(Straw Man: Misrepresenting
an opposing view in a way that is easy to refute.)
Straw Dummy 1
Straw Dummy 2
Straw Dummy 3 Straw Dummy 4
Straw Dummy 5
The usual way of arguing against one
of the doctrines of grace is first, to misrepresent it so badly that
no serious student of the Scripture would ever embrace it; then totally
demolish it with arguments that have nothing at all to do with the
issue. In matters of controversy, this practice is sometimes referred
to as "burning straw dummies."
A little honest investigation and serious
study of the issues involved would cause the opponents of these truths
to be far more reticent to speak against doctrines about which they
understand so little.
Charles Spurgeon, addressing this very
matter one hundred years ago, asked, "Why do they earnestly set
themselves to confute what no one defends?"
It is the purpose of this booklet to
clarify the issues in the Calvinism-Arminianism debate. It is intended
to be neither an exposition nor a defense of the doctrines of grace,
since there is already an adequate supply of good literature on that
subject (see bibliography.). It is rather intended to define the limits
of the debate, so that those who shoot their venomous arrows at these
poor, despised creates called "Calvinists," will at least
know what their target is.
It is said that Mr. Spurgeon was, on
one occasion, invited to debate the issue of infant baptism. His opponent
suggested that they each, in turn, quote a verse supporting their
own position. To this, Mr. Spurgeon agreed. His opponent stood first
and quoted Matthew 19:14 -- "Suffer little children, and forbid
them not, to come unto me: for such is the kingdom of heaven."
When his opponent sat down, Mr. Spurgeon rose and quoted his first
text -- Job 1:1 -- "There was a man in the land of Uz, whose
name was Job."
"Mr. Spurgeon," his opponent
said, "I fail to see what your verse has to do with infant
baptism." To which Mr. Spurgeon replied, "So, too, I fail
to see what your verse has to do with infant baptism."
Scripture verses have been quoted (and
misquoted) almost endlessly to disprove the doctrines of grace. Yet,
in most cases, we would be no further from the real issue if we said,
"There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job."
The first "straw dummy" that
we need to consider is the charge that "Calvinists" are
man followers, who elevate Calvin's writings to (or above) the level
of Holy Scripture. In reality, the "Calvinist" is no more
a man follower than is the "Arminian." These are merely
theological labels which designate a particular doctrinal position.
Were it not for the woeful ignorance of Church history that exists
today, these theological labels might prove useful in distinguishing
doctrinal positions. However, this is not the case. The truth is that
through the efforts of zealous, but uninformed, Arminian preachers
and writers, the term "Calvinist" has been so tortured and
twisted that few (if any) Calvinists would be willing to wear it without
The so-called "five points of
Calvinism" were not even formulated in answer to the five points
of Arminianism (the Remonstrants) until over fifty years after Calvin's
death. Their relationship to Calvin or to Calvin's writings is only
incidental. It merely arose from the fact that both taught the same
In regard to the charge that Calvinists
exalt Calvin's writings to the level of Scriptures, we find another
clear evidence of willful ignorance of the subject at hand. If those
who give this impression knew anything about the Reformation, they
would know that all of the reformers and their followers believed
that the Scriptures alone are binding in matters of faith and practice.
Consider the difference between the
"straw dummies" and the real issues
in each of the five doctrines of grace.
TOTAL DEPRAVITY (INABILITY)
The doctrine of total depravity (inability) cannot
be true because:
1. The Bible teaches that all are
responsible to believe and repent.
2.The Bible teaches that man has a will
(choice). Man is not a robot or a puppet.
3. Every man does not act as sinfully as he
is capable of acting.
4. Even wicked men perform
acts which are good in the sight of other people.
1. The Bible teaches that men, controlled by a sinful
nature, are not able to believe or repent. The person who believes in free grace
has no argument with the truth that sinners are responsible. What he denies is that God
requires no more than man is able to do. For instance, God requires perfect
obedience to His law from those who possess no ability or desire to obey it (Romans 8:7).
Man's inability springs from his sinful and rebellious
unwillingness. He cannot (John 6:44), because he will not .
2. The Bible does teach that man has
a choice and that he acts freely in the exercise of that
choice. The issue concerns whether a person, controlled
by a sinful nature, will ever make the proper choice. The
Bible teaches that man's will is bound and controlled by
his sinful nature; so that he cannot and will not choose
Christ, believe the gospel, or forsake sin unless God, in
sovereign grace, changes his nature (John 3:19-21, 6:44,
6:65; 1 Corinthians 1:18, 2:14; Romans 3:11).
3. Every man, left to himself is capable of the most
heinous sins. Every man at heart is the same (Proverbs 27:19) --
deceitful and desperately
wicked (Jeremiah 17:9).
4. Men are wicked in God's sight and totally
incapable of doing that which is well-pleasing to Him (Genesis 6:5; Psalm 14:1-3;
Ecclesiastes 7:20, 29; Job 15:16; Jeremiah 9:3; Romans 3:10-18).
The doctrine of "Unconditional Election"
cannot be true because:
1. Anyone who wants to be saved, can
be. "Whosoever will May come."
2. God does not delight in the destruction of the wicked
(Ezekiel 33:11), but desires that all men repent.
3. We should preach the gospel to everyone. If God has
only planned to save some, why should we preach to and pray for all?
4."Election" and "predestination" are
terms contrived by the Calvinists to cause confusion, bring division, and excuse a lack of
evangelistic zeal (The issue is whether election ever took place or not).
1. The true believer in free grace will never deny that
God has extended a free offer of mercy, in Christ, to all who hear the Gospel. To deny
that "Whosoever will may come," is to deny the clear teaching of God's Word. The real issue, however, is whether any will desire
salvation (in God's way and on God's terms) unless God gives him that desire (Psalm
14:1-3; Romans 3:11; Psalm 58:3-5; John 3:14-21, 5:40).
2. Has God purposed to save every man? Since the Bible
plainly teaches that God's plan or purpose is always accomplished (Isaiah 46:10-11; Daniel
4:35; Proverbs 19:21; Psalm 115:3), It should be clear that He has not purposed to save
everyone. If He had, everyone would be saved.
On the other hand, the Bible sets forth
God's elective purpose according to which He calls and saves
His elect (Romans 8:28-30, 9:11; Ephesians 1:4-5, 9-11;
2 Timothy 1:9).
3. God has commanded us to preach to (witness to) every
creature and pray for their salvation. We are not to be governed by what God has planned
(which is secret to us), but by what God has commanded.
God has ordained to use means to accomplish His purpose
(Romans 10:14-15). He does not save people apart from the use of means. Gospel preaching
is one of the means that God has ordained to bring the elect to faith in Christ. Since we
do not know who the elect are, we must preach to and pray for all.
The primary purpose for witnessing the gospel is that we
might glorify God in our obedience and faithfulness to Him.
4. Every Christian who has carefully studied the Bible
must believe in election and predestination. These are biblical words. The issue is
whether election is conditional (based on foreseen faith) or unconditional.
The doctrine of "Particular Redemption"
cannot be true because:
1. Jesus' death was sufficient for all men.
2. Jesus' death was not limited, but was intended for all
1. The all-sufficiency of Christ's death is not denied by
the true believer in free grace. The Canons of Dort, which is the historical
statement of the so-called "five points of Calvinism" formulated at the Synod of
Dort (Dordrecht) 1618-1619, state:
"The death of the Son of God is
the only and most
perfect sacrifice and satisfaction for sin, and
is of infinite worth and value, abundantly
sufficient to expiate the sins of the whole world."
The real issue concerns the intent of Christ's death. Did
Christ intend to accomplish redemption, propitiation and reconciliation for every man? Did
He intend to make salvation possible for all men? The free grace believer replies that,
though Christ's death is of infinite value and is sufficient to redeem every man (had this been God's intention), the true intention of Christ's death
was to accomplish effectively the full salvation of the elect, and the elect only.
2. Since all men will not be saved as a result of
Christ's death, a limitation must be admitted. It must be limited either in its extent (in
that it was not intended for all) or its effectiveness (in that it did not actually
secure salvation for any). The real issue is not so much, "For whom did Christ
die?" but "What did He do for those for whom He did die?" If we view
Christ's death as an accomplishment, then it could not have been intended for every
The doctrine of "irresistible grace"
cannot be true, because:
1. Men often resist (and resist successfully) God's
offers of mercy in Christ (Genesis 6:3; Acts 7:51). They even resist and finally reject
the powerful conviction of the Holy Spirit Himself (Acts 24:25).
2. People have a choice in coming to Christ. God does not
force them to be saved against their will.
1. While it is true that sinners always resist the
Holy Spirit (Acts 7:51), the issue is whether the sinner's continual rebellion is able to
thwart the eternal purpose and powerful grace of God.
If at God's appointed time (Galatians 1:15-16) He did not
subdue the sinner's rebellion, and make him willing to embrace Christ in saving faith
(Psalm 11:3), then none would ever believe (John 6:44-45).
2. The issue is not whether God forces people to believe
against their will but whether any would ever be willing without a prior work of God in
their souls. Those who believe in free grace, believe that God, not man, is in control in
the realm of salvation (Romans 9:16; 1 Corinthians 1:30, 4:7; I1 Corinthians 4:6;
Galatians 1:15-16; 2 Timothy 1:9; Matthew 11:20-27).
PERSEVERANCE OF THE SAINTS
Many who are otherwise Arminian in doctrine, claim to
believe this truth. But, in reality, they believe neither the Calvinistic nor the Arminian
doctrine at this point.
If the opponents of free grace argue against the
proposition that God will preserve all who profess faith in Christ no matter what they do
(totally apart from the necessity of perseverance), then they are "burning a straw
This is not a Calvinistic position, but a four-point
The real issue has nothing to do with the necessity of
perseverance. Both the Arminian and the true Calvinist are agreed at this point. The
point of controversy is the certainty of perseverance.
The Calvinist believes that God so preserves and supports
His elect in a state of grace that they will certainly persevere in faith and
holiness unto the end. This perseverance is due not to the
strength of their will or the tenacity of their faith but to the power and grace of God
working in them.
Those who fall away and perish in their sins, give
evidence that a work of grace has never occurred in their hearts. (Consider John 10:27-29;
Romans 8:28-29; Philippians 1:6; 1 Corinthians 15:1-2; Colossians 1:21-23; Hebrews 3:6,
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