Tuesday, June 15, 2010


So often today you read about the dangers and horrors of Hyper-Calvinism but what is it exactly?  To Arminians that believe a Christian cannot lose salvation (or so-called 1 point Calvinists e.g. John Rice) anyone holding to the other 4 points is a Hyper-Calvinist, to an Amyraldian (or so-called 4 point Calvinists denying Limited Atonement e.g. Norwich Reformed Church) those who hold to Limited Atonement are hyper, and Infralapsarians often refer to Supralapsarians as hyper( e.g. R.C. Sproul ). Hyper-Calvinism is blamed on people picketing homosexual funerals (e.g. Westboro Baptist Church) and those who hold to "Doctrinal Perfectionism" ( groups that believe a Christian's doctrine will be perfect e.g. Outside the Camp ). I have even recently read someone referred to as a Hyper-Calvinist for denying the charismatic gifts. Usually you see hypers defined by a set of doctrines as in Iain Murray's book Spurgeon v. Hyper-Calvinism, where he says hypers are those who deny gospel invitations are universal, the warrant of faith, human responsibility and the love of God for everyone. Someone once wrote that Hyper-Calvinism is anyone more calvinistic than me, and while I find that funny, I do believe there is an error that can be rightfully called "Hyper-Calvinism".

The word "hyper" means "above or beyond" and so added to calvinism would mean anyone who takes the teachings of Calvin to an unprecedented extreme. Therefore to determine what "hyper-calvinism" is one must first know what Calvin held to. This automatically discounts anyone who claims as hyper people who hold to predestination as Calvin himself held to this doctrine. There are some doctrines in which there is some controversy on what exactly Calvin held, for instance both Amyraldians and Infralapsarians claim Calvin for there own and even quote him in there defence, muddying the waters. The key to discussing this properly however is to focus on doctrine and not on Calvin personally due to the confusion.

Hyper-Calvinism is in a nutshell a denial of a natural means of grace. These "calvinists" take the doctrines of grace to the unprecedented extreme of denying, contrary to the Bible, that preaching or any form of teaching is necessary in bringing someone to the faith. An example of this can be seen in the teaching of the Primitive Baptist Church. Elder Kirby of this group says in a statement of their beliefs " 1. What is the basic difference between Primitive Baptists and other religious societies?
Answer: The basic difference is that Primitive Baptists believe in salvation by grace. There are really only two positions that a person can occupy on this matter. One is that salvation is by grace, and the other is that 
salvation is by works. It cannot be a combination of the two. A person may say that he believes in salvation by grace, but if he sets forth any act of man's will, such as repentance, faith, baptism, or hearing the gospel, as a condition for obtaining it, then this position must be put on the works side. Primitive Baptists believe that salvation is of the Lord, that it is by His grace, and that nothing needs to be added to it." he goes on to say again later " 10. Don't you believe that the preaching of the gospel is God's ordained means of bringing eternal salvation to the sinner? Answer: No, only by the direct operation of the Holy Spirit can eternal life be brought to the dead sinner (John 3 : 6-8) .The gospel brings life and immortality to light, but doesn't produce life (llTim.1: 10)."  This is in clear contrast to the scriptures which say that "it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe." (1 Cor. 1:21) and in Romans 10:17 we learn that "Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God."

 Now this denial does lead to other doctrines such as anti-missionism and can lead to "eternal justification" but it is the denial of a natural means of grace that is the root of this teaching. Incidentally, it is often assumed that all supralapsarians are hypers and definately that all hypers are supralapsarian but this again is an error. Curt Daniel in his book The History and Theology of Calvinism states that "while all Hyper-Calvinists have been Supralapsarians, not all Supralapsarians have been Hyper-Calvinists" p.89. I would question the necessity of all hypers being supra. Elder Kirby states on predestination "  4. What is their position on predestination? Answer: They believe that God has predestinated a great number to be conformed to the image of His Son (Rom.8: 28-30) .While some object to this doctrine because they say it is unfajr, Primitive Baptists rejoice in it, for they see that had it not been for predestination, the whole human family would have been lost forever. Predestination is not the thing that condemns a man, or puts him in a ruined condition, but the very thing that gets him out of such a state. Predestination concerns not "what" but "whom." It is the great purpose of God to lift a people up from sin and corruption and make them like Jesus Christ. That's glorious ! " Notice here we see he denies the doctrine of reprobation which is essential to true double predestinationism and thereby supralapsarianism.


The ramifications to this way of thinking are widespread. As we have already discussed it denies the need for witnessing and missions. Parents in this group often will not even teach their children to pray or worship or anything scriptural as they expect the Lord to do it without them and thus raise up a generation of degenerates. This thinking also leads to a lack of emphasis on education or studying, as God will give as he sees fit and therefore a quietist anti-intellectualism is characteristic of this group. They will pick on or forbid college and reading of books. The pastors in these groups often do not study a sermon as they expect God to give them "direct revelation" in the pulpit and thus they are very similar to charismatic/pentecostal groups. I heard one Primitive Baptist preacher say that he does not work his sermons up but gets them worked down. Finally, this group will be presuppositional in its thinking. This group will not hear of anyone giving proof for God or the Bible as everyone is supposed to just know the truth of these things. Thus there sermons will be more moralistic and less Christocentric as they will preach to the "heart" and not the "head". After all to them salvation is about the will and not the intellect. People are damned not for what they do not know but what they willfully reject.


Anyone familiar with God's word will clearly see the faults to this mindset. Proverbs 22:6 commands us to train our children. Timothy we learn was trained by his mother and grandmother and thus came to faith ( 2 Tim. 1:5, 3:14-15. We are commanded to study to show ourselves approved in 2 Tim. 2:15. God gives the church teachers (Eph. 4:11, 1 Cor. 12:28). Lastly, we are told in John 14:6 that people that do not know the good news of Jesus Christ will go to Hell. A.W. Pink has put it succinctly in saying concerning the "causes of salvation:

" The Original Cause is the sovereign will of God, for nothing can come into being save that which He decreed before the foundation of the world.

The Meritorious Cause is the mediatorial work of Christ, who "obtained eternal redemption" (Heb. 9:22) for His people, purchasing for them all the blessings of it by His perfect obedience to the Law and His sacrificial death.

The Efficient Cause is the varied operations of the Holy Spirit, who applies to the elect the benefits purchased by Christ, capacitating them to enjoy the same and making them meet for the inheritance of the saints in light.

The Ministerial Cause and means is the preaching of the Word (James 1:21), because it discovers to us where salvation is to be obtained.

The Instrumental Cause is faith, by which the soul receives or comes into possession of and obtains an interest in Christ and His redemption.

Such distinctions as these are not merely technicalities for theologians, but are part of the faith once delivered unto the saints, and unless they apprehend the same they are liable to be deceived by any Scripture-quoting false prophet who accosts them."

Quoted in Curt Daniel's booklet Biblical Calvinism from A.W. Pinks book Sermon on the Mount.


Hyper-Calvinism and John Gill by Curt Daniel - This and his above named resources are only available at Good Books 2456 Devonshire Rd. Springfield, IL 62703 USA

Primitive Baptists of the Wiregrass South by John Crowley

A Primer on Hyper-Calvinism by Phil Johnson at  http://www.spurgeon.org/~phil/articles/hypercal.htm

Hyper-Calvinism is the Truth: Darth Gill responds to Phil Johnson at http://www.predestinarian.net/content/21-Hyper-Calvinism-is-the-Truth

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Double Honor

Once in a while the question of whether Elders should receive a salary is raised. Some denominations such as the Primitive Baptists deny paying salaries. One Elder in this church writes:

"18. Do Primitive Baptist ministers receive a salary?Answer: No, they devote their time and substance to the service of God out of love, and as the Lord blesses their labors among His people, those among whom the minister has labored contribute willingly to his needs (ICor. 9:9-14)."

Merriam-Webster dictionary defines "salary" as fixed compensation paid regularly for services. Let us look to see if Scripture has anything to say on this subject or whether it is a human invention. At the outset let me say I only intend, in this discussion, to look at the question of paying Elders a salary in general and do not intend on taking up the discussion of whether or not there is a distinction in Elders commonly demarcated "Teaching" Elders and "Ruling" Elders, and whether both classes of Elders are to receive a salary. For a discussion of this debate, see chapter 10 of A Scottish Christian Heritage entitled "The Problem of the Elders" by Scottish Theologian Iain Murray.

In 1 Timothy 5:17,18 we read "Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine. For the Scripture says, 'You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain,' and, 'The laborer is worthy of his wages.' " indicating that a man is to be paid for his services. While the term "double honor" is debated as to its precise meaning, the clear understanding of this passage that those occupying the office of Elder, who labor in word and doctrine are entitled to a wage.

Next let us take a look at the passage affixed to the quotation by Elder Kirby of the Primitive Baptists above, only let us start at 1 Cor. 9:6 where Paul questions whether or not Barnabas and him have a right to refrain from working. In verse 7 he goes on to ask who goes to war at his own expense, who plants a vineyard and does not eat the fruit and who tends a flock and does not drink of the milk of the flock. Paul uses this rhetoric for the purpose of showing the need for churches to support their Elders with a fixed income or salary. Later in verse 11 we are asked if it is a great thing for Elders to reap material things in return for spiritual things they give, to which the clear answer for anyone who serves God and not mammon (Matt. 6:24) is a resounding "NO"! Verse 13 instructs us that those who minister the holy things eat of the things of the temple and those who serve at the altar partake of the offerings of the altar. In verse 14 what has been implicit becomes explicit as Paul declares "Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel."

In 2 Corinthians 11:7,8 we learn that Paul preached to the Corinthians free of charge, but that he was paid a wage from other churches to minister to them. Finally, in 2 Thessalonians 3:9 Paul indicates that he had authority to compel a wage or salary but he chose not to, to be an example and as verse 8 says, to not be a burden. While it is true that Elders, as every Christian, live by faith and not by sight and congregations incomes do vary according to a number of factors such as size and income capacity, it is the responsibility of the church to provide support in the form of a salary, however large or small, to its Elders. An Elder may have to, like Paul did as a tentmaker (Acts 18:3), work another job but he should be paid for his services. This does not mean that churches have to pay for airplanes, boats, new vehicles or even homes but they are obligated to pay them a wage. While the gospel is not for sale (Acts 8:18-21) we are to take care of our own.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Preaching the Word; Out of Season

"Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables." 2 Timothy 4:2-4

Preaching God's holy word is at an all time low today. Entertainment in the form of (christian?) rock/country/folk concerts, dramatic presentations, magic acts, powerlifting, shouting, dancing, running the aisles, screaming, barking, howling and even the so-claimed miraculous acts of healing and speaking in tongues fill many of churches on the typical Sunday morning. In some congregations politics is the raison d'etre and not the gospel of Christ. In this discussion, I want to look at the scriptures to see what preachers should be doing instead of using worldly substitutes. I am going to be using the text of 2 Timothy 4:2-4 as my base.

In the second verse of chapter 4 in Second Timothy we see Paul, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, command Timothy to preach the word whether it is popular to do so or not. Timothy was to be ready or prepared regardless of how he was received, whether congratulatory or critique. He was to convince and exhort as well as rebuke. Many "conservative" preachers have the rebuking part down as they jump headlong into some diatribe about sin, but neglect the important truth of convincing and with that exhorting. Integral to "convincing" is the presenting of evidence and proof for why either not to do something or why to do something. Notice this is to be done with longsuffering or patiently, and with teaching. Preachers should be patient with a congregation realizing that just as you have to potty train a child so to there are babes in Christ needing time to mature.Paul had to do this with the Corinthian church as we read in 1Corinthians 3:1-3 "And I, brethren could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men?" . This does not mean that a preacher should cater to babes, however, but he should inspire growth. This is only possible by "leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ" and moving on to "perfection"(Heb. 6:1).

Teaching is the communication of the sound doctrine taught in scripture. Paul exhorted Timothy to "Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me" in 2 Tim. 1:13 and commanded him to "commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also" in 2Tim. 2:2. The ability to teach is an imperative to being a preacher. In 1 Tim. 3:2 we learn that a bishop (pastor, preacher, elder) is to be able to teach and Titus 1:9 expounds on this saying that he is to be "holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict." As a matter of fact there is no distinction between a pastor and teacher as we learn in Ephesians 4:11.

In verse 3 of Second Timothy chapter 4 we are told the outcome of hearts being unreceptive to the truth. They not enduring sound doctrine, get in exchange teachers they do like, who entertain their itching ears according to their own desires and not that which God would have for them. Realize that a pastor can be faithful to the truth and a church still go bad as we learn in Hebrews 4:2 that faith is necessary for truth to profit. By looking at what these unbelievers reject we can also see the pattern of a good preacher. They reject sound doctrine, so he is teaching this and they get different teachers, again alluding to the fact that this pastor was a teacher.
Verse 4 carries on this line of thinking as they "turn their ears away from the truth" and are "turned aside to fables". There is no in-between; you either believe the truth or a lie. A preacher is either preaching the truth of God or he is cheating and lying to people, diverting their attention to unimportant distractions.


One popular method of preaching today is called expository preaching. If understood properly and done right I do not have a problem with this method and even consider what has been done in the above discussion as expository. This is a conservative method and its goal is to teach the word of God verse by verse in its proper context. Unfortunately it has become linked with the Biblical Theology movement which dichotomizes biblical theology with systematic theology. Systematic theology is seen as human philosophy and untenable with scriptural truth. This, however, is ears, deaf to truth, turning to fables. As we see in 2 Tim. 1:13 the sound words of scripture form a pattern or system. Systematic theology takes all the scriptures dealing with a particular topic or doctrine and exposits them to teach and convince people of the truth of this teaching. Topical or, as I prefer, doctrinal preaching when done right utilizes expository preaching. Churches should be grounded in the doctrines of the faith and not left in ignorance. Another problem with the expository method is the tendency to get bogged down with peripheral issues involving textual criticism and historical analysis instead of teaching the truth. 1 Tim. 6:4 warns of people "obsessed with disputes and arguments over words". Finally, expository preaching at least implicitly denies the perspicuity(clarity) of scripture. One leading proponent of the expository method and critic of the topical method has reputedly took a decade to teach through the book of Luke. I doubt it took Luke a decade to write it. I have heard some of them brag about how long they have been on a particular verse as if it is a badge of honor. If scripture is clear it should not take us ten years to teach through the whole bible much less a book of it. How grounded in the faith is a church that does not get the whole counsel of God in the other books of the Bible if they are on one book for 10 years?


Another conservative movement that needs to be considered in this discussion is revivalism. This movement seeks the salvation of souls fervently and desires to inspire other christians in this endeavor. This is a noble aspiration and one I affirm, again when understood and done properly. I do not intend an in depth discussion of this movement here and may take this up at a later date more thoroughly but I do want to touch on how it affects preaching. Sometimes proponents of revivalism make the preaching of the death, burial and resurrection of Christ the only truth in scripture to be taught. They misunderstand 1 Cor. 2:2 and errantly take it to mean this very thing. Acts 20:27-30 informs us that we are to declare the whole counsel of God taking heed to ourselves and the flock. More often in revivalism you see the gnostic dichotomy of a head and heart and a word and power distinction. Revivalists often use 1 Cor. 2:4 and 1 Thess. 1:5 to distinguish between these things. I heard one speaker of this tradition say that in the classroom he teaches to the head but in the pulpit he preaches to the heart. Iain Murray, who is probably the most vocal advocate of this tradition, complains that he "once had the misfortune to hear addresses on 'the five points of calvinism' delivered as though we were attending a chemistry lecture" (John Calvin: A Heart For Devotion, Doctrine & Doxology edited by Burk Parsons p. xv). I am not completely sure I understand his criticism. If he is saying the presentation was boring, is it okay to give a boring delivery of chemistry? I personally try to put my "heart" into whatever I am teaching and would therefore hate to give a boring lecture on chemistry as much as I would on calvinism. Whatever truth you are teaching deserves the same exhortation, if for nothing else so you will not have a bunch of people fail the test. I also find this funny because I have personally sat under Iain at a conference and did not find it edifying and would even go as far as to say it was a boring presentation. Thankfully his books are of a better sort. As to whether there is a distinction between word and power, Paul in both the above listed scriptures is simply meaning that the Holy Spirit gave them an understanding of the truth and not the words only. 1 Cor. 1:18 tells us the message of the cross is foolish to the perishing but to the saved it is the power of God, Rom. 1:16 tells us the gospel is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes and Heb. 4:12 tells us the word of God is living and powerful. Reject anyone who believes the bible to be a "dead word".


Preaching is to pass on the pattern of sound doctrine left to us in the scriptures from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and written by the apostles through the power of the Holy Spirit. It is the power of salvation to all who believe. It is clear and we should teach the whole counsel in orderly and timely fashion. It is alive and powerful not needing methods, emotion or a particular style to deliver it. Every member of the church ought to be able to give a defense of the hope that is in them 1 Peter 3:15. Every member needs to know what they believe about the trinity, inerrancy and sole authority of scripture, salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone and everything else. If they do not, you may lose them and even lose your job as they will look for a teacher to scratch their itching ears.

"And moreover, because the Preacher was wise, he still taught the people knowledge; yes, he pondered and sought out and set in order many proverbs. The Preacher sought to find acceptable words; and what was written was upright- words of truth. The words of the wise are like goads, and the words of scholars are like well-driven nails, given by one Shepherd." Ecclesiastes 12:9-11

Soli Deo Gloria

Monday, August 31, 2009

The Atonement in Amyraut and Calvin


As discussed in the previous blog, there are those who claim to hold to the doctrines of grace and yet deny Christ's particular atonement. Some of these even claim John Calvin, pictured above, as there forebear in this system as they expound it. My primary goal in this blog is historical and will look at various works treating this discussion. This view is primarily known by its most vocal proponent Moise Amyraut and is called "Amyraldism". I do not intend in this discussion to give an in-depth treatment of Moise Amyraut's system and realize there are many so-called 4-point calvinists that would not agree with Amyraut's complete system but merely classify all 4-pointers as amyraldians for the purposes of this discussion.

Moise Amyraut was a professor of theology at the University of Saumer in France where he had been a student and learned under the Scottish theologian John Cameron whose system Amyraut advanced and extended at Saumer which was the largest Reformed Divinity School of the day(Armstrong p.xviii Calvinism and the Amyraut Heresy). It is important to recognize that Cameron had himself developed the system as Brian Armstrong says that it was "Upon the foundation laid by Cameron, Moise Amyraut was to construct his theology"(Armstrong p70) and so it could just as well be called "Cameronism" but Cameron's influence was cut short (only 3 years)by an angry rioting mob that killed him. Amyraut's system is distinctive from Calvinism at the most basic level in that it holds to a "Hypothetical Universalism"(HU). This HU says that Christ's death, while definately saving the elect, also makes all men savable if they, hypothetically, were to believe. Christ died for the whole world, but the gift of faith, the effectual call and the irresistable grace are limited to the elect only. As Jonathan Rainbow notes in his book The Will of God and the Cross this makes it possible for Amyraut "to say both,

'God desires only the elect to be saved,' and, 'God desires every human being to be saved'" (p70) which is blatantly a contradiction.


Unfortunately this is often an accepted teaching in calvinist circles. This is why, I believe, you do not hear more of amyraldism and people prefer to be called 4-point calvinists instead. A 4-point calvinist is seen as a subsection or alternate but equally calvinist perspective whereas Amyraldism would be seen as a competing system to calvinism. This is, in no uncertain terms a competing system whatever it is called and should be rejected vigorously. Amyraldism takes away the saving efficacy of the death of Christ. If Christ death is efficacious and He died for the reprobate then they would be saved. Amyraldism sees salvation as centered on faith and not Christ the true center. Faith only saves as it links us to Christ. For anyone to believe, their eyes must be opened first by baptism of the Holy Spirit into the death of Christ in regeneration giving new life to believe (Mark 4:11,12). Amyraldism denies Christ's active obedience in the fulfilling of the covenant of works. Christ is the fulfillment of the covenant of works for the elect allowing for the covenant of grace (Rom. 5:5-21). Amyraldism denies the clear teaching of scripture as exegeted in my previous blog that shows Christ died for His Elect.


Amyraut as Cameron before him claimed John Calvin as there forebear and thus tried to get respectability. They claimed that they are the ones that have kept the tradition of Calvin. Modern Amyraldists such as R.T. Kendall in the 1997 edition of his monograph Calvin and English Calvinism to 1649 includes an appendix with multiple quotes from the Bible Commentaries of Calvin. From these multiple quotes Kendall concludes that "Fundamental to the doctrine of faith in John Calvin is his belief that Christ died indiscriminately for all men" (p1). While it is true that some of the statements made by Calvin are unclear and equivocal such as "Paul makes grace common to all men, not because it in fact extends to all, but because it is offered to all. Although Christ suffered for the sins of the world, and is offered by the goodness of God without distinction to all men, yet not all receive Him" (Calvin on Rom. 5:18 quoted in Kendall p.222-223) and "For God commends to us the salvation of all men without exception, even as Christ suffered for the sins of the whole world" (Calvin on Gal. 5:12 quoted in Kendall p.223) we must take into account Calvin's basis for this all, which he places in election, as he says in his commentary on John 13:18, "every part of our salvation depends on this". We must also take into account clearer statements from Calvin such as "Christ brings none to the Father but those given to Him by the Father; and this donation, we know, depends on eternal election; for those whom the Father has destined to life, He delivers to the keeping of His Son, that He might defend them" (Calvin on Heb. 2:13 quoted in Rainbow p.72-73).
Amyraldism gets some respect also in the fact that it has had representatives in both the Synod of Dort and the Westminster Assembly. John Davenant was a representative of the Church of England at the Synod of Dort in 1618 and was an avowed Amyraldian. The Westminster Assembly had Edmund Calamy in its midst, who followed in the footsteps of Davenant. These instances, however, should be seen as scandalous rather than an opening of the doors.


Christ's atonement is the basis for our faith and not the other way around. It is because of the healing we receive in the blood of Christ that we are regenerated, brought to life and are able to have faith. If faith earns our regeneration then we have something whereby to boast contra Eph. 2:9. Why and how does anyone come to believe who are dead in their trespasses and sins, whose foolish heart is darkened without the wonderful healing grace of God in the atonement of Christ. Make no mistake about it, the atonement of Christ is a doctrine worth dying for.

Calvinism and the Amyraut Heresy: Protestant Scholasticism and Humanism in Seventeenth-Century France by Brian G. Armstrong
Calvin and English Calvinism to 1649 by R. T. Kendall
The Extent of the Atonement: A Dilemma for Reformed Theology from Calvin to the Consensus by G. Michael Thomas
English Hypothetical Universalism: John Preston and the Softening of Reformed Theology by Jonathan D. Moore

The Will of God and the Cross: An Historical and Theological Study of John Calvin's Doctrine of Limited Redemption by Jonathan H. Rainbow
By His Grace and For His Glory: A Historical, Theological and Practical Study of the Doctrines of Grace in Baptist Life by Thomas J. Nettles

Thursday, April 30, 2009


It may come as a surprise to some that those who hold to the doctrines of grace often called "calvinism" are not monolithic in their thinking. The subject of this blog deals with one of those differences. Supralapsarian is one of the classifications of the distinctions and is opposed to Infra or Sublapsarian. Infra and sub mean the same thing and are interchangeable but most non-supras prefer the term infra and so I will use this for the purposes of this blog. I do want to make note that sublapsarian is sometimes distinguished from infralapsarian by amyraldians or 4-point calvinists who utilize the sub for themselves. I do not intend to focus much on the amyraldians however and will deal with them in a future blog, Lord willing, and so am talking primarily to those who hold to the scriptural teaching of Definite Redemption.

Historically the focus of the debate between the two parties is over the logical order of God's decrees. While I will mention these different orders, I again do not intend on focusing on them as they are all speculations and not specifically laid out in scripture. The focus of this discussion is going to be on the question of equal ultimacy, the origin of the fall and sin and whether predestination is single or double. These issues are the crux of the debate.


Before charting out the views some definitions are in order. Both infra and sub mean below or after with supra meaning above and before. Lapsarian means fall. Supralapsarian therefore means above or before the fall and infra/sublapsarian means below or after the fall. Supras hold that God chose what would become of mankind before considering the fall whereas infras say God took into consideration the fall before deciding to either save or damn man.

I. The logical order often held by amyraldians such as Augustus Strong, Millard Erickson and Charles Ryrie amongst others is

1. the decree to create the world and (all) men

2. the decree that (all) men would fall

3. the decree to redeem (all) men by the cross work of Christ

4. the election of some fallen men to salvation in Christ (and the reprobation of the others)

5. the decree to apply Christ's redemptive benefits to the elect.

II. The logical order often held by infras such as Charles Hodge, William G. T. Shedd, R. L. Dabney, J. Oliver Buswell Jr., Louis Berkhof, Benjamin Warfield, John Gerstner, R. C. Sproul and Bruce Ware amongst others is

1. the decree to create the world and (all) men

2. the decree that (all) men would fall

3. the election of some fallen men to salvation in Christ (and the reprobation of the others)

4. the decree to redeem the elect by the cross work of Christ

5. the decree to apply Christ's redemptive benefits to the elect.

III. A. The logical order held historically by supras such as Theodore Beza, William Whitaker, William Perkins, William Ames,William Twisse, Francis Gomarus, Gisbert Voetius, Thomas Goodwin, Samuel Rutherford and John Gill amongst others is

1. the election of some men to salvation in Christ and the reprobation of the others

2. the decree to create the world and both kinds of men

3. the decree that all men would fall

4. the decree to redeem the elect, who are now sinners, by the cross work of Christ

5. the decree to apply Christ's redemptive benefits to these elect sinners

B. A different proposal by supras such as Robert Reymond, Gordon Clark, Herman Hoeksema and possibly Jerome Zanchius and Johannes Piscator, according to Robert Reymond, is

1. the election of some sinful men to salvation in Christ (and the reprobation of the rest of sinful mankind in order to make known the riches of God's gracious mercy to the elect)

2. the decree to apply Christ's redemptive benefits to the elect sinners

3. the decree to redeem the elect sinners by the cross work of Christ

4. the decree that men should fall

5. the decree to create the world and men

Of the positions listed above the supra positions are closer to the truth of scripture and so therefore are preferred but again the discussion is a little arcane as we are never given any particular order. I also want to say the proposal of Robert Reymond does leave itself open to the criticism that God in considering men as sinful must be after(infra) the fall and not truly before(supra) and so I lean to the historic supra view.


Typically when reading a theological work ,even by a calvinist, discussing sin, evil and the fall of man and angels the first thing you are told in bold letters is that God is not the author of sin and that He has a permissive will through which He (passively) just allows sin. They usually go on to say that evil is the absence of good as darkness is an absence of light and space an absence of material. The use of the word "author" is a little confusing. If one means by it a performer of sin then every Bible believer would agree God is not the author of sin(James 1:13). The ordinary use of the word however is a writer as of a book. In this case all Bible believers agree that God is the author of the Bible and yet it contains prophesies of all sorts of evils such as the betrayel and crucifixion of Christ(Acts 1:16-21), false Christs and prophets(Matt. 24:24) and the actions of the Beast in Revelation(Rev. 11:7). Isaiah 45:7 also explicitly informs us that God not only forms the light but he also creates darkness and then goes on to say that God not only makes peace but creates evil. Nothing happens by chance but by the predestined plan of God. Not even the wicked can look to God and boast of defying His predestined plan as "The Lord has made all for Himself, Yes, even the wicked for the day of doom."(Prov. 16:4) God has even appointed our death(Heb. 9:27) and so whether by cancer, murder, suicide or any other way we can be certain that this is one appointment we will not miss. God is the ultimate author of everything and as Gordon Clark aptly put in his excellent book God and Evil "In Ephesians 1:11 Paul tells us that God works all things, not some things only, after the counsel of His own will"(p27).


In his book Chosen By God R.C. Sproul includes a chapter called Double, Double, Toil and Trouble: Is Predestination Double. In it Sproul makes the intriguing claim that he holds to double predestination all the while denying "equal ultimacy". He makes the claim using his wit and illogic that election is a positive(active) decree and reprobation is a negative(passive) decree. He bombasts equal ultimists as "hyper-calvinists" and other pejoratives. Let us look at scripture and see if he is correct. We have already seen from Proverbs 16:4 that God makes even the wicked for Himself. It would have been better for Judas and every other reprobate person if they had never been born as we learn in Matthew 26:24 but God creates them for Himself and has reserved them for the day of wrath(Job 21:30, Jude 4). God, we learn in Romans 9:22,23, wants to show His wrath and make His power known and does so by raising up leaders like the Pharaoh and hardening their hearts, blinding their eyes and deafening their ears to the truth(Rom. 9:17,18, Isaiah 6:9,10, 29:9,10, Mark 4:11,12). Hardening, blinding and deafening are actions and not passively just allowed. Sproul puts himself in the position of judging God as evil in doing this by not accepting the clear teaching of God's Word. Psalm 135 tells us "Whatever the Lord pleases He does" and goes on to say "He destroyed the firstborn of Egypt" and "slew mighty kings" and in Deuteronomy 28:63 we learn that "the Lord will rejoice over you to destroy you and bring you to nothing". God has equally, ultimately, actively and doubly predestined everything that has ever happened and that will happen.
A New Systematic Theology Of The Christian Faith by Robert L. Reymond-A systematic theology by a Presbyterian Supracalvinist who holds to Equal Ultimacy.
The History And Theology Of Calvinism by Curt Daniel-Essentially a systematic theology by an Baptistic Infracalvinist. It is very informative from the other side and has an excellent chapter, albeit inconsistent with his infra position, on the hardening of the reprobate.
God And Evil: The Problem Solved by Gordon Clark-A wonderful treatise on evil from a Presbyterian Supracalvinist Equal Ultimist perspective.
Chosen By God by R. C. Sproul- From a Presbyterian Infracalvinist perspective.
The Pleasures Of God by John Piper- From a Calvinistic Baptist perspective.
Perspectives On Election: 5 Views by Chad Owen Brand- See the chapters by Robert Reymond and Bruce Ware(InfraCalvinist Baptist).
A Southern Baptist Dialogue: Calvinism by Clendenen & Waggoner- See especially the chapter "A Molinist View of Election, or How to Be a Consistent Infralapsarian" by Molinist Ken Keathley which shows the fine line (if any) between Molinism and Infracalvinism.
Diversity Within the Reformed Tradition: Supra-and Infralapsarianism in Calvin, Dort, and Westminster by J.V. Fesko- A historical study advocating a Supracalvinist view while denying Equal Ultimacy by an Orthodox Presbyterian.
The Westminster Confession into the 21st Century Volume Two by Ligon Duncan- J. V. Fesko makes another attempt at formulating a Supracalvinism while denying Equal Ultimacy in his chapter "The Westminster Confession and Lapsarianism: Calvin and the Divines".

Soli Deo Gloria

Saturday, February 28, 2009


Throughout the history of depraved man’s assault on God’s sovereignty, several names and movements have come to the forefront. Lost in the shuffle of the more popular Pelagianism and Arminianism is Molinism. Molinism is named after the Jesuit Priest and Theologian, Luis De Molina(1535-1600). Luis was a professor for many years at Evora, Portugal until taking the chair of moral theology in Madrid. In this capacity and in his work Concordia liberi arbitrii cum gratiæ donis, divina præscientia, providentia, prædestinatione et reprobatione (Lisbon, 1588) he set out to find and promote a moderate view on predestination and free will. His goal was to balance the extremes as he saw it of Augustine and Pelagius.

In his quest Molina divided the knowledge of God into three categories. Sometimes the first two categories are called necessary truths and contingent truths and other times natural knowledge and free knowledge but the third category is always called “middle knowledge”. The necessary truth or natural knowledge of God is said to be God’s knowledge of the truths like the law of non-contradiction or cause and effect. God’s existence is a necessary truth and not a matter of His will. Contingent truths or free knowledge are truths that God creates as in “God said ‘let there be light’, and there was light”. Middle knowledge is according to Molina that knowledge“… by which, in virtue of the most profound and inscrutable comprehension of each free will, He(God) saw in his own essence what each such will would do with its innate freedom were it to be placed in this or that or, indeed, in infinitely many orders of things- even though it would really be able, if it so willed, to do the opposite…”. (Quoted by William Craig in The Grace Of God, The Will Of Man p 147). William Craig goes on to say, “Thus, whereas by His natural knowledge God knows that, say, Peter when placed under a certain set of circumstances could either deny Christ or not deny Christ, being free to do either under identical circumstances, by His middle knowledge God knows what Peter would do if placed under those circumstances.”(Citation above p147)

The chief motivation for this line of thinking is sin. If God predestines everything that happens then He must therefore be the author of sin. Traditional orthodoxy understands God to have a Preceptive Will which is God’s revealed commands of us such as “thou shalt not kill”(Matt. 19:18) and a Decretive Will which is God determining before creation how everything will happen such as in His decree of Christ’s death(Acts 1:16, 2:23). Molinism adds to this a Permissive Will in which God simply foresaw the sins of man and passively decreed to allow them. Molinist Ken Keathley in the book A Southern Baptist Dialogue: Calvinism claims “God controls all things He does not cause all things”(p196) and later states “God did not cause the fall; He allowed it”(p197). For Molinism man’s will is free to either accept Christ or reject Him. It would distinguish itself from Arminianism in that God sovereignly controls circumstances which lead up to either rejection or salvation, for instance God chooses where to send missionaries and who hears the Gospel.


Molinism fails as a scriptural system for the same reason as all man-centered systems do. It places salvation and history in the will of man instead of in the grace and purpose of God. John 1:12 and 13 say “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” Just as our physical birth was not our choosing but our parents, so to our spiritual birth is from God and not our “free will”. Romans 9:16 again states that “So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy.” It is the purpose of God that determines history and not the works of man (Rom. 9:11). In Proverbs 21:1 we read that “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes.” Surely any “free will” decision made would come from the heart but God controls the heart and so determines our will. We do not even know how to pray properly according to Rom. 8:26 and need the intercession of the Holy Spirit for that (Rom. 8:27).

As for the question of sin, God is not the immediate cause (author) of evil in that he does not perform any evil. God is however the ultimate cause of everything including evil as Isaiah 45:7 teaches us. Whereas God cannot lie (Titus 1:2, Heb. 6:18), God used a fallen angel in 2 Chronicles 18:19-22 to deceive Ahab, and will send a “strong delusion” in the end times so “that they (reprobates) shall believe a lie” (2 Thess. 2:11). Notice that God assured the fallen angel in 2 Chronicles 18:21 that “You shall persuade him and also prevail”. God did not just passively know this but he hardened Ahab’s heart to ensure this would happen as he did to the Pharoah in Exodus 4:21. We should honestly and earnestly pray as our Lord Jesus prayed for our Father to lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil so as not to sin against our God (Matt. 6:13). For further on this see my Theodicy.
Molinism also fails logically to be a self consistent system. It is rediculous to say God controls all things but does not cause all things as God must therefore control the cause of all things. Also to claim that God knows possible futures that never will exist is rediculous as there is no future without God. God has designed and determined every second of eternal destiny and this destiny can only happen one way otherwise it is not destined. God does not permit anything but ordains everything. As to God's relation to evil, Molinism also falls short. How would a man be perceived that sat idly by all the while able to stop a massacre from occuring but "permitting" it to happen? Does a permissive will alleviate the problem? Just as human authors like Stephen King and George Lucas create in their novels evil situations and people but are not themselves guilty of the evil, much more so is God not to be judged by us His creation (Rom. 9:14,19-21).
William Craig's chapter "Middle Knowledge, A Calvinist-Arminian Rapprochement?" in
A Case For Arminianism: The Grace of God, The Will of Man by Clark Pinnock
Ken Keathley's chapter "A Molinist View of Election, or How to be a Consistent Infralapsarian" in A Southern Baptist Dialogue: Calvinism by Ray Clendenen & Brad Waggoner
A Molinist-Anabaptist Systematic Theology by Kirk R. MacGregor

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Are Hats Necessary for Women in Church?

This may seem like an odd subject and out of the ordinary of my usual conversation but I believe it is a necessary discussion nonetheless. There are still "Christian" denominations and sects that practice and in some cases demand a woman wear a hat or bonnet in their religious observations. Anyone familiar with the Amish know this to be true. Some might be surprised to know, however, that this is even true in some reformed fellowships. The Free Presbyterian Church and the so-called reformed fellowships in the Confederation of Reformed Evangelicals and other "Federal Vision"(see my blog "Federal Vision's Blindness"from April 2007 for more on this) churches are but a few examples of this understanding. These groups base this form of behavior on 1 Corinthians 11:2-15 which does demand a "covering". Why then do so many other reformed denominations not make such a demand? Are men like myself sinning in not demanding our wives to do so? These are honest questions that must be answered and answer I will.

Among the reformed churches that do not mandate hat wearing there are a few different reasons as to why we do not. The first view is what may be called "the cultural view". This view is exemplified by pastor/theologian John MacArthur in his commentary on First Corinthians where he states "It seems, therefore, that Paul is not stating a divine universal requirement but simply acknowledging a local custom". While I can respect John's having a reason for not demanding headwear, I do not agree with his reason. As Charles Ryrie states in the note in his study Bible, advocating women should wear hats,"Paul's reasons were based on theology(headship, v. 3), the order in creation (vv. 7-9), and the presence of angels in the meeting (v. 10)" and not in defence of a social custom. Paul elsewhere (eg. Rom. 14)clearly allows for differences in the church over social customs and yet here he commands head covering for women and none for men. So the answer must be sought in a more appropriate understanding.

This appropriate understanding is the second view which may be called simply "the hair view". In this view the covering Paul was speaking of is "hair" and not a hat, veil, doily or any other man-made material. This view sees it unlikely that Paul would be making a new law for women never before established in scripture. We are not told God created a hat for Eve in the garden so as to worship him appropriately. The Old Testament laws were very thorough in their mandates for worship and again they are silent on this issue. The best evidence comes from the text itself when Paul states in verses 14 and 15 "Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him, but if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her? For her hair is given to her for a covering." Notice Paul appeals to common sense here. Although it is now codified in his writing it, Paul was asking what was evident in nature and not written in scripture until then. I make this point in passing to point out that while I hold tenaciously to the reformation principle of sola scriptura(see my blog "Holy Bible" January 2007), we should not neglect what God has taught us in nature through common sense. So Paul has defined his meaning with these verses. Nature does not teach us anything about hats, veils or doilies or which is more appropriate. Paul's point to the church at Corinth is that it is wrong for men to have long hair and women to have short hair. God hates confusion and it is against the natural order for men to have long hair and women short. Even the angels get confused (v. 10)as they look on unlike the angels that fell in Genesis 6:1,2 who clearly knew who the daughters of men were. Reformed churches that teach "head coverings" that I am aware of typically use the doily which does not fully cover the head. If they want to meet this honestly they should be like the muslim women pictured above.

In conclusion, it is important to say that I do not believe it is a sin for a woman to wear a hat to church but it is not mandated by scripture. It is also important to say at this juncture that nowhere in scripture does it define long hair or short hair and so I as Paul appeal to common sense in this matter. Some may not think my wife has long hair, and compared to say Crystal Gayle she does not, but if my hair were her length it would generally be considered long. There must be some christian liberty in our judgment of this.


First Corinthians: A Contemporary Commentary by Gordon H. Clark
Exposition of the Old and New Testaments Vol. 8 John To Galatians by John Gill
The MacArthur New Testament Commentary 1 Corinthians by John MacArthur
Ryrie Study Bible Expanded Edition (NAS) study notes by Charles Ryrie