Two Calvinistic Conundrums: Stemming From An Over-Realized Eschatology

I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.                                                                                                                                – John 10:28

It seems that this is the key verse from which all Calvinistic views of salvation rest upon. The view of “once saved, always saved,” which may very well be called the gospel of Calvinism. It can be found mostly among Southern Baptists; and anyone who follows after the New Calvinist and Reformed ministries. For all the good that has come out of Puritanism, the Westminster Confession, and such like evangelicalism—there can be no mistaking that the unclean spirit of eternal security is always lurking in the shadows, ready to surface and pounce on any Arminian who might suggest that personal sanctification and obedience to God’s law might be necessary for salvation: “without holiness no one will see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14). This makes them cringe. This is not to ignore the Paul Washers and the J. I. Packers. Such men understand and emphasize the importance of Biblical holiness. But this is not the majority view of Calvinists; and Washer knows it all too well.

There is nowhere in Scripture that plainly teaches the concept of unconditional eternal security or “once saved, always saved.” It has to be taught by a Bible study teacher or a pastor first, and then it is read into the Scriptures by everyone else. They even try to interpret Hebrews 6 and 10 in such a way as to explain away the clear warnings against losing salvation. Historically, “losing your salvation” has been called apostasy. But even the verse above, John 10:28, does not imply that there is no such thing as apostasy. Unbiased commentators will tell you that it really has to do with “them” who are following the Lord, who are living a holy life, and are listening to and obeying the voice of God. It is these people, and these alone, who will go to Heaven AFTER THEY DIE, and experience eternal life IN HEAVEN, and once they are in Heaven, they will not be able to sin or fall or go to Hell: no devil will be able to “snatch them out” of God’s hand, because they will be in Heaven already. The core of the issue is that today’s Calvinism has an over-realized eschatology. They do with the doctrine of assurance, what the Methodists unfortunately did with the doctrine of glorification, and said you could experience such things BEFORE YOU DIE: the kind of perfect assurance or perfect holiness that the saints experience after they have arrived IN HEAVEN. At least in Methodism, with its error of perfectionism, people are erring on the side of strict moral responsibility. In Calvinism, however, they err on the side of moral IRRESPONSIBILITY, a false view of grace, and expect God to forgive them incessantly without repentance and change of life. So often this is the case; and I think that Luther, Calvin, and most of the Puritans roll over in their graves at the sight of this. Thankfully, when the Assemblies of God was founded, they steered clear of both the doctrines of eternal security and entire sanctification. Good for them.

When that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.                                                                                                         – 1 Corinthians 13:10, KJV

Then there are the John MacArthur fans. They wrongly think that this verse teaches cessationism or the idea that miracles don’t happen today. They think “that which is perfect” is the closed canon of the Bible; and “that which is in part” are dreams, visions, and the voice of God. Unbiased commentators will again point to the fact that this stems from an over-realized eschatology. “That which is perfect” refers to the second coming of Christ (if not life in Heaven, and seeing God face to face); and that “that which is in part” and “shall be done away” means that we will have no need for miraculous gifts once we have entered into Heaven. This is because miraculous gifts, with their partial revelations in obscure dreams, still help the church on earth to have stronger faith in the Gospel (Mark 16:20).

Cessationism first appeared in some of the early writings of Augustine, and then in Calvin (both of whom later became charismatics), and then was solidified in the Westminster Confession ch. 1, and especially in B. B. Warfield’s Counterfeit Miracles (1918), just four years after the Assemblies of God was founded. The tradition of cessationism was continued in three books by John MacArthur: The Charismatics (1978), Charismatic Chaos (1992), and Strange Fire (2013). His views remain basically the same in all of them, but they are updated with new information, as they attack new charismatic leaders that crop up. In 1978 he attacked Kathryn Kuhlman, Oral Roberts, and the Assemblies of God. In 1992 he attacked prosperity gospel preachers (Word of Faith), the Vineyard, and IHOP. In 2013 he attacked Bethel Church, and again attacked the Vineyard, IHOP, and prosperity preachers. This is not to say MacArthur’s feedback is worthless. Its actually very helpful. 1. Its a great thing that he exposes the prosperity preachers as false prophets and false teachers. I wholeheartedly agree; and so did David Wilkerson. 2. It goes to show Pentecostals how non-Pentecostals view them. 3. It also goes to show how wrong MacArthur is by simplistically equating tongues with cult activity. Just because Pentecostals speak in tongues and have religious experiences that non-Pentecostals don’t experience, it does not mean they are no different than Mormons or other cults. In MacArthur’s mind, there is no difference between the Assemblies of God and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (the Mormon church). “Both speak in tongues and claim to hear God’s voice, so what’s the difference?” So thinks MacArthur. Well, the difference is quite clearly found in their theology and doctrines. Assemblies of God has an array of theological and practical books published by Gospel Publishing House. But the Latter-Day Saints go so far as to publish something called The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ. Mormons go too far. They add to the Scriptures and apparently consider the Bible to be an open canon. That is something that Assemblies of God, the Vineyard, and most non-denominational charismatic churches would never, ever allow. To them it is clear that the “open canon” idea equals cult.

But it is a spirit of unbelief which says that God is no longer giving miraculous gifts. Their whole purpose was not to authenticate apostles as Bible writers. Some Biblical writers didn’t work any miracles that we know of (for example: Mark, Luke, and Jude). Peter’s and Paul’s miracles happened so long ago that they have not been seen nor observed by modern man. They were apparently recorded for us to be points of reference, or blueprints, for what to expect from God today. God has consistently given direct revelations and miracles through Catholic saints, Covenanters, Quakers, Methodists, Pentecostals, and charismatics because He is always trying to increase the faith of Christians in the reality of God and the truth of the Gospel. That’s what miracles are for. Jack Deere does a great job at explaining this in Surprised by the Power of the Spirit, Appendix B: “Did Miraculous Gifts Cease With the Apostles?”

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