This correspondent did not wish to be identified. He is a real person and this dialogue took place as it is recorded here. It is more than likely that this anonymous Calvinist seminarian will one day have the infamous “Rev.” in front of his name and various and sundry letters after it. Eventually, his parishioners will be looking to their “pastor” for Biblical guidance. By then, the whole scenario will, in my opinion, be very close to what the Lord was talking about in Matthew 15:14, when He said: “Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.” I am not normally disposed to using “sic,” which is used after a printed word or passage to indicate it is intended exactly as printed, or that it exactly reproduces an original, but in this case it seemed appropriate.
From an anonymous Calvinist seminarian on 3 May 1999
I like the fact that you claim only the identity of "Christian". [sic] I do like wise [sic] but have to ask about the location of your academic studies. I look forward to a reply and will comment more on your site and theology after finals.
for [sic] Christ's service
Reply from Allan Turner on 3 May 1999
I graduated from high school in Florida. Attended the University of South Florida for three years, but never graduated. Studied "Criminal Justice." Frankly, don't know what that has to do with anything, but there you have it.
I look forward to hearing from you in the future.
From an anonymous Calvinist seminarian on 3 May 1999
Thanks for your quick response.
I ask of your education because you used a few words that most are unaware of such as "Pelagius". [sic] If you know of him you must also know of Augustine and the fact that Calvin ascribed to Augustine's five points. I hope that in your research you have studied the Council of Orange, the full views and ramifications represented there also.
I have only read a portion of your site on Calvin. I must say up front that I do ascribe to these five points. I would also like to ask a quick question... Who starts the work of salvation, God or Man? To save time and e-mails... If you say "man" than [sic] you are leading people towards works righteousness which can lead to a question of the value of Christ's atonement. I would hope that you would not do that! If you say "God" than [sic] you have to accept election (best described in Rom. 8 & 9) and the other five points fall in line.
I must make this my last e-mail (I am in seminary and do have finals) but I would again appreciate a quick responce [sic].
Reply from Allan Turner on 3 May 1999
God "started" the work of salvation and He will finish it. Yes, the Bible teaches "election," and I believe it, but I don't think it is defined correctly by Calvinists. If and when you have time to read my series on Calvinism, you can get back with me, and if you have time, maybe we could discuss it.
From an anonymous Calvinist seminarian on 6 May 1999
Hello Allen [sic],
I'm back from finals. yes [sic] it went well. I haven't gotten far and I have found something that disturbs me. I have copied and pasted the passage in question below. I think that you are contradicting yourself. First, do you know where the theory of causation came from and it's [sic] intent? Secondly, causation is a must. You again are giving man's own abilities far too much credit and sound very much like Pelagius. Works righteousness is very dangerous! As you exalt man's abilities you are discounting God's. As we move closer to the Light we gain a better view of His glory as well as our own unrighteousness. So, what is the sense that you are speaking of in your first point? Please explain in the context of election.
In your second point, where does faith play in man's decision to follow what God wants? Where does faith come from? is [sic] it not God who gives us faith? if [sic] it isn't who does? And if God does give us faith is this not a cause effect relationship again?
Third point: I quote; "Even tragedies that occur through the natural processes", what is the natural process?
I look forward to hearing from you
Below are excerpts from my article that the anonymous seminarian listed along with his emphases:
Control Not Causation
Calvinists have thought that the key to sovereignty is causation. They are wrong. The key to sovereignty is ultimate control. Through His absolute foreknowledge of every plan of man's heart, and through His absolute ability (omnipotence) to either permit or prevent any particular plan man may have, God maintains complete control (sovereignty) over His creation. The power to prevent means that God ultimately has the final word in everything that happens. To deny this is to deny the sovereignty of God!
It is true, then, that whatever happens is God's will. Everything that transpires falls within the sovereign will of God in one sense or another. However, it is absolutely crucial to understand that there are three different senses in which this may be true: (1) Sometimes a thing occurs because God decides it will happen, and then He makes it happen. This we have called God's decretive will and it seems to be limited mostly to His working out the "scheme of redemption." (2) Sometimes a thing occurs because God desires it and man decides, of his own free will, to do what God desires. This we have identified as God's preceptive will and has to do with God's commandments or precepts. (3) Sometimes a thing occurs because of the agency of an individual or group of individuals, and God permits it to happen. We have called this God's permissive will. Included in this category are sinful or careless acts like murder, or the death of one caused by the actions of a drunken driver. Even tragedies that occur through the natural processes would fit in this category. All three of these categories can be classified as "God's will," but only the first category is God's will in any causative sense. And even though God is Sovereign Ruler of the universe, categories two and three remind us that we must allow the Sovereign Ruler to respect the integrity of the freedom He has so graciously accorded His creation. As His creatures, we must learn to trust God's wisdom in knowing what good can be drawn from the tragic episodes He permits to take place in category three.
Reply from Allan Turner on 8 May 1999
I'll be happy to engage you in debate, as I think a "Dialogue With A Calvinist" would increase the teaching value of this website, but I would like for you to not "nickle and dime" me on this thing. In other words, first read the entire series on Calvinism. Find out what I believe. Do your homework. Then, you will know what my arguments are. You will then be able to refute then, if you can. If Calvinism is right, I want to know it.
Furthermore, don't just tell me I'm wrong, like you've started out doing—SHOW ME! You're a Calvinist; I'm not. Therefore, I already know that you don't agree with me, and that you think I've got it all wrong on causation, election, etc. It doesn't take a mental heavyweight to figure that out. But, if you're going to demonstrate to me, and others, why Calvinism is right, then you're going to have to work a little harder than you're doing right now.
In asking me about my educational background in your first e-mail, you've already come across a bit snobbish, and now you're "shooting from the hip" with all this theological stuff, but you're not hitting anything. As I've told you, I don't have a theology degree, so I don't know all that you know. Therefore, when you ask me if I "know where the theory of causation came from and it's [sic] intent," I'm not really sure what you have in mind. You could be talking about something quite ancient, like Aristotle's well-known discussion of the four kinds of causes in Metaphysics. Although historically interesting, I don't think it sheds any light on contemporary problems of causation, do you? But, if you're thinking of something more recent, perhaps you have in mind the celebrated discussion by Hume in An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding. Or, maybe John Stuart Mill's discussion of this in his System of Logic, Vol. 1, Book 3, Chs. 4-6, and Vol. II, Book 3, Ch. 21. There are, of course, other works to which you may be referring, but without you being a bit more specific, how could I know?
Causation, you say, "is a must." Is it, really? A must for what? In what context are you speaking?
In the series on Calvinism, I'm appealing to the scriptures. But you say I sound "very much like Pelagius." I realize that an already apostate church considered Pelagius' beliefs to be heretical. Quite frankly, I'm not very interested in the surmisings of the Council of Orange, and therefore it's not very high on my priority list for study. Of course, if I were a Calvinist, I'd be very keen on painting my non-Calvinist opponents with the heresy of Pelagius. I don't identify myself with Pelagius. I don't wear his name or espouse his doctrine. I'm a Christian, and the Bible is my objective authority. Yes, there may be some similarities between what Pelagius taught and what I believe—but so what? Does that really prove anything?
So far, you've cited no Scripture. In my critique of Calvinism, I cite scripture after scripture. If I've misused any of it, then why don't you point that out? Instead, you ask me some question about whether I know where the "theory of causation" came from. It wasn't the Bible, was it? When you've taken up all that time and space telling me about the who, what, when, where, why, and how of the theory of causation, make sure you explain to me why it makes a difference, will you?
Yes, "works righteousness," as I understand you to be using the term, is "very dangerous." But, you're not going to tell me that you think "works of righteousness" are very dangerous, are you? I may only have a high school education, Jason, but I've been around long enough to know how some folks "play the game." So, be careful.
In my series of articles on Calvinism, I've stated what I mean by causation, and I've done this with reference to election, but not having read the series, you ask me to explain causation "in the context of election." Now, do you mean "election" as articulated by Augustine, Luther, Calvin et al, or as taught in the Bible? I can't explain or justify my position in connection with the Calvinistic doctrine of "election." On the other hand, if it's election from a biblical sense, I went to some length to state my position at http://allanturner.com/calbk_5.html, and I don't see the need to take up space here with what I've already said. If you think what I've said is wrong, as you obviously do, then show me, and the others who will read this, from the Scriptures, why I am wrong. If you can do that, it will be much appreciated.
In reference to what you call my "third point," you ask me some questions about faith. In response, let me say this. According to the Westminster Confession, the doctrine of Total Depravity (or Total Inability), is stated as follows: "Man, by his fall into a state of sin, hath wholly lost all ability of will to any spiritual good accompanying salvation; so that as a natural man, being altogether averse from good, and dead in sin, is not able, by his own strength, to convert himself, or to prepare himself thereunto" (Ch. IX, sec. III). If that is your belief, and I think it is, then you must also think that poor old Moses was exhibiting Pelagian tendencies when he said to the people: "I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore, choose life, that both you and your decendents may live" (Deuteronomy 30:19). And I suppose you do the same thing with Joshua, who said: "And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord" (Joshua 24:15). Or, with Peter, who said: "Be saved [or "save yourself," as one translation says] from this perverse generation" (Acts 2:40).
Furthermore, Calvinists rightly note that the Bible teaches that before we are regenerated, born again, raised, or made alive, we are "dead in trespasses and sins" (Ephesians 2:1). But the Bible just as clearly teaches that the unregenerate man can indeed "obey from the heart" the form of doctrine that he has been taught—i.e., the gospel (cf. Romans 6:17). In Colossians 2:12-13, the apostle Paul said it this way: "Buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses." Faith, of course, comes by hearing the gospel (Romans 10:17). Then, having heard the gospel, one must believe it (Mark 16:16), repent of his sins (Acts 17:30), and confess with his mouth that he believes Jesus is Christ (Acts 8:37; Romans 10:10). Now, in doing all this, one has done what Calvinists teach an unregenerate man cannot do. That baptism is clearly under discussion in Colossians 2:12-13 cannot be denied. That this passage teaches that one is not "raised" (verse 12) or "made alive" (verse 13) until he has submitted to baptism also cannot be denied. That the expressions "raised" and "made alive" refer to being regenerated should be just as clear. In fact, there seems little doubt that the "washing of regeneration" mentioned in Titus 3:5 is referring to baptism. The fact that one could be doing something "through faith," as Colossians 2:12 clearly teaches, before being regenerated, flies in the face of Calvinist claims. So, I suppose the apostle Paul sounds "very much like Pelagius" to you also.
I will not take the time to specifically address your question in regard to what you call my "third point," as I've addressed this in the series on Calvinism. If, after you've read the series, you still have questions as to what I'm saying, then I'll try to deal with it at that time.
From an anonymous Calvinist seminarian on 17 May 1999
Dear Allen [sic],
Sorry I haven't returned this message sooner, but I have been thinking about the wisdom in debating with you... for you to advertise the "dialogue" on the web. Anyone who would go to the extreme of placing their views on the web must feel strongly about those views and I doubt that I will change any of them... not because my arguments are unfounded or unsupported but because you probably will not listen. You can of course say the same about myself. And I'm not a snob!
You asked that I not say that you are wrong but you say that Calvinism is wrong. if [sic] you do not enjoy that language than [sic] I suggest that you refrain from using it and placing it on the web. (do [sic] unto others!)
Why did I address one point that you have made Vs. all of the points. [sic] This is not to "nickel or dime " you but to stay focused. As you say if one point is true or false than [sic] the whole tulip is true or false.
When I asked: Where does faith come from? Is it not God who gives us faith? If it isn't who does? you [sic] referred to: (Deuteronomy 30:19) (Joshua 24:15) (Acts 2:40). In all three cases, people were asked to exercise the faith given to them, not to do and then have faith. If they did not have faith, which comes from God and His mercy, than [sic] they would not be able to do anything. You asked that I "SHOW YOU" that you are wrong. "I" can not [sic] do that but I would like to refer you to what God says: Romans 8:28, 8:30, 9:15 - 18, & 9:22 and Exodus 4:21,9:13 - 16,14:4, 33:19.
If you would like to continue this dialogue than [sic] I will only on the condition that this will never appear in any anti-Calvinism literature of any form ever. Not on your web-site, in a book, article, or even in reference. This is between you and I. [sic] If you can not [sic] agree than [sic] I will bid you fair-well. [sic] I hope that in no way I have offended you by disagreeing with your beliefs. If I have or ever do than [sic] I am truly sorry.
Reply from Allan Turner on 20 May 1999
I'm a preacher of the gospel. Why, then, do you think it “extreme” that I would put on the web what I have, for years, publicly taught?
Yes, I believe I am right about the wrongness of Calvinism, but I told you that if Calvinism is right, I want to know it. Nevertheless, you insult my integrity by saying I will “probably not listen” to your arguments.
No, I did not say, “You asked that I not say that you are wrong.” That is just your wrong interpretation. What I said was, “Furthermore, don't just tell me I'm wrong, like you've started out doing—SHOW ME!” How could you have missed my point? By way of clarification, I went on to say, “But, if you're going to demonstrate to me, and others, why Calvinism is right, then you're going to have to work a little harder than you're doing right now.”
You then go on to further mischaracterize me by writing: “...but you say that Calvinism is wrong. if [sic] you do not enjoy that language than [sic] I suggest that you refrain from using it and placing it on the web. (do [sic] unto others!)” I'm glad to hear you say you're not a snob, but you're not doing a very good job of proving it. You started this dialogue out wanting to know my educational attainments. You followed that up by saying that, because I'm willing to publish what I believe, I'm probably the kind of person who will not listen to cogent arguments to the contrary. Now, you impugn my Christianity by suggesting that I'm not "doing unto others as I would have them do unto me.” Nevertheless, in spite of your harsh judgment of my heart/motives, I am still willing to have a dialogue with you. Why? Because I love you, as Jesus taught me to do. Loving the souls of men and women like I do, and being convinced that what you and I believe is extremely important, I have taken the time to thoroughly answer your questions. After all, it is knowing the truth, not falsehood, that makes us free.
Furthermore, I have had plenty to say on the web site about why I think Calvinism is wrong. I have given my scriptural reasons for thinking as I do. You have challenged me, which is perfectly legitimate. I am not offended by this process; it is perfectly natural. On the contrary, it is YOU who seem to be offended by the process. I have taken the time to respond to your questions, and now, like some child, you threaten to break up the “game” by taking your “ball” and going home. Go ahead, if that is your disposition, for religion is the serious business of men, not children (1 Corinthians 16:13). Frankly, I do not have the time, nor am I of the disposition, to wrangle, bicker, or fuss with you over these things. If you want to “argue” in the good sense of “discuss, dispute, debate, or dialogue,” then I am both willing and ready to engage you in these honorable things. “Come,” the Lord said through His prophet, “let us reason together” (Isaiah 1:18).
You seem overly concerned about this discussion being viewed by others. Have no fear; other than me and my secretary, no one will ever associate you with what you have written, unless you do so yourself. But, on the other hand, if I am inclined to publish this on my web site, so that others can benefit from it, be assured that your identity will remain anonymous. Beyond that, you are in no position to make demands upon me about the publication, broadcast, or dissemination of any of this material.
In response to the three passages I cited in my previous e-mail, you write: “In all three cases, people were asked to exercise faith given to them, not to do and then have faith. If they did not have faith, which comes from God and His mercy, than [sic] they would not be able to do anything.” Now, what passage did you cite for that explanation? You see, I know what you've said properly reflects Calvinism. But what you're under obligation to demonstrate in this discussion is that the explanation you've given is properly reflected in God's Word. Once again, for reasons known only to you, you have chosen not to cite book, chapter, and verse.
Then, in what you term your effort to “SHOW ME” where I am wrong, you cite several passages in Romans and Exodus. These passages are perfectly consistent with my non-Calvinistic position. I wholeheartedly believe that “all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). But, contrary to what you Calvinists believe, God has not called these individuals by some “better felt than told” experience of “Irresistible Grace.” On the contrary, the Bible says He called these individuals through the gospel of Jesus Christ (2 Thessalonians 2:14).
Although I have made this quite clear in my series of articles on Calvinism, it may still surprise you to learn that I believe the whole process written about in Romans 8:29-30, from foreknowing to glorification, is a “done deal.” But, again, not the way you Calvinists claim. God knows those who are His—not just now, but forever. This is clearly taught in God's Word (2 Timothy 2:19; cf. Luke 10:20; Philippians 4:3; Revelation 3:5; Romans 8:29-30). Those mentioned in Romans 8:29-30 are the same ones mentioned by the apostle Paul, who, in 2 Corinthians 3:18, wrote: “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.” In other words, as we see the glory of the Lord (i.e., the fullness of His grace and truth, John 1:14), we are being transformed into the image of His Son (Romans 8:29). Therefore, without being “conformed” or “transformed” into His image, one can neither become a Christian, nor remain a Christian. This image, which consists of a certain disposition or mind-set, is perfectly explicated by the earthly existence of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and is referred to in Philippians 2:5-8. Those of us who live in the flesh, like the Word who took upon Himself flesh, must humble ourselves, just as He humbled Himself. We must become obedient even unto death, just as He did. That God, through His foreknowledge, from the very beginning, knew who these individuals were, and therefore predestinated or foreordained that they would be called, justified and glorified in connection with His Son, does not teach that these individuals could not, or did not, exercise their own free wills. Instead, I believe it is consistent with God's Word to believe that it was, in fact, the free wills of these individuals that He “foreknew.” So, although these passages are frequently cited by Calvinists as proof of their doctrine, there is absolutely nothing in these passages that requires a Calvinistic interpretation.
As Sovereign, God has the perfect right to do as He wills. If He decides to have mercy on some and not on others, as Romans 9:15-18 says, who is it that would be so bold as to charge Him with “unrighteousness”? Not me! God was not obligated to extend His marvelous grace to me through His Son, Jesus Christ, but He did. Praise God! If the Lord had not shown mercy, then, even with all my doing, I would still be lost: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). Even so, none of this negates my free will. If I conform my will to His, He blesses me; if I do not conform my will to His, He curses me (Deuteronomy 30:19), and this He has the perfect right to do as Sovereign. This is what I believe and teach. It is, I believe, totally in harmony with God's Word.
Yes, the Bible, in Romans 9, and in the Exodus passages you cited, teaches that God hardened Pharaoh's heart, and I believe it. I also believe God was certainly within His rights to do so. But here is where the disagreement arises: You, as a Calvinist, believe that God hardened Pharaoh's heart against his own will. On the other hand, believing that man has free will, and that God, even in His Sovereignty, does not run roughshod over it, I think God hardened Pharaoh's heart by making demands upon him—demands to which Pharaoh, of his own free will, did not want to submit. As a result of this interpretation, there is perfect harmony between the Bible passages that say God hardened Pharaoh's heart, and the ones that just as clearly say that Pharaoh hardened his own heart (Exodus 8:15,32; 9:34; 1 Samuel 6:6).
As I've pointed out already, there are myriad Bible passages that present the reception of God's blessing or cursing as contingent upon human choice. This is epitomized in Deuteronomy 11:26-28, which says: "Behold, I set before you today a blessing and a curse: the blessing, if you obey the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you today; and the curse, if you do not obey the commandments of the Lord your God, but turn aside from the way which I command you today, to go after other gods which you have not known." When Joshua challenged the people to "choose you this day whom you will serve" (Joshua 24:15), he was addressing individuals who were free to make a moral decision. You say this is not so, but you offer no convincing scriptural proof. But, that you are wrong about this is no place made clearer than in Matthew 23:37, where Jesus cried: "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!" If you are right with your Calvinism, then Jesus appears to be ignorant of the fact that the inhabitants of Jerusalem could not respond in belief because the Father had not operated upon them with His “Irresistible Grace.” Who can believe it? The Bible teaches conclusively and emphatically that man was created with, and continues to have, free will, and Jesus knew it. As His disciple, why don't you?
In pleading with you to realize the unscripturalness of Calvinism, I leave you with the following: “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ” (Colossians 2:8).
In service to Him,
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