By Peter L. Laitres

This article is not written to slander or diminish the spirituality of those who hold to either the Arminian or Calvinist positions.  It is merely my personal testimony concerning what I have learned from the Word of God.  I write this prayerfully hoping that those from all different points of view will evaluate what they believe concerning God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility strictly from the Bible, rather than from whatever theological position they happen to subscribe to.  The purpose of this is not to start a heated debate, but rather to urge each individual believer to search the Scriptures for himself.
As I believe that my fellow independent, fundamental Baptists are the prime recipients of this article, I have written it with that in mind.  This is not meant to be a deep, hair-splitting, ivory tower work of theology, but simply to relay what I have learned concerning this issue over the last 18 years.

I was born again on Christmas Eve, 1981 on the island of Guam while serving in the United States Air Force.  A co-worker had been relentless in his witness, and I thank the Lord that He used this fellow believer in Christ Jesus to break through all the sin and foolishness that was in my heart, leading to my acceptance of the Risen Lord of glory as Savior.
The place where I was saved was the Yigo Assembly of God.  I had been born and raised as a Roman Catholic, and was as lost and in as much heathen darkness as a young man could be.  This was before the extreme craziness of the charismatic movement had taken over some factions of the Assembly of God, and they actually were much closer to fundamentalism at that time, though still thoroughly Pentecostal.  Eschatalogically, about the only difference was the partial rapture theory held by many in the Assembly of God.   The Assembly of God, like every Pentecostal and Charismatic church I have ever heard of, was extremely Arminian.  They stressed that one could lose his or her salvation[1] and some of their well-known preachers railed against “once saved, always saved” and Calvinism regularly.  This was not surprising as their whole movement is experience based.  Further, their doctrine is quite works based as salvation is not enough, but one must have the baptism of the Holy Spirit, with the necessary gift resulting being that of speaking in tongues.  That is official Assembly of God doctrine, you can look it up! [2]  I never had any part in any of that.  In fact, as ignorant and unlearned as I was at the time I still knew something wasn’t right with that church.
Back to the issue at hand.  I was taught there that one could lose his salvation.  This made sense to me: I had asked Jesus to save me, why couldn’t I cease to desire to be saved and return to my lost state?  In all fairness one fact must be pointed out. There is a broad spectrum among Arminians over what constitutes a loss of salvation.  Many of what I will call the mainstream Arminians understand the loss of salvation as the end result of a long road to personal apostasy, a final and complete departure from the faith.  They believe in the assurance of salvation to a degree, but that if the individual loses the desire to be saved he will then be lost.  Others, like the Pentecostal Church of God, believe that every time a believer commits a sin, he or she is lost until they repent and get right with God.  Obviously this is an extreme view, but I have encountered individuals who had gone through a whole 4 year college program from a school that does not teach anything like this at all inform me that was the way it was.  Of course, in one case the dispenser of this also was divorced and had a Church of God license to preach and didn’t know if he premillennial, postmillennial or amillennial.  So, it would obviously not be fair to grade all Arminians based on his ignorance.

Well, I dropped out of church a few months after I was saved, not to return for almost 6 years.  When God got hold of my heart, I got back into church on January 3rd of 1988 and was baptized on Easter Sunday of that year.  Even though I was now a member of a Baptist church, I still believed that one could lose his salvation.  This belief wasn’t based on Scripture (which I was basically ignorant of), but on what I had been told by Arminians was the logical conclusion.   Being a Baptist church, this new church believed that salvation was eternal and were moderate Calvinists.  I began to take some courses through Liberty University and it was through the teaching of Ed Dobson that I began to see that salvation was a divine work of God.

As I continued to study, I went all the way over to four point Calvinism, embracing a view known as Amyraldian hypothetical universalism.  This is a mediating view between particular redemption (usually referred to as limited atonement in the TULIP acronym, the cornerstone of 5 point Calvinism) and Arminian universalism.  It teaches that Christ died equally for all men to make a universal offer of salvation to all men.  This view stresses that God is not willing that any should perish (Eze. 18:23, 33:11; II Peter 3:9) and that Christ gave Himself for all (Isa. 53:6, Rom. 5:18, I John 2:2).  I still believe this view of the atonement, though not as part of the Calvinistic system.  Many fit this view in with four point Calvinism, substituting it for the limited atonement view.

So this paves the way for one to be a “four-point” Calvinist, which I claimed to be for a few years.  Then I began to see things differently through the study of the Word.  A rudimentary reading of the Bible disproves the TULIP interpretation because it is clear that Christ died for all.  The offer of salvation to all would be bogus if Christ’s blood atonement was not for all.  The Bible is full of references to both the universal nature of Christ’s offer of salvation plus its condemnation of those who reject God’s free offer of salvation.  The Calvinist then says something to the effect that logic doesn’t matter, the mere fact that we don’t understand this proves it is God’s mysterious working.  This is ridiculous to me.  What happens next is the whole Calvinist ball of string begins to unravel.  After reading the works of Loraine Boettner, Cornelius Van Til and other Calvinists concerning this it became clear that Baptists who claim to be Calvinists are misinformed.  One must either take the whole system, all five points and the associated doctrine, or reject it.  This is what the real Calvinists say, the Reformed/Presbyterian Calvinists.  They consider these Baptist Calvinists to be phonies.  And I began to see how that they were right about this, that Calvinism is a whole system of doctrine, and if one is consistent, either all of it (including covenant theology, without which the “proofs” for Calvinism disappear) must be embraced or none of it.  Like a stopped clock, these “real” Calvinists are right twice a day by accident!  Now, I don’t agree, but they consider election based on foreknowledge to be Arminianism.  While historically a case can be made for this, many Arminians today deny any form of election whatsoever.

When one starts to look, verse by verse, at the alleged evidence for Calvinism, he becomes very wary of the system.  It is based on some rather difficult to swallow theological presumptions.  One is that Israel and the church are the same (this is a foundational tenet of Calvinism and covenant theology).  Ephesians 2:14-18 makes the difference between Israel and the church very clear, as does the rest of the New Testament.  It is also based on certain presumptions known as the lapsarian decrees of God. These have to do with where the fall of Adam (the lapse) occurred in God’s eternal plan.  Hyper-Calvinism holds to supralapsarianism, which is a heretical dogma that sees God as having pleasure in the death and punishment of the un-elect.   I will not get into these here as these are merely the speculation of men.  I began to look at the Philadelphia Confession of Faith (1742) which is a Baptist confession.  Much of the Scriptural support listed therein is laughable.  For instance, the effectual calling of the soon to be believer is supported by two verses, Psalm 110:3 and Song of Solomon 1:4!  Hardly what I would consider to be clear, soteriological passages.  In the same section, X, the salvation of infants is “proven” by John 3:3, 5-6.  I could list numerous examples, but these are enough.  I wonder how many fundamental Baptists who say they believe the Philadelphia Confession of Faith, or the New Hampshire Confession for that matter, have ever read either document and checked the statements with the Scriptures given?
In a book entitled The Five Points of Calvinism, a defense of Calvinism by two adherents,[3] they offer such strange support for limited atonement as Matthew 1:21, “Thou shalt call His name Jesus: for He shall save His people from their sins.”  What does this verse have to do with the extent of the atonement?  Well, the Calvinists say that Israel equals the church, therefore Christ only died for Spiritual Israel.  As I am sure anyone can see, there are a number of presuppositions here that have no Scriptural support whatsoever.  As I went through page after page of this book, I began to see clearly that the Calvinist pretemporally elected emperor had no clothes.

The more I studied the issue, the more I saw that none of the tenets of Calvinism (TULIP) could be supported by Scripture.  There is not one point of Calvinism that can be unequivocally demonstrated to be true by direct Scripture references.  By this I mean that when I say that Christ died for all, I can point to a number of verses, like I John 2:2, Hebrews 2:9, etc., which state just that.  If the Calvinistic view of the atonement and manner of interpretation is correct, then I Timothy 1:15, “that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief,” would have prove that only the elect are sinners!  (Thanks to Dr. Dan Mitchell for that one)  So, once the veneer of TULIP begins to be peeled away, we see that all five points fall.  The doctrine of irresistible grace is another paper tiger.  Ephesians 1:19-20 is given as the proof text in the Philadelphia confession.  I don’t see where irresistible grace is taught anywhere in these two verses.  I do know of scores of verses where sinners are castigated for not responding to God’s gift, such as Matthew 23:37 “how often would I have gathered thy children together; but ye would not!” II Peter 2:19-22, etc.  There is much more to be said concerning the five points[4], but that is enough.  There is no evidence that either unconditional election or total inability (Phil. Confession, section IX, “is not able” referring to man) are true.  Further, using the terminology “the perseverance of the saints” just doesn’t express biblically the truth of the eternal salvation of God’s children.   I hasten to add that essential idea behind the perseverance of the saints is correct, but it is woefully and unbiblically named.  To summarize, there are no direct texts that teach any of the five points, but clear references that refute them.  So, kicking and screaming, I ceased to be a 4 point Calvinist and decided to believe exactly what the Bible teaches in this area (and all others), nothing more, nothing less.
What does the Bible teach?

So, I have gone from being an Arminian to being a Calvinist to now just simply trusting God’s Word.  From this twenty two year long theological journey, I can conclude that believers need to spend much more time in THE Word of God, rather than reading and following men and books ABOUT the Word of God.

[1] “In view of the Biblical teaching that the security of the believer depends on a living relationship with Christ (John 15:6), in view of the Bible’s call to a life of holiness (1 Peter 1:16; Hebrews 12:14); in view of the clear teaching that a man may have his part taken out of the Book of Life (Revelation 22:19); and in view of the fact that one who believes for a while can fall away (Luke 8:13); The General Council of the Assemblies of God disapproves of the unconditional security position which holds that it is impossible for a person once saved to be lost.”– From The Security of the Believer position paper from the Assemblies of God.
[2] The Assemblies of God official “Statement of Fundamental Truths” includes much about “the Baptism in the Holy Ghost” and “The Initial Physical Evidence of the Baptism in the Holy Ghost” which is “The baptism of believers in the Holy Ghost is witnessed by the initial physical sign of speaking with other tongues as the Spirit of God gives them utterance.”  — From the AG “Statement of Fundamental Truths,” Points 7 and 8.  In the early days of Pentecostalism, a radical, emotional conversion was also expected.
[3] “The Five Points of Calvinism: Defined, Defended, Documented” by David N. Steele and Curtis C. Thomas, Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., Phillipsburg, NJ, 1963, p. 40.
[4] Total depravity is a Biblical doctrine as long as it is defined correctly.  The Bible teaches that there is nothing that man can do, works wise, to please God (Rom. 3:10-12), that man is fallen, and as bad off in relation to God as he can be.  Calvinism takes this basic truth a step further (maybe two steps) and actually teaches that a man must be pre-sanctified, then regenerated, before he can turn to God in faith.  This is in actuality total inability, which must be rejected.
[5] Another issue with this verse is how adherents of Calvinism attempt to make God’s foreknowledge causative.  Christ was foreordained, Acts 2:23, and foreknown.  The fact that both words are included in this verse should make it obvious that they don’t mean the same thing.  Acts 4:28 also speaks of God’s plan concerning the predestination of Christ, not individual believers, which brings us to Romans 8:29.  God’s foreknowledge precedes predestination clearly here.  Then, in I Peter 1:2, we see that election (eklektois is in verse 1 in Greek text) is “according to foreknowledge.”  Calvinism errs by making foreknowledge causative and synonymous with predestination.


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