Thursday, October 21, 2010

Calvinism's Scorched Earth Results?

In 2009 I did a series on TULIP called "Tripping TULIP." Though I have not yet found reason to doubt my findings, I have often admitted that it was hastily written and could have been much more thorough.

Recently Brother Stephen has become bold and is speaking out about what he calls his "de-calvinism." Discussion about Stephen's experience led Pastor Gary Small (of Liberty Fundamental Baptist Church) to link those reading to a series of sermons by Dr. Dan Sweatt from Berean Baptist Church which are an indictment of modern Calvinism as expressed by the acronym TULIP.

I listened to these four sermons last night, and at the beginning I wondered if the Pastor was going to be able to back up the things he was saying. I believe he mostly has, however there are some points that I am sure I can hear what the TULIP proponent will argue about.

I can't count how many times I've been told by those who believe in TULIP that the test of a true Christian is to look at their fruit. They'll say "You shall know them by their fruit!" Of course referring to Mat 7:16. The Lord is speaking of people claiming to be prophets here, not people claiming to be Christian. Read Mat 7:15-20 to see this. That being said the sermons speak of the fruit of Calvinist Prophets (or Preachers), and the things that are said are explosive! Here are just a few comments to whet your whistle.

"Since Calvinism has been out there, it has never survived a few charismatic leaders. In other words there are men who come up who believe in Calvinistic Doctrine who somehow are able to balance things out in their own ministry, and they do pretty well until they leave or they die. 
Let me ask you a question. 
Who was Charles Spurgeon's successor at Metropolitan Tabernacle? Charles Spurgeon preached for 40 years to 10,000 people per week. Who was his successor? You don't know do you. 
Who was John Knox' successor in Edinburgh? 
Who was Jonathan Edwards' successor in Massachusetts? 
Now let me show you, the deadest spiritual places in the world, outside of the Muslim countries. I'm talking about places where Christianity was the religion. Do you want to know where they are? England, New England and Scottland. 
This doctrine leaves a scorched earth. It does not; it will not; support missions and church planting and evangelism. It will not, and you'll see why when you understand what it says. Again there are a few who balance it out. Who are able to say 'I know what it says but I'm still going to do this that and the other.' But when you see it you will understand." 
Those are great questions, and harsh statements. As the preacher notes, there are some who balance the doctrine with obedience and do engage in evangelism. I know some who do this. Unfortunately, the doctrine mutes any pleading persuasion, and reasoning they ought to engage in. Instead they bring a dead message of no hope, no power, and no rest.

These are indictments of the system of Calvinism, but the series focuses on each of the points of TULIP. You cannot deny the result of Calvinism, scorched earth, and lack of assurance in those who ought to know that Christ died for their sins and so they are secure. But, what if the fruit we can see is only visible because of our poor vision.. selective vision... interpretation? Well we must test TULIP by the Scriptures, and that is what this preacher attempts to do.

He starts by introducing "The Eternal Decrees of God" and then defines each of the points of TULIP as the preachers of TULIP defines them.

Dr. Sweatt notes (as I have also often experienced) "When the tenants of Calvinism are confronted Calvinists in their own defence proclaim 'THIS IS NOT WHAT I BELIEVE!' I cannot tell you how many times I've heard that."  He then goes on to note how Mormons suffer the same issues. They don't know what the people they follow actually teach. You can quote their teachers and they will still deny that this is what Mormonism teaches... I tire of this problem with Calvinism, and to go beyond what Dr. Sweatt notes, I think it is more a case of Calvinists just don't like reading what they preach stated in plain English because it most obviously does not match Scripture when it is expressed plainly.

Here is where he lays down something I've never been quite brave enough to say. "The definitions given are exactly as the teachers and recognized spokesmen of Calvinism express them. If you don't believe these then you do not believe Calvinism." 

These are some thoughts from the beginning of the series. He's made some pretty big claims and as I listened to the messages I found he supported them. However, I am most interested in how Calvinists react to such sermons. If you can take it, I ask you to listen to these and then comment.  Does he accurately express Calvinism? Are his arguments sound?

You can find all the mp3s on this page with the titles "An Overview of TULIP" and then "What does a TULIP look like" Parts 2 - 4.

Because they are a bit hard to find on the page I'm going to link to them directly here.

An Overview of TULIP
What Does a TULIP Look Like? Part 2
What Does a TULIP Look Like? Part 3
What Does a TULIP Look Like? Part 4 


Jan said...


I am sure I will have more to say on this later, but I want to say something on this now:

This doctrine leaves a scorched earth. It does not; it will not; support missions and church planting and evangelism.

This reminds me of a guest preacher we had at our last church. The fellow was a doctoral candidate at Westminster. He preached on Jeremiah 9:24, "Let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows Me."

He preached with zeal. He preached with fervor! Sweat dripped from his brow! He was the embodiment of earnestness! He quoted Calvin! He quoted the Reformers (at least 3 times!) He preached with all his might, straining under the burden of his message! He spent himself completely, pouring his very soul out for the grave importance of knowing God!

And he did not at any time tell the people HOW they can know Him.


Kevl said...

Hi Jan,

That is the logical end of this theology...

I do want to again state though, that SOME people manage to balance this theology by continuing to try to share Christ with the lost.

However, the more they buy into their theology the less they can honestly do so. What do they say? God may have died for your sins? You can't believe me, but if God regenerates you then you will have to believe....


Stephen said...

"God may have died for your sins?"

Ouch... that pretty much cuts to the chase now doesn't it -- won't find THAT stated anywhere in scripture.

(My word verification code is "elites". Not sure what to make of that except that it seems very fitting to a discussion of Calvinist theology.) :-)

Look up said...


Biblically speaking, the 'scorched earth' trail is not a valid argument against any doctrinal position. In fact it could just as much validate as invalidate.

Who did Elisha leave? Who did Jeremiah leave? Who did Enoch leave? Who did the Centurion leave? Who did Titus leave? Who did Barnabas leave? Even who in particular did Peter or John leave?

Each of these men bore a testimony of God because they KNEW God personally. All the preaching, teaching, evangelizing cannot introduce another man to God, all it can do is point the way to the door, but it is God through Christ that opens that door for each man.

Leaving one to follow in your footsteps only means you have trained one to follow YOUR footsteps, it does not mean that the door to God has been opened for them.

I could have easily trained my kids to think exactly like me, and do exactly what I do, (it happens all the time in our educational institutions), but I cannot train them to be what I am, nor can I train them to have the same experience with God that I have.

The men listed above had none famous follow in their testimony for various reasons, some because it was just of God to leave the world without witness because His prophets were ignored, others because we would begin to think this power was of men, but in each case leaving none to follow is not necessarily an example of a false nor bad testimony. In fact it could very well be the opposite.

Kevl said...

Hi Look Up,

I did not intend to say that Calvinism is invalidated by the fact that these men did not produce like famous preachers to follow after them.

However, when you claim that you have the "only true Gospel" which is supposedly the "power of God to salvation" and it was preached so powerfully for so long... and the result is nothing but death in all the centers it was preached in...

That is a very telling result, and it doesn't speak good.

That being said, the true test of Calvinism is not how people respond to it, for within the system preaching the gospel is more an act of indictment than it is an act of mercy. The true test of Calvinism is does it match what the Scriptures say.

This is why after noting the reality of the darkness everywhere Calvinism was famous in I quiet clearly write:

But, what if the fruit we can see is only visible because of our poor vision.. selective vision... interpretation? Well we must test TULIP by the Scriptures, and that is what this preacher attempts to do.

As I tried to convey in the above article the preacher goes through each of the points of TULIP, and the Decrees of God, and compares them to the Scriptures.

I think he's done a pretty good job, with just a couple of weak points. I'm interested in what others who listen to the sermons think.


Kevl said...

Look Up,

The link you put in your last submitted comment is not in reply to the sermons that I have linked above.

I have not read the entire article, however I will. Here is my suggestion. If you find that the sermons I have linked to above make the statements that this article argues against then borrow the answers and use them here.

This thread is to discuss the validity of these sermons, not some other probably non-related arguments against Calvinism.

So if you find that your link helps you answer these particular sermons then use the answers from it. However, I'm not going to allow people to be drawn away from the arguments that the sermons make to different arguments which are probably much easier to answer. That's building a straw-man to knock down... and it is not helpful.


Jan said...

OK. I think Lookup's point has some merit for discussion and both sides can be supported.

I don't know about Peter, but John had Polycarp and I think Polycarp had Irenaus (?).

We do have a lineage from John anyway.

And Paul had Timothy.

Besides, we are their lineage as we believe because of what they wrote.

More recently, Hudson Taylor has the Chinese church/CIM and George Muller's orphanage is still running.

However, we should consider the Ninevites, who did not reproduce themselves in the next generation. And the godly Israelite kings who did not have godly progeny to follow them. On the other hand, one or two of them were evil and did have godly progeny. Plus, how many godly parents have children who do not believe? On the other hand, some who do believe do not come from a godly family (moi, for example.)

Men may not believe, or maybe not for more than one generation, when the gospel is preached. But there is no way around the fact that where the gospel in not preached men will not believe.

Romans 10:14-21 really covers both sides of the equation.


Kevl said...

Hi Jan,

I haven't read your comment yet, sorry. Just got home.

Here is what Look Up had tried to post (I have removed the link that he had included).

Look Up said...


Instead of tripping TULIP's and pumping DAISY's, we ought to acknowledge that each of them put forth a biblical truth that both must be acknowledged. Each is limited in its attempt to summarize what the Bible says because they are manmade, however each does loosely convey biblical truth we cannot functionally through EITHER of them out.

I recommend this read on it.


Look up said...


It is a shame you won't post it, the link is what is useful, and it perfectly addresses the issues in this post.

It comes from neither a pro-Calvinist nor pro-Arminian perspective. It comes from a man honest enough to openly examine the subject. One who shows the pitfalls and the pro's of what is trying to be conveyed with a couple simple words.

The fact of the matter is that the Bible is a big book, and if man could fully summarize it in one or two words, it would be evident that the book was not written of God. That does not throw out the validity of arguments from either side that only seem to see things from their perspective, but it should give cause to think larger than the one or two words that each attempt to represent part of the truth.

Kevl said...

Hi Look Up,

The article may be helpful in spots, but it does not at all answer (or even relate to) the Textural and Historical issues brought up by Dr. Sweatt.

It comes up with some pretty flakey stuff in spots as well. For example, under the title Perseverance of the Saints, and after showing that Eternal Security is true it gives this argument.

Indefensible answer:

Any man who believes he is saved can be sure of his salvation.


Jesus warned,

21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.
22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?
23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

Matthew 7:21-23

If you look in the cited passage there is nothing there about them claiming to, or actually believing. These people will have thought they have obeyed God, submitted to Him as Lord, and done many good works.... The one thing they do not mention in their defence is that they had believed in, or had faith in Him.

I do not want to discuss this article... however, if you should find that it actually does answer (or agree with) anything the Dr. preaches on then for sure use one of the answers. But I do not want to discuss the article when I hope to hear what Calvinists think of what the Dr. has preached. Does this make sense?

I know a few devoted Calvinists still read the blog.... I'm hoping they will listen and comment.


Kevl said...


You said;

Men may not believe, or maybe not for more than one generation, when the gospel is preached. But there is no way around the fact that where the gospel in not preached men will not believe.

You said a lot there!

I agree with the rest of your point as well. That Spurgeon didn't produce leaders that alone is not an refutation of Calvinism. And ACTUALLY, if you read his writings he would be viahmently against much of modern Calvinism anyway... of course they don't like to talk about that... especially when they are quoting how Spurgeon thought "Calvinism" is just basic Christianity - because if people figure out that he was talking about the Calvinism that HE believed in, and NOT the Calvinism preached today... well then the quote wouldnt' be all that helpful. :)


Look up said...


The cited passage refers to people like the adherents of LS. They call Christ Lord, and claim many wonderful works in His name, but do not actually believe it is His work that saves them and keeps them saved. Ergo, in spite of their high profession, they are not saved.