A Common Calvinist Canard

[Posts in “fictional conversations” are sometimes (but not always) adapted and edited from non-fictional correspondence. They are usually lightly edited with intelligibility in mind.]

“But also if our gospel is being hidden, it has been hidden in those being lost, in whom the god of this age has blinded the thoughts of the unbelieving, [so that] the brightness of the gospel of the glory of Christ who is the image of God, [should] not dawn on them. For we do not proclaim ourselves, but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves your slaves for the sake of Jesus. Because [it is] God who said, Out of darkness Light shall shine, who shone in our hearts to [give the] brightness of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the excellence of the power may be of God, and not from us.” (2 Corinthians 4:3-7)

Tolerant Calvinist:  Paul, you must be careful about the perfection of knowledge theory, that in essence says, ‘you need to have a perfect knowledge of the gospel to be saved, or once you are saved you’ll eventually have a perfection of knowledge’–none of us have this…none of us ever do or will.

“Behold, I, Paul, say to you that if you are circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing. And I testify again to every man being circumcised, that he is a debtor to do all the Law, [you] whoever are justified by Law, you were severed from Christ; you fell from grace.” (Galatians 5:2-5)

“Everyone transgressing and not abiding in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. The [one] abiding in the doctrine of Christ, this one has the Father and the Son.” (2 John 1:9)

Tolerant Calvinist:  Well Paul (you too, John) you have to be really careful here because that’s the road that leads directly into hypercalvinism.  What’s a “hypercalvinist”?  Well, a hypercalvinist is primarily a person who…it’s a combination of things but primarily they don’t believe in the propriety or necessity of the proclamation of the gospel, and they say that all non-abiding professing Christian Judaizers are NOT saved and that they’re going to hell unless they repent because they got a false gospel.  What a minute!  That is a perfectly accurate description of you two guys!  Paul and John, you two are so inordinately, imperiously, and unlovingly strict that you end up drawing the circle so small that you’d have to stand on one foot to stay inside it yourselves!  But that would be two feet inside this stifling circle of orthodoxy, so it’s only a matter of time before one of you transgresses the strict and idiosyncratic demands of perfect Christology!

“And as Isaiah has said before, Except [the] Lord of hosts left a seed to us, we would have become as Sodom, and we would have become as Gomorrah. What then shall we say? That [the] nations not following after righteousness have taken on righteousness, but a righteousness of faith; but Israel following after a Law of righteousness did not arrive at a Law of righteousness? Why? Because [it was] not of faith, but as of works of Law. For they stumbled at the Stone-of-stumbling, as it has been written, Behold, I place in Zion a Stone-of-stumbling, and a Rock-of-offense, and everyone believing on Him will not be shamed.” (Romans 9:29-33)

Tolerant Calvinist:  Fine, Paul. But let’s push this out to the end of the logical road. Multiple professing Christians who believe that Jesus died for everyone without exception stumble at the Stone-of-Stumbling in just the same way that national Israel did — tolerant Calvinists like me stumble too, except that most of us are not as honest and forthright about it as others.

I am Reformed, and so OF COURSE I believe that national Israelite expressions of the gospel are deficient in certain ways. If I didn’t think so, I wouldn’t be Reformed. But do those deficiencies (which, like the Galatian Judaizers, amount to a certain level of self-righteousness-establishing) make them unregenerate? NO.  And the reason I would say NO is that I believe in the doctrine of justification by faith ALONE.  In spite of your prayer in Romans 10:1, those who are “ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own righteousness” (Romans 10:3) ARE NOT unregenerate because we are NOT saved by works.  I’ll be quite candid here and say that I cannot even begin to take seriously what you said in Romans 9:29-33 and 10:1-4 since we are NOT saved by works!  Perhaps there is a textual variant there or something (wishful thinking, perhaps).

Paul, you do not realize that a genuine faith in Jesus can reside (thank God) in a very imperfect and stumbling heart.  To stumble at the Stone-of-stumbling can cause us to be humble, sometimes.  Sometimes that imperfect submission “to the righteousness of God” (Romans 10:3)  gets into the doctrine, and bless God, we are still not undone. Why? Because God does not receive us on the basis of our performance in any area.  Jesus is my righteousness, and His perfection is imputed to me, to the Galatian Judaizers whom Paul anathematized (Galatians 1:8-9), and to those national Israelites for whom you prematurely prayed (Romans 10:1).  Jesus Christ understands the Stone perfectly, and that understanding is mine by imputation. But if God were to take me out of Jesus, and run me through my doctrinal paces, with me handling His hardball questions on my own, I am in the highest degree confident that I would be condemned to Hell for my failures of understanding in Romans 9:29-33 and 10:1-4.  So, again, despite what you say in Romans 9:29-33 and Romans 10:1-4, you are wrong.  I (along with national Israel and the Galatian Judaizers I mentioned) am going to heaven because of Jesus, and NOT because of my mastery of the dikai-word group.