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Calvinism and the Sovereignty of God

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by Dr. Reg Barrow

Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God (John 1:13).

Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures (James 1:18).

And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul (Acts 16:14).

The king's heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will (Prov. 21:1).

For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy (Rom. 9:15-16).

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved… In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will (Eph. 1:3-6, 9).

"... and I will go as far as Martin Luther, in that strong assertion of his, where he says, 'If any man doth ascribe of salvation, even the very least, to the free will of man, he knoweth nothing of grace, and he hath not learnt Jesus Christ aright.' It may seem a harsh sentiment; but he who in his soul believes that man does of his own free will turn to God, cannot have been taught of God, for that is one of the first principles taught us when God begins with us, that we have neither will nor power, but that He gives both; that He is 'Alpha and Omega' in the salvation of men." (Charles H. Spurgeon from the sermon 'Free Will A Slave' (1855) referring to Luther's book The Bondage of the Will which is listed with other resources on this topic after this article).

"Free will" is represented by "Arminianism teaches" below.

Arminianism teaches: '... and as many as believed were ordained to eternal life.'

Arminianism teaches: "For many are called, but few choose."

Arminianism teaches: "Make your decision for Christ.:
THE BIBLE TEACHES: 'All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him.' (Matt. 11:27)

Arminianism teaches: "I accepted Jesus as my personal saviour."
THE BIBLE TEACHES: 'Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you (John 15:16). Also: But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by his grace, to reveal his Son in me.' (Paul's testimony in Galatians 1:15,16)

Arminianism teaches: "God can't save you unless you let him, it is your choice."
THE BIBLE TEACHES: 'So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy...Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.' (Romans 9:16, 18).

Arminianism teaches: "God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life."
THE BIBLE TEACHES: '(For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth:) It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. As it is written, Jacob have I loved but Esau have I hated.' (Rom. 9:11-13).

Arminianism teaches: "God wants everyone to be saved."
THE BIBLE TEACHES: 'And he said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables: That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand...'(Mark 4:11,12).

The Need for an Uncompromising and Vigilant Witness Against Arminianism

Warnings from the pulpit and denunciation of the errors of Arminianism are not now heard as once they were. Even in pulpits where the truth is preached, it is to be feared that, in some cases, a faithful witness is not raised against Arminianism. The cause of this may be due in a measure to the fact that in defending the cause of truth new forms of error have to be exposed and assailed, with the result that the old enemy is left so far unmolested as if it were dead. Unfortunately this is not so; Arminianism is very much alive in the pulpit, in the theological and religious press, and in the modem evangelistic meeting . . . . . When we bear in mind the horror with which our forefathers regarded Arminianism, the modern attitude to it indicates how far the professing Church has drifted from the position of the theologians of those days." ('The Reformed Faith" by the Rev. D. Beaton, p. 18).

Arminianism was the false gospel of John Wesley and his followers in the eighteenth century, and of D. L. Moody in the nineteenth. It is the stock-in-trade of well nigh all the popular evangelists of this century from Billy Graham downwards. The gospel halls of the Brethren, Open and Closed, are nurseries of Arminianism. The active agents of the Faith Mission and the Salvation Army, notwithstanding the moral and social results to the credit of the latter, spread the plague on every side. All the sects which have sprung up in these latter times, however divergent in their doctrines and practices -- Jehovah's Witnesses, Seventh Day Adventists, Pentecostalists, Mormons, Christadelphians, Cooneyites, etc., etc., have all in common, the fatal lie of free-willism. It is Satan's sovereign drug, which causes the soul to sleep in delusion, and the end of such delusion is death. "Free will," says Spurgeon, "has carried many souls to hell but never a soul to heaven."

Arminianism is armed to the teeth in enmity to true and vital godliness. Where it flourishes its fruits are a superficial goody-goody form of godliness -- the lamp and the light of the foolish virgins which went out in death and in despair. The Declaratory Acts of 1879, 1892 and 1921 in Scotland, and in 1901 in the Presbyterian Church of New Zealand threw open the flood-gates to the deluge of Arminianism. Spiritual death and desolation followed. The fat land was turned into barrenness, and the Churches adopting these Declaratory Acts are now well on the road to Rome. The 'sovereign drug' of Arminianism has flourished beyond the wildest dreams of priests and Jesuits. It is not by open and unabashed passing of nefarious Declaratory Acts that Satan as an angel of light now works. Subtle infiltration is his present policy and technique. What need there is for the 'denunciation' and the 'horror' the Rev. D. Beaton refers to, as the cloven-hoof of Arminianism is unmistakably seen far within the tents of the popular evangelical conventions, fellowships, and unions of our day! The Scripture Union, the Inter-Varsity Fellowship, the International Council of Christian Churches, the conventions of the Keswick fraternity etc., are all riddled with the cancer of Arminianism.

FROM: Arminianism: Another Gospel (Free MP3 and PDF), by William MacLean

"What is the heresy of Rome, but the addition of something to the perfect merits of Jesus Christ — the bringing in of the works of the flesh, to assist in our justification? And what is the heresy of Arminianism but the addition of something to the work of the Redeemer? Every heresy, if brought to the touchstone, will discover itself here. I have my own private opinion that there is no such thing as preaching Christ and Him crucified, unless we preach what nowadays is called Calvinism. It is a nickname to call it Calvinism; Calvinism is the gospel, and nothing else... nor can I comprehend a gospel which lets saints fall away after they are called, and suffers the children of God to be burned in the fires of damnation after having once believed in Jesus. Such a gospel I abhor." - Charles Spurgeon, A Defense of Calvinism (free MP3 sermon).


Calvinism and the Sovereignty of God

A Display of Arminianism by John Owen

Spurgeon's Sovereign Grace Sermons by Charles Spurgeon

An Antidote Against Arminianism (1700) by Christopher Ness

Arminian Inconsistencies and Errors; In Which It Is Shown That All the Distinctive Doctrines of the Presbyterian Confession of Faith are Taught by Standard Writers of the Methodist Episcopal Church (1856) by Henry Brown

Historical Theology: A Review of the Principal Doctrinal Discussions in the Christian Church Since the Apostolic Age (2 Volume Set) by William Cunningham

God Sovereign and Man Free: or the Doctrine of Divine Foreordination and Man's Free Moral Agency, Stated, Illustrated, and Proved from Scriptures (1850) by N. L. Rice

The Cause of God and Truth (An Exegetical Work On The Five Points Of Calvinism And Reprobation) by John Gill

Arminianism Agrees With Roman Catholicism And Calvinism Agrees With The Bible by Richard Bennett (Free MP3)

God's Sovereignty in the Salvation of Men 1 of 2 by Jonathan Edwards (Free MP3)

Freedom of the Will, A Careful And Strict Inquiry Into The Prevailing Notions - Jonathan Edwards On Calvinism & Predestination by Jonathan Edwards (41 free MP3s from SWRB)

The Doctrine of Absolute Predestination by Jerome Zanchius

The Free Offer of the Gospel (c. 1840) by John Colquhoun

The Canon Ratified in the National Synod of the Reformed Church Held at Dordrecht (1618-19) by Synod of Dort

A Letter to John Wesley Relative to His Pretended Abridgment of Zanchius on Predestination by Augustus Toplady

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The Bondage of the Will (tenth printing 1998)

The Bondage of the Will is fundamental to an understanding of the primary doctrines of the Reformation. In these pages, Luther gives extensive treatment to what he saw as the heart of the gospel. Free will was no academic question to Luther; the whole gospel of the grace of God, he believed, was bound up with it and stood or fell according to the way one decided it... This is the greatest piece of writing that came from Luther's pen. In its vigour of language, its profound theological grasp, and the grand sweep of its exposition, it stands unsurpassed among Luther's writings (front and back cover).

Luther recognized this book as his most important work and even said that if all his other books perished, he would hope that this one, along with his Small Catechism, would be the only ones to remain. As noted above, this is one of the most important books of the early Reformation, for it deals with what Luther saw to be the heart of the Gospel.

Luther here refutes the Romish notion of "free will" in man and upholds the absolute sovereignty of God in the salvation of sinners -- as well as justification by faith alone. Luther clearly saw the issue of free will as the primary cause of his separation from Rome.

In this book he replied to the Roman Catholic scholar, Erasmus, and his diatribe The Freedom of the Will. Though disagreeing with just about everything else Erasmus wrote, Luther commended Erasmus for recognizing the crux of the matter at issue between Rome and the Bible believers, the debate over "free will." In this regard Luther wrote,

that unlike all the rest, you alone have attacked the real issue, the essence of the matter in dispute (i.e. man's so-called free-will--RB)... You and you alone saw, what was the grand hinge upon which the whole turned, and therefore you attacked the vital part at once; for which, from my heart, I thank you.

"This book is most needful at the present day," noted Atherton in 1931, for "the teachings of many so-called Protestants are more in accordance with the Dogmas of the Papists, or the ideas of Erasmus, than with the Principles of the Reformers; they are more in harmony with the Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent than with the Protestant or Reformed Confessions of Faith."

It is easy to see how a lack of doctrinal and historical study is leading many into serious compromise with the false ecumenical apostasy espoused by Rome and other idolatrous beliefs which cry up man's ability to save himself (as with Arminianism) and to devise his own methods of worship (as with those that oppose the Reformation's regulative principle of worship in favor of their own will worship). In this area, many "Protestants," even now, bow down to Rome's humanistic, anti-Christian idol of free will.

It is our hope that God will use Luther's classic to give you the strength to remain faithful to His Word; this being a great place to start a new Reformation, for as the translators write concerning this book, "Nowhere does Luther come closer, either in spirit or in substance to the Paul of Romans and Galatians."

Available at http://www.swrb.com/catalog/L.htm

The Bondage of the Will by Martin Luther (OFFSITE)
Free at: http://www.covenanter.org/Luther/Bondage/bow_toc.htm


The Bondage and Liberation of the Will: A Defense of the Orthodox Doctrine of Human Choice Against Pighius (1543, 1996)

"In the belief that the 1539 edition of Calvin's Institutes, and in particular its chapters on free choice and predestination, constituted a greater danger than did the other 'Lutheran' writings, the Dutch Roman Catholic theologian Albert Pighius wrote a response entitled Ten Books on Human Free Choice and Divine Grace (1542). Calvin, when he saw Pighius's work, felt a pressing need to respond to Pighius's first six books, that is, those on free choice. The result was The Bondage and Liberation of the Will (1543). The Bondage and Liberation of the Will is undoubtedly the most significant of Calvin's works hitherto not translated in English. This is in striking contrast to Luther's study on the same topic, which is one of his best-known publications." This is Calvin's "fullest treatment of the relation between grace and free will, and contains important material not found elsewhere in his writings. It also contains far more discussion of the early church fathers than does any other of Calvin's works, apart from the Institutes. It is high time that this major work is made available to those whose knowledge of Calvin is confined to English translations" (back cover). 303 pages.

Available at http://www.swrb.com/catalog/C.htm

The Sovereignty of God (Baker Book House edition)

This is the best contemporary book explaining the foundations of Calvinism. This book is like a key that, by God's grace, opens the door of understanding to some of the most blessed truths in Scripture. From the myriad of testimonies that we have heard concerning how God has used this book, we think that we can safely say that this is also the best book to pass on to those that you want to introduce to Calvinism. This is the full, unedited Baker Book House edition. Indexed.

Available at http://www.swrb.com/catalog/P.htm

The Sovereignty of God
This is the edited Banner of Truth edition of Pink's book.It leaves out the three following chapters: "The Sovereignty of God in Reprobation;" "God's Sovereignty and Human Responsibility;" "Difficulties and Objections." It also does not contain the four following appendices: "The Will of God;" "The Case of Adam;" The Meaning of "Kosmos" in John 3:16;""I John 2:2." However, it does contain some very helpful editorial footnotes that the Baker edition does not contain.

Available at http://www.swrb.com/catalog/P.htm

This book is also available in the FREE BOOKS file on all Reformation Bookshelf CDs (CD SUPER SALE) at: http://www.swrb.com/Puritan/reformation-bookshelf-CDs.htm

Free at: http://www.reformed.org/calvinism/ (OFFSITE)

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Calvinism and the Sovereignty of God