Tim Keller: Private Calvinist, Public Arminian

UPDATE: Oddly enough both videos were pulled from YouTube at the same time this little write-up was getting traction through facebook shares. The video recording of Keller explaining unconditional election in a Calvinist friendly church seems to have been banished forever. However I found another copy of Keller’s speech at Harvard where Calvinist Keller is retired (along with unconditional election, irresistible grace and limited atonement) and Arminian Keller emerges. He goes so far as to say individuals that “right now don’t have Jesus, need to get him…those that don’t have Jesus…and are headed toward a Christ-less eternity…are those who have chosen not to turn towards the grace of God.” This is quite astounding given that Calvinism repudiates any idea that God’s redemptive, irresistible grace is of a nature that it can be turned away from! Keller’s public statements would be more congruous with his privately held beliefs if he had said, “Millions of people go to hell because Jesus didn’t want to be ‘gotten’ by them. Therefore Jesus decreed that his redemptive grace would turn away from them.” The video is linked here. 

I really like Tim Keller– I really do. He is a brilliant thinker, a passionate preacher and an articulate apologist. Unfortunately he is also suffers from a severe bout of Calvinism-Cognitive-Dissonance (click here for more info). Either that or he lacks the courage or will-power to say publicly what he holds privately in safe theological quarters, like his home church. Either way I am troubled by this increasing trend by Calvinists. I have tried to highlight in other posts how Calvinists are shockingly duplicitous in regards to their own theology. In public forums and public blogs that are “unsafe” for full Calvinistic disclosure they often choose to double-deal in Arminian theological terminology rather than unveil the nefarious and utterly horrific implications of their Calvinistic beliefs.

For example, John Piper insists that sovereignty means God decrees and wills every evil choice and event in human history–and does so irresistibly. That is to say man’s actions are irresistibly determined and rendered certain by God’s will, and he can no more avoid doing what God has decreed than he can sprout wings and fly to the moon. But later when Piper attempts to explain such a scenario for the mass consumption of his followers he obscures the most controversial element of his argument by dropping the language of decree and picking up the language of permission, saying “God has established a world in which sin will indeed come to pass by God’s permission.” [1] Given the fact that Piper believes that 1) God’s foreordaining mind is the author and origin of everything that occurs, and that 2) God has decreed every thought, desire and choice of man, it is quite silly and disingenuous for Piper to say God permits what he has decreed–as if he had to act as a middleman between His decree and the outworking of His decree. Does God need to get permission from himself? [2]

In returning to Tim Keller let me reiterate that I admire and appreciate Keller (and Piper’s pastoral heart for that matter) for much of what he writes and preaches, but it is concerning to see how consistent leading Calvinists are in being inconsistent! Is it a lack of courage or integrity? I don’t mean to insinuate moral integrity but a lack of theological integrity (unity) that invites the all too common temptation to speak out of both sides of one’s mouth.

In the first video Keller is in the safe confines of his reformed church and he has no qualms about spelling out his belief in Unconditional Election–a doctrine founded on the belief that multitudes are eternally lost because God does not desire their salvation in any genuine sense that would motivate him to extend grace and rescue them from sin. However in his explanation it was disturbing to hear him divorce Unconditional Election from the real implications of Irresistible Grace and try to “sanitize” the entire doctrine by trying to ground it in an analogy of God doing nothing more than “opening their eyes.” But that description falls woefully short of the coercive implications of Calvinism’s doctrine that God’s grace cannot be refused, rejected or resisted. Keller just isn’t being forthcoming or consistent as to what Calvinist theology entails.

The closest reference we have of the phrase “God opened their eyes” in a redemptive context is with Lydia in Acts 19 where it says God opened Lydia’s heart to respond to Paul’s message. But the Bible makes clear that she was already a “worshipper of God”–and only subsequent to that fact did God open her eyes/heart to believe Paul’s message. In other words she was not some hardened, hostile person in open rebellion against God whereby God comes along and “ZAP” sovereignly overturns her hostile rebellion and opens her eyes. Not at all. The scriptures make plain that prior to hearing Paul’s message she was already a “worshiper of God” (Acts. 16:14) and only then did God open or draw her heart further to respond to Paul’s message. This accords succinctly with Arminianism! Arminianism teaches that God’s enabling, drawing grace is absolutely necessary for conversion. But we believe God’s grace brings us to a place where we can believe, but not to a place where we must believe–big difference. Because Lydia, “a worshiper of God” in a pagan land responded humbly and teachably to God’s prevenient, drawing grace before Paul came, He now faithfully opens her heart further to behold a fuller revelation of Himself through Paul’s message. So it is with all those that respond to God’s preceding grace and seek to know him in greater measure.

Even though Keller doesn’t use the term “Arminians” he seems to try and contrast his Calvinism with the “other side” by saying that sinners, if left to themselves and divorced from grace, will never choose Jesus–even if given a thousand chances. Granted! That is an essential feature of Arminianism–which majors on the necessity of preceding grace to enable a free response of faith. It is somewhat disturbing that Keller, a well informed theologian, would qualify his Calvinism in such a way as to imply it is the only theology that necessitates God’s grace for true conversion. Again– Arminians hold that God’s grace is necessary for salvation and draws us to a place where we can believe but not to a place where we must believe. In the end we believe God’s grace is resistible and un-coercive– as is the nature of all grace.

But I digress somewhat. I don’t mean to be unkind or uncharitable to Tim Keller, but in the second video Keller is on the hot seat in a public forum as to why not all can be saved, and he sounds more like a water-downed Arminian than the bold Calvinist he is unashamed to be in a Calvinist church. That being said I don’t actually disagree with Keller’s answer. It is an acceptable answer from an Arminian perspective– but only half the story from a Calvinist perspective.

Keller says, “All I can ever say about this is God gives me, even as a minister with scripture, a lot of information on a need to know basis…here’s all I can tell you. Unless you get Jesus Christ, who created you to start with, unless you are reunited with him sometime, there is no eternal future of thriving. If Jesus is who he says he is you gotta have him. If right now someone doesn’t have him, he or she needs to get him. If someone dies and they don’t have Jesus– I don’t know. In other words I’m on a need-to-know basis. This is all I know–you need Jesus.”

Here Keller is simply pretending he “doesn’t know” and pretending he lacks certainty. Why is he pretending? Because in his private, Calvinist chambers he does know and is not at all on a “need to know basis” as to what happens to people who don’t “have Jesus.” As a Calvinist he thinks he has ample, more than sufficient information to warrant a definitive answer– God unconditionally predestined them to perish eternally!

So I must say Keller is being thoroughly inconsistent with his definitive, unambiguous Calvinist beliefs as to why people are not ultimately saved. But Keller simply couldn’t bring himself to say what Calvinists believe privately and tend to utter only in safe quarters–which is: According to the scriptures God didn’t atone for the sins of all people and didn’t love multitudes of people enough to unconditionally elect them to ‘get Jesus.’ God could have elected all to salvation–because what his irresistible grace can do for some, it can do for all. Yes–God created them, but he created them to be apart from him eternally. So before they were born God decreed they would ‘not get Christ and God.’ That is the principal reason why not all can be saved.

Such is the unembellished truth of Keller’s privately professed Calvinism. However Keller intuitively knew that if he answered the interviewer’s question in a straight-forward, Calvinist manner he would have immediately lost all intellectual and moral credibility in the eyes of the audience. The point is– if it can’t be preached in public it shouldn’t be believed in private.

This brings to mind something I once heard: “If it can’t be preached at the gates of Auschwitz it ought not to be preached from the pulpit!” [3] It’s no easy answer for any theological viewpoint, but I would wager a bet that if Tim Keller were to visit Auschwitz and were to be asked, “Where was God?” Calvinist Keller would suddenly be retired and Arminian Keller would quickly pop to the forefront and adopt Arminian language of “free-will being abused.” Why do I think this? Because I think Keller is too good of a man not to retire his Calvinist theology in such a setting– a theology that requires him to believe every Nazi thought, evil desire and action committed at Auschwitz was irresistibly decreed by God in eternity past for his glory.

As alluded to before if a belief system can’t publicly answer the most difficult, painful questions about life and loss, without the very holy and righteous character of God being besmirched beyond recognition (God conceived and decreed all evil), then we ought to toss it in the waste bin of history and go back to the drawing board.

In returning to the public interview above on why some people can’t be saved, I would like to think the real reason Keller chose not to un-sheath his Calvinist sword was because he had too much integrity to actually be fully integrous and consistent to his privately held Calvinist beliefs. In other words I think Keller intuitively knows something is woefully amiss with Calvinist soteriology and sovereignty, but he can’t bring himself to admit it in his private Calvinist chambers.

As such my principal problem with Keller is that he conveniently double-deals in Arminianism phraseology and theology when pressed in public, but disavows and disclaims Arminianism in private when safe. This is epidemic in Calvinism today!

Articulate speakers do create followers and I am concerned that many young people are becoming attracted to Reformed/Calvinist theology without a clue as to the darker, sinister aspects of Calvinism (i.e. God sovereignly and irresistibly decreed all your God-dishonoring, destructive sin).

Most initiates eventually become so enamored with their “Calvinist heros” that they end up becoming assimilated into doctrinal teaching that they probably would have “spat out” had they not become so smitten with their Calvinist heros: “Well, gosh…it’s hard to swallow the doctrine that Jesus didn’t die for all humanity, that he doesn’t redemptively love all humanity, and that God decreed all my sinful and evil choices, but if a smart guy like Keller believes it– it must be true!”

In that sense Keller is a great “poster boy” for contemporary Calvinism because he can represent it in name while simultaneously refusing to be upfront and forthright with Calvinism’s horrific logical and theological implications. Bad theology always survives by clothing itself in the garb of good theology whenever convenient in order to keep the controversial dissimilarities as hidden as possible from public view.

Because I really do appreciate so much of what Keller writes and shares, and believe his voice is credible and needful in so many ways, I long for the day Keller sees his Calvinism as both a liability to the gospel and a libel against the character of God.

P.S. In the first video Keller does ask some questions of an Arminian perspective that are worth looking into further. I hope to post on this later. For starters here is a good place to commence. 

[1] http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/conference-messages/is-god-less-glorious-because-he-ordained-that-evil-be

[2] For a thorough rebuttal of Piper’s attempt to justify all sin and evil being authored and grounded in God’s will of decree I would highly recommend: http://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2012/03/13/john-piper-on-god-ordaining-all-sin-and-evil-part-1-an-arminian-response-to-pipers-first-question/

[3] I believe it may have been Roger Olson who first said this.

About StriderMTB

Hi, I'm Matt. "Strider" from Lord of the Rings is my favorite literary character of all time and for various reasons I write under the pseudonym "StriderMTB. As my blog suggests I seek to live out both the excitement and tension of a Christian walk with Christ in the 3rd world context of Asia. I started my blog as an unmarried man who was blessed to oversee an orphanage of amazing children in South-East Asia. As of 2022, I am a happily married man to an amazing missionary wife serving together on the mission field. I hate lima beans and love to pour milk over my ice-cream. I try to stay active in both reading and writing and this blog is a smattering of my many thoughts. I see the Kingdom of God as Jesus preached it and lived to be the only hope for a broken world and an apathetic church.
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39 Responses to Tim Keller: Private Calvinist, Public Arminian

  1. Zach Smith says:

    Hi –

    I appreciate your post here. I consider myself a calvinist, and also a huge Tim Keller fan. I think he is one of the most intelligent biblical scholars of our day and will be remembered for a very long time for his work and teachings/preaching. I think the first thing you need to know is this; 1) It is absolutely important for believers in Jesus Christ to discuss and debate secondary doctrines in the church. (Secondary dotrines = Predestination, how baptism should be done, limited atonement, etc.) But it is a sin to divide over these issues. So to post an article or blog like this is a bit too far. So if have two Tim Keller videos that contradict each other (I don’t these videos contradict each other, but I will get there in a minute…) about him proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the only way to Heaven, and then another saying there are multiple ways to heaven (Not a secondary doctrine, but a primary doctrine in the Church) then that is something to be very concerned about!

    Secondly, these videos do not contradict each other. In the second video, Keller responds by essentially saying “If you trust in yourself you will be miserable.” Which is true. We will be miserable now here on earth, and also 10 billion years from now. The only to not be, is putting our faith, hope and trust in Jesus Christ, what Keller says! I don’t see any watered down, arminian viewpoints here. I see an intellectual answer here on what it looks like to put your faith hope and trust in Jesus Christ in front of a hostile crowd. You have to give credit to him for his boldness while being on the “hot seat”.

    Just my two cents.

  2. StriderMTB says:

    Thanks Zach Smith for your comments and critique. I never said he contradicted himself in any logical sense. I said his answers are inconsistent—there is a difference. The point of the blog is not to divide but to highlight why Calvinism is an untenable belief that should be jettisoned. Allow me to explain further why I believe Keller (and so many other Calvinists) is trying to play both sides of the theological spectrum (Calvinism and Arminianism) to retain dignity and the moral high ground when he is challenged in the public square. As I earlier stated, I believe Tim Keller is a great intellectual voice in the church today—a voice the church needs. He is way smarter than I–no argument there! For the most part I welcome his voice and give him a hearty amen. However Keller also avows Calvinism and the fact is Calvinism is morally bankrupt—and Keller knows it! That is why he shifts into Arminianism in the public square when he is asked challenging questions like why all people can’t be saved. In Calvinism the answer is both quite simple and profoundly dire:

    1) Jesus did not die for all people
    2) God doesn’t redemptively love all people
    3) God unilaterally chose that a multitude of people would be outside the orbit of his saving intention


    4) God predestined a multitude of people to a hell before they were born or did anything good or bad—thus sin and judgment have nothing to do with it. God’s arbitrary whim of redemptive selection is all there is.

    That is the nature of an UNCONDITIONAL, individual election Zach. God does not consult anything in the person or about the person or a response by the person prior to choosing who he will save and who He will damn. In Calvinism people choose hell because God sovereignly chose they would lack the opportunity and ability to choose Christ. Therefore God also chose who would be a Buddhist, a Hindu, a Muslim, a Christian, etc. But it gets worse. In Calvinism God holds people accountable and ultimately damns them for the very sins he divinely determined they should do. Calvinism holds that sovereignty means God decreed every person’s individual sins and temptations—for it is adamantly asserted that nothing can lie outside God’s meticulous, universal, “sovereign” foreordination of all things. Calvinism in toto is a morally destitute and deep down I think Tim Keller knows it—which is why he is a Calvinist in private and an Arminian in public.

    Why didn’t Keller say, “The principal reason not all people ‘get God’ and are saved is because God decreed before they were born they would not ‘get Christ’ and would exist outside the orbit of his saving intention—period.” Really that is the principal reason in Calvinism and everything else is just window dressing. However when Keller found himself on the “hotseat” in a public forum he tossed his unconditional, select-elect Calvinist theology to the wind because he knew it would cause him to lose all credibility concerning his previous attempts to persuade people to the gospel, etc. This is my big beef with most Calvinists. They live in a world of cognitive dissonance and move the goal posts whenever it suits them in the public square and are often not very forthcoming with young, Calvinist initiates concerning the truly horrific implications of their privately held beliefs. It is my hope that Keller will one day realize he can toss his Calvinist theology to the wind in private and realize he loses nothing of virtue and gains so much more in the process.

    The major issue I have with Calvinism is that at best it makes God out to be morally ambiguous and at worst diabolical (i.e. God unilaterally decreed / predestined every evil event in human history. Thus God’s eternal mind is the logical origin of every conceivable evil ever committed. God decreed every divorce, every porn rental, every abortion! See this post if you think I am mischaracterizing the implications of Calvinist theology.)

    I hope to address more of his comments in the first video in the future because they are worth delving into further.

  3. Zach Smith says:

    You make several great points here, Matt. I will start by saying this; As believers in Jesus Christ, I think it is only normal for us to have more questions than we do answers. I do not have an answer to your point that God unilaterally decreed/predestined every evil event in human history. My only response is that we are born into a sinful nature and we are absolutely, ferociously a lost and ruined people and in dire need of a Savior.

    “The Biblical view of things is resurrection—not a future that is just a consolation for the life we never had but a restoration of the life you always wanted. This means that every horrible thing that ever happened will not only be undone and repaired but will in some way make the eventual glory and joy even greater” –Tim Keller; I love that Keller says here basically God will ultimately get the glory for every piece of evil and suffering that has taken place in the world.

    One of my favorite verses in the bible is what Paul says in Romans 9:20. “But who are you, o man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, ‘Why have you made me like this?’ Has the potter no right over the clay to make out of the same lump done vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use?” I think the point that Paul makes here is fantastic. I remember when my parents were telling me why they are calvinists and were walking me through “TULIP”. I was very young and elementary in my faith at the time, and I quickly responded with, “Well that is unfair and if I were God I would not make it that way!” Here’s the thing; we are NOT GOD!” God is the holy, just, magnificent Creator of the universe, and (as Paul says) why would we ever have the audacity to answer back to God?

    I am not (at all!) trying to convince you into being a calvinist, by any means. I will say this, one thing that draws me to calvinism is that it portrays a much, much higher view of God’s sovereignty. I totally understand your points and criticism here, and I wish I could do a better job of clearly explaining my thoughts. I think it is great for us to discuss and “debate” over these types of issues. God Bless!!

    • Andrew Hersh says:

      If Romans 9 is making an argument for election in the way Calvinists use the term… why does Paul fail to realize his own argument in verse 32? According to Calvinists, the answer to “Why?” is, “God didn’t cause them to.” However, Paul, in assuming the theoretical question, “Why?” replies that it was the CHOICE of Israel that led to their fate.

      The choice is in how you handle Jesus. Jesus IS the “stumbling block” so many of the Jews stumbled over, while some believed and “will never be put to shame.”

      It’s all right there. You just have to consider it all as a whole, as opposed to individual “gotcha” opportunities.

  4. StriderMTB says:

    Hey Zach, sorry for the delay. I’ve been swamped with some other things. For starters it is crucial that we see the hypocrisy and utter nonsense of the Calvinist position. Keller says that God will manifest his glory when he undoes and repairs horrible things that evil has caused. Well Zach– who decreed all that evil in the first place? God did according to Keller’s privately held theology! It’s absurd. Again Calvinism’s portrayal of God and his glory is akin to a man setting his neighbors house on fire and then running in as the rescuer to save some (but passes over others to let them burn) just so he can splash his name across the newspapers and glorify himself as a hero. Honestly–how is this being missed? Do you not see the hypocrisy of the Calvinist position in saying God decrees the evils of X, Y and Z so that he can glorify himself by undoing and repairing the horrible things that resulted from the evils of X, Y and Z?

    God’s glory that you highlight IS NOT seen in him justifying all the evil of this world in virtue of decreeing all the evil of this world. Rather God’s sovereignty and glory is best seen in him overcoming and overruling all evil (that is not of his decretive will) and achieving his ultimate, sovereign purposes in spite of humanity’s misuse and abuse of a good thing– freedom. God’s sovereignty is much greater than you think Zach. He need not meticulously decree everything that happens, from rape to when you relieve yourself in the bathroom, in order to achieve his ultimate aims in the universe.

    God’s sovereignty is so great he can achieve his ultimate purposes and one day wipe away ever tear in spite of man’s libertarian freedom. You state that you are attracted to Calvinism because it posits a view “that has a much higher view of God’s sovereignty.” I couldn’t disagree more my friend. I’m of the opinion that Calvinism’s God is a very insecure God and is downright scared of any free-will that would allow man to self-determinative and not causally constrained to divine decrees.

    You bring up Romans 9– the most looked to verse Calvinists find refuge in to make some of their claims look credible. I admit, divorced from the surrounding context, and approached with certain Calvinist assumptions, the chapter seems to support the Calvinist position. But read within its context and divorced from Calvinist preconceived assumptions the chapter actually argues against Calvinist claims. I would encourage you to read this synopsis Zach–especially part 4 and 5.


  5. StriderMTB says:

    Someone sent me a clip of another segment in which Calvinist Keller is retired in the public forum and Arminian Keller emerges. It is quite telling. He is asked about who goes to hell and he strongly implies that the choice to want God and choose God is available to everyone; and that the only ones in hell are those that refuse to choose God–the driving insinuation being that they could! Calvinist Keller never bothers telling the public forum that according to his privately held beliefs it is God who chooses who “chooses” him, and those in hell are those that God did not want! Once again if it can’t be preached in public without God’s loving and moral integrity (in “desiring that no man perish” and “all to come to a saving knowledge of him”) becoming a joke, then it ought not be believed in private. I once again get the sense that Keller wants to shed the arbitrary God of Calvinism and embrace an Arminian informed portrait of God’s soteriology–but for whatever reason just can’t bring himself to do so when re-immersed in Calvinist company.
    See for yourself:

  6. Pingback: Society of Evangelical Arminians | Tim Keller: Private Calvinist, Public Arminian

  7. “I really like Tim Keller” – This is the kind of thing that just needs to stop. Quit being pansies people. If the guy is a heretic, then don’t like him. This woosey wamsy pamsy liberal “He’s a heretic who is causing thousands of people to go to hell, but he’s one helluva guy to have a beer with” proves YOU to not be a Christian. A real Christian doesn’t appreciate heretical Calvinists in the least. Even if you do like the devil’s ministers on a personal level, what do you gain by saying so? Are they going to be more likely to listen to you? No. They’re the devils ministers. So quit kissing their butts. All it does is weaken the case you are making against them, and make YOU look like a bafoon.

  8. StriderMTB says:

    A little less anger and little more grace David…may just take you to places on a personal level with others you have never been before. I have no problem discrediting Calvinistic theology, but it is not my place to deny them a place at the table of fellowship. If that makes me look like a buffoon in your opinion, I am willing to take the hit. (BTW if you are going to call people “buffoons” you might want to spell it right). At any rate David I have met an increasing number of former Calvinists who were won over to the “other side” because they actually encountered the “doctrines of grace” in action, not just in dogma. The Calvinist world is rife with toxic pride and smugness. We don’t need to follow suit. All the best.

  9. Deborah says:

    Strider (love that — reading the Fellowship to my girls right now), I am so (sigh) grateful for your blog. Wow. I don’t even know where to start in expressing gratitude. I was a Calvinist until a couple years ago. I’m 40 now. I was raised in a Calvinist setting, but really didn’t understand the “doctrines of grace” until my mid-20’s when I started reading R.C. Sproul and John Piper. I swallowed the whole thing in entirety. It’s hard now to imagine ever having believed that TULIP was a legitimate theological system. I wanted to tell you that I appreciate your repetition when it comes to determinism, because it forces a Calvinist thinker to come face to face with the implications of his belief system. Even though I abandoned Calvinist theology 2 years ago, it still makes me feel a sense of shock (don’t know a better word to use) every time you point out the terrible implications of the idea that God determined everything. I’ve believed that for so long that I need the repeated enlightening about it. I also really appreciate your pointing out the idea that God REDEEMS evil for good, but doesn’t CAUSE evil for good. It is such an important distinction, and so liberating for me in approaching God. This God, I can trust. I can draw near to. He is holy and good, and He has become magnified in my mind far beyond the Calvinist ideas I used to have of Him, because He is so sovereign and powerful ad good that He can create a world in which people are free to make choices, and it doesn’t faze Him because He is so great that He can turn even evil choices into good for His people. How small was my Calvinist idea of God! Sigh. I also want to say that I am one of those former Calvinists who was “won over to the other side” because I encountered the doctrines of grace in action, not just in dogma, as you said.
    Thank you again for your blog, and God bless your ministry in the orphanage, living and proclaiming truly Good News to those children!

    • StriderMTB says:

      Your words and thanks have made my day… and my Easter 🙂 Thank you Deborah for sharing part of your journey and allowing this blog to reinforce where the Lord has brought you from to where he is taking you. Just yesterday I heard a powerful sermon that helps encapsulate further the glorious truth that God seeks to enter into evil to redeem it by causing good to come out of it (rather than conceive it, determine it and decree it as a cause for good). In the sermon he makes the critical distinction that “IN everything God is working for the good” (Romans 8:28). It does not say “God is working everything” as Calvinists abhorrently teach. God does not cause everything. Rather he finds much of everything as it is–gruesome, hopeless, horrid and foul–and seeks to enter into it and bring about good that only he can achieve (if we respond rightly which is why there is the condition “to those that love God.”) Like a firefighter, God goes into the burning infernos of our lives for a good purpose–to rescue and redeem. But it doesn’t mean he caused the fire in the first place. God does not play the arsonist so that he can play the hero/firefighter. At any rate it is one of the most profound, beautiful sermons on the resurrection I have ever come across. Here is the link: http://whchurch.org/sermons-media/sermon/resurrection-principle

      • Deborah says:

        Hey Strider, I can’t wait to listen to this sermon! YAY!!!!! Thank you! Perfect timing for Easter!

      • Deborah says:

        I watched the sermon and it was really good. It really helped me consider how God wants me to walk through some difficult things and to see how He will redeem/resurrect them for good if I let him. And I’m encouraged also to find Greg Boyd’s blog. Thank you again for the recommendation!

      • StriderMTB says:

        Your welcome and I am glad you were encouraged by it 🙂

  10. anonymous says:

    Thank you for this post. I’d recommend a book by JI Packer (Calvinist) titled, “Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God.” The point there is essentially that God’s arms being wide open for all sinners to come to Him in repentance and God’s unconditional election are BOTH true. Incomprehensible and yet true because Scripture says so. Using human philosophy, this CANNOT be reconciled. I believe the term is “antinomy.” Staunch Calvinists like John McArthur also would agree as well.

    Packer one time described Unconditional Election as an open family secret of the believers. Martyn Lloyd-Jones once preached that in presenting the Gospel to the unconverted all you need is T (in TULIP), as other parts of TULIP, the unregenerate cannot understand (might as well be Greek)! Bible is incredibly nuanced in that way.

    So I think the question we have to ask ourselves is – do we believe human logic/philosophy or Scriptural revelation of truths?

    • Andrew Hersh says:

      “because Scripture says so.”

      No, it doesn’t. It says the exact opposite.

      • anonymous says:

        I’m a Calvinist, but, as Deuteronomy 29:29 says, there is no way we can understand all of God’s ways. We are to accept God’s Word as is.

        You really can’t get more Calvinist than the great RC Sproul. Here is his definition if the Gospel

        Notice there is no mention of election, predestination, etc. just a simple and beautiful invitation. Andrew, how do you read Matthew 11:28-30 or Romans 10:13?

        God is transcendent. Do not think you can figure Him out with your logic alone. Even geniuses like Edwards tried, and, in the end, couldn’t.

      • StriderMTB says:

        Brother I have read Calvinist works— including the “great RC Sproul.” In the end it must be concluded that the Bible does not support a Calvinist theology of divine determinism which finds God’s morally perfect nature being the origin of conception for all immoral evil. Such is the dark side of Calvinism.

      • anonymous says:

        determinism ≠ Calvinism
        determinism = antinomianism = heresy

      • StriderMTB says:

        You have me confused. I thought above you suggested I read JI Packet who said antinomy is the correct way to view things. Now you are saying it leads to heresy?

        Secondly, as a Calvinist, do you believe or not believe that God determined all your sins?

      • anonymous says:

        With all due respect I might recommend you read Packer’s book. It is very easy to think determinism/antonimianism = Calvinism, but it absolutely is NOT. Calvin/Keller/Edwards/Sproul/Martin-Lloyd Jones (all staunch Calvinists) would all agree on this point.

        Packer can explain that a lot better than I can.

      • StriderMTB says:

        I have read Packer’s book. It is unconvincing.

        Secondly you still have not answered my very simple question.

        Thirdly you are wrong that Calvin and Edwards did not teach God predetermined all things— including all moral evil. They did just that.

        Feel free to read my article “Calvinist Quotes on God Determining All Evil.”

  11. anonymous says:

    Also, antinomianism ≠ antinomy

    • StriderMTB says:

      Right I see that now. My fault in that matter. But a Calvinist theology of God determining all things does lead to a morally bankrupt view in which God’s holy nature is the origin point for all that opposes his holiness.

      • anonymous says:

        Well, I’d wish there was a simple answer to all this, but there just isn’t. But this is how I (and most mainstream Calvinists understand it).

        1) Is God Sovereign? – Of course! There are too many passages in the Scripture to quote
        2) Is God the author of Sin? – absolutely NOT. Bible clearly says so (James 1:13, etc.). Edwards would also agree https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justin-taylor/is-god-the-author-of-sin-jonathan-edwards-answer/

        Then how can these two seemingly contradictory statements (according to human logic) both be true? I do not know. Here, I’d have to quote Deutronomy 29:29.

        I think so often in these debates there is an underlying assumption (often unspoken) that states that if we (i.e. human beings) think about the issue long enough using human philosophical reasoning/logic, we will be able to find an answer. I say that is a mistaken assumption. We cannot be smarter than God. God gave us the ability to reason so that we may understand the Scripture/nature, but there is a limit to our capacity, and I think it’s just important

        God is absolutely Sovereign, and all things are under His control. At the same time, He is not the author of sin. These are two are undeniably true statements according to the Scripture. However, with our limited human minds, we cannot reconcile these two. But Scripture says they are both true.

        Scripture was written for the purpose of us to be able to reconciled to God through the sacrifice and resurrection of His Son (i.e. Gospel). But there are many things about God we simply cannot know. Our minds simply are not big enough to comprehend. We are approaching God who spoke and the universe came to be.

        Packer uses the analogy of the property of light – light is both particle and wave. How can that be? It is incomprehensible to human logic/experience. But we know that such is true. Such are some truths of the Scripture.

        Calvin in his Institutes often warns against going beyond what is written in the Scripture. Martyn-Lloyd Jones said confusion often happens when we start to rely on human philosophy (our logical reasoning) more than what is revealed to us in the Scripture. If we relied on human reasoning/logic as the supreme truths – yes, either Arminian doctrine or determinism/antinominanism have to be true. But what God states in the Scripture, as incomprehensible as they may be to our limited human minds, Calvinists say Scriptural reasoning trumps over human reasoning.

        But either way, Sproul said this Arminian-Calvinism debate is an inhouse discussion. The important thing is, either way, we come to conclusion as Paul did in Romans 11

        33 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!
        34 “For who has known the mind of the Lord,
        or who has been his counselor?”
        35 “Or who has given a gift to him
        that he might be repaid?”
        36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

      • StriderMTB says:

        Well it is clear by your silence to specifically answer the straightforward question that you DO believe that God predetermined, predestined, foreordained (pick your word) all your sins before you were born. There is no alleged antinomy. Thus on the cross Christ is really not dying for our sins. Rather he is dying for the predeterminations of the Father.
        The bottom line is Calvinism is thoroughly un-glorifying and unscriptural and ultimately places the holy, morally perfect nature into the realm of mystery. There will always be a certain sense of mystery related to the question, “Why does a morally perfect God allow sin and evil?” BUT Calvinism places the mystery elsewhere. They place the mystery squarely on God’s holy nature. The question becomes, “How can God’s holy nature—his moral perfection—be the origin of conception and ordination for EVERYTHING that is contrary to his holy nature?”
        Calvinism is a great deception and thoroughly un-glorifying to God—placing his very morality and holiness in the cross hairs of moral compromise and mystery. The antinomy that Packer attempts to push is simply an exercise in cognitive dissonance and reduction. It is not an antinomy similar to the nature of light with waves and particles. It is more like saying light is both the absence of photons and the presence of photons. It is contradiction to hold to a theology wherein God’s mind conceives the sins you will do, and foreordains that you will do them, but then say God’s mind is not the author of the sins you will do. The way in which Edwards tried to escape this clear contradiction is to REDEFINE “author” as “actor” or “doer.” He said if God is not the actor—the proximate cause—of the action, then he is not the author of the action.
        But of course that is not how “author” is used in the English language. Author means “the one who conceives a course of action for himself or another.” Edwards redefinition of critical terms is an exercise in obfuscation. Calvinists do the same with their theology of compatiblism. They say man has free-will, but then they redefine free-will along deterministic lines, saying man is determined by his strongest desires and motives. However, they often leave out the underlying premise that God secures all of man’s “free” choices by sovereignly foreordaining the very desires and motives that will act on man’s will. Calvin himself declared that God sovereignly foreordains the desires, motives and affections of all people—including the purposes of Satan.
        Calvinism is a great deception.

      • anonymous says:

        It doesn’t appear that this conversation is going the direction of edifying and building one another up, so I will end here. On the other side of eternity, we shall see clearly (1 Cor 13) – until then, a lot of mysteries. Who knows, maybe Arminians have been “more right” all along. I’m sure Calvin or Edwards or whoever never got “everything” right. But I do think they got one principal right – it is more important, however, that we rely more on what is revealed to us plainly in the Scripture as true, even if some of those truths are incomprehensible to our human logic. As stated in Ecclesiates 12,

        12 My son, beware of anything beyond these. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh.

        13 The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. 14 For God will bring every deed into judgment, with[d] every secret thing, whether good or evil.

        I noticed that you rarely quote the Bible and most of your reasonings philosophical concepts…

        May the Lord give you much zeal to serve and honor Him and save souls for His glory. God bless.

      • StriderMTB says:

        I do appreciate you stopping by and sharing your thoughts. But if you think I don’t quote the Bible much you really haven’t been reading much. Feel free to read my 3-part deep dive into the biblical text of Romans 9-11 that demonstrates through the continuity of scripture the Calvinist view is in great error.

        Lastly it seems your entire understanding of the Bible is structured on the assumption Calvinism is true. You equate them both. For example you simply assume “what is plainly in the Scriptures” is what Calvinism affirms. This simply is not true.

        I would seriously encourage you to ask yourself WHY it is so difficult for you to conclude NO to the question, “Has God predetermined all your besetting sins?”

        The fact that Calvinism has brought you to a place where you cannot answer that question is deeply concerning. It is also why this blog exists— to help others see Calvinism for what it is and where it will lead your thinking. I do hope readers will read our exchange and realize how evasive you have been in answering the most basic questions about God’s holy nature and unholy, human sin.

        All that being said, God bless you in your journey forward with the Lord.

  12. anonymous says:

    BTW, an Arminian preacher named Rick Warren (you might have heard of him) also said he believes in antinomy as described by Packer. You can see that in John Piper’s interview of Rick Warren.

    • StriderMTB says:

      Since I don’t follow Warren, and he is not a scholar in the field of Arminian scholarship and theology, I honestly don’t care too much what he affirms on the subject.

  13. heather says:

    Strider, Thank you for your article. I particularly appreciate this part in your response to anonymous: “Calvinism is a great deception and thoroughly un-glorifying to God—placing his very morality and holiness in the cross hairs of moral compromise and mystery…. It is contradiction… Edwards redefinition of critical terms is an exercise in obfuscation. Calvinists do the same with their theology of compatiblism… Calvinism is a great deception.” Etc.

    Amen and Amen. You are right on. My husband and I watched Calvinism take over our church and saw firsthand the Calvinist deceptions, word twistings, verse-twistings, manipulations, etc. (I may have commented to you before about this. Can’t remember.) At first, we didn’t want to make waves about it or be decisive. We hoped we could agree to disagree. But the more we understood what’s at stake – the damage Calvinism does to God’s character, Jesus’s sacrifice, people’s eternities, the very core of the gospel – the more we knew we could never sit by quietly and agree to disagree. We eventually ended up leaving that church when the elders all sided with the pastor after we shared our concerns, but the good that came out of it is that we (and our children) are now very educated when it comes to recognizing Calvinism and how it takes over and why it’s so very wrong (and I blogged about it all to help others understand it too – anticalvinistrant.blogspot.com). God bless you and your efforts to stand against this false gospel. Thank you. 🙂

    • heather says:

      Oops, I meant “we didn’t want to be divisive,” not “decisive.” Big difference. 🙂

    • StriderMTB says:

      Thanks very much Heather for your encouraging words. I am grateful that my site has been used by the Lord to bless you and your husband as you also take a stand against the theological errors of our Calvinist friends and family. I am convinced that so many Calvinists would wholeheartedly reject it if they took the time to consider the God-dishonoring implications of its fundamental tenants—such as God’s holy nature being the origin of conception for everyone that is unholy. I look forward to checking out your site. I don’t blog very much right now, but I have been working on some books that I hope to push out. I write under a pseudonym here because the fact is that there are too many aggressive Calvinists that will blacklist you and intentionally give you a poor rating on a book as a way to hurt you. You would not believe some of the comments that I have had to sift through on this blog and block.

      • heather says:

        I can only imagine the comments you received from Calvinists. That’s partly why, for the longest time, I never allowed any comments on my blog either. It can just become so toxic (and pointless, having the same arguments over and over again).

        And I agree that most Calvinists wouldn’t be Calvinists if they really thought about what Calvinism does to God’s character. It’s just that they’ve been tricked/shamed into Calvinism (we watched it happen in our church) by things like “God is sovereign; and humble Christians don’t question God” and “Did God save you or did you save yourself”, etc. They are manipulated into Calvinism and into not questioning it or examining it too deeply. It’s sad. My family was one of the only ones to leave the church over it. Almost everyone else, hundreds of good, God-fearing Christians, stayed behind and drank the Kool-aid.

        Keep up the good work. And God bless your books. 🙂

  14. RT says:

    I apologise for being about 10 years late to this post, I only just discovered this website haha! What brilliant articles you have posted on this page. I also love Tim Keller (I actually became a Christian from reading his book ‘Reason for God’ 10 years ago, and then spent many years immersed in his sermons and writings). It was only in recent years that I started understanding what Calvinism even was, and I was quite shocked! I agree with your Calvinist in private, Arminian in Public title, I think many of these preachers jump between the two, which feels very dishonest. It was only when I read John Lennox ‘Determined to Believe’ and Roger Olson ‘Against Calvinism’ that I started really understanding that I did not have to believe Calvinistic doctrines and could now happily say that God actually does love everyone and wants all to be saved (yet has given them free will).

    One of the big issues I faced was that these authors all reference each other. So I wanted to learn about sovereignty and determinism, and Keller, Piper, MacArthur, Packer etc all reference each other and give the same confusing answers that to me made no logical sense and contradicted many parts of Scripture :|. One of my greatest moments in my Christian journey has been realising that the loved ones around me can actually make a choice, and are not simply banished from accessing Jesus unless he suddenly decides to open their eyes :|.

    A small note from someone being aggressive about your kind words about Keller. There is not a single author who we do not have some disagreement on if the topic was discussed long enough, so even though I disagree with his views on determinism, Keller has helped me in all areas of understanding and learning about God, and I can simply think through carefully and dismiss areas where I disagree :D. Your answer to one of the posts above was very gracious and admirable!

    • StriderMTB says:

      Thank you very much RT for your encouraging and gracious comment. I am grateful to know that this theological site is still serving a purpose to advance the truth of our Savior. I’m not as active on it as I used to be because I have been working on a few books. I am nearing completion of my first novel, which is a Christian allegory that I would put somewhere between The Pilgrims Progress, Narnia and the Lord of the Rings. I am debating whether or not to post up my chapters one by one on this site to generate some interest and feedback as I fine-tune my novel. It is a tough call because I have some very antagonistic people whose comments I have not approved or had to delete who have been downright vicious and would love nothing more than to find out my real name and disparage any book I write. 🙂 Thank you again for your kindness in sharing your story here. May the Lord bless you and also bless our Calvinist brothers and sisters in the work of the kingdom despite what we believe to be their errors.

      • RT says:

        Yes! I was unsure whether you would even see my comment, given the age of the article. I am excited to hear you are writing a book! As I read through many of your articles, I really was thinking to myself that this guy needs to fashion these into a book (especially given the amount of detail and research that goes into each)! Those books mentioned are truly fantastic works, anything with a similar flavour already sounds like a potentially brilliant read! I can understand your concern with the less positive side of certain viewers, I am writing a book myself and would be quite cautious about releasing it to such a public forum. I myself simply give my writing to select friends who read it and give me feedback, or you could perhaps set up a private group within this page, perhaps where there is something of a screening process in order to access?

        My favourite fiction works are The Pilgrims Progress, Narnia and Harry Potter, so if you want me to read it, I am also available if its helpful in anyway haha

      • StriderMTB says:

        Starting a private group within this page, plus a screening process is not a bad idea. I am about 98% finished the book and am entering the stage of needing beta readers, so if you are interested, I would be elated to send you an early copy for any feedback you would like to offer. Email me at stridermtb@yahoo.com and we can connect. Happy to also look at your book when it is finished.

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