Part 5: How Did You Not Know Your Pastor is Calvinist? A Defense of My Majority Non-Calvinist Congregation
There it is. The question that I have been asked the most. Various articulations of:
Come on. How did your majority non-Calvinist congregation not know that your pastor was Calvinist? After two whole years?
If someone had asked me this question in August of 2022, I wouldn’t have had a sufficient answer. When this entire fiasco exploded after David’s November 6th Sunday school presentation to the youth, this was the most common objection I heard reported from church members. Over and over I would hear of very non-Calvinist individuals saying that they did not believe David was Calvinist. How in the world is this possible when we had all been sitting in the same audience, hearing the same sermons for over two years?
These are the questions that spurred the research which resulted in Part 1 of this article series. Historically, there have been two streams of Baptists: a more Calvinist stream and a more Arminian stream. For several decades, the non-Calvinist stream was the dominant and the denomination experienced the majority of its growth during this period. For so long, in fact, that Calvinism is a completely foreign theological system to many, if not most congregations. The reader may refer to the following resources for additional information:
David Circumvents the Pastor Search Committee
It is now an indisputable fact that, despite going through the entire vetting process, the majority of the pastor search committee was unaware that David affirmed the tenets of Calvinism when they recommended him to the church. I say majority instead of entirety, because it is possible that there was one member who did know, yet failed to disclose that information to the rest of the committee. I have reason to believe that the deacon who was sent to interview him and “ask the hard questions” (i.e., hard questions meant to elucidate where David stood on the doctrine of salvation) did know. However, I have no hard evidence to present. Ultimately, there are only two possibilities:
1. The deacon sent to interview him did know, and asked David questions in such a way as to allow for answers evasive enough that they would not raise red flags for the rest of the committee.
2. The deacon sent to interview him was not sufficiently educated on the topic so as to be qualified to ask the appropriate questions, which allowed David to craft his responses in such a way that his views would not be clearly understood.
Whichever is the case, the result was that the congregation voted to affirm David without the awareness that he holds to Calvinist doctrines. This is step 1 of a stealth Calvinist take-over, and David completed successfully.
A sufficiently equipped pastor search committee is absolutely crucial to avoid the catastrophic splits plaguing the Southern Baptist denomination. To avoid this scenario, I highly recommend the following guide: Questions and Answers for Pastor Search Committees of Non-Calvinist Congregations
The Root of the Problem
Previous context considered, the ultimate culprit is a lack of understanding about what Calvinism actually teaches. Even some individuals who have heard enough about the theological system to know they disagree with it, may not be able to identify it when it is actually preached. I understand that this may not sound plausible. How can someone disagree with a system and yet not be able to recognize it when they hear it?
The system itself involves a lot of what non-Calvinists consider to be “double speak,” which makes it very difficult for the individual not familiar with Calvinism to realize what exactly is being asserted. It is often very contradictory. Wikipedia supplies the definition of “double speak” that is closest to my usage here:
“Doublespeak is language that deliberately obscures, disguises, distorts, or reverses the meaning of words. Doublespeak may take the form of euphemisms…in which case it is primarily meant to make the truth sound more palatable. It may also refer to intentional ambiguity in language or to actual inversions of meaning. In such cases, doublespeak disguises the nature of the truth.”
This definition is closest to the mark, however, I’d like to insert one caveat. Since the Calvinist systematic includes contradictory concepts and the requirement that one affirm some mutually exclusive statements to be true simultaneously, the Calvinist preacher may not be using double speak intentionally. Rather, double speak is simply unavoidable in preaching the Bible through the lens of the system. On the other hand, some Calvinist pastors do intentionally employ double speak beyond that which is inherent in the system itself, with the intent to obscure.
Another element adding to the confusion is the fact that Calvinists and non-Calvinists often use the same vocabulary, however, their definitions of certain terms are in opposition to each other. The Calvinist will generally know this, while the non-Calvinist may be completely unaware. Unless the Calvinist clarifies this to the non-Calvinist, the non-Calvinist may have an entire conversation believing they are in agreement with the Calvinist when, in fact, they are not on the same page at all. A full explanation is offered in Part 2 of this article series.
This brings me to the two questions I’d like to pose to the reader:
1. Would you be able to recognize Calvinism if it was being preached from your pulpit?
2. Would you recognize the strategy of “stealth Calvinism” being employed from your pulpit?
I hope the reader will keep these questions in mind while surveying the “Analysis” portion of this article.
Conclusions From My Analysis of David’s Sermons
Conclusions normally come at the end. However, by stating mine in the beginning, I hope the reader will be better equipped to recognize and weigh David’s various teachings against the conclusions I have drawn from them. Have I been fair in my assessment? That is up to the reader to decide.
In trying to understand how in the world the events disclosed in Part 4 of this series could have happened in my church (the reader should understand that Part 4 is merely my personal testimony; David has exhibited unethical behavior toward many other individuals in addition to myself, my son, and Jack Dixon), and in the hopes that I could in some small way help other congregations avoid that fate, I went to my church’s sermon archives page. There, I listened to every single sermon David Kizziah has given from our pulpit from the beginning, while making notes and transcribing relevant portions. The fruit of that labor is below. Remember as you read that our congregation did not know that David was Calvinist, and that hindsight is 20/20. Additionally, many of these teachings occur for a mere matter of minutes in the middle or end of a sermon.
I believe that I am justified in arriving at the following seven conclusions based on my analysis:
1. Even though David rejects the label “Calvinist,” he has been clear enough in his preaching from the pulpit for an individual who is familiar with Calvinist doctrine to know for a fact that he affirms at least 4 points of TULIP, and possibly the 5th: Total depravity as total inability; Unconditional election; Irresistible grace; and Perseverance of the saints. He very well may also hold to Limited atonement depending on what he meant by his statements in his August 15, 2021 sermon.
2.David has also clearly affirmed the Calvinist concepts of exhaustive divine determinism as the definition of sovereignty, compatibilist free will, and the plural wills of God.
3.David began his tenure at AFBC giving the impression that he affirmed an overtly non-Calvinist idea of salvation (the drowning man being tossed a rope), which he referred to sporadically later on, even after he had asserted his true view, the Calvinist Lazarus/corpse analogy.
4.David never gives a complete definition of certain key terms that he uses, which prevents many in the congregation from fully grasping the concepts he is teaching. Examples include compatibilist free will and the general versus effectual gospel call.
5.Since many church members expressed disbelief that David is, in fact, Calvinist, in the weeks following the youth lesson, it is clear that these individuals either: a) did not understand what Calvinism is; or b) did understand what Calvinism is, but were unable to identify it due to its inherent contradictory affirmations, David’s lack of clarity in defining key terms, and/or lack of knowledge regarding the non-Calvinist interpretation of key texts.
6.In light of number 5, it is clear that our congregation was highly vulnerable to a stealth Calvinist take-over agenda.
7.It is absolutely understandable that David would be under the impression that our congregation was “ready” for him to give the explicit presentation of the Calvinist doctrine of election as the only “Biblical” view to the youth.
A Reminder About the Goal of This Series
Before I present my case, it is necessary that I remind the reader of my heart, and my goal in authoring this series. As I’ve stated multiple times throughout, this series is not about demonizing Calvinism as a theological system, and certainly not about disparaging Calvinists as individuals. While I do have very serious concerns about several aspects of the Calvinist theological systematic, which is a necessary corollary to the discussion at times, I also believe that a congregation can be unified in its diversity if it is devoted to this goal and blessed with skilled leaders. This series is explicitly and unapologetically about:
1.Soundly and publicly denouncing the strategies of certain Calvinist ministries and certain Calvinist pastors who aim to “reform” majority non-Calvinist congregations via “stealth” and subversive means, which results in the sundering of congregations.
2.Equipping Southern Baptist laity everywhere to recognize and potentially avoid the heartbreak that my church has endured due to “stealth” reformation agendas.
3.Publically calling out corruption and abuse within the Church (evidenced in Part 4 of this series) in accordance with Paul’s 1 Timothy 5:19-20 distinction:
“19 Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses. 20 As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear.” (ESV)
In David Kizziah’s final address to our congregation, he offered the following practical application of the 1 Timothy 5 passage cited above, and I could not agree more with his interpretation and call to action:
“And that is not just a passive activity. It requires action to rebuff it.”
It is in the spirit of fulfilling the two goals above that I offer an analysis of the timeline, trajectory, and content of David’s preaching from the beginning of his ministry in our church all the way to the end. I highly recommend readers who are not already proficient in their understanding of Calvinism to read Part 2: What is Calvinism and/or Reformed Theology before continuing .
David’s First Three Months
Sermons from the time period spanning July 26, 2020 to September 20, 2020 may be accessed in their entirety at the following link:
July 26, 2020:
In this, what I believe is David’s second sermon, he institutes the Robert Murray M’Cheyne Bible reading plan. I knew that M’Cheyne was a very Calvinist pastor. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this reading plan or M’Cheyne. The plan is wonderful and the man, by all accounts, worthy of the Hebrews 11 “hall of faith.” I mention this as a fact of history, rather than any sort of red flag.
August 16, 2020:
54:10: “There is nothing to hinder you right now, this morning, in this room, watching right now. There is nothing to hinder you from embracing this story. For you, right now, to repent of your sin and say, ‘Lord Jesus, I believe in you. I trust in you. I want to follow you.”
Non-Calvinist Perspective: The non-Calvinist in the audience takes this statement at face value.
Calvinist Concept: The Calvinist applies the unstated caveat that no man can even want to believe and trust in Jesus unless he/she is one of the elect that God selected before Creation, and who has been regenerated to enable/ensure this positive response temporally. With respect to the non-elect, the non-Calvinist considers this barrier to be an insurmountable hindrance indeed. If I’m a non-Calvinist in the audience, I am not on the same mental page that David is with regard to the meaning of this statement, but I have been given no inkling that this is the case.
Sermons from the time period spanning September 27, 2020 to December 27, 2020 may be accessed in their entirety at the following link:
September 27, 2020:
David gives an explicitly non-Calvinist analogy for salvation:
1:03:30: “If you see someone out in the middle of a lake and they’re bobbing up and down; they’re on the verge of drowning…They want a rope. They want to be tethered to safety. In Christ, God has thrown the rope. From the top down. Will you grab hold?”
Non-Calvinist Perspective: When David preached this, I believed he was certainly non-Calvinist. This is not any Calvinist’s analogy for salvation. In fact, David preaches the Calvinist view of salvation the very next week. In retrospect, I do not see any option other than to believe that David was being intentionally misleading when he delivered this sermon. This is not a mistake any honest Calvinist would make.
Is it possible that David was actually presenting the non-Calvinist view of salvation rather than intending to give the impression that this was the view of salvation that he holds? Personally, I don’t consider this a valid option, because David doesn’t present the view as any sort of alternative to any other view. In fact, throughout his entire tenure at AFBC, David never presents any non-Calvinist interpretation of Scripture as an alternative when he is presenting a Calvinist interpretation, other than when he is intentionally denigrating a non-Calvinist interpretation. For example, his misrepresentation of the chess-player analogy in his February 28, 2021 sermon.
Calvinist Concept: The Calvinist salvation analogy is the John 11 story of Jesus resurrecting Lazarus According to Calvinism, man is a corpse. A corpse does not have to ability to grab a rope thrown to him.
October 4, 2020:
I came to the realization that David is, in fact, Calvinist in this sermon. Rather than transcribing this entire sermon, I will list the explicit Calvinist concepts taught in this sermon, and only transcribe the portions where David sums it all up. In this sermon David: 1. Conflates Paul’s conversion experience and his election to a specific role (apostle) to the election of individuals before time to salvation; 2. regeneration preceding faith; 3. posits that this determining doesn’t negate man’s responsibility; 4. follows by using the John 11 story of Lazarus as an analogy for salvation.
49:12: “Now I want us to look at four quick components of that revelation that Paul talks about here. Now, again, we’re asking the question, ‘What defines me?’ Right? What is revealed to me? The real Jesus, really revealed to me? Let’s look at the four components of that revelation, alright? […] God’s choice, God’s call, God’s commission, and God’s communion. (emphasis mine)
Calvinist Concept: The order of this is of utmost importance for comprehension of what David is saying. What is required for Jesus to be truly revealed to you? Number 1: God’s choice.
This is followed by some very confusing statements:
51:20: “And God has spoken to every single person in this room, every single person tuning in right now [he means online]. If you have ears to hear, God is saying to you, ‘Before you were born I made a choice. I chose,’ God said.
Mixed Messaging: I believe this an example of intentional double speak. David does believe that God is speaking to every single person via what Calvinist refer to as the “general call.” However, when he says, “If you have ears to hear,” he is saying without clarifying that the listener will only truly be able to hear and respond if God issues His “effectual call,” which He will only issue to the elect. The non-Calvinist listening may not be capable of picking up on the nuance in his statements. He certainly has not clarified that nuance exists.
Calvinist Concept: What David is saying in a convoluted way is this: If you hear and respond positively today, that means that you are one of the elect God chose before Creation.
51:55: “Romans chapter 8 and verse 28, ‘And we know that for those who love God, all things work together for good. For those who are called according to his purposes, for whom he foreknew.’ That means those whom He knew before time began. ‘For those whom he foreknew, he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, and those whom he predestined, he also called, and those whom he called, he also justified, those whom he justified, he glorified.”
Non-Calvinist Perspective: By citing this passage here, David clearly appears to be asserting the Calvinist interpretation of the doctrine of predestination.
Calvinist Concept: Romans 8:28-30 is often referred to by Calvinists as “The Golden Chain of Salvation,” which they interpret as Scriptural support for the idea that God predestined certain individuals to salvation prior to Creation.
De-Calvinized Scripture: If the Calvinist definition of the word “predestined” is correct, then this passage certainly does seem to say exactly what they say it means. The problem from the non-Calvinist point of view is Scripture never defines the term that way. In actuality, the word “predestined” is used six times in the New Testament. In his Christian Theology, Dr. Adam Harwood has included a useful table showing how the term is used in each of these six usages:
For the reader who would like to hear a non-Calvinist interpretation of this passage, I recommend Dr. Flowers’ 10-minute video, Romans 8:28-30 De-Calvinized.
52:25: “Now I know some of you right now are getting a little angry. Wait a minute preacher. Talkin’ about that predestination stuff. What’s going on? What are we gettin’ at here? Are you saying that if God chooses me, it doesn’t matter what I do? Absolutely not, nor does Scripture say it. See, I think we’re scared of that term predestination because, even though it’s all through the New Testament, because we have a wrong understanding of what that means, right? We think God’s first choosing us means we have no will whatsoever. That’s not what it means, right? God may have chosen us in eternity past, but we must still choose Him in space and time.”
Non-Calvinist Perspective: David realizes here that some in the audience may have just recognized that he has asserted the Calvinist version of the doctrine of predestination. However, he seems to indicate that he is disagreeing with what he believes they understand that view of the doctrine to teach (that if God chooses us, our actions don’t matter).
Calvinist Concept: Calvinists view this particular non-Calvinist objection to their definition of predestination as a misunderstanding of what they believe. The Calvinist would not say that our actions don’t matter simply because they are predestined due to the fact that we still have to actually perform that action in time (temporally).
Non-Calvinist Perspective: To the non-Calvinist, this explanation just kicks the can further down the road since, on Calvinism, God’s predestination of the individual to salvation assures that he/she will not fail to perform that action temporally. David never addresses this valid objection, and his last statement is all but meaningless to the non-Calvinist.
54:43: “Have you heard the call of God? You say, ‘I don’t know!’ Well, guess what? The call of God is going out right now! This is a human call. I’m speaking. I’m a human right? I’m calling out through the word. But God, in His sovereignty can give His effectual call right now, if you will choose to hear it.” (emphasis mine)
Mixed Messaging: Here, David even uses the Calvinist term “effectual call.” However, he fails to clarify to the congregation that this call is a different call from the “general call,” which he affirms everyone is receiving through him as a human agent, in that the general call is not sufficient to result in salvation.
I want to point out here, that even though I was positive after this sermon that David was Calvinist, I did not grasp at the time how deceptive his presentation was. That realization was only clear to me in hearing this sermon for the second time over two years later. I did, however, assume that many in the congregation would have realized that he was Calvinist on this day right along with me. That assumption was incorrect.
Calvinist Concept: In the book David selected for the youth curriculum, these terms are explicitly defined:
“This calling is an act of God the Father, speaking through the human proclamation of the gospel, in which he summons people to himself in such a way that they respond in saving faith. Because it comes from God and always results in saving faith, it is sometimes referred to as effective calling.” (p. 96-97)
“But there is a broader sense of ‘calling’ that refers to any preaching of the gospel to anyone, whether they respond or not. In distinction from effective calling , which always brings response, we can talk about the ‘gospel call’ in general, which goes forth to all people, and which is sometimes referred to as external calling or general calling. […] Not all gospel calls are effective. The job of believers is to explain the gospel message; it is God’s job to make that message or call effective.” (p. 97-98)
Mixed Messaging: The statement that I have bolded is very confusing, and I’m not really sure what he means. Surely David cannot be saying that you have the ability to “choose” to hear the effectual call, and if you will, then God will give it. This would just be a lie. Perhaps he is saying that if God knows that this is the temporal juncture at which He has determined that you, as an elect individual He chose before Creation, will choose to hear His effectual call, then He will certainly send it? That’s the only sense I can make of it.
Calvinist Concept: Since Calvinists teach that regeneration occurs prior to faith, the face value interpretation that David seems to indicating (that God will send the effectual call if the individual chooses to hear it) is ruled out. See the youth curriculum text:
“After the invitation to respond to the gospel is given, God must bring about a change in an individual’s heart before he or she is able to respond in faith. That change, a secret act of God in which he imparts new spiritual life to is, is sometimes called regeneration. We play no role in this regeneration; it is completely an act of God.” (p. 99)
After this, David’s sermons are mostly Calvinism-free for about two months. He must not have received any push-back during this time, because with the beginning of the New Year, he routinely adds Calvinist elements into his messages.
David’s Sermons from 6 Months to a Year
Sermons from the time period spanning January 3, 2021 to January 31, 2021 may be accessed at the link below:
January 17, 2021:
42:58: “You’re moving towards a day, Paul tells these learned philosophers [in the Acts 17 context of Paul addressing the Gentiles at the Areopagus], in which you will stand before the living God, who stands supreme above all gods, who sits in sovereignty ordaining and orchestrating every single event that happens.” (emphasis mine)
Calvinist Concept: David is establishing exhaustive divine determinism at the outset of this sermon, which also equates to the Calvinist idiosyncratic definition of “sovereignty.” We all believe that God is sovereign. We do not all believe that the fact that God is sovereign necessarily entails exhaustive divine determinism. Dr. Flowers illustrates this point in footnote 31, on page 39 of his book, The Potter’s Promise:
“James White: ‘How can God know future events, for example, and yet not determine them, is an important point’ (Debating Calvinism, p. 163) ‘How could God know it?’ asks White. For White, God must determine it, in order to know it. For White, omniscience is simply a matter of God knowing what He scripted, and since God scripted everything, according to White, then it follows that God must then know everything. White writes: ‘How can God know what these free creatures will do in the future, if they are truly free?’ (Debating Calvinism, p. 168) It’s clear that White doesn’t believe that God could know what free creatures would do, unless God determined their actions.”
David does not clarify this nuance. Many Calvinists, and apparently David is one of them, hold that God has orchestrated every single event that has ever and will ever come to pass. The reader needs to understand that this includes all events, down to the most heinous of sin. For example, in John Piper’s article, Has God Predetermined Every Tiny Detail In the Universe, Including Sin? he writes:
“Has God predetermined every tiny detail in the universe, such as dust particles in the air and all of our besetting sins? Yes.”
Calvinist Concept: At the same time, Calvinists argue that they do not believe that God is the author of sin. However, how He is both the determiner and orchestrator (i.e., the unmoved mover in the Aristotelian sense) of every event that occurs without being the author, and therefore culpable for the sin that He has determined is considered a mystery that must simply be accepted. Or, as some Calvinists argue (and as David will argue later) since God Himself has not directly caused the sin, only determined it through secondary means, then He is not culpable. Only the human agent bears responsibility.
Non-Calvinist Perspective: Hopefully the reader is beginning to see why non-Calvinists believe that some of the hidden terms and conditions of the Calvinist system are an assault on the very character of God.
52:17: “…You can seek Him. In fact, that’s why He ordained for you to be born when you were born. Look at verse 27. God is in charge of history, geography, identity. Why? So that all these people whom He has sovereignly placed throughout time all over planet Earth, so that they would seek Him. And in the seeking they would find Him. […] That same word that the English Bible translates (or at least the ESV) that they would feel their way toward him. It’s the same word that was used in that ancient Greek story of the cyclops. Remember, when the cyclops was blinded (and these guys would’ve known this story), he groped in the cave trying to find his way out? That’s what he’s saying. You are blinded, but God has set this thing in motion, your life in motion so that you will find him. And how can He be found? Well, he can be found in His Son.”
Mixed Messaging: Here, despite what he has just asserted about exhaustive divine determinism, David seems to be teaching that all men have the ability to seek and find God, and that God has specifically placed each and every individual in such a time and place so that they would. Nowhere does he clarify that, according to Calvinism, only the elect are enabled to seek God. The cyclops analogy compounds the confusion. Perhaps he means that the elect, after regeneration, are like the groping cyclops? David has already made clear in previous sermons that the state of all men (prior to regeneration) is that of a corpse, just like Lazarus. With all of this mixed messaging it is no wonder people who aren’t familiar with Calvinism are not tracking along with what David is actually saying.
January 23, 2021:
36:30: “And do you know what the basic will of God is? […] You know what God’s basic will is for you today? It is to come and place yourself under the mercy of Christ found at the cross. Come and receive His mercy…And now, God’s will for us is to turn and place ourselves under the fountain of God’s mercy. It’s amazing. That’s what God wants from us.”
Non-Calvinist Perspective: At this point in his tenure at AFBC, David has never explained that he believes God has multiple wills: a “will of decree,” a “will of direction,” and a “will of desire.” He doesn’t elaborate on this until his October 16, 2022 sermon. Here he seems to be calling God’s will of desire His “basic will,” which is revealed in any Bible passage in which God indicates that it is His desire that all would come to Him in faith, repentance, and belief.
Calvinist Concept: I’ve heard Calvinists define these plural wills of God defined in various ways. Some affirm two wills, others three. John Piper gets at the crux of the matter in Are There Two Wills in God:
“Affirming the will of God to save all, while also affirming the unconditional election of some, implies that there are at least ‘two wills’ in God, or two ways of willing. It implies that God decrees one state of affairs while also willing and teaching that a different state of affairs should come to pass. This distinction in the way God wills has been expressed in various ways throughout the centuries. It is not a new contrivance. For example, theologians have spoken of sovereign will and moral will, efficient will and permissive will, secret will and revealed will, will of decree and will of command, decretive will and preceptive will, voluntas signi (will of sign) and voluntas beneplaciti (will of good pleasure), etc.”
“To avoid all misconceptions it should be made clear at the outset that the fact that God wishes or wills that all people should be saved does not necessarily imply that all will respond to the gospel and be saved. We must certainly distinguish between what God would like to see happen and what he actually does will to happen, and both of these things can be spoken of as God’s will. The question at issue is not whether all will be saved but whether God has made provision in Christ for the salvation of all, provided that they believe, and without limiting the potential scope of the death of Christ merely to those whom God knows will believe.”
Non-Calvinist Perspective: The non-Calvinist argues that this creates a kind of schizophrenic God. What’s more, to the Calvinist, the individual is responsible to obey God’s will of desire. However, according to God’s will of decree, He has not enabled/will not enable the non-elect to do so. A plural will concept is not taught anywhere in Scripture. It is purely a deduction the Calvinist must make in order to make sense of Scripture which contradicts his presupposition of exhaustive divine determinism.
Mixed Messaging: Any non-Calvinist sitting out in the audience who is not familiar with Calvinism’s plural wills of God would have no idea that this is what David means by what he’s saying.
Sermons from the time period spanning February 7, 2021 to April 17, 2022 may be accessed at the link below:
February 28, 2021:
36:19: “Where has God placed you? Just know He’s done that because of providential necessity. […] And He’s placed you there, not as some really good chess player. A really good chess player might place his pawn or his bishop or his rook at a particular spot because his opponent has outsmarted him, and he’s trying to play catch-up. So, he’s gonna place his piece here. No. God is not a chess player. He has placed you where He has placed you. He has placed me where He has placed me, not as a chess player, but as a movie director, who says, ‘No, no, no. Stand right here. Right here. Cause I want the light to hit you in this way. I want the angle of the camera to come, right? I want you right here, because I have a plan and I’ve got all the angles figured out…”
Calvinist Concept: Here David has given a very explicit illustration of his view of exhaustive divine determinism. Remember above that I said that Calvinists roundly denounce that God is the author of sin? This is a prime example of the fact that they often do this while simultaneously employing the analogy of a movie director to describe their view of exhaustive divine determinism. So, to some Calvinists, God as author is not an appropriate analogy, but God as movie director is.
Misrepresenting Non-Calvinist Views: Notice here what David says about the analogy of God as a chess player. There are two options:
1. David either exhibits that he does not properly grasp the non-Calvinist chess player analogy; or 2. he employs a debate tactic called the straw-man fallacy in order to intentionally misrepresent an analogy that some non-Calvinists use to describe their view of divine providence (a chess player), because the version he has articulated is easier to defeat than the non-Calvinist’s real argument.
Non-Calvinist Perspective: No non-Calvinist presents the chess player analogy in the way he has presented it, arguing that God is merely reacting to counter a move in which the enemy has outsmarted Him. Instead, the analogy might be used to illustrate how a master chess player can play a game against multiple opponents simultaneously, not merely able to achieve his planned end by virtue of the fact that he is directing a play in which he has previously determined every action of each actor, but able to achieve his ends by virtue of the sheer fact that his intelligence is such that his ends will be achieved even while allowing his opponents to make moves of their own free accord. Of course, no analogy is perfect, but you get the point.
As Dr. Flowers says in his book The Potter’s Promise:
“Should ‘sovereignty’ be interpreted and understood as the necessity of God to ‘play both sides of the chessboard’ in order to ensure His victory? Or should it be understood as God’s infinite and mysterious ways of accomplishing His purposes and ensuring His victory in, through and despite the libertarianly free choices of creation?” (p. 36)
38:42: “By the way, if you know Jesus, you’re His ambassador, right? We can perform this service as a witness for Him in a dispassionate way, right? […] We can also take this book called the Bible and start bullying people with it, right? […] That’s the next point of this message. The fact of our witness is a providential necessity, but the flavor of our witness should be a profound, not, okay? […] And what I mean is that there should be a warmth to it, right?”
Mixed Messaging: To a non-Calvinist sitting in the audience this next point in his sermon, which comes barely two minutes after his assertion of exhaustive divine determinism seems dizzyingly contradictory. David has just posited that God is placing you so specifically that light and camera angles are precise. In previous sermons he has indicated that every event that comes to pass has been determined (not just known) by God before Creation. Yet, here he is saying that we have some type of control over how we witness: with apathy, bullying, or warmth. I can see how a non-Calvinist who is not familiar with Calvinism’s inherent contradictory, mutually exclusive beliefs would be left feeling that they had to have misunderstood something David has said somewhere in this message.
March 28, 2021:
David is preaching this Sunday on John 2:23 – 3:8. To provide context for his statements the end of John 2 is cited below:
“23 Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing. 24 But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people 25 and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.” (ESV)
55:12: “If John’s gospel would’ve ended after chapter 2, we should have major heartburn. Oh no. There are some people who believe in Jesus in some way. It seems like they want to have fellowship with Him, and Jesus leaves them hanging?”
Non-Calvinist Perspective: I’d like to point out that this passage is problematic for the Calvinist doctrine of total depravity as they assert it (as total inability). As we’ve seen David teach previously, all men prior to regeneration are corpse-like in that they have zero ability to even want to be positively disposed to Jesus or His gospel message. They can only be repulsed by it. Yet, in this text, there are people who are positively disposed to the message, which according to Calvinism can only happen after regeneration, which according to their doctrine of irresistible grace, necessarily entails that they will have faith, repent, and believe.
Calvinist Concept: In order to address this occurrence in Scripture (and in the reality we all live daily) which seems to diverge from his concept of total depravity, John Calvin deduced a doctrine he called “effervescent faith”:
“Let no one think that those [who] fall away…were of the predestined, called according to the purpose and truly sons of the promise. For those who appear to live piously may be called sons of God; but since they will eventually live impiously and die in that impiety, God does not call them sons in His foreknowledge. There are sons of God who do not yet appear so to us, but now do so to God; and there are those who, on account of some arrogated or temporal grace, are called so by us, but are not so to God.” (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God p. 66)
“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.” (The Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book 3, Chapter 24, Section 8)
To be clear, almost no modern day Calvinist affirms this concept of “effervescent faith” in which God grants some form of grace allowing the individual to overcome total depravity and express a type of superficial faith/belief, which evaporates when God later revokes that grace. However, I am unaware of any alternative explanation provided.
55:47: “That’s why the rest of the gospel was written [meaning what he is about to discuss in chapter 3]. To say no. He knows us. He loves us, and He’s gonna refuse to leave us on the surface. And that’s why He’s gonna point us to to what He points Nicodemus to. The need of a new birth regeneration. And that’s why He says in verse 8, ‘The wind blows where it wishes.’ […] You know what He’s saying? You can’t see the wind. Nicodemus, you can’t see the Spirit, but you can definitely see the effect of the Spirit. And the faith you need is saving, Nicodemus. And when you place saving faith in Me, it’s going to have an effect.”
Mixed Messaging: This is a confusing commentary in my opinion. He seems to be saying that we should be relieved by the text of chapter 3, because chapter 2 has indicated that some people can exhibit some type of non-saving faith. He then states that God knows us, loves us, and refuses to leave us at the stage of a superficial faith. This statement certainly cannot apply to all people, otherwise there would be no such thing as the non-elect. From there, David moves to the discussion with Nicodemus about being born again, or regenerated, which will certainly result in visible evidence of this regeneration in the life of the believer. David has made a distinction between superficial faith and saving faith, but offered no explanation for the fact that, apparently, such a thing as a superficial/non-saving faith does exist. This is not a comforting thought, which is why he continues with the following statements.
56:55: “Now if I were you right now, I’d be asking, ‘What’s that effect?’ […] If you’re right now really worried, ‘Oh no, is my faith really saving or superficial?’ Guess what? It’s probably saving faith. Alright? [chuckles]”
Non-Calvinist Perspective: I’m really not sure how this statement is reassuring to anyone. I’ve heard Calvinists express that their doctrinal version of eternal security, perseverance of the saints, is the most robust, comforting version of eternal security. I suppose it is if one is absolutely certain that he/she is elect. Of course, that cannot be definitively stated at any point during anyone’s life. It is only an assessment that can be made if one does, in fact, persevere in faith to the end of his/her life. We can probably all conjure up examples in reality where that failed to occur despite very convincing outward evidence for entire decades. Apparently, perseverance of the saints doesn’t inspire a feeling if security for many Calvinists. Calvinist Michael Patton’s ministry focuses heavily on Christians who are doubting their faith. The following excerpts are from his article, Doubting Calvinists:
“It may surprise you to know that just about every contact I have had with people who are doubting their salvation are Calvinistic in their theology. In other words, they believe in unconditional election. These are the ones who believe in perseverance of the saints. These are the ones that believe that we cannot lose our salvation! Yet these are the ones who are doubting their faith the most.
“Their issue has to do with their election. Are they truly among the elect? If they are, they believe their faith will persevere until the end. But if they are not, there is no hope. But how are they to know for sure whether they are elect? Maybe their faith is a stated faith? Maybe it is false. The gentleman I talked to today was so riddled with doubt, he was having thoughts of suicide. ‘How do I know my faith is an elect faith?’ He wanted assurance so badly, but felt that his Calvinistic theology prevented him from ever having such assurance.
“Isn’t this ironic? I have never had a call from an Arminian (or any other believer in conditional election) about this. In my experience, it is only Calvinists who doubt their faith in this way, with such traumatic devastation. Why?”
I do, indeed, find this very ironic.
April 11, 2021:
54:55: “Some of you are thinking, ‘Wow, Jesus says the new birth, it’s kind of like the Spirit blowing, it’s a work of God. Well, what about my free will? My responsibility?’ Well. Guess what? He’s about to get to that. And here’s the beautiful truth. Everywhere in Scripture you see these two doctrines: the complete sovereignty of God and the absolute responsibility and accountability of man side by side. You say, ‘Well, I don’t understand that.’ Well, if you believe, guess what? You’ll grow in that understanding.”
Non-Calvinist Perspective: This is exactly the contention between the Calvinist and the non-Calvinist, isn’t it? Obviously, the non-Calvinist disagrees that these doctrines, as explained by the Calvinist, are taught in Scripture.
However, it is David’s last statement that is interesting to me. Is he saying that if I am a true believer, I will simply come to accept the fact that even though those two propositions are a textbook example of two mutually exclusive proposition which cannot rationally be held as true simultaneously, I will come to accept that cognitive dissonance and believe affirm them anyway? Or, is he saying that if I am a true believer, I will begin to understand that these two propositions are not, in fact, mutually exclusive? If David is insinuating the latter, then he should probably explain it to prominent Calvinist John MacArthur:
“…John MacArthur, a notable Calvinistic pastor, was asked the question, ‘If God literally brings about everything then how can He blame me for sinning?’ He answered, ‘I don’t know the answer to that, and I don’t know of anyone who knows the answer to that.’” (The Potters Promise, p. 55)
57:24: “So, you’re not necessarily called to understand and explain it all. You’re called to believe. Nicodemus is called to believe. I’m called to believe. Everyone in this room is called to believe.”
Mixed Messaging: Once again, to the non-Calvinist in the audience, this gives the impression that he is saying that we are all called to believe in such a way that we do actually have the ability to believe. David does not clarify that he is merely referring to the general call here, which does in fact go out to all. He is not referencing the effectual call, which will certainly result in belief, but in no way applies to everyone in the room unless everyone in the room is elect. (See definitions cited above.)
April 25, 2021:
1:01:24: “Notice this phrase [John 4:23], ‘…for the Father is seeking such people to worship…’ You know what that means? God really wants you to get His offer…God the Father is making us an offer, and He is seeking us, He is pursuing us to come and get it. […] Church, God’s offer is being made known today and God’s heart will keep chasing after you until you receive it. Receive it today.”
Mixed Messaging: I truly cannot fathom how these statements do not qualify as intentionally deceitful. The only individuals who “God’s heart will keep chasing…until you receive it” are the elect. This is the Calvinist doctrine of irresistible grace. Yet, David does not clarify this in any way, shape, or form.
May 23, 2021:
58:05: “We need You. We need Your Spirit to even believe. And Lord, we are so grateful that Your word promises that you have set forth the Spirit of Your Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba, Father’…”
Mixed Messaging: Another misleading appeal that likely appears to many in the audience to apply to all people, yet he can only be applying in context to the elect.
June 6, 2021:
53:20: “Now the tense is incredibly important [referring to John 5:24]. He does not say, ‘Whoever hears my word and believes in Him who sent Me will have eternal life.’ He says, ‘If you hear My word and believe on Him who sent Me, guess what that means? You have eternal life.’ You hearing, your believing, is evidence that God has breathed life into you. You say, ‘Well, how is that possible?” It’s possible because Ephesians 2 says we are dead in trespasses and sins. No matter how much you prick, prick a dead corpse, it’s not going to be animated. It’s not going to respond.”
Calvinist Concept: This is an explicit teaching on the Calvinist understanding of election, complete with the Lazarus/corpse analogy.
De-Calvinized Scripture: For a non-Calvinist response to David’s assertion about the meaning of Eph. 2 (and other verses they use to posit total inability), the interested reader may refer to Dr. Flowers’ article, Dead Means Dead.
54:13: “We are in desperate need of God making the first response, and in the gospel of Jesus, that’s what has happened. That’s what happened. God has made the first move.”
Non-Calvinist Perspective: Every single non-Calvinist can ‘Amen and amen’ that statement. Jesus’ death on the cross is God making the first move.
54:38: “This leads us to our second doctrine that sometimes the theologians call compatibilism. Basically, all that means is that when it comes to our salvation there are two truths that seem paradoxical, but they’re not. Here are the two truths: God is completely sovereign to save us, and man is completely responsible to respond.”
Mixed Messaging: David has actually used the word “compatibilism” to define the type of free will he is asserting here, which is indeed more clear than he has ever been before. But he fails miserably in defining it with anything approaching clarity. Below I will cite the Monergism.com (very highly respected Calvinist online resource) definition. The reader can refer to the definition below to decide if David has been clear with his audience regarding the view of the type of free will he is urging them to adopt.
Calvinist Concept: Monergism.com definition of compatibilism:
“Compatibilism (also known as soft determinism), is the belief that God’s predetermination and meticulous providence is ‘compatible’ with voluntary choice. In light of Scripture, human choices are believed to be exercised voluntarily but the desires and circumstances that bring about these choices about occur through divine determinism (see Acts 2:23 & 4:27-28). It should be noted that this position is no less deterministic than hard determinism – be clear that neither soft nor hard determinism believes man has a free will. Our choices are only our choices because they are voluntary, not coerced. We do not make choices contrary to our desires or natures. Compatibilism is directly contrary to libertarian free will. Therefore voluntary choice is not the freedom to choose otherwise, that is, without any influence, prior prejudice, inclination, or disposition. Voluntary does mean, however, the ability to choose what we want or desire most. The former view is known as contrary choice, the latter free agency. (Note: compatibilism denies that the will is free to choose otherwise, that is, free from the bondage of the corruption nature, for the unregenerate, and denies that the will is free from God’s eternal decree.)”
June 20, 2021:
45:10: “God reveals Himself as a Father. That’s what He is. He’s a good, good Father. Yes, He is. He’s not an ogre. He’s not a genie…He wants us to live a life of love.”
Mixed Messaging: The reader should understand that all comments made in this sermon asserting that God is a good Father apply only to the elect. The non-elect are not God’s children.
46:15: “Here’s the three things I want is to get from this text about the Father. First of all, the Father is generous…’Come to Me! I will give you what you need and more. I am your heavenly Father, and I am generous.’”
Calvinist Concept: The irony here, is that on Calvinism, God will certainly give his children (those He chose as elect before Creation), everything they need. However, with respect to those individuals who He has created, but chosen to “pass over,” He is withholding the one thing necessary to enable them to come to Him in faith, repentance and belief. God has created us all, but He has only chosen to elect certain individuals for salvation. The rest will be damned. On Calvinism, God has created us all, yet only elected certain individuals to be His children, which He will save.
Non-Calvinist Perspective: Non-Calvinists argue that this definition of election is never taught in Scripture, and seems horrifically unfair.
Calvinist Concept: Wayne Grudem answers this latter accusation in the text that David selected for our youth Sunday school curriculum:
“It is important to understand what ‘fair’ really is with respect to salvation. Indeed, it would be perfectly fair for God not to save any human beings who sinned and rebelled against him… […] But if he does save any human beings, then this is a demonstration of grace, which goes far beyond the requirements of fairness and justice. If God saved only five people out of the whole human race, this would be mercy and grace.” (Christian Beliefs, p 89-90)
Non-Calvinist Perspective: The non-Calvinist is not asserting that God would be unjust if He decided not to save any human beings who have sinned and rebelled against Him. Instead, the non-Calvinist is calling into question how the Calvinist description of God’s “goodness” resembles anything that Scripture seems to reveal in definition of the “goodness of God,” in light of presupposing Calvinist doctrines such as exhaustive divine determinism, individual election to salvation before Creation, compatibilist free will, etc.
Non-Calvinists believe the Calvinist systematic completely empties the meaning of the statement “God is good” in one of two ways: Either “good” becomes so ambiguous when applied to God that “God is good” is not informative, or “God is good” becomes a mere tautology, because whatever God does is good just because God does it. Either way, the phrase can offer no comfort, because it has no tangible meaning.
1:02:44: “And you know what Jesus says? Just knock, then. Knock, knock. […] He is a perfect Father, a generous Father, and He is an always present Father. I went to the cross and bled in your place so that that could be a reality. So all you have to do, brother, sister: knock, knock, and He will come to you.”
Mixed Messaging: Again, this is misleading because it only applies to the elect. The non-elect cannot and will not even want to knock because God decided before Creation not to enable them to come for His own good pleasure.
July 4, 2021:
49:23: [In reference to Jonah not wanting to go to Ninevah, he says God is saying the following to Jonah] “You think I just created them, like, you know, you create some Play-Doh creation, just to watch it and crumble it up?”
Mixed Messaging: I really don’t know what David is playing at here unless he’s restricting the scope of God’s comment here specifically to Ninevah only, with the assumption that everyone in Ninevah is elect. This could be what he is doing. If so, he does not make clear at all to the congregation that this is his application. Without this transparency, most in the congregation will likely assume this sentiment applies to all individuals.
Calvinist Concept: The irony is that this is exactly the Calvinist view of God’s purpose in creating the non-elect “for destruction” or as “vessels of wrath” in accordance with their interpretation of the Romans 9 passages. As R.C. Sproul explains in his article Vessels of Destruction:
“Those things that God has ordained include also the eternal salvation of His people, thus leaving the rest of mankind eternally damned. In Romans 9:13, Paul uses the example of Jacob and Esau to demonstrate that salvation and damnation are the results of His sovereign choice. From eternity past, God permitted Esau’s (and the rest of humanity’s) fall into destruction.”
“…As the Creator, God has the right to do with His creation as He pleases. God is just and His glory is manifested in punishing those whom He has ordained to do evil just as a potter has the right to make some vessels fit for destruction (vv. 19–24).”
“This decree of reprobation is God’s action in leaving some people in their state of sinfulness, thus leading to their damnation. The verb ‘prepare’ in verse 22 is passive as opposed to its active use in verse 23, where it refers to God’s work of election of some to salvation. Out of the mass of humanity God actively elects some to salvation and passes over the rest, leaving them in their wickedness.”
De-Calvinizing Scripture: For an excellent, in depth treatment of the non-Calvinist interpretation of Romans 9, I highly recommend Dr. Leighton Flowers’ book The Potters Promise: A Biblical Defense of Traditional Soteriology. The following videos are also helpful: Soteriology 101 Romans 9 Video Playlist
July 18, 2021:
52:32: [Context is John 6:37-44] “Do you hear what He says? He’s saying, ‘Hey, in the strictest sense of things, you don’t volunteer and sign up for this. If you come to Me, if you accept My offer, it means the Father who sent Me has given you to me.’ It’s even stronger in verse 44. He says, ‘No man can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him.’ The word ‘draw’ was the word used, in other literature in the first century, that Greek word is used for people who go to wells, drop down buckets, and draw it back up. They don’t say, ‘Here water, water, water. [whistles] Here we go. Here water, water, water.’ They drag it up. So Jesus is saying, ‘I don’t want you to be confused and think this is like your signing day, and you’ve got Muhammad’s hat, you’ve got Krishna’s hat, and you’ve got one of the million Hindi gods up there. You got, you know, maybe 18,000 of their hats. Then you got the Jesus hat and we’re all waiting with suspense. “What hat’s he gonna pick? What team’s he signing with?”’ Jesus says, ‘No. I want you to know that My Father has given Me My own, and if you come to Me it means He is drawing you. It doesn’t mean you are volunteering or signing up.”
Calvinist Concept: This is probably the most clear presentation of the Calvinist doctrine of election that David had given up to this point.
Mixed Messaging: Notice that it is the polar opposite description of salvation from the “drowning man being tossed a rope” analogy that he gave on September 27, 2020.
54:10: “Does this negate our free choices? Not at all. It starts our free choices.”
Mixed Messaging: This is another reference to the compatibilist definition of free will, but he still does not offer a complete explanation of that.
54:52: “Yes, your actions matter. Yes, I am inviting everyone to come. Whosoever will. Whoever comes to Me, I’m not gonna cast out. This ain’t no frozen chosen thing. This is saying, ‘Look, you all can come. Come. I want you to come. Come! Believe in Me. Just know, that’s not you. In the strictest sense, the Father has enabled you to do that.”
Mixed Messaging: This is an incredibly confusing presentation for the non-Calvinist who doesn’t understand the inherent contradictions in Calvinism for a couple of reasons:
1.He must know that most of the audience will understand the use of the phrase “whosoever will” along with the phrase “Look, you all can come” as an affirmation that literally every single individual in the world does, in fact, have the ability to believe in Him. (For example, the King James rendering of John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Since David has never given a complete definition of the compatibilist definition of free will, most of the audience isn’t following the nuance involved in his statements.
2.“Frozen chosen” is a phrase specifically applied to Calvinists, as some Calvinist fellowships are known for their lack of welcoming and warmth. (See Westminster Seminary [a Calvinist institution] blog article, A Pastor’s Reflections: The Frozen Chosen?) To me, it seems that he might be mentioning this phrase, which some in the audience may recognize as a reference to Calvinists, in order to insinuate in some way that all the very Calvinist concepts he just articulated somehow don’t indicate Calvinism.
Calvinist Concept: The reader should understand that John Calvin also made similar conflicting statements:
“Therefore, since no man is excluded from calling upon God, the gate of salvation is set open to all men.” (Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles, p. 91-92)
“We call predestination God’s eternal decree (aeternum Dei decretum), by which he compacted with himself what he willed to become of each man. For all are not created in equal condition, rather, eternal life is foreordained for some, eternal damnation for others. Therefore, as any man has been created to one or the other of these ends, we speak of him as predestined to life or to death.” (The Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book 3, Chapter 21, Section 5)
“…individuals are born, who are doomed from the womb to certain death, and are to glorify Him by their destruction.” (The Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book 3, Chapter 23, Section 6)]
55:52: “I know this folks, when I get to heaven I’ll be able to look in the face of Jesus and say it’s only because of Your sacrifice and the Father’s drawing. And the flip side is true too. If I go to hell, I will only be able to say it was because of my own sinful rejection of the offer of the gospel.”
Non-Calvinist Perspective: All non-Calvinists would agree with these statements. They just disagree that a Calvinist can rationally posit them in light of their systematic.
Calvinist Concept: The Calvinist wants to say that God is solely responsible for salvation via their definitions of predestination and election, yet at the same time, God bears no responsibility at all in reprobation. This is what John Calvin had to say about the line of thought expressed by David above:
“Many professing a desire to defend the Deity from an individual charge admit the doctrine of election, but deny that anyone is reprobated. This they do ignorantly and childishly, since there could be no election without its opposite, reprobation.” (The Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book 3, Chapter 23, Section 1)
David’s Second Year of Sermons
August 8, 2021:
30:53: “And Jesus said, ‘If anyone feels that soul thirst let him come to Me and drink.’ And folks, the invitation is still relevant. […] This is an invitation that expands to all humanity. […] If anyone feels their need, let him come to Me and drink.”
Mixed Messaging: To a member of the audience, this may sound like this is an invitation that every single individual (“all humanity”) has the ability to respond positively to. David does not elaborate on the nuance involved in his statement.
Calvinist Concept: The catch is the Calvinist understanding of the phrase “If anyone feels their need.” On Calvinism, only the elect can ever feel their need. Consider this article from Monergism.com titled, Can Someone Who is not of the Elect Be Saved if they Choose Jesus as their Savior:
“The summons to believe the gospel and the offer of Christ is not restricted. The gospel call goes out to all and any who hear it. If men do not believe, it is only because they don’t want to. But left to ourselves there is no one who fits your description. All people turn aside from God (Rom 3:12; Isa. 53:1, 6). Left to themselves, not one man on earth will choose Jesus as their Savior. […] Like a greedy person who runs into oncoming traffic because he sees a dollar bill in the street. He will hear no other voice calling to warn him. Yet even though all people are in active rebellion against God and love darkness, and reject his merciful call to come to him for life… God still has mercy on many …He gives them new eyes to see, ears to hear and turns their heart of stone to soft flesh… it is these who, because of God’s grace, trust Jesus as their Savior because they behold the beauty truth and excellency of Jesus Christ and what He has done for them. So in the end some get justice… others mercy but no one gets injustice. In Jesus some are pardoned for their sins… They are not getting what they justly deserve… because, in love, Jesus took the punishment in their stead. Believe this day in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.” (emphasis mine)
August 15, 2021:
1:03:58: “This speaks so poignantly of our condition. Every single one of us. This story tells us three things. We’re all this woman [the woman at the well in John 8]. And there are three things about this woman I want you to know. Like this woman we are all guilty sinners before a holy God. […] But secondly, we can all be forgiven sinners before a merciful God…”
Mixed Messaging: David has presented this in a very confusing way. When he says that we are all like the woman at the well in that we are guilty sinners before a holy God, the word “all” does indeed apply to every single individual. All means all. However, when he says we can “all” be forgiven, this “all” only applies to the elect. All does not mean all. The non-elect cannot be forgiven or even desire forgiveness. It would be reasonable for anyone in the audience to assume David is using the word “all” in both statements to mean each individual, yet if he is being consistent with his Calvinistic doctrine of election, then he cannot be using the word “all” in the same way in both statements. He does not clarify this.
1:06:23: “Jesus has already counted the cost. That’s why He’s on His way to Jerusalem. ‘I am going to die for you. I am gonna die for that one. I am gonna die for that one. I am gonna die for all those who come to repentance in faith. All those who feel that they are weary and laden. I am gonna say, “Come to Me and you’ll find the rest for your souls.”’”
Calvinist Concept: I am not certain, but it is very possible from the way he has phrased this that David is teaching the Calvinist doctrine of limited atonement, which holds that Jesus only died for the elect.
October 3, 2021:
38:18: “Lazarus is a representative of all of us. We are dead until Jesus comes by His grace and says, ‘Come out.’ We are dead in our trespasses and sin. Ephesians 2 tells us, right? […] Until God, through the Gospel, intervenes and pulls us out of the grave.”
Calvinist Concept: This is another example of David using the Lazarus story in the typical Calvinist application of an analogy for individual salvation.
Mixed Messaging: However, his last sentence is confusing. Any non-Calvinist would agree that God intervenes “through the Gospel” to save us (think the rope to a drowning swimmer analogy).
October 17, 2021:
1:03:56: “You know what that means? It means the end, church, has begun. That’s why Jesus says when He is lifted up He will draw all people to Himself [referring to John 12:32].”
Calvinist Concept: The reader will recall that in his July 18, 2021 sermon, David included a word study on the use of the Greek word “draw” found in John 6:44. He went to great pains to explain that this Greek word is the word used in contemporary Greek literature to denote “drawing” water from a well. This is important for the Calvinist interpretation of the meaning of the word draw in 6:44, because to them, it rules out the non-Calvinist salvation analogy of a rope being thrown to a drowning man. The Calvinist argues that salvation is not a rope thrown that the sinner is responsible to grab. Rather, salvation is a bucket in which God scoops up the elect.
Non-Calvinist Perspective: The problem with this, is that the same Greek word for “draw” is used here in John 12:32. And here, in John 12:32, Jesus says that when He is lifted up, He will draw all people to Himself.
Mixed Messaging: This is the verse I had been waiting to hear David preach ever since his July 18, 2021 sermon. David made absolutely no reference to the fact that both passages use the exact same Greek word.
The “Planted and Flourishing” Women’s Bible Study taught by David’s wife began on this day. She used Gretchen Saffles’ The Well Watered Woman. Saffles is recommended by The Gospel Coalition, which only recommends Calvinists.
November 7, 2021:
47:35: “What He’s saying is, ‘Look, I am offering you eternal life. If you make that rotten exchange [to earn the applause of man instead] you will rue the day.’ […] So if you love man’s applause more than God’s, you’re making a rotten exchange. […] It’s not God’s fault that you make that exchange. God has not been duplicitous. He has not been sneaky…God has not tricked you or me. It is our fault we make that exchange.”
Calvinist Concept: Calvinists do hold that man is responsible despite the fact that God has determined (either by active or passive means depending on which Calvinist you ask) you to be non-elect. Yet they hold that somehow, this is not duplicitous on God’s part.
Non-Calvinist Perspective: This is a major contention that non-Calvinists have with Calvinists. The non-Calvinist is simply honest in saying that if we applied this scenario to any situation other than God/salvation, the Calvinist would indeed consider such an offer to be duplicitous. Let’s say I make you an amazing offer. However, I do not enable you to accept that offer even though I am the only one who has the ability to enable you to accept it. What’s more, I repeatedly indicate that I want nothing more than for you to accept my offer. But, if you don’t, you will suffer eternally painful consequences. No one would consider my offer to you to be genuine. In fact, it would be considered cruel.
52:46: “So which is it? Was it that they would not believe in Him, or they could not believe in Him? […] Here’s the nub of it: grace. The grace of the exalted King becoming the suffering servant on our behalf and now extending His offer of eternal life to us. This grace may be refused so persistently as to destroy the power of accepting it. This grace, the grace of Jesus, may be refused so persistently, that a person destroys the power to accept it. […] I will not, one day will become I cannot. We learn this in life don’t we? There are windows for things. But the windows shut…”
Non-Calvinist Perspective: Every non-Calvinist can “Hallelujah!” this teaching.
Mixed Messaging: Unfortunately, it is unequivocally not what he has preached in previous sermons, and it is in direct opposition to David’s statement to me via email that he holds to the Calvinist doctrine of irresistible grace. I do not know any other way to understand this, other than to accept that he is intentionally preaching something that he does not believe to be true. David has preached numerous times at this point that we do not possess the power to accept the gospel outside of God’s prior regeneration. If He does not regenerate us, we can do nothing other than refuse. If He does regenerate us, we can do nothing other than accept. Monergism.com defines irresistible grace below:
“The gospel invitation can be and often is resisted and rejected. We read of this in Acts 7:51, where the people are described as being ‘uncircumcised in heart and ears.’ These are unregenerate and still dead in their sins. But God (such beautiful words) regenerates and gives life by removing the stony heart and replacing it with a heart of flesh. The discriminating, inward, effectual, call of the Spirit is never finally and fatally rejected (cf. John 6:45). This effectual call is not made to all sinners but is made to the elect in Christ only (cf. John :6:65)! This efficacious, invincible, irresistible call can never fail to accomplish the purpose designed and intended by the Triune God. This call never fails to give true faith and never fails to cause the sinner to whom it is given to turn to Christ for salvation and eternal life.”
With this type of mixed messaging, it is no wonder that people in our congregation are confused about what David believes.
January 23, 2022
16:28: “Thirdly, what this church realized [Acts 2:42]…We’re praying to the God who is the orchestrator. This church realizes the God they pray to orchestrates every major and minor detail of their lives. You say, ‘Where do you get that from their prayer? Well, we get in from verses 27-28…”
Calvinist Concept: Here David is claiming that the church is affirming exhaustive divine determinism in Acts 2, based on verses 27 and 28. This is based on the Calvinist assumption that, because God determined the cross, that also entails exhaustive divine determinism overall, for everyone.
Non-Calvinist Perspective: The non-Calvinist disagrees that this conclusion follows from their premise. Many non-Calvinists agree that God has determined certain events. However, this doesn’t mean that He has determined every event. It also doesn’t necessarily mean that He determined particular people to act in certain ways in the events He did determine. He is capable of working with the libertarian free choices of men and still achieving His ends.
37:02: “God’s will for you. You know what God’s will for you, His basic will for you today? Is to come and place yourself under the mercy of Christ found at the cross. Come and receive His mercy.”
Mixed Messaging: Once again, David doesn’t clarify what he means by using the term “basic will,” which can understandably cause many in the audience to think they are on the same page he is, while actually being miles apart.
Calvinist Concept: As Wayne Grudem explains in the book David selected for the youth:
“How then can both sides say that God desires everyone to be saved, in accordance with verses like 1 Timothy 2:4 and 2 Peter 3:9? These verses tell us what God commands people to do and what actions please him (namely, repenting and believing in Christ). In this sense he truly ‘desires’ and ‘wishes’ that every person be saved. This is what is sometimes called his ‘revealed will,’ what he tells everybody on earth they should do. But such verses are not talking about God’s secret, hidden plans from all eternity to choose some people to be saved.” (p. 91-92)
April 10, 2022:
51:17: “This is not us being, uh, some kind of gospel soup Nazi: ‘No soup for you. No, no, no, no, no. I don’t think you can have it.’ No! It’s for all and we get to proclaim it. We’re echoing heavenly realities in our message of proclamation.”
Non-Calvinist Perspective/Mixed Messaging: Here, David is referencing an episode of the television series Seinfeld, called “The Soup Nazi,” in what appears to be his attempt at responding to the common criticism that when Calvinists share the gospel, they’re not being genuine because they know that some individuals aren’t elect and therefore, the message is not one they have the ability to accept. I brought up this exact argument in my comments under his November 7, 2021 sermon.
Calvinist Concept: Even though he is not as clear in his argumentation as some other Calvinists, David appears to be asserting that when the gospel is proclaimed (under the Calvinist systematic), those who are doing the proclaiming are to do so as if it did apply to all, because they have no way of knowing who is elect and who isn’t. For example, in a 1983 J. Vernon McGee text, he relates Charles Spurgeon’s response to this charge:
“If the Lord had put a yellow stripe down the backs of the elect, I’d go up and down the streets lifting shirt tails, finding out who had the yellow stripe, and then I’d give them the gospel. But God didn’t do it that way. He told me to preach the gospel to every creature that ‘whosoever will may come’…”
David’s Third Year of Sermons
August 7, 2022:
38:00: “So get this. This is not Jesus putting out a ‘Help Wanted’ sign [Mark 13:13]. This is not Jesus asking to, uh, ‘Hey, secretary, will you do a bulletin insert, and uh, would you put all the needs I have in My kingdom enterprise, and hopefully someone will sign up for these needs?’ This is not what Jesus is doing. Jesus is intentionally, we could even say electing. He’s choosing His disciples, the people He wants to be with Him. This is not come one, come all. Alright? Now, we’re gonna qualify that in just a moment, because the gospel invitation is come one, come all…”
Mixed Messaging: This is another extremely confusing presentation in which he seems to be intentionally giving the impression that all can positively respond to the gospel. He explains that Jesus’ election of the disciples was not “come one, come all.” He was electing particular individuals to a specific service or role. He then contrasts this with the gospel call, which he says is “come one, come all.” He never clarifies that by “gospel call” he is referring to the general call, which does not/cannot result in salvation. The effectual call, the only call that can and will result in salvation, is only for the elect (i.e., definitely not come one, come all). (The types of “gospel call” are defined from a Calvinist perspective above.)
August 14, 2022:
37:27: [In the context of Psalm 51 in which King David has Bathsheba’s husband Uriah killed) “…you had Uriah killed. Yeah, you didn’t do it exactly. It was more 2nd degree manslaughter, but nonetheless, by your command the sword was put into the hands that killed him. So you are the man.”
Calvinist Concept: Many Calvinists say that God is not culpable for sin that He decrees because He did not actually commit the sin, He decreed that it would occur via secondary means. Recall David’s explanation to the youth from Part 4:
“With regard to Star Wars, he explained that God is analogous with George Lucas. He pre-determined absolutely everything that would occur, down to everything each character is and everything each character does. He then said something to the effect of: But when you’re watching the movie, and Darth Vader does something horrible, who do you blame, Darth Vader or George Lucas?” He answered his own question saying that, of course, we blame Darth Vader! David further explained that as author, God has decrees that will certainly come to pass. However, he also has desires that appear to be contrary to those decrees. For example, God does not desire that Darth Vader be evil and do evil things, however, as author, He has unchangeably decreed that Darth Vader will indeed be and do both.”
Non-Calvinist Perspective: I included this sermon clip because it highlights the Calvinist inconsistency in considering God’s responsibility for sin in light of exhaustive divine determinism.
As explained above, many Calvinists argue that God is not culpable for sin because He acts, in His sovereignty, via secondary or indirect means. Yet, in this Scripture, David has acted in a very similar way and is still held responsible. No, David did not kill Uriah by his own hands. He did, however, ensure Uriah’s death by the hand of another (secondary or indirect means).
Let’s take this even further, and consider what this event looks like if exhaustive divine determinism is true:
God determines before Creation that David would commit adultery with Bathsheba, and that she will become pregnant. He determined that David would ensure Uriah’s death via secondary means, and that Uriah would die. Then, God determined that His prophet, Nathan, would come to David and drive home the point that David is still responsible for Uriah’s death despite the fact that he set the events in motion via secondary means. Despite all of this, the Calvinist holds that God, who set all these events into motion via secondary means (in accordance with His will of decree), is not responsible. Has vertigo set in yet? To the non-Calvinist, this seems like the perfect instance of a phrase parents have all likely uttered at some point: the self-deprecating admonishment, “do as I say, not as I do.”
Sermons from the time period spanning June 26, 2022 to September 4, 2022 may be accessed at the following link:
August 28, 2022:
42:37: “What’s the purpose of God? Again, the purpose of God is to have a genuine relationship with all the peoples of the earth. People of every tribe, from every tongue, from every nation, from every culture. That’s God’s purpose.”
Mixed Messaging: Once again, this is misleading because most people will misunderstand him to mean that God’s purpose is to have a genuine relationship with all peoples, as in every individual, of the earth.
Calvinist Concept: The Calvinist can say that is God’s will of desire, but it is certainly not His will of decree. Often, Calvinists qualify the word “all” used in Scripture by restricting its meaning from “all people” to “some of all types of people.” This is a common Calvinist tactic for dealing with John 3:16.
Mixed Messaging: This may be what David is doing here when he lists categories of people, meaning that God’s purpose is to have a genuine relationship with some individuals from all the categories he has mentioned. If it is, he doesn’t clarify.
Sermons from the time period spanning September 11, 2022 to November 6, 2022 may be accessed at the following link:
September 11, 2022:
This entire sermon is about using 1 Thessalonians 1 as a proof text for the Calvinist doctrine of election. Note that it was given two months prior to the youth lesson which turned into a complete fiasco.
45:49: [The following statement is a commentary on the phrase “brothers loved by God” in 1Thessalonians 1:4] “The gospel came and you responded, and it wasn’t because you were better than anyone else. It was simply because God’s unevoked, unbridled love moved Him to bring you out of darkness and into His marvelous light. To change you, who were once an enemy to His throne, to now glad subjects who bow the knee to Him.”
Calvinist Concept: Here, David is singling out the phrase “brothers loved by God,” which in context means that they are believers, as a springboard for answering the following question which he only implies, rather than ask outright: Why did they respond positively to the gospel when others have not? David says that these people didn’t respond positively to the gospel because they were “better” than those who rejected it. The Calvinist is specifically objecting to the non-Calvinist claim that in order for man to be responsible for his decision, then he must have the ability (or free will in the libertarian sense) to make it.
Non-Calvinist Perspective: This is a question not even being addressed by the text he is discussing. A non-Calvinist wouldn’t say those who respond positively are in some way “better” than those who don’t. However, Calvinists believe that is a logical conclusion of the non-Calvinist doctrine of salvation, and this is a commonly way that they argue against it. In my opinion, this is a Calvinist argument that has no substance, but it certainly sounds pious when they make it: What? Do you think you’re better than someone who chose to reject the gospel?
46:28: [The following is commentary on the phrase “that He has chosen you.”] “This is the sweet biblical doctrine of election, that contrary to popular distortion, is never a doctrine to just rouse our curiosity. […] You know why it’s given to us? To humble our pride.”
Calvinist Concept: Again, the Calvinist believes that the ability to accept or reject the gospel, gives grounds to those who accept to become prideful. By contrast, they believe that God choosing who He will elect to salvation prior to Creation, not based on anything He foreknew about us, can only result in humility.
Non-Calvinist Perspective: The ultimate irony is that Calvinists as a whole have earned the stereotype of displaying the exact opposite, which is something most Calvinists even acknowledge. As mentioned in Part 2 of this series, The Gospel Coalition is a Calvinist organization, yet they discuss one common stereotype in their article, Why Are Calvinists So Mean?:
“The stereotype of the mean Calvinist exists for a reason. There’s a reason, after all, that clichés become clichés. If you spend any time in evangelical social media or have a more traveled experience in evangelical churches, you’ve been on the receiving end of a mean Calvinist before. If you’re like me, you’ve wondered at some point, ‘Why do those who subscribe to the doctrines of grace frequently seem so graceless? Is there something in particular about Calvinism that makes people mean?’”
The article goes on to explain a number of reasons for why Calvinism has earned this stigma and a call to action to repair the damage.
46:50 – 47:24: David has us turn to Deuteronomy 7, where he reads verses 6 and 7. These verses are about God’s election of Israel as His people, which was not based on anything they did to earn it.
47:24: “So why did God choose Israel then? Verse 8, ‘But it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath He swore to your fathers.’ That’s why He chose you. This doctrine is not meant to satisfy our curiosity, it’s meant to pommel our pride. There is nothing good in me that God saw that would make Him want to make me His child. Simply that He loved me. It humbles our pride, and guess what? It solidifies our hope. Man, if He saw me and brought me into His family when there was nothing good in me, then guess what? There’s nothing I can do to sin outside of His family. I can’t sin my way away from His family. […] This truth should humble our pride, solidify our hope. It should thrill our heart, and it should encourage our witness.”
Non-Calvinist Perspective/De-Calvinized Scripture: There are several things to point out here:
1. David had to leave 1Thessalonians, the text he is using to assert the Calvinist doctrine of election, to go to a completely different text to assert the doctrine. 1 Thessalonians just does not say what he needs it to say.
2. The text that he goes to, Deuteronomy 7, is not a text about individual election to salvation, yet that is how he is applying it. Deuteronomy 7 is a text about corporate election: God’s selection of a nation as His people. You do not have to read very far into the Old Testament to see that not every single Israelite was one of God’s people.
3. Not only is the text about corporate election, it is certainly not about electing a people to the exclusion of other peoples, which is the point the Calvinist needs to prove from the text. As Dr. Harwood points out:
“God’s choice of a nation entailed a responsibility to his mission. Israel was God’s chosen servant (Isa 41:8-9; 42:1-25; 43:9-13; and others), and they were to be a light to the nations (Isa 42:6; 49:1-7). […] God explained in Isaiah 49:6 why he desired Israel to be a light to the gentiles; he wanted to save people of other nations. Election never meant God loved only one group. Charlie Trimm concludes, ‘Israel’s election did not automatically entail the condemnation of other nations.’ Rather, God chose one group (Jews) to love them and reach others (gentiles).” (Christian Theology, p. 596)
4. As we’ve mentioned previously, this doctrine is not doing a good job of promoting humility among those who adhere to it. In fact, they are stereotypically the opposite.
5. David’s last purpose seems to be to inspire comfort in the Calvinist concept of perseverance of the saints. He says here that he cannot “sin my way away from His family.” This is true, as far as it goes. However, he has preached several sermons indicating that if you are living a life that does not show fruit of your election, if you do not persevere until the end of your life, then you are simply not one of the elect. As Patton’s article (cited above in the comments for David’s March 28, 2021 sermon) concludes, many Calvinists are not finding any assurance at all in this doctrine. Rather they are feeling absolutely horrified by the thought that their faith could be superficial, that they might be non-elect, and therefore unalterably bound for hell since before Creation.
David then goes on to cite J.I. Packer’s definition of a Christian, which is “…the knowledge of God as one’s holy Father.”
50:30: “What’s a Christian? A Christian is someone who has God as his Father. And why has God become our Father? Because He loves us. It’s that simple.”
Calvinist Concept: Again, David is asserting that the only reason God is our Father is because He chose to love us specifically, before Creation.
Non-Calvinist Perspective: It certainly seems reasonable to assert the opposite then: if God is not our Father, it is because He does not love us. It’s equally that simple.
The following is David’s commentary on the phrase, “…because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction…”
54:20: “When we preached the gospel to you, we felt power. We felt convicted. […] Right now, somebody’s being changed. […] We’ve said the words, but something’s happening that did not happen in Athens. Did not happen in other places. But it happened here. What happened? The Holy Spirit is coming upon us, right?”
Calvinist Concept/De-Calvinized Scripture: David is saying that Paul was assuring the Thessalonian believers that they were, in fact, God’s elect in the Calvinistic sense. James Leonard (an Arminian) sums up the Calvinist view of this passage, making it more clear than David has, and includes his own rebuttal:
“Paul’s preaching ministry in Thessalonica was cut short due to intense persecution. Indeed, when Paul fled Thessalonica, the new believers became the object of persecution. As a group, they were newly designated the scum of the earth, worthy of disdain and contempt.
“In this context, Paul wrote 1 Thessalonians, assuring them of their election (‘God has chosen you’ τὴν ἐκλογὴν ὑμῶν). This term ‘election’ (ἐκλογή) gets Calvinists all excited, and causes many-an- inadequately-theologized sermon to go awry.
“Election is not about Calvinistic determinism, not about an arbitrary divine decision prior to the founding of the world, not input or irresistible stimulus provoking a mechanical response in automatons, not an impersonal process. No, none of this.
“Election is about God conferring a special status to believers–and herein lies the glory and praiseworthiness of election. These believers whom society berated and designated them as scum, are reminded by Paul that to God, they were elect.
“Paul could have chosen some other term of salvation in v. 4 (e.g., ‘For we know, brothers and sisters loved by God, that he has redeemed/saved/rescued (etc.) you…’). But he purposefully chose the term ‘election’ precisely to counter the opponents’ derision of the Thessalonian believers and to convey that, of all peoples on the earth, the Thessalonian believers were precious, beloved, and privileged by God.
“Praise the Lord that, despite what the world thinks of us, God has bestowed upon us this privileged status of election. And this privilege is for all who believe.” (Election in 1 Thessalonians: Assurance for Persecuted Believers)
Ben Henshaw points out an additional issue with the Calvinist interpretation of this text:
“Calvinists contend that election cannot be certain until one perseveres to the end in saving faith. They maintain that many seem to receive the gospel and even live with impressive testimonies, but ultimately prove that they were never elect when they eventually fall away. This would make it impossible for Paul to be certain of their elect status simply because they seemed to initially receive the gospel.”
“Furthermore, if Paul had full confidence in their election based solely on their initial reception, why then does he tell them that after that event he feared that they might not have continued in the faith (3:5)?”
“However, if my interpretation is correct and election is conditioned on faith union with Christ, then Paul could express confidence in their election based on their initial response to the gospel.” (How Does the Arminian Understanding of Soteriology Deal with the Text of 1 Thessalonians 1:2-4?)
September 25, 2022:
1:11:34: “God’s wrath, don’t misunderstand, it’s never impulsive anger aimed just capriciously at people He doesn’t like. God’s wrath is the settled, determined response of a holy God against sin.”
Mixed Messaging/Non-Calvinist Perspective: This is a very confusing statement in light of David’s previous message. Two weeks prior, he made abundantly clear that we are only Christian, only a part of God’s family, due to the fact that He loved us, specifically. It seems fair to then conclude (even though many Calvinists do not) that we are non-Christian simply because God chose not to love us, specifically. Who goes to hell? Those who are not part of God’s family. It is fair to say that God’s wrath isn’t impulsive or capricious. But is it fair to say that God’s wrath isn’t aimed at people He just doesn’t like? Not according to his September 11, 2022 sermon. David and other Calvinists may not like that this is a logical conclusion from their systematic, but that doesn’t change the reality that it is.
At some point in 2022, although I’m not sure exactly when, the next pastor’s wife-led women’s Bible study took place. The study was based off of Gloria Furman’s book Alive in Him, which is a study of the book of Ephesians. Again, both Furman and this book are recommended by The Gospel Coalition, which only endorses Calvinist authors. This was the second of two women’s Bible studies utilizing materials from a Calvinist perspective. Members were not informed either time of the theological leaning of the materials.
October 2, 2022:
43:58: “Now, let me just press into something real quick. […] We tend to agonize over outsiders. Those who do not profess faith in Jesus. We agonize over them: ‘Oh, I just pray they Tom will come to know the Lord before he dies.’ […] I’ve shared the gospel, I’ve shared the gospel, I’ve shared the gospel. And nowhere in the New Testament do you see that kind of agony. Now you see Paul in Romans 9 and Romans 10 talking about his great desire for his countrymen, his kinsmen, to be saved. And he says, ‘that’s my prayer for them,’ but he’s praying for them, but he doesn’t seem to agonize over them. The people he does agonize over are not those who need to be saved, but those who need to be sanctified… Those who are on the outside, who have not come to the Lord yet, he tends to have the mentality, ‘Alright, God. I’m gonna preach, and share the gospel, and then You work.”
Non-Calvinist Perspective: Let’s see what exactly Paul says in Romans 9:1-3:
“I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit— 2 that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh.” (ESV)
Does Paul seem to be “agonizing” over his kinsmen? The text says that he has “unceasing anguish in his heart.” He says that he literally wishes he could trade his own salvation for theirs. David is way off the mark here. I believe this is an excellent insight into the apathy the Calvinist system encourages in the heart of some Calvinists toward this nebulous group of “non-elect.”
October 16, 2022:
Three weeks prior to the youth lesson, David finally preached on the Calvinist view of the “wills of God,” plural, to the entire congregation.
46:54: “Sometimes, when we see the phrase ‘will of God,’ that is referring to God’s ‘will of decree.’ […] So, this is God’s will as the great author of the story of the universe, scripting the story of the universe from eternity past to eternity present. […] Y’all with me? All things, including pass interference calls, are being worked together according to the council of His will.” (emphasis mine)
Non-Calvinist Perspective: I bolded the term “author.” Remember, Calvinists reject the idea that God is the “author” of sin. However, David is clearly stating his belief in exhaustive divine determinism here. He says that God is the author, scripting the story of everything that comes to pass in the universe, down to the pass interference calls in football games.
48:06: “Sometimes you see the phrase ‘will of God,’ it’s not speaking of God’s will of decree, it’s speaking of God’s ‘will of direction.’ […] This is often what we refer to when we say, ‘Hey, what’s God’s will for my life?’ […] Sometimes it’s not God’s will of decree of will of direction, it’s God’s ‘will of desire.’ […] Meaning this is what God wants us to do.
Non-Calvinist Perspective: I have no idea why David has broken this concept up into three wills for the purpose of this sermon. In his presentation to the youth and then later to the youth parents’, he spoke of two wills. It appears that he is using both the “will of direction” and “will of desire” to express what is generally meant by “will of desire.”
Calvinist Concept: Regardless, David is clearly teaching that there is a distinction between God’s “will of desire” or “will of direction,” which is what He says He wants for you (i.e., to repent, to believe, to enter into relationship with Him), and His “will of decree,” which is what He has determined before Creation will occur, just as an author writes a script.
49:03: “And we have a choice to do it or not [God’s will of desire]. Now, when it comes to God’s will of decree, what are we to do? We are to trust it. [chuckles] That’s all you can do. […] When it comes to God’s will of direction, what are we to do? We’re to discern it. […] But then what do we do with God’s will of desire? […] It’s easy church! We obey it.”
Mixed Messaging: These statements are absolutely incomprehensible. The entire premise of the Calvinist doctrine of compatibilist free will, which David has affirmed that he holds, it to rule out the possibility that the non-elect have the choice available to them to align themselves with God’s will of desire. David has just stated that man has a choice, and insinuated that this choice is based on a libertarian concept of free will: to do or to not do a particular proposition (in this case, repent and believe).
Calvinist Concept: According to compatibilist free will (which we’ve already defined above) they cannot choose to comply with God’s will of desire, because they must act in accordance with their own desires, which again, based on the Calvinist doctrine of total inability will always be opposed to God’s will of desire.
Mixed Messaging: He then goes further, and says that “it’s easy” for us to obey God’s will of desire. David does not believe in any way, shape, or form that the non-elect have the ability to thwart God’s will of decree (in which as author, He has scripted every single, solitary thing that will come to pass) by obeying His will of desire that they come to Him in repentance and belief.
October 23, 2022:
On this date, David preaches on 1 Thessalonians 4 and provides varying perspectives on eschatology (theology of the end times). This sermon is not available online. He states his view, explaining that he differs from the majority held Baptist view of a rapture event in which believers will be removed from the earth during the time period referred to as the tribulation.
Non-Calvinist Perspective: This sermon was an excellent example, in my opinion, of David preaching a message in which he clearly and respectfully presents differing views, facilitates unity by reiterating that these are secondary level doctrines, followed by a clear statement of his own views. This is not what we’ve ever seen from him with regard to his preaching of Calvinist doctrine. Therefore, in my opinion, this sermon serves as excellent evidence that he has never intended to facilitate unity with regard to that topic. We’ve now seen what it looks like when facilitating unity genuinely is his goal, and the past two and a half years’ worth of messages are not that.
So, That’s How it Happened
Those are the sermons that led up to the fiasco of a youth Sunday school lesson two weeks later, on November 6, 2022, in which David gave his presentation of what he refers to as the “Biblical doctrine of election.” In retrospect, I can see the scenario from both sides: David’s and the congregation’s.
From David’s point of view, he started us out slow. He began his ministry giving us the impression that he held to a non-Calvinist, “rope to a drowning man,” version of the doctrine of salvation. He was well aware that we were a historically majority non-Calvinist fellowship. The membership would be listening to his introductory sermons with heightened awareness.
Three months later, in his October 4, 2020 sermon, he clearly laid out that he holds several Calvinist distinctives: he compared Paul’s election to a role with individual election to salvation, explicitly taught regeneration before faith, explicitly taught that God chose you for salvation before you were born, and asserted that none of those negate man’s responsibility. However, he softens the blow with a dose of mixed messaging, stating that God will send His effectual call if you will choose to hear it.
For two months after this information-packed sermon, David doesn’t discuss Calvinist concepts for the most part. It seems reasonable that he was waiting to see if he’d get any push-back from his October 4th revelations. I’m assuming that he didn’t, because from about the sixth month forward, he increases the frequency of sermons including Calvinist content, and becomes even more explicit. However, he always stops short of fully defining terms.
Considering that he had reached the point that he was regularly preaching full-on Calvinism from the pulpit, I cannot imagine he had any concern that the youth lesson would cause any problems, despite the fact that I had visited him to voice my personal misgivings. After all, what could the concern of one woman and her 17-year old son amount to in the overall scheme of things?
The youth room appears to be the only area in which the topic of Calvinist versus non-Calvinist perspectives were being broached on any level at all, and that was mostly attributable to my son asking questions and presenting alternative Scriptural interpretations. Considering this context, I can understand why David felt the time had arrived when he could unilaterally make the decision to preach the Calvinist doctrine of election to the exclusion of the non-Calvinist view, even though the youth pastor had asked him to present both. This was a calculated move to advance his goal of “reforming” our church.
I can also understand now why, when I met with him privately, David was completely unwilling to either pull the Grudem systematic theology text as curriculum for the youth that semester, or to even provide a non-Calvinist resource alongside it. Why would he? At this stage, he didn’t feel that it was necessary to even give the appearance of taking practical steps toward fostering unity between the two theological perspectives.
I also believe this is the reason that David failed to follow through with his commitment to me that he would tell the parents that this curriculum was, to use his preferred term, “reformed.” According to the stealth Calvinist take-over instruction guides, the use of identifying labels is to be avoided at all costs. Church members are far more likely to recognize and oppose the labels even if they aren’t able to detect the principles when they’re preached.
I feel justified in concluding that even if David was still uncomfortable utilizing recognizable terminology, he was wholly confident that he had succeeded in leading the congregation to accept explicit Calvinist principles to the rejection of non-Calvinist distinctives.
However, when David gave the presentation to the youth in a step-by-step systematic theology context complete with visuals on a white board, most of the kids were able to read between the lines, clearly grasp the Calvinist concepts, and connect dots that adults had not connected in over two years’ worth of messages. Many of the youth were extremely upset, and when they explained the finer points of what David taught that day, their parents were both upset and confused.
The irony is too great to ignore. David’s implementation of a strategy for introducing Calvinism by degrees, avoiding identifying vocabulary, softening Calvinist concepts with mixed messaging and superficial/incomplete definition of terms, along with Calvinism’s inherent contradictions left unexplained, had not yielded a majority Calvinist congregation. It had yielded a congregation who largely thought they were on the same page with the pastor only to find that they were not. From the perspective of the majority of the congregation, this lesson came right out of the blue.
Given this context, David’s explanation in his November 27, 2022 sermon for why his presentation to the youth caused an “eruption of confusion,” because “it wasn’t the right time,” is packed with far more meaning than meets the eye. David had misjudged the status of his agenda to “reform” Arab First Baptist Church. Chaos ensued. The church wanted unity in our diversity. David wanted to win.