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Calvinism and Preterism: An Appeal to Sanity.
by Samuel Frost
I mused a great deal about how to deal with the controversy Virgil Vaduva, a dear brother, decided to create with his bold statement that Calvinism and Preterism cannot mix. And you know what? He’s right.I mused a great deal about how to deal with the controversy Virgil Vaduva, a dear brother, decided to create with his bold statement that Calvinism and Preterism cannot mix. And you know what? He’s right.Now that I have your complete attention, let me say that Arminianism and Preterism cannot mix. What makes Arminianism a “non-futurist” system? Last I checked, every Arminianist since Jacobus Arminius was a futurist. What Virgil has attempted to do is to simply recast Arminianism within a Preterist framework. Why, then, cannot the Calvinist do the same?
Traditional Calvinism cannot be compatible with Preterism precisely because it is a system built upon an end of history. However, cannot one take the principles of what Augustine and Calvin taught (along with Luther) and rework them so that we can drop what needs to be dropped (like progressive sanctification), and keep what can be kept? That is exactly what Virgil has done with Arminianism and his Arminianist definition of “freewill.” For example, sola Scriptura is a tradition. Did the Scriptures cease to be inspired now that Jesus has returned?
I decided not to go into a tit for tat argumentative article. Read Gordon Clark’s Biblical Predestination, or better yet, Luther’s devastating work against Erasmus, The Bondage of the Will. I would much rather see that type of critique. It’s more academic. I imagine that Virgil would be just as shocked if I said, “the Church of Christ and Preterism cannot stand together.” I don’t believe that they can, because the Church of Christ is basically a futurist outfit. In fact, no system that has come down through the last two-thousand years can mix with Preterism. Name one system that has not been based on an end to history. Just one.
Therefore, when I say Total Depravity, I mean Total Inability. “No man IS ABLE to come to the Father unless by me.” That is, no man, in and of himself, and all that is within him, by his own merits, strength, mental prowess or good deeds can come to the Father UNLESS Christ, by the Spirit, FIRST ACTS. I don’t think we need to go far to find proof of this. God acted first when he created the world. He consulted no man. In fact, he created the will of man. Paul says that he marks out the territories of man, and that “in Him we live, move, and have our being.” Philosophical terms if there ever were any. He sustains our life (not natural law). He sustained Jeffery Dahmer’s life while he was taking a drill to a homosexual lover’s head. All men “move” (motion, volition, will) in God. Adolph Hitler was sustained, given life, and moved by God. Who would say that Adoph Hitler was an independent life force apart from the will of God? These are principles that Preterism hardly effects, since they have to do with, not Eschatology, but the nature of God as God. The Bible says, “I am not a man, and I change not.” It also says, “He is the same today, yesterday, and forever.” Therefore, the way that God superintends, provides, guides, sustains, operates and moves “in all things” which were made “by him, for him, through him and in him” does not change just because I believe Jesus has already returned a “second time.” The Bible describes salvation as receiving a “new heart.” That must mean that something is wrong with the “old heart.” Unless Virgil is able to argue that every human being now has a new heart, then some of them must have old hearts, and old hearts cannot do the things new hearts can. Old hearts cannot do anything except what old hearts do.
Did God “use to” take care of the universe, as the Psalmists so plainly states hundreds of times, but since Jesus came back, sparrows now fall to the ground without His knowing it? Did God use to know the numbers of hairs on your head (omniscience), but, since Jesus came back, he doesn’t? Sure, God changes “laws and set times” and certainly he used to make ax heads float in water. But, I actually heard one Preterist say that man’s will “used to” not to be free, but after the coming of Christ, it now is! It is at these times I thank God for seminary.
Thus, on Total Inability, I see no reason whatsoever to say that man is now, part from God, able to enter in through the “gates” of the New Jerusalem on his own accord, strength and goodness. Heck, why even need Jesus (as many Preterists and some Transmillennialists are saying). One Transmillennialist told me that Buddhists are going to heaven, too, along with Muslims simply because they have faith, a good heart and God “saves all men.” Great! Debates over. I am heading to the bar!
Unconditional Election is the next thing that follows. It logically follows, though. If man is unable apart from God to come to God, and God must make the first move, then we have two choices: universalism or particularism. Virgil must decide what to do with those millions who have never heard of Jesus, the cross or the book of Revelation. Does God save them apart from “faith” (one Preterist said yes). But, if you accept the biblical fact that not “everyones name is written in the Lamb’s book of life,” then you must ask why “some” are saved and “some” are not. Some have never heard, but if faith comes by hearing, then why did not God bring someone to preach to them? Oh, right, he cannot move anyone against their Supreme Will. God’s in a predicament! Without laboring this point, unconditional election is how God saves today, yesterday and forever. He makes the first move, and without that move, no man is saved. Now, granted, I am an ecumenicist. Roman Catholics are my brothers and sisters, as well as Greek Orthodox, Russian Orthodox, Serbian Christians, Armenian Christians, Coptics, Baptists, Church of Christ, etc. God saves all who believe that Jesus was dead, buried and raised to newness of life. It’s that simple. So, before you pigeon hole me in as other Calvinists, don’t. I am a Preterist.
Let’s see, what’s next? Oh yes, Limited Atonement. Well, that follows logically, too. The Bible says that Jesus saves His people. But, clearly, not all are saved. If Christ’s blood was shed in vain for just one man, it was shed in vain for all men. If the blood of Christ is simply a possibility offered for salvation provided that the Supreme Will of Man “accepts it,” then it is not the blood that is saving but man’s Supreme Will that makes the DECISION. Man, thus, saves himself, and Christ is only a secondary matter that “covers him” (atones) if and only if Man invites Jesus to do so. Therefore, since the blood of Jesus offers only the possibility of salvation, then it is entirely possible to imagine a world where Jesus died, but no one believed, and, thus, it is entirely possible to imagine that Jesus died in vain. Poor, poor Jesus.
Now, the next pedal on the TULIP is irresistible grace. Yet, if what I have said so far is correct, then this logically follows. God makes the first move and “no plan of the Lord’s can be thwarted.” “He does whatsoever he pleases” and “he turneth the heart whithersoever He willeth.” “Who can resist His will?” I could quote hundreds more, but surely none of these are overturned because Jesus came back already! If all men “live, move, and have their being” in God, and if all men’s breath is from God, then, unless a universalist, why does not God save all? Why only some? And when did God make this decision? Did he know all his children before he made the universe? See, now we have Open Theism and Universalism knocking on the door (logical conclusions when the principles of Sovereignty are rejected). I see no reason in light of the Second Coming of Christ to think that God does not now know all things. All things that he knows originated with His own mind and has always been known. There was never a time when He did not know all things, every atom, every speck of dust. “Who has taught the Lord?” No one. God did not “learn” things by peering down the corridors of time (perhaps one of the most lame arguments ever made). And, thus, those whom God foreknew he predestined and He has known them forever in his mind. God saves only those whom He has known from eternity that he would save, not one more, not one less. And, thus, when he comes calling on that old heart, that old heart still “outside the gates,” he gives a “new heart” solely by His own doing. It is by GRACE that you are saved, and that NOT OF YOURSELF. Now, is someone going to argue that since Jesus returned the statement should be, it by your receiving Jesus into your heart by your own strength and will that you are saved, and that is entirely of yourself?
Then we come to Perseverance of the Saints. Eternal Security is another name for it. I believe that once God causes me to come into the New Jerusalem, I can never, ever, leave. Nothing impure shall ever into it, nor any who does wickedness. Hmm, that must mean that I cannot do anything that would eject me from the City. See, Adam could. Adam was threatened with a curse and exiled from the Garden/City. In light of Preterism, such a relationship between God and his children has changed. Man in Christ can never be condemned, never expelled, never exiled. And, so, working Preterism into the picture allows me to see that I am eternally secure, and I can so live my life knowing that while “in the world” I shall have difficulties, failures, weaknesses and occasional whippings from Daddy-God, but He disciplines those He loves. Thy rod and thy staff comfort me. Nothing shall separate me from the love of God in Christ.
And, so, in conclusion, if Virgil can work out Arminianism within Preterism (free-will, the possibility of losing salvation, resistible grace, universal but ineffective atonement and election based on man’s decision), then so can the former Calvinists. And I have. I do, though, want to say one thing. To bring in the old, traditional Arminianism/Calvinism debate is, in and of itself, not Preterism. The entire debate itself needs to be REWORKED, and that includes the old definition of “free-will.” It’s a debate based around progressive sanctification looking forward to the END. Preterists believe, at least this one does, that we ARE sanctified, period, end of story. I am not “being made holy” any more than I am “being transformed” into Christ’s image. I am made in His image and reflect His image since I have been changed in His image. That is my new covenantal standing with God. So, Virgil, relax on the Calvinism thing. Of course traditional Calvinism needs to change in light of Preterism, but, brother, so does Arminianism.