to see God’s Word as the final authority.

    I feel I should add to this post that since writing this article, I obtained and read Chosen But Free by Norman Geisler, who articulates well what I feel about this issue. My one disagreement is with Geisler’s insistence on using the term “moderate Calvinist” to include people in between “extreme Calvinism” and Arminianism. Personally, I don’t feel the need to define my beliefs about the sovereignty of God based on what John Calvin, or any other human theologian taught.

  • Morgan

    interesting. i know this is an old post, but i’ve been slowly catching up on your old posts. as you touched upon-i’ve always looked at the two extreme views as the God view vs the man view

    • Brandon


      It’s an old post, but still something I struggle with all the time. I’m convinced if we ever have God’s sovereignty all figured out then we need to repent of our pride.

  • Brother Phil

    This post is a series of posts that I have been reading tonight. It is 4:19 AM; I have been up since 2 AM. My wife and I were having a discussion about Salvation (me, a ‘calvinist’; she, a believer in Christ !!). I have been saved since 1979 but tonight I am beginning to find Freedom!! And Choices !! I now see that Calvinism is responsible for irresponsible behaviours in ‘christians’ who do not see behaviour as relevant. (This mindset was part of my belief system also). Now I realize I DO have a choice, that I CAN live out my Salvation in Love and Appreciation for Christ creates a sweet stir in the depths of my belly!! Calvinism put me in prison; I could do NOTHING (or else!!!). Now I understand how the Bible can be a paradox but still be valid.
    The most important issue is not answers; it is Faith (an active Faith in Christ). It gives New Life to the New Life !!!!

  • http://freetodecide Lynne

    Bravo!!! It is best to follow the teaching of Christ and be a Christian than a man, Calvin, and be a Calvinist. Remember also that Calvin drowned 2 people intentionally based on his system of theology. Also remember that John MaCarthur was taken to the supreme court because a student committed suicide based on the Calvinistic teachings he received at the Master’s College (John Macarthur president)

  • Tom Fellows

    Yeah, I’m guilty of dragging up old posts again!!! LOL

    I’m like the one in the earlier comment that sits and reads all the posts on one’s blog. Since I work nights and have the luxury of surfing the net, I get quite a bit of reading done.

    Brandon, you have no idea how much stumbling across your blog has blessed me. I come from a background that taught never to question anything, yet I am from a generation that questions everything! I don’t see questioning as rebellion, as the older generations do. I see questioning as needful so that our generation will know what we believe, and why we believe it. It is truly being “ready to give an answer…”

    Since I’m preparing to resume my pulpit ministry full-time, I’ve been blessed to sit under a pastor (10 years younger than me), but who “gets it” and loves just as much as I do, sitting around and asking questions about all the “sacred cows” of the Baptist faith. I believe that it sharpens our intellect, and strengthens our faith when we are willing to question, examine, research and either affirm or disaffirm (word?) our positions.

    Lord bless you, brother. It’s good to know I’m not the only one out there that struggles with some of these things from time to time.

    BTW, my sister went to Western as well. I live just across the river from Louisville.

  • Pingback: Have Time for Some Calvinism? It’s Changing the World! | Brandon A. Cox - Personal and Pastor's Blog

  • Jimbo

    Hi Brandon

    "Free to Decide"- that title gives it away, really.

    Wonder if you,ve read Luthers Bondage of the Will.

    Jesus did say Without Me ye can do nothing" and "none can come except the Father draw them"

    There are many Scriptures to which I could point ,ie Romans 9 , Eph 1, etc.

    You,ve no doubt been through them all, well PREDESTINATION will stand throughout all the ages whether you or I can figure it our Salvation belongs to the Lord.

    Free to Decide? Only by the Grace of God see John 17.

    regards Jim

    • Brandon

      Jim, I believe in predestination. I believe that God is solely responsible for our salvation – it has nothing to do with us – we could never offer to God anything which would procure our eternal destiny with God in heaven. I simply don't agree with determinism, which in my belief, is equivalent to fatalism. The gospel calls for a response and a decision. A decision doesn't save us, Jesus does, but a decision is what God requires of us as the basis of conversion.

      I like the way you answer the question – only by the grace of God. I agree.

  • Kevin Hash

    @Have Time for Some Calvinism? It’s Changing the World! | Brandon A. Cox – Personal and Pastor's Blog

    Hey Brandon,

    I stumbled onto your blog, it looks great. We are hoping to redo our church website with WordPress.

    I thought I'd pass along something ironic, based on your blog here. I found James White rebuttal of the sermon's by Adrian Rogers (in romans 8 & 9 and being definitive in sending me the other direction.

    God Bless you and the work you are doing in Christ's church.


  • David

    As one who has struggled over Calvinism many years, I found this blog which I came across tonight fascinating. Thank you for it. When I was a new Christian and found my spirit very wounded by Calvinism, I asked a Calvinist why he thought I had to believe in Calvinism. He said that the reason was that there was no other way to interpret Romans 9-11. However, a wonderful Bible teacher steered me to a great book, God’s Strategy in Human History, by Forster and Marston, which was a Christianity Today Book of the Month Club Selection. It had a fabulous explanation of all the Bible passages that sound Calvinistic, and it explained them all in a non-Calvinistic way which made a lot of sense. This book greatly comforted me that I could believe in the Bible’s inerrancy without feeling forced to believe in Calvinism. It’s available on — God’s Strategy in Human History by Roger Forster and Paul Marston

  • Gordon

    1. Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, 2. for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. 3. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, 4. who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 5. For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, 6. who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time, 7. for which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle I am speaking the truth in Christ and not lying a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.

    One must consider that if God desires all to be saved then of the same breath pick a few for salvation and damn the rest then we have a real problem with truth. Can God be holy if he damns the people to eternal hell and picks form the all a few while at the same time telling us He desires all to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth?

    There are three answers to this passage and Calvinism is the most illogical of the three.

    God desires all to be saved:

    Calvinism picks a few of the all

    Universalism picks saves all humanity

    However, the only position left is to allow some form of human freedom in the process which does not violated God's sovereignty, recognizes the depravity of man and honors the atonement of Christ.

    Calvinism is not a logical order of belief. Calvinist must arguer against passages that clearly teach that Christ died for all mankind. Is that logical? No

    Calvinist must arguer that foreknowledge does not mean foreknowledge. Is that logical? No

    Calvinist must arguer that regeneration is before faith and this is not found in Scripture where as we read in a number of places where salvation follows faith. The clear passages are there but denied. Is this logical? No

    We must stop supporting the argument that Calvinism is logical because it is not.

    • Brandon

      Good point about logic. I think I say Calvinism is logical only in the sense that the major tenets may be mutually supported by a system which flows out if human reason and intellect, not out of truth. Our logic certainly doesn't always correspond with God's perfect wisdom, especially since the fall.

      • Tom

        Our logic is not the same as God’s wisdom? Sure, but wisdom and logic are entirely different things. I do not see how God’s logic and our logic can differ. Can God truthfully declare that a thing exists and does not exist at the same time? Can he declare that some proposition is both true and false at the same moment? I do not think he can, anymore than we can. He wisdom exceeds ours, but to say that he has a different logic is to say that no revelation coming from God could have any meaning for us.

        • Brandon

          Tom, I'm afraid I don't see your logic… ;)

    • jennifer

      I liked Gordon’s comment. In fact I’m going to print it out. The trouble with Calvinism is that it attributes behaviour to the Lord that we would find highly incomprehensible and disconcerting in any sane person. Calvinism makes God out to be some kind of self-willed, cosmic lunatic – who says one thing but means another!

      • Brandon

        Yes, it is a very good and powerful point.

  • Tracy

    Brandon, I think you have written very well and studied this out. It does sound like Calvinism does a great disservice to what the bible speaks of as the "simplicity in Christ". God means what he says when he said HE wishes that NONE should perish but that ALL should come to repentance. Its just a sad fact that many will not choose Him, but God will save any one who asks for it on God's terms. Well done for the glory of God and true- He cannot be put into a box that our intellectual theologians have designed for him. He is greater than what we can fathom!

  • Will

    @Jimbo – Hey, man, use the comma instead of the apostrophe. It's right below the 'm'.

  • Tom

    Brandon, I have been a Calvinist for about 25 years and am now undergoing a change. It started with doubts that anyone could honestly say to another person that Christ has done anything for his salvation. I always had to keep in mind that the person spoken to might not be one for whom Christ has died, and therefore not one for whom salvation is possible. I felt I had to accept this situation, like it or not, because to doubt the Calvinistic doctrine of limited atonement would be to undermine all the other five points, and thus to undermine a true systematic biblical theology. After much reading, I have given up on limited atonement and am seeing that the other four points are morally, logically and scripturally false without considerable modification.
    I was amazed to see how much my own experience is like your own. I wonder how many there are out there like us.

  • Gordon

    I have just recently read Robert E. Picirilli's book "Grace Faith Free Will – Contrasting Views of Salvation: Calvinism & Arminianism.

    Dr. Picirilli is a very clear thinker and has the ability to discuss both sides without condemnation and ill will. His insight and understanding are worth all who struggle with the difference between these two theological views a necessary read.

    Here is an example of his thinking as it pertains to the meaning of Eph. 2:8

    “There are two reasons, one grammatical and one syntactical, for insisting that “this” does not refer back to “faith”. Grammatically, “faith” is feminine and “this” is neuter. Only an unnatural stretching of the possibilities of Greek grammar can read “faith” as the antecedent of “this”.

    Syntactically, the fact (often overlooked) is that there are three complements of “this” which follow it:

    (1) “this” (is) not of you

    (2) “this” (is) God’s gift,

    (3) “this” (is) not of works, lest anyone boast.

    To read “faith” with “this” might make some kind of sense for the first two of these, but it will not work with the third: “this faith is not of works” would be nonsensical tautology in view of the fact that works is in contrast to faith already.

    In Ephesians 2:8, 9, therefore, “this” has for its antecedent the entire preceding clause. This fits the “rules” of Greek grammar that called for a neuter pronoun to refer to a verbal idea, and it makes perfectly good sense in the context. “By grace you have been saved by faith: and this saving experience is not of you but is the gift of God, not of works lest any boast.”

    End of Quote

    Tautology defined by “Dictionary Dot Com”

    noun, plural -gies.

    1. needless repetition of an idea, esp. in words other than those of the immediate context, without imparting additional force or clearness, as in “widow woman.”

    2. an instance of such repetition.

    3. Logic.

    a. a compound propositional form all of whose instances are true, as “A or not A.”

    b. an instance of such a form, as “This candidate will win or will not win.”

    • Brandon

      You know, though I'm not an Arminianist, nor do I agree with all that Free Will Baptists believe, I do love Picirilli and his writings. His book on Paul's life is my textbook for a Wednesday night Bible study right now.

      Excellent thought too. Very hard to present a compelling argument against what Picirilli asserted here.

      Thanks for sharing!

    • Bob Hadley

      Although I am not familiar with this book nor its author, I argued this statement, almost verbatim last week…

       ”“There are two reasons, one grammatical and one syntactical, for insisting that “this” does not refer back to “faith”. Grammatically, “faith” is feminine and “this” is neuter. Only an unnatural stretching of the possibilities of Greek grammar can read “faith” as the antecedent of “this”. Syntactically, the fact (often overlooked) is that there are three complements of “this” which follow it: (1) “this” (is) not of you (2) “this” (is) God’s gift, (3) “this” (is) not of works, lest anyone boast. To read “faith” with “this” might make some kind of sense for the first two of these, but it will not work with the third: “this faith is not of works” would be nonsensical tautology in view of the fact that works is in contrast to faith already. In Ephesians 2:8, 9, therefore, “this” has for its antecedent the entire preceding clause. This fits the “rules” of Greek grammar that called for a neuter pronoun to refer to a verbal idea, and it makes perfectly good sense in the context. “By grace you have been saved by faith: and this saving experience is not of you but is the gift of God, not of works lest any boast.” 

      Thanks for this post!  

      Grateful to be in His Grip


  • Gordon

    I, personally, believe in OSAS. I noticed some of the speakers you like, Ronnie Floyd and Jack Graham. I too enjoy their ministries. I enjoy watching the chapel sermons at SWBTS along with a host of others, like Dr. David Jeremiah, Graham, Hunt, Gains, and many more. I identify very closely with the views of Dr. Elmer Towns of Liberty University and I am a huge fan of the Falwells.

  • Ron Hale


    Thanks so very much for your confession and sharing your journey!

    As an older guy in the convention now (57 years old), I can say that I was never confronted with reform theology during my college and seminary days. So, I've had some catching up in my understandings.

    Give me some pointers in relating to some of my younger Brothers in the SBC that haven't even pastored their first church as of yet, or baptized anyone, but they feel they are smarter/wiser than their old pastor back home in their country church — because — they have been enlightened by calvinism.

    I have been personally offended by certain attitudes, but I'm truly wanting to be bridge builder. <Ron

    • Brandon

      Ron, very good question, and I wish I had the perfect answer. I think one of the problems with intellectual pride is that it's subtle and very difficult to help someone see it, and we certainly don't classify it with other sins in our own minds.

      I think the main goal is to promote humility and to hold up the guys who are humble in their approach about it. There are some great Calvinist folks who aren't so arrogant and I love them and lift them up as examples.

  • Dr. James Willingham

    When I first became persuaded that the Bible actually taught Sovereign Grace, it was puzzle to me as to how to preach it. In my history researches it was plainly evident that the theology of the First and Second Great Awakenings and the launching of the Great Century of Missions (Latourette’s term) was Calvinism. The period from 1700-1820 comprises one of the great periods in world history. Religious liberty was secured, Protestantism moved from being a contentious, warring, Gospel recovery effort to an outgoing, persuasive missionary force. One day I stumbled across this statement in Dr. John Eusden’s Introduction to his translation of William Ames’ Marrow of Divinity, “Predestination is an invitation to begin one’s spiritual pilgrimage….” I began looking at all of the doctrines of grace in the Bible to see if they were preached evangelistically. Behold, Jesus preaching tulip and predestination and reprobation as invitations. Look at Mt. 15:21-28 & Lk.4:18-31. to the woman of Canaan he spoke of being sent to the lost sheep of the house of israel, and she was not even a Jew. Her response was worship. To his fellow citizens in Nazareth he preached that Elijah and Elisha were sent to somebody else, some one who was not a Jew. here response was sort of like what Jesus gave as an invitation tot he woman of Canaan, when he said it is not right to take the children’s bread and to cast it to dogs (little dogs), and she treated it as the greatest invitation in the world, agreeing that he spoke the truth and that she was a little dog. The folks of Nazareth acted like the wild dogs of the street, when they tried to murder the Lord Jesus. For 37 years I have been praying for a Third Great Awakening, and the theology of it must be the theology of the First two and the launching of the missionary movement. The folks who run things hated that theology; it almost cost them their power. They set in the sappers to misrepresent, weaken, and push to extremes so that people would not understand and see the truth. Read Carroll Quigley’s Tragedy and Hope. NY: Macmillan Pubs., 1965. Somewhere around p. 1239 they outline the theology that the conspirators hold and the theology they oppose. Their’s is pluralism, and they oppose determinism (they even use the word calvinism). As to the answer of Roms. 9, it is a chapter of invitations. My first message on Roms. 9:13 is that It is an invitation to receive God who does not think like we do, love like we do, or act like we do.

    • Brandon

      James, though I disagree that a third great awakening depends on a humanly devised theological system like Calvinism, I do agree with you that we desperately need this awakening, so I’ll pray with you for it to happen. And if God uses a Calvinistic movement to awaken people to Himself, I’ll praise Him for it.

  • Dr. James Willingham

    I was encouraged to apply to the Univ. of S. Africa in the early 90s to work on a D.Th. Since I had 5 degrees and work on number 6, they thought I had enough course work and all I had to do was do the research and write my dissertation which was to be on the subject “The Theology of The Great Awakenings.” Unfortunately, I did not have the moola to do the degree. The work would have been on the Sovereign Grace theology that lay at the heart of the First and Second Great Awakenings and at the heart of the launching of the Great Century of Missions. Altho the latter was not a part of the thesis idea, it could have been as all three involved that Sovereign Grace. Now the reason for pursuing the same is that , if we are to have another awakning, we must have the theology and the other two items or elements that are in attendance at such events, namely, the presence and the humility. Google dr. james willingham, theology, and paradoxical interventions then click on what is usually listed first, namely, commentsbythirdgreatawakeningcom.blogspot…BACK TYPE. There you will find about 6 pages of my bloggings with about 15-16 per page which somebody evidently thought was something that ought to be gathered together in one place but why I don’t know. Now as to the doctrines, everyone of them should be preached as the greatest and best and most intense invitations ever devised by the heart of God. they are the most dramatic, electric, dynamic, fascinating, compelling, attractive, magnetic, winsome, etc. In fact, by them I expect the whole earth to be won to the Lord Jesus
    Christ, along with every soul on it at the time for a 1001 generations. Remember Abraham has to have a seed as numerous as the stars of heaven, the sand by all of the seashores of all the earth (and thrown in all the deserts for good measure), and the dust of the earth along with the number of the redeemed in Heaven which no man can number (even though he had all eternity in which to do it?). We had a bunch of General Baptists in NC who were neither very evangelistic or missionary minded back in the 1700s. They would take a person who would say he agreed with the confession and baptize him and admit him to membership. Then came two Regular Baptists of the Phila Assn which held then to particular redemption, etc., and they persuaded those General Baptists to become Particular Baptistss and require a saving experience of joiners and they went along from 1755-1801 baptizing 30-35 a year then in 1801 they baptized 872 (the Awakening). Sandy Creek Separate Baptists and the Regulars enjoyed the Great Awakening in 1801 (one church in Sandy Creek Assn is supposed to have had 500 converted on one Sunday Morning in 1801). Then in 1816 they launched the Great Mission effort under the leadership of Luther Rice, etc. And the rest as they say is history. What we fail to see is that the doctrines of grace are evangelistic; predestination, total depravity (and reprobation), unconditional election), particular redemption (limited atonement), irresistible grace, and perseverance of the saints, all, are invitations, paradoxical interventions designed to restore power to the fallen individual. You might google principles of paradoxical thinking and also explore the psychologists who specialize in paradoxical psychotherapy. I will close with the thought that I had the privilege of bearing witness to a Spurgeon that grace is irresistible, and he did not believe it.. He happen to win a young lady to Christ who was about age 20 right after that. She responded so readily that he asked her why she had. She replied, “O it was so wonderful that I could not resist it.” He said as soon as she said that what I had said about grace being irresistible popped into his mind. I asked him, if he had changed his mind. He said, no, but he was thinking about it. Long story made short: It took him about 40 years to change his mind. You will find his comment on my blog site, God bless.

  • Terry and Damita

    Do you live anywhere close to OK, I would like to have an intervention with my son .He was raised southern baptist and he’s involved in a fuel church. He completely attacks me with calvanist beliefs. Could you help us.

    • Brandon

      I’m afraid I’m actually moving to California, but I would get in touch with Love Worth Finding Ministries and get a couple of the resources offered in which Adrian Rogers addresses Calvinism. And I’d also check out Chosen But Free by Norm Geisler – an excellent work calling for balance and moderation on the issue.

  • Dr. James Willingham

    Here is a story from Whitefield and Wesley who were on opposite sides on this issue. Whitefield went out of his way to be reconciled with Wesley, who admitted in a letter in his journal that there some elect, some who would reach a state from which they wouldnever fall, and I should add Wesley used language concerning compelling people to come to Christ that CH Spurgeon said he would neve use. In any case, Whitefield said he wanted Welsey to preach his funeral. Some asked, “Do you expect to see him in heaven/” Whitefield answered, “No.” The person asked, “Why then dd you decided to have Welsey preach your funeral/” Whitefield replied, “I didn’t say he wasn’t going to be there. He will be so close to the throne and I so far away, that I won’t be able to see him.” Wesley preached Whitefield’s funeral. Some one asked, “Why did you preach his funeral? You don’t believe you’ll see him in Heaven.” Wesley answered, “No, I won’t be able to see him in Heaven. He’s be so close to the throne and I will be so far away, thatI on’t be abl to see him.” If you all will check it out, you will find that Calvinists have won people to Christ who became Arminians, and Arminians have won people who became calvinists. If you all understood it better,you would just laugh. The most evangelistic and missionary bunch in North Carolina were the calvinists, and the least evangelistic and missionary were the arminians. In the 1800s, after 1830 that began to change the other way. Now we are getting ready to change back. Your really can’t have a Great Awakening with out the right theology, the Heavenly Presence, and humility. Anyone who is a calvinist and proud about it is a contradicton in terms and reality. Back when they argued this stuff in the 1700s they were winning souls right and left, securing religious liberty, uniting Separate and Regular Baptists, persuading General Baptists to become Particular Baptists (Regular), using both educated and uneducated men together in servicing, evangelizing in quality an quantity, founding educational institutions, initiating one o the early antisalvery efforts (Friends of Humanity), working with avante garde thinkers like Jefferson, Madison, etc., calling other Protestants their pedobaptist brethen. Note what I said, calvinism is the theology of paradoxes and the paradox is one of the therapeutic techniques for intervention in seemingly hopeless cases in counseling. If man can do that, what can God’s paradoxes do. I was a member of the church where the first Southern Baptist missionary to China was from. In their abstract of principles they only knew of Christ dying for the church. so he must have set out to win China to Christ with the idea that Jesus only died for the church, the elect. Why did calvinism produce so much freedom, the great missionary movement, and the great awakenings? Why does the great conspiracy that runs the world today oppose calvinism so vociferously? Why were those early calvinists able to creae the greatest nation in history? Why are we about to lose it now, when the theology for the past century has been so arminian? Why are the paradoxes, regardless of what Gordon Clark has said, in calvinism? Why did the Separate and Regular Baptists agree that preaching that Christ died for he elect would be no bar to communion? Why were the calvinist so liberal? Why did Luther Rice, the father of missions for Southern Baptists, say in so many words that predestination is in the Bible and you had better preach it? Why did Dr. Danny Akin, the president of Southeastern Bap. Seminary, say the fathers of the missionary movement among Baptists were five point calvinists, and yet he is not one himself? Why did strong calvinists found the SBC and Southern Seminary? Why do I remember my ordaining pastor, a supralapsarian, hyper calvinist (his own terms for himself), as the strongest preacher on human response I ever heard? His subjects, “Why sit ye here until ye die?” and “The Great Supper.” Why did Dr. R. G. Lee put it in his will for Dr. ErnestR. Campbell to preach his funeral? Why Jonathan Edwards have such a great sermon on “Pressing into the Kingdom.?” Why does predestination prvde such sense of freedom, such a sense of humility (as in the most famous of Christian hymns, Amazing Grace, “that save a wretch like me”)?

  • Chaplain Phil

    Amen…well put. I’d like to add that I find many Calvinists downright arrogant and smug. They take great pride in their ‘new’ illumination…because many of them were ‘free will’ people before. Now THEY know the truth and ‘free will’ simpletons like me just haven’t been enlightened yet. To borrow from Festus’ words to Paul, “Their great learning has driven them to conceit.”

    I am dismayed to learn that among the Southern Baptist churches that embrace Calvinism there has been a drop in new believers and baptism. Under Calvinism the urgency to preach to ALL so that WHOSOEVER may come is gone. But that’s probably OK with them…why would people who are preselected to heaven ever want to worship with people predestined to damnation? I would rather give the Gospel invitation to all than to let one soul pass into a Christ-less eternity because I lacked vision for the lost. I would rather fellowship with sinners than with self-righteous saints.

    • Brandon

      Phil, I’m afraid that while I agree with you doctrinally, I’m wary of your attitude toward some fellow believers. Many of the most evangelistic and missions-minded people I know are Calvinists. And according to Calvinistic theology, the gospel still needs to be presented to all the world so that all of God’s elect may have the opportunity to respond, so that the glory of the Lord will fill the earth.

      I’m not a Calvinist anymore, but I love my Calvinistic brothers and sisters and appreciate some of the great works they’re doing in the world in Jesus’ name.

  • Chris Fleury

     Very well said Brandon. I debate and struggle with this issue regularly with my brothers in Christ and no matter which angle I go at it, I end up in a similar place as you.

    By the way, I see you are planting a church(and therefore moving) in Arkansas. While i’ts our loss, I know God has a great deal in store for you. My prayers will remain with you.

    God Bless,


    • Brandon A. Cox

      Chris, thanks so much for that. And I think when we land back in the middle of all of the extremes, we might have found the sweet spot.

  • Barbara Quinn

    A wonderful article.  So honest and humble.  Thank you for posting it.  reading it has helped me understand a christian’s journey from one difficult  theological ‘camp’ to what I believe to be a much better one.  I read another personal journey change similar to your’s though not as extensive.  It’s on the BJU Camille Lewsi exit from BJU web page. I can’t remember the exact wording of it, but it’s really insightful.  I so enjoy reading people’s stories of personal change.  It helps me understan people better, ans thereore to have a deeper respect and love for them as Jesus has. Peace, Barbara

    • Brandon A. Cox

      Thanks Barbara. I always tell people who are struggling with theological issues like this one to go ahead and struggle. Don’t try to sweep the tough questions under the rug. It’s in wrestling with these things that we not only find answers, but we find a process for finding answers and we grow in the midst of it.

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  • Duane

    Wow! there is so much to say about this subject. I whole heartedly agree that Calvanism is incorrect Biblically. I love how those who believe in Calvanism say the Bible “clearly” teaches it all the while ignoring countless number of versus that contradict (not paradoxes) the teaching of Calvinism.
    The only point I want to make here is in response to your comments on logic. First off let’s be very clear a paradox is not illogical and is in no way shape or form a contradiction. I’m not suggesting you are saying that, I just think it is necessary to point that out so there is no confusion. Everyone please take the time to look up the definition of paradox, even if you think you already know what it is.
    Secondly, I agree with the premise of taking Calvanists to their logical conclusion, but be assured LOGIC comes from God just like we say TRUTH does. The problem with Calvinist’s logic is that it is used incorrectly and ironically they defy LOGIC in some of their deductions from scripture. So the problem isn’t they are using logic to support their teaching, the problem is they jump to what is called in logic, illigitimate inferences and therefore defy logic.

  • Robert L

    The main error of Augustinian-Calvinism is simple. God’s sovereignty is Biblically an undefinable trait along with omniscience and the other Omni-’s. Man’s freedom to choose on the other hand is not undefinable…choose freely and enjoy or suffer the consequences for your choice. In all of this God is still sovereign in the sense that He is above, higher, not affected by, outside of, and greater than any and all choices, not that he always directly pre-causes any choice. Can God? Yes, Does God? Not always. Scripture proves this true. The Calvinist simply thinks God directly or indirectly “pre-causes” all “after-effects”…this ignores the eternal aspect of God’s knowledge and decrees which are done OUTSIDE OF TIME…thus there is no pre- or fore- for God…only when it is described as Paul does from OUR HUMAN perspective. So, for me, Sovereignty is the ‘apple’ being compared to the ‘orange’ of man’s free will. There is no contradiction since one CAN be understood and the other “is further above us as the heavens are above the earth…beyond finding out.”

  • Brian Christensen

    I just happend to stumble across while searching. Its only recently surfaced as a duscussion with it being more taught in the church I attend. During my years under a different church it was never mentioned (a very well know pastor). And even a trip to Urbana missions converence – not mentioned there as well. But in the bible study last night my wife and i attened it was mentioend….”God predistines people to heaven or hell”.

    I will be reading more.


  • Jon

    The ultimate aim of Calvinism is to comfort a Christian heart by showing him that God saves to the utmost.