In the study of logic, there is a fallacy called the no true Scotsman fallacy, and my study of the teachings of Calvinism have lead me to the conclusion that Calvinists fall prey to this same fallacy.
The entire Calvinist system is predicated on the doctrine of total inability. The lost man, he argues, cannot respond to the calling of God because he is dead in his sins, and dead men can do nothing. Therefore, in order to respond to God, men must first be regenerated by the irresistible grace of the Holy Spirit through unconditional election into the limited atonement of Christ thus making him a believer who will persevere to the end and have eternal life.
But this produces a problem for the Calvinist when he reads about apostates who receive the knowledge of the truth and are sanctified by the blood of the covenant, and yet, who still perish with the unregenerate. The original argument of the Calvinist is that no believer will ever perish because it is God who both saves him and causes him to persevere, but when faced with Hebrews 10:26-29, the Calvinist modifies his argument to claim that no true believer will ever perish. Calvinists claim that the apostates are not true believers but only temporary believers who are set forth as a warning to keep true believers from abandoning the faith that God won't let them abandon.
This no true believer fallacy is one of the most glaring logical contradictions in Calvinism. The Calvinist doctrine of perseverance contradicts the concept of unconditional election by introducing a works requirement for salvation. It contradicts the idea of limited atonement by teaching that Christ's atonement is at least somewhat efficacious for some of those who are not ultimately among the elect. And It contradicts the doctrine of irresistible grace by claiming that God graciously causes some people to resist His own grace. If this doctrine of perseverance is true, then 3 of the other 4 points of the TULIP must be false.
The traditional Baptist soteriology does not run into this error, for it accepts the apostate passages as either presenting an impossible hypothetical (Heb 6) or denying the total inability of the lost (Heb. 10). Baptists have traditionally taught the doctrine of eternal security instead of the doctrine of perseverance.
This article presents a lengthy list of quotations from prominent Calvinists who have embraced the no true believer fallacy. Each quotation is followed by a brief note of explanation. This is just a sample from a much longer list that I have collected over several years of research, but I think that it is sufficient to establish my point. The quotations presented here are from:
The Canons of Dort
(I might post another article in the future with similar quotations from some of the leading Calvinist voices of our day.)
Augustine - A Treatise on the Gift of Perseverance
I assert, therefore, that the perseverance by which we persevere in Christ even to the end is the gift of God; and I call that the end by which is finished that life wherein alone there is peril of falling. Therefore it is uncertain whether any one has received this gift so long as he is still alive. For if he fall before he dies, he is, of course, said not to have persevered ... If from the time at which any one became a believer he has lived—for the sake of argument—ten years, and in the midst of them has fallen from the faith, has he not persevered for five years? I am not contending about words. If it be thought that this also should be called perseverance, as it were for so long as it lasts, assuredly he is not to be said to have had in any degree that perseverance of which we are now discoursing, by which one perseveres in Christ even to the end. And the believer of one year, or of a period as much shorter as may be conceived of, if he has lived faithfully until he died, has rather had this perseverance than the believer of many years' standing, if a little time before his death he has fallen away from the stedfastness of his faith.
NOTE: Augustine’s Treatise is the earliest treatment of the doctrine of perseverance that we have any record of, and all subsequent treatments of this doctrine assume his definition of the term. That is to say, every major work on the doctrine of perseverance admits in one form or another that one’s perseverance cannot be truly known in this life.
Let the inquirer still go on, and say, “Why is it that to some who have in good faith worshipped Him He has not given to persevere to the end?” Why except because he does not speak falsely who says, “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, doubtless they would have continued with us.” Are there, then, two natures of men? By no means. If there were two natures there would not be any grace, for there would be given a gratuitous deliverance to none if it were paid as a debt to nature. But it seems to men that all who appear good believers ought to receive perseverance to the end. But God has judged it to be better to mingle some who would not persevere with a certain number of His saints, so that those for whom security from temptation in this life is not desirable may not be secure. For that which the apostle says, checks many from mischievous elation: “Wherefore let him who seems to stand take heed lest he fall.” But he who falls, falls by his own will, and he who stands, stands by God’s will. “For God is able to make him stand;” therefore he is not able to make himself stand, but God. Nevertheless, it is good not to be high-minded, but to fear.
NOTE: According to Augustine, the reason that God causes some believers to fail in perseverance is to keep those who are given perseverance from becoming proud. The flaw in this argument is easily seen, for if perseverance is itself a gift of God and if man cannot persevere in righteousness for a single moment apart from God’s controlling grace, then it follows that man can only be kept from pride through that same grace. There is no value then in presenting men with examples of failure if they are incapable of benefiting from those examples.
“The gifts and calling of God are without repentance.” To which calling there is no man that can be said by men with any certainty of affirmation to belong, until he has departed from this world; but in this life of man, which is a state of trial upon the earth, he who seems to stand must take heed lest he fall. Since (as I have already said before) those who will not persevere are, by the most foreseeing will of God, mingled with those who will persevere, for the reason that we may learn not to mind high things, but to consent to the lowly, and may “work out our own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God that worketh in us both to will and to do for His good pleasure.”
NOTE: Here, Augustine reiterates his insistence that no one can be certain that he will persevere until after his life on earth has ended.
This should be said, not of them who hear in the congregation, but about others to them; that is, that it should not be said, “If any of you obey, if you are predestinated to be rejected,” but, “If any obey,” and the rest, using the third person of the verb, not the second? For it is not to be said to be desirable, but abominable, and it is excessively harsh and hateful to fly as it were into the face of an audience with abuse, when he who speaks to them says, “And if there are any of you who obey, and are predestinated to be rejected, the power of obedience shall be withdrawn from you, that you may cease to obey.” For what is wanting to the doctrine if it is thus expressed: “But if any obey, and are not predestinated to His kingdom and glory, they are only for a season, and shall not continue in that obedience unto the end”? Is not the same thing said both more truly and more fittingly, so that we may seem not as it were to be desiring so much for them, as to relate of others the evil which they hate, and think does not belong to them, by hoping and praying for better things? But in that manner in which they think that it must be said, the same judgment may be pronounced almost in the same words also of God’s foreknowledge, which certainly they cannot deny, so as to say, “And if any of you obey, if you are foreknown to be rejected you shall cease to obey.” Doubtless this is very true, assuredly it is; but it is very monstrous, very inconsiderate, and very unsuitable, not by its false declaration, but by its declaration not wholesomely applied to the health of human infirmity.
NOTE: Augustine advised his readers to be careful in how they preach his doctrine of perseverance. He essentially said that it should always be presented as if it applies to someone not present so as not to discourage those who hear it. This is very wise advice that most Calvinists follow today. Seldom will you ever hear a Calvinist telling his congregation that it possible for some of them to be predestined to fall away from the faith or that God may have predestined some of them to be examples of inconstancy. This is said to be possible for other believers, but seldom if ever is it presented as applicable to those within the Calvinists own congregation.
But I do not think that manner which I have said should be adopted in the preaching of predestination ought to be sufficient for him who speaks to the congregation, except he adds this, or something of this kind, saying, “You, therefore, ought also to hope for that perseverance in obedience from the Father of Lights, from whom cometh down every excellent gift and every perfect gift, and to ask for it in your daily prayers; and in doing this ought to trust that you are not aliens from the predestination of His people, because it is He Himself who bestows even the power of doing this. And far be it from you to despair of yourselves, because you are bidden to have your hope in Him, not in yourselves. For cursed is every one who has hope in man; and it is good rather to trust in the Lord than to trust in man, because blessed are all they that put their trust in Him.
Holding this hope, serve the Lord in fear, and rejoice unto Him with trembling. Because no one can be certain of the life eternal which God who does not lie has promised to the children of promise before the times of eternity,—no one, unless that life of his, which is a state of trial upon the earth, is completed. But He will make us to persevere in Himself unto the end of that life, since we daily say to Him, ‘Lead us not into temptation.’”
When these things and things of this kind are said, whether to few Christians or to the multitude of the Church, why do we fear to preach the predestination of the saints and the true grace of God,—that is, the grace which is not given according to our merits,—as the Holy Scripture declares it? Or, indeed, must it be feared that a man should then despair of himself when his hope is shown to be placed in God, and should not rather despair of himself if he should, in his excess of pride and unhappiness, place it in himself?
NOTE: Augustine is very adamant here. “No one,” he says, “can be certain of the life eternal … no one.” This is an express and explicit denial of the doctrine of eternal security. Augustine recognized that the doctrine of perseverance and the doctrine of eternal security are antithetical to each other. They are polar opposites which cannot be reconciled.
Augustine places much emphasis on hope in both a positive and a negative sense. In the positive sense, he declares that the doctrine of perseverance teaches us to hope in God and not in man for our eventual salvation. In the negative sense, he denounces eternal security as an absence of hope. But what kind of hope is this? Augustine’s hope is not an assurance that an individual can have of his eternal fate. Rather, Augustine’s hope is only the assurance that whatever fate an individual may receive is the fate that he was predestined to receive. The believer has no hope that he will remain a believer by persevering to the end. He only has hope that he will get what is coming to him whether it be eternal salvation or eternal condemnation. This is not the substance of hope but of despair, for no one hopes that he will receive condemnation. It is this despair that Augustine sought to avoid by always presenting the possibility of falling from the faith as if it could only happen to people other than those to whom he was speaking.
The Canons of Dort
For Christ himself in Matthew 13:20ff. and Luke 8:13ff. clearly defines these further differences between temporary and true believers: he says that the former receive the seed on rocky ground, and the latter receive it in good ground, or a good heart; the former have no root, and the latter are firmly rooted; the former have no fruit, and the latter produce fruit in varying measure, with steadfastness, or perseverance.
NOTE: Matthew 13:23 makes it clear that Christ’s parable of the sower was not about salvation but rather understanding. The seed is not faith but rather the Word of God. Those who receive the Word and believe for a while are not those who place their faith in Christ but rather those who believe that some doctrine from the Bible is true. Calvinists, almost without exception, hold that this passage is referring to belief in Christ and that those who believe for a while are those who were predestined to be temporary believers as opposed to the true believers who persevere. Calvin identified these as “examples of inconstancy” which were set forth as a warning to the elect.
John Calvin - Institutes
For which reason, David, after praying, ‘Teach me thy way, O Lord, I will walk in thy truths’ adds, ‘unite my heart to fear thy name,’ (Ps.86:11); by these words intimating, that even those who are well-affected are liable to so many distractions that they easily become vain, and fall away, if not strengthened to persevere. And hence, in another passage, after praying, ‘Order my steps in thy word,’ he requests that strength also may be given him to carry on the war, ‘Let not any iniquity have dominion over me,’ (Ps. 119:133). In this way, the Lord both begins and perfects the good work in us, so that it is due to Him, first, that the will conceives a love of rectitude, is inclined to desire, is moved and stimulated to pursue it; secondly, that this choice, desire, and endeavour fail not, but are carried forward to effect; and, lastly, that we go on without interruption, and persevere even to the end.
NOTE: Calvin here reveals that his doctrine of perseverance necessarily includes the possibility of failure. The believer, according to Calvin, would certainly fall away and perish if God did not constantly give him the strength to persevere in the faith. Thus, the final destination of the believer is not a result of his belief but rather of his perseverance in that belief until the end. The fact that Calvin’s system views God as guaranteeing that perseverance to the elect does not in any way negate the fact that Calvin viewed perseverance as the determining factor in a believer’s final state. This idea that perseverance, and not belief, is the thing which obtains final salvation led Calvin to the possibility that one could believe and still perish as a result of his failure to persevere. Thus, on Calvinism, belief is insufficient to establish one as a member of the elect. One could be just a temporary believer who is ultimately destined to fall away and perish.
while we all labour naturally under the same disease, those only recover health to whom the Lord is pleased to put forth his healing hand. The others whom, in just judgment, he passes over, pine and rot away till they are consumed. And this is the only reason why some persevere to the end, and others, after beginning their course, fall away. Perseverance is the gift of God, which he does not lavish promiscuously on all, but imparts to whom he pleases. If it is asked how the difference arises—why some steadily persevere, and others prove deficient in steadfastness, we can give no other reason than that the Lord, by his mighty power, strengthens and sustains the former, so that they perish not, while he does not furnish the same assistance to the latter, but leaves them to be monuments of instability.
NOTE: Here Calvin speaks very plainly. According to his doctrine, only some believers persevere to the end and are saved while others fall away from the faith and perish. This, he says, is the will of God so that those whom He causes to fall away may be “monuments of instability” as if those who persevere are in need of negative examples to encourage them to accept a grace which they cannot resist.
I am aware it seems unaccountable to some how faith is attributed to the reprobate, seeing that it is declared by Paul to be one of the fruits of election; and yet the difficulty is easily solved: for though none are enlightened into faith, and truly feel the efficacy of the Gospel, with the exception of those who are fore-ordained to salvation, yet experience shows that the reprobate are sometimes affected in a way so similar to the elect, that even in their own judgment there is no difference between them. Hence it is not strange, that by the Apostle a taste of heavenly gifts, and by Christ himself a temporary faith, is ascribed to them. Not that they truly perceive the power of spiritual grace and the sure light of faith; but the Lord, the better to convict them, and leave them without excuse, instills into their minds such a sense of his goodness as can be felt without the Spirit of adoption. Should it be objected, that believers have no stronger testimony to assure them of their adoption, I answer, that though there is a great resemblance and affinity between the elect of God and those who are impressed for a time with a fading faith, yet the elect alone have that full assurance which is extolled by Paul, and by which they are enabled to cry, Abba, Father. Therefore, as God regenerates the elect only for ever by incorruptible seed, as the seed of life once sown in their hearts never perishes, so he effectually seals in them the grace of his adoption, that it may be sure and steadfast. But in this there is nothing to prevent an inferior operation of the Spirit from taking its course in the reprobate. Meanwhile, believers are taught to examine themselves carefully and humbly, lest carnal security creep in and take the place of assurance of faith. We may add, that the reprobate never have any other than a confused sense of grace, laying hold of the shadow rather than the substance, because the Spirit properly seals the forgiveness of sins in the elect only, applying it by special faith to their use. Still it is correctly said, that the reprobate believe God to be propitious to them, inasmuch as they accept the gift of reconciliation, though confusedly and without due discernment; not that they are partakers of the same faith or regeneration with the children of God; but because, under a covering of hypocrisy, they seem to have a principle of faith in common with them. Nor do I even deny that God illumines their minds to this extent, that they recognize his grace; but that conviction he distinguishes from the peculiar testimony which he gives to his elect in this respect, that the reprobate never attain to the full result or to fruition. When he shows himself propitious to them, it is not as if he had truly rescued them from death, and taken them under his protection. He only gives them a manifestation of his present mercy. In the elect alone he implants the living root of faith, so that they persevere even to the end. Thus we dispose of the objection, that if God truly displays his grace, it must endure for ever. There is nothing inconsistent in this with the fact of his enlightening some with a present sense of grace, which afterwards proves evanescent.
NOTE: Careful notice should be given to the end of this paragraph where Calvin writes: “Thus we dispose of the objection, that if God truly displays his grace, it must endure for ever.” This is a crucial admission on Calvin’s part, for here he makes it very clear that faith is not sufficient for salvation.
Calvin’s answer to the objection that there is no discernible difference between the faith of the true believer and the faith of the temporary believer is to claim that the difference lies in perseverance. The true believer is the one who perseveres while the temporary believer eventually falls away. This necessarily implies that the true believer cannot rest secure in the knowledge that he believes but must remain uncertain of his final estate until his perseverance has been demonstrated. Calvin reveals his acceptance of this implication by making a distinction between “carnal security” and the “assurance of faith.”
If the unregenerate can experience both faith and grace without becoming the elect, then it is neither by faith nor by grace that the elect obtain salvation. The means of salvation can only be that which separates between the elect and the unregenerate, and according to Calvin, that distinction can only be found in perseverance.
We are sufficiently taught by experience itself, that calling and faith are of little value without perseverance, which, however, is not the gift of all. But it daily happens that those who seemed to belong to Christ revolt from him and fall away ... I deny not that they have signs of calling similar to those given to the elect; but I do not at all admit that they have that sure confirmation of election which I desire believers to seek from the word of the gospel. Wherefore, let not examples of this kind move us away from tranquil confidence in the promise of the Lord, when he declares that all by whom he is received in true faith have been given him by the Father, and that none of them, while he is their Guardian and Shepherd, will perish.
NOTE: Here again, Calvin presents us with the no true believer fallacy. If one who believes in eternal security were to be asked about apostates, he would answer that if they previously believed on Christ for salvation, then they are merely prodigal sons of God who remain His children in spite of their waywardness. But the Calvinist cannot accept such a solution. For him, apostasy is a lack of perseverance, and since only they who persevere are the elect, the apostate must not have been a true believer at all regardless of what he may have thought that he believed and regardless of how much fruit that belief may have produced. To the Calvinist, if one does not persevere, then he is not a true believer. Thus, the Calvinist must conclude with Calvin that “calling and faith are of little value without perseverance.” Some are called to be examples of inconstancy, and some are given a temporary faith for the same reason. Thus, the only mark of a true believer is perseverance.
The expression of our Savior, “Many are called, but few are chosen,” (Mt. 22:14), is also very improperly interpreted (see Book 3, chap. 2, sec. 11, 12). There will be no ambiguity in it, if we attend to what our former remarks ought to have made clear—viz. that there are two species of calling: for there is an universal call, by which God, through the external preaching of the word, invites all men alike, even those for whom he designs the call to be a savor of death, and the ground of a severer condemnation. Besides this there is a special call which, for the most part, God bestows on believers only, when by the internal illumination of the Spirit he causes the word preached to take deep root in their hearts. Sometimes, however, he communicates it also to those whom he enlightens only for a time, and whom afterwards, in just punishment for their ingratitude, he abandons and smites with greater blindness.
NOTE: It is important to note how Calvin disagrees with his own statement made just two pages prior that “another confirmation tending to establish our confidence is, that our election is connected with our calling.” This previous statement seems to agree with the doctrine of eternal security, but here Calvin introduces an exception to this confidence. Election is only connected with our calling “for the most part,” and sometimes God calls those whom he afterwards “abandons and smites.” Thus, for the Calvinist, the calling of God provides no assurance whatsoever of his eternal estate. No matter how confident he may be of his calling, the possibility still exists that he may have been called for the specific purpose being abandoned by God at some future date.
For he knows, and has his mark on those who know neither him nor themselves. Of those again who openly bear his badge, his eyes alone see who of them are unfeignedly holy, and will persevere even to the end, which alone is the completion of salvation. On the other hand, foreseeing that it was in some degree expedient for us to know who are to be regarded by us as his sons, he has in this matter accommodated himself to our capacity. But as here full certainty was not necessary, he has in its place substituted the judgment of charity, by which we acknowledge all as members of the Church who by confession of faith, regularity of conduct, and participation in the sacraments, unite with us in acknowledging the same God and Christ.
NOTE: Calvin insists that God is the only one who knows which Christians are true believers and which ones are just temporary believers. No one else can know for sure if he is a true believer until he finds out after his death whether he has sufficiently "persevered even to the end" in order to complete his salvation.
Wherefore, as during our whole lives we carry about with us the remains of sin, we could not continue in the Church one single moment were we not sustained by the uninterrupted grace of God in forgiving our sins. On the other hand, the Lord has called his people to eternal salvation, and therefore they ought to consider that pardon for their sins is always ready. Hence let us surely hold that if we are admitted and ingrafted into the body of the Church, the forgiveness of sins has been bestowed, and is daily bestowed on us, in divine liberality, through the intervention of Christ’s merits, and the sanctification of the Spirit.
NOTE: Calvin gives frequent indications that his doctrine of perseverance is actually a doctrine of salvation by works. According to Calvin, he is not a true Christian who places his faith in Christ, but rather, the true Christian is the one whom God daily strengthens to do right and repeatedly forgives when he does wrong. Thus, salvation is not actually possessed until after death. Before that point, God could at any time stop providing strength and forgiveness, and that individual would immediately fall away from the path of salvation and be eternally lost.
This is why Calvinists so often refer to themselves as monergists and to Arminians as synergists. The common root of these two terms is ergo which means “work.” The Calvinist is a monergist because he believes that that God does all the work through us which is necessary to keep us on the path of salvation. The Arminian is a synergist because he believes that man and God work together in order to keep the man on the path of salvation.
The traditional Baptist view, on the other hand, rejects both monergism and synergism as false gospels and instead adopts what we could refer to as metamorphosis. Metamorphosis is the idea that the believer undergoes a fundamental transformation the moment that he accepts Christ as his Savior. At that point, he is no longer a fallen, mortal man but rather a new creature in Christ. “old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (II Cor. 5:17) Metamorphosed is the Greek term used in II Cor. 3:18 to explain the type of change that occurs when a man turns to God in faith. On this view, there is no more work or ergo needed after salvation in order to keep a Christian in the faith. He is no longer the type of creature that can go to hell after death. He is now the type of creature that can only go to Heaven.
Three things are here to be observed. First, Whatever be the holiness which the children of God possess, it is always under the condition, that so long as they dwell in a mortal body, they cannot stand before God without forgiveness of sins. Secondly, This benefit is so peculiar to the Church, that we cannot enjoy it unless we continue in the communion of the Church. Thirdly, It is dispensed to us by the ministers and pastors of the Church, either in the preaching of the Gospel or the administration of the Sacraments, and herein is especially manifested the power of the keys, which the Lord has bestowed on the company of the faithful.
NOTE: This is the foundation of the Calvinist doctrine of apostasy. According to Calvin, the ministry of the Church is the method by which God daily provides forgiveness for the sins of believers. As we saw previously, Calvin taught that any believer whose sins were not continually forgiven would fall away and perish for all eternity in spite of the fact that he had previously believed. Thus, since believers must receive regular forgiveness of their sins in order to obtain their final salvation, and since that forgiveness is only to be found in the ministry of the church, therefore, any believer who abandons the church has abandoned his means of forgiveness and will perish in his sins unless he returns to the church before his death. This is Calvin’s doctrine of apostasy.
John Calvin - Commentary on the Hebrews
Those who sin, mentioned by the Apostle, are not such as offend in any way, but such as forsake the Church, and wholly alienate themselves from Christ. For he speaks not here of this or of that sin, but he condemns by name those who willfully renounced fellowship with the Church. But there is a vast difference between particular fallings and a complete defection of this kind, by which we entirely fall away from the grace of Christ. And as this cannot be the case with any one except he has been already enlightened, he says, If we sin willfully, after that we have received the knowledge of the truth; as though he had said, "If we knowingly and willingly renounce the grace which we had obtained."
NOTE: In his commentary on chapter 6, Calvin said that he saw no reason why God should not grant some measure of grace to the reprobate in order to present them as a warning to the true believers. In this commentary from Hebrews 10, Calvin expounds on that statement by identifying how much grace these reprobates receive before they are made apostate and ultimately fall away from the church.
And that the Apostle here refers only to apostates, is clear from the whole passage; for what he treats of is this, that those who had been once received into the Church ought not to forsake it, as some were wont to do. He now declares that there remained for such no sacrifice for sin, because they had willfully sinned after having received the knowledge of the truth. But as to sinners who fall in any other way, Christ offers himself daily to them, so that they are to seek no other sacrifice for expiating their sins. He denies, then, that any sacrifice remains for them who renounce the death of Christ, which is not done by any offense except by a total renunciation of the faith.
NOTE: The first indication that Calvin gives of the extent of grace received by the apostate is that he is one “who had been once received into the Church.” Now, we know from the book of Acts that “the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.” (Acts 2:47) Therefore, when Calvin speaks of the apostates having been received into the Church, he is referring to them receiving the salvation of God. And this is further evidenced by his speaking of them renouncing the death of Christ and of their renunciation of the faith. As it is impossible for one to renounce something that he never had, it therefore follows that Calvin believed the apostate to have once possessed the limited atonement of the death of Christ.
This severity of God is indeed dreadful, but it is set forth for the purpose of inspiring terror. He cannot, however, be accused of cruelty; for as the death of Christ is the only remedy by which we can be delivered from eternal death, are not they who destroy as far as they can its virtue and benefit worthy of being left to despair? God invites to daily reconciliation those who abide in Christ; they are daily washed by the blood of Christ, their sins are daily expiated by his perpetual sacrifice. As salvation is not to be sought except in him, there is no need to wonder that all those who willfully forsake him are deprived of every hope of pardon: this is the import of the adverb eti, more. But Christ's sacrifice is efficacious to the godly even to death, though they often sin; nay, it retains ever its efficacy, for this very reason, because they cannot be free from sin as long as they dwell in the flesh. The Apostle then refers to those alone who wickedly forsake Christ, and thus deprive themselves of the benefit of his death.
NOTE: Here Calvin proceeds to give even further evidence of the salvation of the apostates, for he speaks of those who destroy the virtue and benefit of the atonement. Now those who are merely dead in their sins, and to whom the limited atonement of Christ has never been extended cannot possibly destroy its virtue and benefit. A limited atonement has no virtue or benefit for those who do not partake of it. To destroy the virtue and benefit of the atonement is only possible if someone has received that virtue and has benefited from the atonement. Calvin reiterates this at the end of the paragraph when he refers to those who “deprive themselves of the benefit of his death.” One cannot deprive himself of something that he had no ability to obtain in the first place. Self-deprivation is only possible for those who are not already deprived beyond their own abilities. Thus, to deprive oneself of the benefit of the death of Christ necessarily implies that one had that benefit within his grasp, and according to the dictates of Calvinism, this is only possible for those to whom Christ’s limited atonement has been extended.
John Owen – On the Nature of Apostasy
Now, men do so partake of the Holy Ghost as they do receive him; and he may be received either as unto personal inhabitation or as unto spiritual operations. In the first way, "the world cannot receive him," John 14:17, — where the world is opposed unto true believers; and therefore those here intended were not in that sense partakers of him. His operations respect his gifts. So to partake of him is to have a part, share, or portion in what he distributes by way of spiritual gifts; in answer unto that expression, "All these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will," 1 Corinthians 12:11. So Peter told Simon the magician that he had no part in spiritual gifts; he was not partaker of the Holy Ghost, Acts 8:21. Wherefore, to be partaker of the Holy Ghost is to have a share in and benefit of his spiritual operations.
NOTE: It is intriguing to note that Owen did not cite a single passage of Scripture in support of this notion that some can receive the Holy Spirit unto salvation and others can receive Him unto mere spiritual operations without salvation. This is the leap that Calvinists must make in order to bring their soteriology in line with their doctrine of apostasy.
The traditional Baptist soteriology does not run into this error, for it accepts that this passage (Heb. 6) is presenting an impossible hypothetical and that regeneration of the Holy Spirit is not necessary for the receiving of the knowledge of the truth as mentioned in Heb. 10:26.
With respect unto the matter of the word, they have a taste of its goodness in the hopes which they have of their future enjoyment. Mercy, pardon, life, immortality, and glory, are all proposed in the "good word of God." These, upon those grounds which will fail them at last, they have such hopes to be made partakers of as that they find a great relish and satisfaction therein, especially when they have relief thereby against their fears and convictions; for, even in those ways wherein they deceive themselves, they have a taste of what sweetness and goodness there is in these things unto them by whom they are enjoyed. And as those who really believe and receive Jesus Christ in the word do thereon "rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory," 1 Peter 1:8, so those who only taste of the word do feel in themselves a great complacency in their affections, Matthew 13:20.
NOTE: Here Owen expresses that the apostates have the same hope as true believers. They genuinely believe that they have been born again and are in a state of having eternal life. The question that remains unanswered at this point in his commentary is how one is to determine whether his hope is valid or vain?
They had had an experience of the glorious and powerful working of the Holy Ghost in the confirmation of the gospel. Yea, I do judge that themselves in their own persons were partakers of these powers, in the gift of tongues and other miraculous operations.
NOTE: Owen taught that those who did not persevere were still indwelt by the Holy Ghost even to the point of receiving the gifts of the Spirit. This condition is only possible among actual believers. Therefore, Owen taught that belief in Christ followed by the indwelling of the Spirit as evidenced by the presence of the gifts of the Spirit was still not enough to ensure that one was a member of the elect. Salvation, according to Owen, is only given to those believers who persevere to the end.
Our next inquiry is more particularly whom he doth intend; and, — (1.) They were such as not long before were converted from Judaism unto Christianity, upon the evidence of the truth of its doctrine, and the miraculous operations wherewith its dispensation was accompanied. (2.) He intends not the common sort of them, but such as had obtained especial privileges among them; for they had received extraordinary gifts of the Holy Ghost, as speaking with tongues or working of miracles. And, (3.) They had found in themselves and others convincing evidences that the kingdom of God and the Messiah, which they called "The world to come," was come unto them, and had satisfaction in the glories of it. (4.) Such persons as these, as they have a work of light on their minds, so, according unto the efficacy of their convictions, they may have such a change wrought upon their affections and in their conversation, as that they may be of great esteem among professors; and such these here intended might be. Now, it must needs be some horrible frame of spirit, some malicious enmity against the truth and holiness of Christ and the gospel, some violent love of sin and the world, that could turn off such persons as these from the faith, and blot out all that light and conviction of truth which they had received.
NOTE: According to Owen, temporary believers do not differ from true believers in any way except that they do not persevere unto death. He claimed that these temporary believers are actually converted to Christianity, that they are fully indwelt by and empowered by the Spirit, that they are partakers of the kingdom of God, and that their lives are changed by the power of the Gospel. Owen taught that even people such as these could be "turned off" from the faith and that they could blot out the light of God's truth through their love of sin. In other words, Owen believed that even the most ardent Christian might be just a temporary believer if he doesn't persevere in his faith until death.
Francis Turretin – Temporary Disciples
Whatever is ascribed to them can be predicated of the unrenewed and reprobate, who can ‘be made partakers of the Holy Spirit’ (if not as to the fundamental and saving gifts of conversion and consolation, still as to the initial gifts of illumination and conviction or even as to extraordinary, miraculous and ministerial gifts) … They can ‘taste the heavenly gift’ as to a participation of faith, if not saving, still true in its kind and which could be obtained only from heaven.
NOTE: Here we see a grave contradiction in Turretin’s view. On the one hand, he claims that the description given in Heb. 6 contains nothing that cannot be said of the unrenewed and reprobate while, on the other hand, and even in the same breath, he also claims that these received faith which could only be obtained from God. Thus, Turretin concludes that there are individuals to whom God has given grace and faith who are not among the elect, for they are predestined to fall from the grace and faith which they have and perish in eternal damnation. What is this if not the loss of salvation?
Although the faith of the temporary is true in its own order because it truly receives the seed with joy and is not feigned by those who thus believe, who not only think they believe, but really and truly believe (hence they are even said ‘to believe,’ Jn. 2:23; Lk. 8:13), still it is not a true and living justifying faith, in which sense it is even called hypocritical because it is emulous of the faith of the elect and has an external resemblance to it (although destitute of its truth); and so great is its similarity to it often that a greater is not seen between an image and its prototype. Hence not only others who see them are easily deceived by them, but the believers themselves also are deceived and impose upon themselves; not feigning, but believing that they are truly believers (God alone, who searches the innermost recesses of the heart, knowing the truth). Still it is certain that there is a manifold and most essential difference (as was said before) which shows that they mutually differ not only in degree or duration, but in very kind and nature.
NOTE: This paragraph reveals the key distinction between perseverance of the saints and eternal security. Under the Calvinist system, the elect are secure because they will be made to persevere while the apostate who is not truly a member of the elect will fall away. However, neither the apostate nor the elect actually knows with any certainty whether any given individual is elect or apostate until after they either persevere of fall away. The two are often indistinguishable until the moment that their final doom is achieved.
The doctrine of eternal security, however, offers the certainty that anyone can be confident of a future in heaven if he believes that Jesus Christ died for his sins and rose again in triumph over death, and he accepts Christ’s sacrifice by repenting of his previous sins. Under this system, there is no uncertainty as whether one is a true member of the elect or an eventual apostate. All those who repent and believe are given the assurance of their future estate (II Tim 1:12, Heb 7:25, John 6:40).
Bill Fortenberry is a Christian philosopher and historian in Birmingham, AL. Bill's work has been cited in several legal journals, and he has appeared as a guest on shows including The Dr. Gina Show, The Michael Hart Show, and Real Science Radio.
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"Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be yet wiser: teach a just man, and he will increase in learning." (Proverbs 9:9)