Steve Lemke on TULIP

Tim Brister —  October 10, 2008 — 9 Comments

Since I addressed the T in TULIP in greater detail in my previous post, I will begin with the U of Unconditional election.  While each point of TULIP as addressed by Lemke could (and probably should) be addressed in separate posts, I will am pursuing brevity for the benefit of the reader and should in no wise be taken as a concession for Lemke’s errors.

Unconditional Election

On Unconditional Election, Lemke writes:

“Many Calvinists understand ‘unconditional election’ to mean that salvation is provided by God without any involvement or free choice on the party of the sinner, counting any human response (even assent) as a work.”

Absolutely false. Who are the “many Calvinists” Lemke is referring to who contend that unconditional election removes human responsibility?  Perhaps he is referring to hyper-Calvinists who reject “duty faith.”  Maybe by “free choice of the party of the sinner” he is allowing only for libertarian free will which we find later in his article he advocates.  If that is the case, then yes, Calvinists do not allow for this kind of free will.  This is because the Bible does not allow for libertarian free will (if you will notice in his paper, there are no Scriptural proofs for his arguments).  LFW cannot function with unconditional election, predestination, and divine foreknowledge, and the “power of contrary choice” ultimately makes the human decision the terminal cause in a most arbitrary sense.

Lemke also writes,

“Unconditional election is largely affirmed by Baptists, in the sense that all Baptists agree that salvation is by grace through faith, not by works.  But while Baptists believe that salvation is wholly from God, they also believe that in the economy of God’s salvation He has chosen for human response to be prerequisite for actualizing salvation.”

If salvation is wholly of God, then why would God leaves the “actualizing of salvation” in the hands of depraved sinners?  How does this align, for instance, with Romans 8:30 which says, “And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified”?  The predestining, calling, justifying, and glorifying are all done by God and in the past tense.  How can man “actualize” something which is attributed solely to God?  If many were left to himself to “actualize” salvation, then there would be no need for a Trinitarian understanding of salvation where God the Father chooses according to the purpose of His own will, God the Son accomplishes redemption for His Father’s glory, and God the Spirit applies (appropriates) the benefits of Christ’s saving work through regeneration, effectual calling, and adoption.  Furthermore, if sinners who have not experienced the new covenant promise of receiving a new heart and nature can actualize salvation on their own, how can it truly said that salvation is by grace alone?  Humans respond to God only because they are freed to do so by the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit, and they come because they are effectually called by God.  That’s the prerequisite to “actualizing salvation.”  To argue that God has chosen human response as a prerequisite is to say that God has left salvation in the hands of men and credit it to their doing.  Do we find this anywhere in the Bible?

Limited Atonement

On Limited Atonement, Lemke writes:

“Double predestination requires that God foreordains some to heaven and some to hell.  So when Jesus died on the cross, He died only for the elect, not for all the sins of the world.”

Double predestination comes up a lot, often to argue that a belief in it is “hyper-Calvinism.”  But rarely do you have anyone actually explain what they mean by double predestination.  The 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith, on God’s decrees, says the following:

By the decree of God, for the manifestation of his glory, some men and angels are predestinated, or foreordained to eternal life through Jesus Christ, to the praise of his glorious grace; others being left to act in their sin to their just condemnation, to the praise of his glorious justice.

Lemke leads you to believe that “double predestination” requires you to believe that God foreordains some to hell.  But what does the confession say?  Some are foreordained to eternal life through Jesus Christ, and others (are) left in their sin to their just condemnation.  Lemke wrongly says that God effectively works unbelief in the hearts of reprobates so as to foreordain their condemnation.  Double-predestination is assymetrical with unequal ultimacy where God positively works faith in a believer through regeneration and negatively passes over the reprobate, leaving him in his just condemnation (for Scriptures on reprobation, see Prov. 16:4; Matt. 11:25; 13:10-15; John 3:36; 6:64-66; 9:39; Rom. 1:18-28; 9:11-13; 9:18-24; 11:7-10; 2 Thess. 1:8-9; 2:11-12; 1 Pet. 2:7-8; Jude 4; Rev. 13:8; 17:8).

But aside from double predestination, there is something else, something more poignant, that needs to be discussed regarding particular redemption, and that is personal substitution.  If Lemke believes that Jesus died on the cross for the sins of all people, as a substitute for those who believe as well as for those who do not believe, then the issues of the efficacy of Christ’s work is in question.  Christ died their death, but they will not live.  Their sins are forgiven, but they do not have eternal life.  In what sense, then, does the substitutionary death of Christ benefit the non-elect?  Non-Calvinists will argue that Jesus’ death purchased the possibility that all could be saved, but purchasing a plan and purchasing a people are two separate things.  So then, we can only conclude that non-Calvinists limit the atonement in the sense that Jesus’ death did not actually accomplish the saving of any particular people but only made it possible for them to be saved.  The efficacy of their salvation is not in the atoning blood of Christ but in the freedom of choice where by anyone can choose Christ.  Calvinists believe in particular redemption, that particular individuals were substituted for on the cross.  Non-Calvinists believe in universal redemption, though limited because not everyone will be saved.  The former explains the limitation because of God’s infinite purpose; the latter explains limitation because of man’s free will.  Both Calvinists and non-Calvinists believe in limited atonement.  The question is, then, which view does the Bible support?

Lemke says that limited atonement “is the least scriptural of the five affirmations.”  I know that the John 3:16 conference is coming up, so let me give some references in the gospel of John:  John 10:11, 14, 26-28; 11:52; 13:1; 17:2, 6, 9, 11, 12, 24; 18:9.  To say that limited atonement is “the least scriptural” of the five affirmations must be a tacit admission that the other four affirmations are replete with Scriptural support.

Irresistible Grace

On Irresistible Grace, Lemke writes:

“Because all of salvation is from God, the Calvinist system requires irresistible grace–that God would even violate human freewill by forcing persons to believe in Him against their sinful wills, for these human wills are incapable of responding to God affirmatively apart from His enabling grace.”

Of all the affirmations, Lemke misses it the most on irresistible grace.  This should be quite troubling to Southern Baptists, especially given the fact that he has been appointed to speak on irresistible grace at the upcoming John 3:16 conference.  “The Calvinist system” (notice the terminology) does not “require” that God would violate human freewill by forcing persons to believe!  Nowhere do you find this being supported by Calvinists!  Good grief, there are literally dozens of source I could quote to refute Lemke on this, but allow me to (again) simply use the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith.  On effectual calling, it says,

This effectual call is of God’s free and special grace alone, not from anything at all foreseen in man, nor from any power or agency in the creature, being wholly passive therein, being dead in sins and trespasses, until being quickened and renewed by the Holy Spirit; he is thereby enabled to answer this call, and to embrace the grace offered and conveyed in it, and that by no less power than that which raised up Christ from the dead. – emphasis mine

On the section of free will, it also says:

When God converts a sinner, and translates him into the state of grace, he freeth him from his natural bondage under sin, and by his grace alone enables him freely to will and to do that which is spiritually good; yet so as that by reason of his remaining corruptions, he doth not perfectly, nor only will, that which is good, but doth also will that which is evil.- emphasis mine

Does it get any more plain than that?  For the record, here is what Calvinists believe about irresistible grace (or effectual calling) as described by the 1689LBC:

Those whom God hath predestinated unto life, he is pleased in his appointed, and accepted time, effectually to call, by his Word and Spirit, out of that state of sin and death in which they are by nature, to grace and salvation by Jesus Christ; enlightening their minds spiritually and savingly to understand the things of God; taking away their heart of stone, and giving unto them a heart of flesh; renewing their wills, and by his almighty power determining them to that which is good, and effectually drawing them to Jesus Christ; yet so as they come most freely, being made willing by his grace. – emphasis mine

Our thoughts, affections, and wills are changed as a result of regeneration.  The darkened mind apprehends the truths of Scripture, the hardened heart wants to know Christ, and the enabled will freely (made willing by His grace) responds in faith and repentance.

The alternative view, which Lemke does not mention, is prevenient grace (as held in the Arminian tradition).  Given that he does not provide an alternative, one is left to question how God’s grace operates, if at all, in the salvation of a sinner.  Does God enable sinners, cooperating with him in a synergistic fashion?  Does God leave it to the sinner to “actualize” his own salvation and somehow show it is all by God’s grace?  This all goes back to how you understand the state of fallen man.  If he is dead in sin, he needs to be made alive.  If the Fall has not totally affected his ability but merely needs prevenient grace to overcome the effects of the Fall, and that faith and repentance are inherently human-resourced and not gifts of God, then you would fall into the Arminian camp.  But this is problem when non-Calvinists in the SBC often times call themselves “Biblicists.”  They don’t put their soteriological cards on the table to positively affirm what they believe but instead have conferences attempting to refute others with whom they disagree.

Perseverance of the Saints

On Perseverance of the Saints, Lemke writes:

“All Southern Baptist confessions affirm the security of the believer–once someone is genuinely saved by God, they are saved for all eternity.  some Augustinians and Calvinists do seem to open the door for perseverance to be by works after justification has come by grace through faith.”

When Baptists call themselves “one-point Calvinists,” this is usually the point they affirm.  Lemke asserts that “all Southern Baptists . . . affirm perseverance of the saints.”  Yet, non-Calvinists who believe in “eternal security” and Calvinists who “believe in the perseverance of the saints” don’t necessary believe the same thing.  For instance, Charles Stanley, one of the keynote speakers at the John 3:16 conference holds to a “once saved, always saved” view of eternal security which does not require perseverance in the faith.  In fact, it can be argued that Stanley teaches that a person can be saved in spite of their lifelong disobedience, (which would be antinomianism) having previously professed Christ at one point in their life, they are safe.

Lemke seems to argue that Calvinists “open the door for perseverance to be by works.”  No.  Perseverance is the outworking of the gospel-believing sinner whose God is at work both to will and to do according to His own good pleasure.  Calvinists believe that one cannot be eternally secure apart from experiencing the ongoing Trinitarian work of salvation (we have been saved, we are being saved, and we will be saved).  Is it not interesting that non-Calvinists place such an emphasis on human responsibility and the will in conversion but minimize it in sanctification?  How can you biblically argue that your will is of greater use prior to conversion than after having been regenerated by the Holy Spirit?

“Once saved, always saved” and “perseverance of the saints” are not the same thing.  If you are genuinely converted, if the God who raises the dead lives in you, you will persevere to the end.  That does not mean you will never struggle or have dark times in your spiritual life, but it does mean that the God who saves you will keep you and will perfect you until you are in glory.  Too much false sense of security is given because people have walked down an aisle, prayed a prayer, been baptized as a child, or had an emotional experience.  We need to consider eternal security in light of the gospel and God’s work in our lives from beginning to end.  Non-Calvinists who argue that one can profess Christ and be eternally secure apart from any outward manifestation of regeneration or ongoing work of sanctification have much to answer in regards to the stewardship of souls and handling of Scripture.

In my next post, I will address Lemke’s re-wording of Timothy George’s ROSES.

Related Articles:

* Steve Lemke on Total Depravity
* Steve Lemke on “Four Streams” of Calvinism, Part 2
* Steve Lemke on “Four Streams” of Calvinism, Part 1
* Steve Lemke on Collin Hansen and Provocation
* Steve Lemke and Christian Scholarship

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  • Brent Hobbs

    Lemke’s arguments are not convincing at all and he continues to display an amateur understanding of Calvinistic soteriology. These are the kinds of arguments that people make when they first hear about the five-points; not the kind that you’d expect a published writing that aims to be an in-depth critique. If he can’t be fair in explaining what Calvinists believe, how can we really take his work as that of a serious scholar?

  • http://prozacstan.blogspot.com/ Stan McCullars

    Lemke is a scholar?

    To quote Admiral Kirk speaking to Khan (in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan): “I’m laughing at the superior intellect.”

  • http://www.thomasclay.blogspot.com Thomas Clay

    We should not be surprised by a misunderstanding of the doctrines of grace by those who don’t understand the God of the scriptures. Their distorted view of Who God is distorts their perception of God’s truth.

    Therefore, we must counter such fallicies with humble, loving, biblical responses. I believe you have done that, Timmy!

    Your highlighting the asymmetry of God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility is crucial to this discussion. All anyone has to do is to look to the asymmetry of Romans 6:23 to begin to understand. There is a stark difference between “wages” which are earned by those who are lost, and “free gift” which is given without merit.

    I just wrote about it at my blog, http://www.thomasclay.blogspot.com (forgive the plug, but it will shorten my comment)….

  • http://freegracepreacjer@blogsot.com PAUL WAYNE FOLTZ DD

    Lemke is a typical Armimian, who does not understand the way of grace.

  • http://christian-apologetics-society.blogspot.com/ Timothy

    Greetings! I just left another blog which has an interesting video against what the preacher refers to as “decisional regeneration“. The preachers main arguement is that by making a decision for Christ, man is in control and not God, if I understood the segment. This seems intertwined with Calvin’s concept of unconditional election.

    As long as man has freewill and can decide to be baptised, or not, or to make a decision for Christ, or not, then there is always going to be the element of man influencing (for lack of a better word) his or her eternal salvation. Granted God is all powerful, we are saved by His grace alone, and God very much could save us aregardless of our wishes.

    Any ways, It was an intresting video, and you might like to check it out as future blog fodder. Its 8:57 in length, so allot 10 minutes to watch it.

    Baptist-Catholicism
    http://whatsaiththescripture.wordpress.com/2008/10/11/baptist-catholicism/

    God bless…

    +Timothy

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  • http://gritsgrace.blogspot.com/ Greg Alford

    Timmy,

    You continue to do an outstanding job with your treatment of Lemke’s article… And while I can’t add much to the fine work you are doing in refuting his unfortunate and misguided work, I would like to contribute a few comments on the nature of Regeneration.
    ———-

    What is “Regeneration”?

    The Regeneration of the lost can only be properly understood in terms of “Divine Intervention”…

    “And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh:” (Eze.11:19)

    There is no “offer” of Regeneration made by God in the above verse. Nor do we find any “choice” to be made on the part of man. No, what we find is God “Unilaterally” declaring that “He will put a new spirit within you” and that “He will take the stony heart out of their flesh”. This can only be described as an intervention… and this intervention is most clearly not according to, or in response to, their “Free-will”.

    And isn’t this exactly what we “all” are praying for when we ask God to save our children? Aren’t we asking God to “Intervene” in their lives? I have never once, no not even once, heard a parent pray “God save my child, but only if they are willing.” No, when it comes to the salvation of our children, every parent prays for “Divine Intervention”.

    Stop and ask yourself this question: “Have you ever prayed for your child’s Free-Will?” “Have you ever heard anyone pray for their child’s Free-Will?” Why do you think this is so?

    Grace Always,

  • http://strictandparticular.blogspot.com The Highland Host

    One of our old hymns expresses the true Particular baptist position on conversion quite well:

    The appointed time rolls on apace,
    Not to PROPOSE, but CALL by grace;
    to change the heart, renew the will,
    And turn the feet to Zion’s Hill.

    We are not saved against our will, but our will itself is converted.

  • Pingback: Lemke’s Remarks and My Response Regarding Bethlehem Baptist Church « Provocations & Pantings()