An Open Letter to Calvary Chapel of Ft. Lauderdale - by Mr. John NolanCalvinistic Articles on the Christian Faith
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Below is a an open letter to Dr. Norman Geisler, Bob Coy (who has fallen from the ministry) and the congregation of Calvary Chapel of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida which challenges them to rethink their position of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in light of the Bible. Coy has long since fallen from the ministry in scandal, but whoever the more recent minister is, this letter could easily be address to them. I agreed to post it on this site because I believe it is written not only from an orthodox standpoint, but also with an intention of tenderness, kindness, and Christian charity, with a desire that it may be a help to the souls of men. The writer, and myself, urge the readers to send comments to us by Email in light of the letter.
Dr. C. Matthew McMahon
August 20, 2001
The Gospel According to Timothy McVeigh
By John Nolan
“I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.” Such were the chilling last words of mass-murderer Timothy McVeigh released to the public shortly before his just execution. He entered eternity embracing the malevolent arrogance of this sentiment borrowed from the words of a dead poet. This was his Gospel. Is it yours? Will you enter eternity believing that you are the master of your destiny? It sounds preposterous, right?
How can man be the master of his destiny? Does the Word of God not say of the Sovereign LORD, “He doeth according to His will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay His hand, or say unto Him, What doest thou?” (Daniel 4:35) And again, the inspired apostle rebukes those who claim to have power over the Great Potter, “Who has resisted His will? But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, “Why have you made me like this?” Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor?” (Rom 9:19b-21). Was Timothy McVeigh really the master of his destiny? Was McVeigh the sovereign of his soul? Are you?
Sadly, many believe that they are the masters of their destinies. They believe that they make the final decision in whether they go to heaven or hell. They believe that before the foundation of the world God chose them because He saw something in them that He did not see in others. They believe that God saw their faith. Others did not have it, but they did. They make the “righteous” choice for their destiny, while others make the “unrighteous” choice and perish. They are indeed the “captains of their souls.”
Furthermore, they believe that the blood of Christ shed on the cross at Calvary did not actually save anyone, but merely made salvation possible to sinners; the final “step” in the work being theirs.
On June 24th, 2001 Dr. Norman Geisler declared these false and misleading views of salvation from the pulpit of Calvary Chapel in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. In addition, Dr. Geisler declared that the Sovereign LORD over mankind’s destiny is a “divine rapist.” At the end of his diatribe, a Calvary Chapel pastor instructed potential converts “Jesus has taken nine steps toward you, now you have to take a step toward Him.”
That one step makes men masters of their destinies in the same deluded sense that Timothy McVeigh believed he was the captain of his soul. That one step indicates that despite Christ Jesus coming into the world “to save sinners” (1 Tim 1:15) the sinners must save themselves by finishing the work that Jesus set out to accomplish. In other words, that one step turns the victorious words of Jesus from “It is finished” to “It is almost finished.”
Supposedly, the Father desires all men to be saved and gives His Son to die for those whom He knows will not take that “final step” and “become saved” anyway. His will for all men to “get saved” is thwarted by the powerful will of mere men. Man has power and sovereignty over his destiny. In this view, God only has enough sovereignty over these “inhabitants of the earth” to make salvation possible, but He cannot actually save one of them without their consent. If God oversteps this boundary He is committing “divine rape” on the sovereign man.
In the past year two elders at Calvary Chapel Ft. Lauderdale have stepped down because they no longer believed they were the masters of their destinies, the sovereigns of their souls. Instead, they embraced the biblical view of God’s sovereign reign over all things including the destinies of men. They humbly embraced what the Scriptures said about them: that they had been born walking “according to this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience…fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.”(Eph 2:2) They embraced the Bible’s teaching that God chose to save them, not because of something that God saw in them, but because of His sovereign will and free grace.
There is more to this than a historic debate. This is not about Calvinists and Arminians. The issues presented by Dr. Geisler, the Calvary Chapel pulpit, and this article, are concerned with the heart of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
How has sin affected man? Can man save himself from the power of sin and free himself from the power of Satan? What has the Holy Trinity accomplished to save lost sinners? Why are some saved and not others? These are some of the questions being discussed. Some say it is a divisive topic. Indeed, it is.
The Gospel is like a sword which divides. The Gospel divides the wheat from the chaff. The preaching of the Gospel is to some a stumbling block and to others the power of God unto salvation. (1 Cor 1:23-24) The Lord Jesus Christ warned that even families would be divided over Him. But is this our goal – to divide? To divide and ostracize brethren from one another is certainly not the goal of this article. The unity of the body of Christ in the bond of peace, in the context of Ephesians 4, is the goal. Does not doctrine divide though? Yes, but that does not seem to matter to the apostle Paul. Consider his inspired words. He said that apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers are given to the church to bring in “the unity of the faith” (v.13) in order that the church would not be tossed about by false doctrine propagated by false teachers (v. 14).
The purpose of this article is to straighten the crooked path that Dr. Geisler has created. He has led those he preached to recently at Calvary Chapel Ft. Lauderdale, and the Calvary Chapel community at large, down this crooked path. It is paved with false views of the Gospel, and even blasphemous statements concerning God. I realize this is a strong statement. But indeed, it is in regard to the thrice Holy Jehovah being called a “rapist” from the pulpit of Calvary Chapel that compel me to make this assertion.
Now, Let us be good Bereans (Acts 17:11) and first briefly measure Dr. Geisler’s preaching on the doctrine of sin by God’s Word. Is the doctrine of sin an important teaching to understand? Not only is it important, but we will see why it is crucial to this topic.
WHAT HAS SIN DONE TO MAN?
Has sin rendered man utterly unable to save himself? Dr. Geisler affirms that “we are unable to save ourselves.” However, he turns that assertion upside down in many ways. He cites phrases such as “who first trusted…after that ye believed…For by grace ye are saved through faith…” (Eph 1:12,13;2:8) as proof that unregenerate man has the ability to respond to the Gospel in and of himself, and reasons with “if…then” simplicity. Dr. Geisler says, “If God is calling on everyone to believe then they must have the ability to understand what He is saying and to respond to what He is saying.” In other words God’s demand that “all believe” implies that all have the ability to believe. The first words of Jesus’ ministry were indeed “repent ye, and believe the Gospel.” (Mark 1:15) But does this command imply that all have the ability to do so? This certainly does not imply this, any more than an Israelite has the ability to obey what was commanded from Mt. Sinai in the Law of God. The Law states, “Thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.” (Deut 6:5) How is your “ability” in performing this one commandment? If we believe that we possess the ability to obey even one of God’s commands such as “believe the Gospel,” then it follows that we have the ability to obey every command, and Christ died in vain. So much for “demand implies ability.”
Dr. Geisler’s flawed premise leads him to believe and teach the exact opposite of what the Lord Jesus Christ taught concerning unregenerate man’s ability to savingly believe the Gospel. Compare Dr. Geisler’s interpretation of 1 Corinthians 2:14 with the words of Jesus. Dr. Geisler insists “we’re not so totally depraved that we can’t understand the truth of God and respond to that truth because the image (of God) is still there.” Paul wrote in 1 Cor 2:14 “The natural (unregenerate) man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them because they are spiritually discerned.” Dr. Geisler says this text “does not say the natural man does not have any ability to understand what God is saying. It says he does not receive it.” But is that all the text says, merely that the unregenerate man does not receive spiritual things? Dr. Geisler makes no attempt to explain the reason given by Paul that the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit, “for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them because they are spiritually discerned.” Do you not agree that the italicized words “neither can” indicate man’s inability? Dr. Geisler passes over this. The natural man, dead in sin, does not have the Spirit of God and therefore is cut off from the source of “goodness, light, and truth.” (White, The Potter’s Freedom. Calvary Press, 2000)
“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him; No one can come to me unless it has been granted to him by My Father.” (Jn 6:44,65 NKJV) Dr. Geisler insists that fallen men can and do come to Christ by the power of their will and a faith which is their own, not given by God. Christ says “no one can…unless drawn…unless it has been granted to him by the Father.” Is not “coming to Christ” the same as responding to Him in faith? Indeed it is, and Jesus is clearly saying that unregenerate man cannot respond in faith to Him “unless” the Father first “enables” him.
Dr. Geisler absolutely denies that faith is a gift given by God. That “part” of salvation is the part that is 100% man’s responsibility. While it is true that it is man that does the believing, that faith with which he believes is given by God. (See Eph 2:8,9; Phil 1:29; Heb 12:2; and more comments below.)
Is faith given to everyone? Jesus said in John 6:37, “All that the Father giveth me shall come unto me.” Only those given to Jesus by the Father come in faith to Christ and only by the enabling and drawing of the Father. Therefore, faith is only given to those whom the Father gave to Christ before the foundation of the world. “The carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh [unregenerate] cannot please God.” (Rom 8:7,8) Now why would an enemy of God desire to please Him anyway? He would not. Would it not be most pleasing to God for unregenerate men to come in faith to Christ? While God certainly is pleased by this, Paul says they cannot and they do not desire to do so. It is their “nature” that keeps them in this state of rebellion, that is, until enabled and drawn by the Father. Unregenerate man has the nature of “the children of wrath” and they do the will of Satan himself, “the prince of the power of the air,” according to Paul in Ephesians 2:2,3 (also John. 8:34,41,43). This is what it means to be “dead in trespasses and sins.” (v.1,5) It is because unregenerate man is a slave and child of Satan that he is utterly unable to do anything, even exercise his will, to escape sin and be saved. If the Scriptures are your final authority you must believe this. We have seen that Dr. Geisler rejects the Bible’s clear teaching on how man’s will is in bondage to sin in making him utterly unable to save himself by any means, including exercising faith by his own accord. We demonstrated that it was the Lord Jesus Christ who plainly taught that unless the Father enables a man he cannot respond in faith to Christ. But why does the Father enable some and not others? Is it because God is able to see that one man will respond and another will not? Remember, we have just proven from the Scriptures that “no man can” respond, and that unregenerate man is the willing slave of sin and Satan. When God looks down from heaven on mankind, what does He see? Does He see some men who are not so depraved that they could and would respond to Him? Are some men not really dead in sin? “The LORD looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand and seek God. They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one.” (Psalm 14:2,3) Did God see any that were “masters of their destinies?” Let us now examine in the light of Scripture what Dr. Geisler taught the congregation of Calvary Chapel about God’s electing love.
GOD’S ELECTING LOVE
Dr. Geisler acknowledges that the Bible teaches that before the foundation of the world God elected and predestined some, but not all sinners to salvation. Dr. Geisler asserts that “the love…the grace…the election of God is unconditional from God’s standpoint.” But while “there are no conditions on which God gave salvation we disagree in saying there are no conditions on which we receive it. There is one condition…we must accept it.” In other words, if man does not meet this one condition he will not be saved. We agree that unless a man believes on the Lord Jesus Christ he will not be saved. But Dr. Geisler is saying much more than this.
In commenting on Romans 8:29 and 1 Peter 1:2, Dr. Geisler states that God “foreknew from the foundation of the world who would believe and who wouldn’t believe and in accordance with His foreknowledge He chose the elect.” What Dr. Geisler is saying is that God chooses or does not choose someone because of something He sees or does not see in them. Remember what God sees in man when He looks from heaven in Psalm 14? To Dr. Geisler, man’s foreseen faith is the ultimate determining factor in God electing a man unto salvation or damnation. This is what makes man, in Dr. Geisler’s view, “the master of his destiny, the captain of his soul.” One man makes the “righteous” choice while another makes the “unrighteous” choice to decide their own eternal destinies. On the contrary, the apostle Paul says that God chose and saved us “not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.” (2 Tim 1:9) And again in Ephesians 1:5-6 he says, “Having predestined us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will. To the praise of His grace, wherein He hath made us accepted in the beloved.”
Dr. Geisler believes that some men have something in them that pleases God, which is the basis and cause of His electing them. Others do not have this quality and are not elected. But does the Bible agree with this view? Certainly not. In Romans 1-2 Paul demonstrates the depravity of all men, both Jew and Gentile. Does one man have a better disposition than another? In Romans 3:9 the question is asked, “are we (Jews, having been given the oracles of God, v.2) better than they (Gentiles)?” Paul answers, “No…they are all under sin.” In verses 10-18 he gives a devastating description of unregenerate men. In verse 19 “all the world” is “guilty before God.” Then, in verse 20 Paul declares that there is no righteous act that can save men and therefore the “righteousness of God” is necessarily “made manifest” if any are to be saved at all. But what about the special quality of “would believe” that God foreknew and based His election upon? Good question.
As already mentioned, Dr. Geisler was commenting on Romans 8:29 and 1 Peter 1:2 when he claimed God sees beforehand “who would believe” and chooses based on that knowledge. Let us look at Romans 8:29 and see if we can discover that special quality that some men supposedly posses. “For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son…” Does this verse teach us that God foreknew some special quality in men and chose them because of it? No. It says “whom He foreknew.” He foreknew a people. In 11:2 it is stated clearer. “God hath not cast away His people which He foreknew…” God, before the foundation of the world, “knew” a people in intimate love and elected them to salvation.
What does it mean that God foreknew a people? First consider the antithesis. On the day of judgment Christ will say to some, “I never knew you.” (Matt 7:23) Does this mean that the omniscient God-Man never knew of these people? Of course not. Christ means that He did not know them in intimate love and they were not the peculiar objects of His favor. Now consider another sense in which God “knows” people. God says of the Jews, “You only have I known of all the families of the earth.” (Amos 3:2) Did God not know of anyone else? No. He did not know anyone else in the way that He knew Israel. They were the peculiar people to whom He granted special favor and love. In the same sense Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd, and know My sheep.” (Jn 10:14) To the Christ-hating Pharisees He says, “Ye are not my sheep.” (Jn 10:26)
Therefore, the “people which He foreknew” are the peculiar objects of His love, a love which was lavished on them before time began. The Scriptures do not tell us of a special quality in them that is the cause of His loving them. There was nothing in those He chose that was not in those He passed over. Why? “He hath mercy on whom He will have mercy, and whom He will He hardeneth.” (Rom 9:18) In regard to 1 Peter 1:2, is there any indication in the context demonstrating that Peter is referring to some other foreknowledge than Paul was? Certainly not. Just as Paul asserts, “It [election] is not of him who wills [excluding any exercise of the will], nor of him who runs [excluding all effort], but it is of God who shows mercy.” (Rom 9:16)
The cause of God’s election is not found in man. It is in God alone, in His sovereign electing love. It is folly to object that this electing love is arbitrary or capricious. The Scriptures declare that His electing love is “according to the purpose of Him who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will: That we should be to the praise of His glory.” (Eph 1:11,12) Would you dare say that God’s purposes, while not always clear to us, are ever arbitrary or capricious? Dr. Geisler dares to say just that. Despite the overwhelming support of Scripture Dr. Geisler insists on maintaining the sovereignty of man over his destiny rather than the sovereignty of God over man’s destiny. This also leads him to grave errors in understanding the doctrine of the atonement.
THE VICARIOUS SUFFERING
Because he believes that man is the master of his destiny, Dr. Geisler must believe that Christ’s death did not actually save anyone. The words, “It is finished” lose all meaning because man must finish the work of redemption by exercising his will in order for the will of the Father that all be saved be accomplished. If man does not cooperate, and there is no guarantee that he will, the will of the Father is thwarted. And though the precious blood of the Lamb of God was shed, countless people are eternally punished for the same sins that Christ bore in His body on the tree. How can this be? C.H. Spurgeon understood this problem. He said, “If Christ has died for you, you can never be lost. God will not punish twice for one thing. If God punished Christ for your sins He will not punish you. ‘Payment God’s justice cannot twice demand; first, at the bleeding Savior’s hand, and then again at mine.’ How can God be just if He punished Christ, the substitute, and then man himself afterwards?”
Do you believe that after Christ shed His divine blood that most of those people whose sins He was punished for are being eternally punished for the same sins? If you do believe this, you deny that Christ is the vicariously suffering servant which the Scriptures emphatically teach. (Is 53; 2 Cor 5:21; 1 Peter 2:24-25) You deny that His death really saves anyone.
Before we measure Dr. Geisler’s doctrine of the atonement, consider these sobering questions raised by Pastor William Hughes of South Glasgow, Scotland. To Dr. Geisler and all who believe that Christ died for each and every person and that His death did not actually save or guarantee the salvation of anyone he asks, “What is it that you usually say when you find that you are downcast and discouraged and there are all kinds of temptations, and you are ‘by Satan sorely pressed?’ We say with John Newton (author of Amazing Grace), “Be Thou my shield and hiding place, That, sheltered near Thy side, I may my fierce accuser face, And tell him, Christ has died.”
What are you going to say to Satan when he invites you to go up the mountain and shows you millions and millions of souls for whom Christ is supposed to have died, and they are going into a lost eternity, and he says to you “Where is your security now?” I trust that you see the significance of this. If Christ’s death does not guarantee our redemption, then the joy and the assurance and the strength and the knowledge of the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ as a “strong tower’“ is a myth of our own imagination.” What was the Father’s intent in the giving of His Son to die? What did the death of the Lord Jesus Christ actually accomplish? Who shares in the benefits and why? These are but a few of the relevant questions we must face when responsibly studying the doctrine of the cross.
Dr. Geisler asks, “How many people does God want to get saved? Everybody!” Dr. Geisler carefully stated this question. Notice the words “get saved.” He uses these words because he does not believe that Christ’s death actually saved anyone. You have to save yourself by exercising your will in faith while you are still unregenerate. You must “sign on the dotted line and you will receive the inheritance.” In other words, Christ is merely a “potential Savior.” (Norman Geisler, Chosen But Free, p.85) Do the Scriptures agree?
“The Son of Man came to save that which was lost.” (Matt 18:11, Lk 19:10) “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” (1 Tim 1:15) “Thou shalt call His name Jesus, for He shall save His people from their sins.” These verses, among others, show that the intent of the Father in the giving of His Son to die was to actually “save sinners.” Are these statements of mere possibility? No. Did the Father accomplish the salvation of men? The Scriptures declare that Christ’s death actually secured the salvation of all for whom He died.
Christ’s death accomplished reconciliation with God, or, the “removing of the enmity between Him and us.” “When we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son.” (Rom 5:10; also 2 Cor 5:18-9-19; Eph 2:15-16) Christ’s death accomplished redemption, or, the purchasing of a people from bondage to sin and Satan. “In Him, we have redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins.” (Col 1:14; also Heb 9:12; Gal 3:13) Christ’s death accomplished justification, or, the forgiveness of sins and imputing of Christ’s righteousness. We are “justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in His blood, to declare His righteousness for the remission of sins.” (Rom 3:23-25) Christ’s death has accomplished sanctification, or, “the purging away of uncleanness and pollution of our sins.” “The blood of Jesus cleanseth us from all sin.” (1 Jn 1:7; also, Heb 1:3,9:14; Eph 5:25-27) (drawn from The Death of Death in the Death of Christ, by John Owen, Banner of Truth, 1995; and Redemption: Accomplished and Applied, John Murray, Eerdmans, 1992)
All of these blessings and more are “a purchased possession.” (Eph 1:4) Salvation, from start to finish, is secured for those for whom Christ died. Now consider the words of Paul, “He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” (Rom 8:32) All of these purchased blessings are given freely to those for whom Christ died. If Christ died for each and every person then each and every person will certainly be saved. After all, what sin could they be punished for if Christ was truly a substitute receiving the punishment for each and every man’s sins? For the sake of brevity, we will look to a few passages that Dr. Geisler fumbles through and twists them to his viewpoint.
“For the love of Christ compels us; because we judge thus, that if One died for all, then all died.” (2 Cor 5:14, NKJV) Dr. Geisler told the Calvary Chapel congregation that this passage proves that Christ died for each and every person. In fact, he says, “I don’t know how anyone who is being fair and open and honest with the text could come to any other conclusion than that.” To discover the biblical intent here, let us be fair, open, and honest in our interpretation of this text.
Dr. Geisler recalls his hermeneutics teacher telling him, “The word ‘all’ means all, and that’s all the word ‘all’ means.” Catchy, I suppose, but not accurate. “Paul could’ve said ‘some,” Geisler declares. He reasons, “If ‘all’ does not mean all in the first half of that sentence then it does not mean all in the second half of the sentence. In the second half then you would have to say everybody hasn’t died in sin…If everybody’s dead in sin then Christ died for that same everybody.”
Look at the text again. “If One died for all, then all died.” Why does Dr. Geisler assume the first “all” refers to each and every person? Apparently it is because he thinks the second “all” in the phrase (“all died”) refers to all people dying in sin. He seems to be drawing a parallel between “all died” in this text with “death spread to all men” in Romans 5:12. Dr. Geisler is dead wrong in doing so. “If One died for all, then all died.” The word “then” ties these two phrases together. Paul is very clearly saying that “all” for whom Christ died also died. “I am crucified with Christ.” (Gal 2:20) “If we be dead with Him…” (2 Tim 2:11; also Rom 6:3-9; Col 2:12 – these are parallel passages to 2 Corinthians 5:14.) All for whom Christ has died have died “in Him.” In the phrase “all died” Paul is in no way saying what he did in Roman 5:12. It has nothing at all to do with this text.
Did each and every person die “in Christ” when He suffered? If each and every person died “in Him” then what must follow? They will infallibly live “in Him!” “And He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.” (v.15) “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ he is a new creation.” (v.17) Also note the parallel passage in Romans 6:3-9. Verses 5 and 8 say, “For if we have been planted together in the likeness of His death, we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection. Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him.”
Do all live “in Christ?” Definitely not. Therefore, Dr. Geisler, and his hermeneutics teacher, incorrectly assume the meaning of “all” in 2 Corinthians 5:14. Christ died for all the elect, and all the elect live in His resurrection. All those who died in Christ shall live in Christ. The chance of someone who died in Christ not being raised from spiritual death is as likely as the chance that Christ might have remained in the grave. O! What a glorious truth!
At the close of his opposition to the cross-work of Christ, Dr. Geisler employs a parable about a farmer to illustrate his view. In this parable, the farmer represents the Calvinistic God and three children represent fallen humanity. The farmer owns a pond and posts a sign warning “No Swimming.” The farmer finds three boys drowning in the pond and throws a life-line to one of the boys while allowing the other two to drown. Dr. Geisler describes this view of God as “cruel, capricious, and arbitrary.” He asks, “What would we think of a farmer who actually did that? Would you think He was kind, loving, and compassionate? You cannot believe that the Calvinistic God is kind, loving, and compassionate.” Dr. Geisler then asserts, “Here’s the kind of God we see in the Bible: The kind of God who put up the fence, who put up a law, who didn’t want to see anyone drowning in that pond. But when He came by and He saw that we had disobeyed His law He didn’t stand there and fold His arms and watch us all drown. He didn’t arbitrarily just pick one [to save]. He threw out a life-line to all three. One of us accepted and two of us rejected it and said, “No thank you, Father, I’d rather do it myself.” But God tried to save everyone. The one thing He cannot do and He will not do is, though He loves everyone, He won’t force anyone against their will.”
In The Potter’s Freedom Dr. James White has demonstrated clearly that Dr. Geisler’s parable not only misrepresents the Calvinistic view of God but it misrepresents the Biblical God altogether. The reader is urged to read Dr. White’s critique in his book The Potter’s Freedom on pages 306-312 since I will only deal with two brief aspects of the parable. I begin with Dr. Geisler’s comment that God cannot, and will not, save anyone against their will.
In Martin’s Luther’s brilliant work, The Bondage of the Will, he accuses Erasmus of Rotterdam of having thoughts of God that are “too human.” Dr. Geisler is to be accused of worse. The author of this article is a Law Enforcement Officer. One day a suicidal man drove his truck into the Hillsboro canal at sixty miles per hour in an attempt to kill himself right in front of my eyes. As his truck quickly sank the force of the water rushing through the passenger compartment sucked the man out. He rose to the surface and I shouted, “swim to the bank!” There was no response. He was unconscious and drowning before my eyes. I jumped into the murky water and pulled him to the bank. As I did this he began to thrash about. Several months later, this same man wept as he thanked me for saving him. It is important in my illustration to note that I also received a commendation for this act. I tell this story to illustrate that Dr. Geisler’s view of God is not just “too human,” but less than human. Think about this: I jumped in the water to save an unresponsive man that wanted to die and was never accused of violating his will to die. In fact, I was commended for it by my peers and later even the man himself. Dr. Geisler’s God, on the other hand, can only stand at the bank and shout, “Grab the life-line!” He does not jump in the water and save anyone because that would be equal to committing “divine rape.” The life-line that this God throws does not save anyone unless they grab hold and pull themselves to shore. Now if I, a mere man, am able to save a man unwilling to be saved without violating any moral law, then why is not the Omnipotent Majesty able to do so? Which God do you worship? Which God is to be thanked in tears for saving, not drowning, but already drowned sinners?
Dr. Geisler’s claim that everyone is thrown a life-line is simply not realistic. Does everyone hear the Gospel? Are not millions of men, women, and children perishing without ever hearing the good news? So, what about those who never hear the “life-line” of the Gospel? Why do they not receive a chance to accept or reject the Gospel? Could it be that those who never hear the Gospel are those whom God foreknew would not accept it? If so, why would God give them life and being knowing all along that they would perish in hell? Think about that.
To Dr. Geisler, and the Calvary Chapel pulpit, a God who has absolute control over men’s destiny is vicious and cruel. Men must have their freedom! The parable of the farmer leads Dr. Geisler into the most disturbing part of his sermon. It is here that he implies that the God who removes the heart of stone from man and replaces it with a heart of flesh is a “divine rapist.” (This phrase is not original with Dr. Geisler – he has borrowed it from Open Theists David Basinger and Clark Pinnock – men who have so twisted the texts of the Bible that they do not even believe God knows the future, who is not perfect, and has made many mistakes in the lives of human beings!) The Calvary Chapel pulpit was opened to Dr. Geisler with full knowledge that he has used this language in the past. In fact, in a phone conversation that the author of this article had with Pastor Bob Coy of Calvary Chapel of Ft. Lauderdale on March 9, 2001, he said that he had read Dr. James White’s book The Potter’s Freedom and specifically the two chapters on Irresistible Grace. It is in the second of the two chapters, on page 299, that Dr. White quotes Dr. Geisler usage of the phrase “divine rapist.” (See also the footnote on the same page.)
“Amazing grace! How sweet the sound! That saved a wretch like me! I once was lost, but now am found, was blind but now I see!” Tragically, the amazing grace spoken of in this great hymn is the type of grace that Dr. Geisler refers to as “divine rape.” Indeed, Dr. Geisler believes that making a blind man see without his consent is “dehumanizing.” The author of Amazing Grace is John Newton. It is a matter of irony, and history, that his views of man’s deadness in sin, God’s gracious unconditional election of sinners to salvation, Christ’s perfect work on the cross, and yes, that amazing grace, are the very views that Dr. Geisler seeks to overthrow in his sermon.
To Dr. Geisler and the Calvary Chapel pulpit, unless the sinner consents God has committed a terrible crime. Dr. Geisler describes the resurrection power of God as “forced love.” In fact he says, “Forced love is rape. And with all due respect, I want to say that God is not a divine rapist.” With all due respect, it must be made clear that forced sex is rape. God showering His unconditional love on His enemies who hate Him is GRACE. For Dr. Geisler, a God who has sovereignty over man’s destiny performs “divine rape” on His subjects when He raises them from spiritual death to spiritual life without them first giving Him permission.
As stated before, the writer of this article is a Law Enforcement Officer. Officers reserve the term “rape” for perverse men who violently and sexually violate women. This is the most horrible language. If Dr. Geisler is correct in his description of the grace of regeneration, then all who embrace the view he opposes serve a grotesque monster of a god. However, if Dr. Geisler is wrong in his understanding then he has committed the most hideous blasphemy by using this language in the Calvary Chapel pulpit.
What is “irresistible grace?” Dr. James White explains it as “resurrection power.” Irresistible grace is God raising a sinner from spiritual death to life according to His sovereign determination. Those whom He has graciously elected and redeemed with Christ’s blood He then regenerates when His will desires. This work is all of God and cannot be resisted by the sinner. It is the removing of a heart of stone and the implanting of a heart of flesh. This is “irresistible grace.”
Unfortunately, this is not how the doctrine is explained by Dr. Geisler in his sermon. He describes it in terms of forcing and rape. For instance, he says, “God will use irresistible grace on some people something like this…you’re opposed to God, you hate God, and somebody captures you against your will and they do a brain transplant on you. They transplant a Christian’s brain in you, you’re an unbeliever, you hate it and you don’t want it, you fought God all your life…Did (you) freely choose that? No.” But is not this the description of man found in Romans 1-3? “Haters of God.” (Rom 1:30) “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” (Rom 3:19) Dr. Geisler rejects the Biblical view of man and makes the will of man the ultimate determining factor in his destiny when he says, “Did (you) freely choose that? No.”
Dr. Geisler also describes the view of those who embrace the doctrine of irresistible grace as, “God can save anyone He wants, anytime He wants with all the power at His disposal, even if they don’t want to be saved.” Does this description of God contradict or agree with this statement from Daniel 4:35, “He doeth according to His will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay His hand, or say unto Him, What doest thou?” What shall we say about this passage from Romans 9:19-21, “Who has resisted His will? But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, “Why have you made me like this?” Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor?” (Rom 9:19b-21). The phrase “even if they don’t want to be saved” once again demonstrates that Dr. Geisler is ignoring what the Bible says about all unregenerate men, “There is none that seek after God.”
It is clear to see that Dr. Geisler’s objection is to the very description of God’s sovereignty over men and their destinies found in the Scriptures.
In this part of the sermon Dr. Geisler rejects the Bible’s clear teaching that saving faith is a gift from God as mentioned earlier. He does not explain to the Calvary Chapel audience why he rejects this truth. His only reason is that false premise previously mentioned that since the Bible clearly demands our faith then we must be able in and of ourselves to do so. Consider the following verses, which are but a few among many, that faith is something given to us by God. “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith.” (Heb 12:2) If Jesus is the “author” of our faith then can it be said that saving faith can be exercised before it has been received? “For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake.” (Phil 1:29) “It is given…to believe…” The gift of faith is given to all whom the Father has given to the Son because of their deadness in sin. While the unregenerate have a natural ability to believe facts, they lack faith that can receive salvation until it is given by the Father.
In addition to rejecting this truth Dr. Geisler insists that an unregenerate man’s faith is the cause of his new birth in Christ. He claims, “Faith is a condition for getting regeneration.” He cites Ephesians 2:8 and 9 as support. “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast.” Dr. Geisler does not explain why but claims that the faith spoken of here is not the gift of God. Paul is clearly saying in this verse that salvation through faith is a gift from God. If one would be able to say “I have faith, and you do not,” then that would certainly be cause to boast.
Regeneration precedes faith. Dr. Geisler denies this and claims the Bible teaches the exact opposite. Consider John 1:12-13. “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become the children of God, to those that believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, not of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” When Dr. Geisler sees the words “received” and “to those that believe,” he automatically assumes that it is the will of the man that produces the outcome. These verses in John prove otherwise. Those who “received” and “those that believe” John says were born of God, “not of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man.” An act of the will in faith is absolutely rejected by John. Therefore the new birth is the cause of faith and not the other way around. The “unbeliever” is reborn as a “believer.”
I would like to add two more verses in consideration of the question of which comes first, regeneration or faith. John says in his epistles “Everyone who practices righteousness is born of Him.” (1 Jn 2:29) Is righteousness the cause of being “born of Him,” or is righteousness the fruit of being “born of Him?” No doubt you believe that being “born of Him” is the cause of righteousness. “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God.’ (1 Jn 5:1) Now, if righteousness is the fruit of the new birth then so is faith. The Greek verbs and tenses are identical. (The Potter’s Freedom, p.287-288) If you insist that faith produces regeneration as Dr. Geisler then you must believe that righteousness does as well. Please do not make this mistake!
As mentioned above irresistible grace is nothing more than God’s sovereign choice and action in raising a sinner to life in Christ without any respect to the will or actions of men. Unfortunately, Dr. Geisler misrepresents the doctrine of irresistible grace. He insists that it means that men cannot resist God. That is not so. Calvinists believe that men are born resisting God.
Dr. Geisler quotes Matthew 23:37 in support. In doing so he shows that he ignores the real meaning of irresistible grace. Notice how Dr. Geisler quotes Matthew 23:37. “O Jerusalem, O Jerusalem! How oft I would have gathered you together as a mother hen gathers her chicks, but you would not.” That is not what the verse says! Try, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” Jesus is not telling the Pharisees that he would have gathered them, but their children. It is not the children whom Christ was gathering that “would not,” but the Pharisees who “would not” allow the spread of the Gospel. In verse 13 Jesus says to them, “ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in.” Jesus said of them, “ye are not my sheep.”
“There is no such thing as irresistible grace in the Bible, “ says Dr. Geisler. What was it that stopped Paul on the road to Damascus and knocked him to the ground? Should Jesus have asked his consent first? Did Jesus force his love on Paul, the Christ- hating Pharisee?
Because Dr. Geisler rejects the Bible’s view of sin’s effect on man he rejects the doctrine of election, the atonement, and the grace of God in regeneration. All this is rejected to maintain man’s sovereignty over his destiny.
If Dr. Geisler and the Calvary Chapel pulpit were consistent they would also reject the doctrine of eternal security but ironically they do not.
“THEY SHALL NEVER PERISH”
Dr. Geisler misleads the Calvary Chapel congregation once again in the subject of eternal security. He claims that Calvinists believe that if they should sin and then die immediately thereafter they were not of the elect after all. He does not cite a reference for this claim, which is not surprising – since it is purely stereotypical rubbish.
Calvinists believe, and the Bible teaches, that because God has willed that a number of people shall be saved that they will infallibly be saved as Jesus clearly states, “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. “ (John 6:37-39)
If Dr. Geisler were consistent in his belief that man’s will is the ultimate determining factor in his destiny he should also believe that after being born-again man could still choose to reject God and go to hell. Why should man lose his free will after regeneration?
Because Dr. Geisler does not reject this doctrine, albeit inconsistently, we will not discuss it further here.
Do you believe the Gospel of Timothy McVeigh? Do you believe that you must add something to the finished work of Christ to make it “really” finished?
It has been clearly demonstrated that such a belief is entirely unbiblical and man-centered. The God-centered Gospel of the Bible has been clearly defined in opposition to the Gospel presented by Dr. Geisler at Calvary Chapel.
As mentioned, the intent of this article is to promote unity in our faith. It is not about Calvinism and Arminianism. It is about the Gospel, and the Gospel is worth the effort of dispelling error. In the end, the sheep that are His hear His voice.
This article was meant to be a brief response to Dr. Geisler’s unfortunate sermon. For the sake of brevity many of Dr. Geisler’s incorrect ideas were not responded to, such as his interpretation of Romans 9 and the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart. We encourage you to contact us by email for further discussion. We are not interested in debate, for debate’s sake, but honest and edifying dialogue on the very “nuts and bolts” of the Gospel.
Pastor Bob Coy of Calvary Chapel Ft. Lauderdale described to his congregation in a February sermon entitled “Balanced Believing” an anecdote about the late preacher A.W. Tozer. A seminary student approached the preacher and asked what he should do when confronted with the old debate between Calvinists and Arminians. Tozer told the young student that if the subject came up he should remove himself from the conversation and “just get to know God.” We suggest that it is through the very Gospel of Jesus Christ that we get to know God. What has sin done to you? What has the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit done for lost sinners? What is revealed to us in the Scriptures concerning these questions is where we begin in “getting to know God.”
Do you love Christ? Do you love His Gospel? We pray with the apostle Paul, “that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment; That ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ; Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.” (Col 1:9-11)