You are hereClash of the “Church of Christ” & the Calvinists

Clash of the “Church of Christ” & the Calvinists

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By Virgil - Posted on 19 January 2005

It was bound to happen, as this “movement” continues to absorb more and more people of opposing soteriologies, there would be a clash of biblical and non-biblical (philosophical) proportions.It seems the latest clash is between those who come primarily from the “Church of Christ” (CoC) background with those who are Calvinistic, or “Reformed”. It is understandable how this has happened. A brief look at the modern origins of this movement will lead us to Max King; one of the most prominent 20th century advocates of the fulfilled view.

Max King comes from the Church of Christ background, which is almost the archetype to the Reformed background. Indeed, the members of the denomination of CoC have claimed they did not even come from the “Protestant” heritage, but rather they are “children of the Restoration movement” (example). Reformed folk will often cite that other groups from the Restoration Movement are Pentecostals, Mormons, and Jehovah’s Witnesses and will even question the entire concept of a “restoring” of the “gospel” in that such a phrase implies it was once lost.

As the preterist movement continued to grow in the 20th century, more and more Reformed persons were becoming vocal. There was David Chilton, R.C. Sproul, Kenneth Gentry and others. Obviously many of these went no further than partial preterism. But what is interesting is that many of the 18th-19th century Reformed scholars held to forms of preterism; such as John Owen, Jonathan Edwards, C.H. Spurgeon, and others.

At first, our soteriological & ecclesiological differences were set aside as we excitedly discussed the proposition that what Christ and the Apostles said about the coming or “presence” of Christ was true after all.

Now it seems we have come full circle, with the Semi-Pelagian/Arminians battling the Calvinist over the question:

  • “Does God choose people or do people choose God?”

  • So far the most vocal group are those of the Semi-Pelagian/Arminian persuasion. They have brought some interesting questions and thoughts to the theological table but they have also trotted out some of the same old accusations:

    By implication, Calvinism teaches, “a God that intrudes into people’s lives and rips out their thoughts, feelings, and memories”

    “Calvinism robs man of the God-given sense of self, and the sense of spiritual realities given to man by God.”

    It seems the lines are being drawn ever so tighter. You now have several “Reformed” Preterist congregations such as those “led” by David Curtis, Samuel Frost, and Kelly Birks. But these men have been relatively silent when it comes to interacting on the latest discussion about election and free-will. Perhaps they believe it is not worth the effort, or is no big deal. Perhaps they believe the fight has been fought and re-fought in history from Augustine vs Pelagius, to Luther vs Erasmus and requires no more interaction.

    But I worry that just as in the first Reformation when the Lutherans and the Zwinglians could not find common ground over the Eucharist (real blood & body vs memorial) and split, so shall the Semi-Pelagian/Arminian and Calvinistic Preterists split.

    In a recent article I published called “The Order of the ‘Ologies’”, I tried to make the case that one’s eschatological views actually impact their soteriological and ecclesiological views more than they could imagine. Perhaps that is what is happening here. We are beginning to grapple with the notion of who the “elect” really are/were and what they were being “called out” from. We are struggling with the contrast that in Adam all died but in Christ all are made alive – what does that really mean?

    It will be interesting to continue to follow these discussions to their conclusions and I pray and plead that people do not drop out or shy away, or wall themselves in. Let us continue moving forward, letting the Scriptures speak plainly and so that we ascertain the ORIGINALLY INTENDED meaning even if the implications scare us or dramatically alter everything we thought we knew.

    In Christ revealing,


    Markos's picture

    It should be pointed out that the tension is not between a certain body of Christians, like e.g. the churches of Christ, versus an ideology, e.g. Calvinism. Actually, what I think is a more accurate reflection of what is going on is, a number of Christian concerns are Calvinist, while others are Armenian. Most, if not all Presbyterians are Calvinists, many Baptist are, but almost all people from the Church of God in Christ, Apostolic, Methodist, Greek Orthodox and Charismatic would probably not be Calvinist. I know Pentecostal Preterists--even some who still believe in speaking in tongues IN SPITE OF. And then there are Unitarian Preterists and "Oneness Holiness" all these varietys of Preterists would all seriously disagree with the tenets codified by John Calvin.


    Markos Mountjoy

    SuperSoulFighter's picture

    I, also, would like to express my thanks, Roderick, for clarifying many of the underlying issues involved in the emering conflicts among us. As we are called upon to set aside presuppositions and Creedal traditions, we are met with the same, internal resistance that we encountered in re-evaluating our eschatology.

    No-one wants to change their position unless they are reasonably sure that the new view (to them) is solidly supported by Scripture. This is why I welcome objections and contrary arguments (when presented graciously). I would rather prompt others to research the Truth for themselves than simply "take my word for it" and become convinced on the strength of argument alone. I believe my position IS solidly supported by the Scriptures - but there are others who feel the same about Calvinism. So, we probe each other's positions critically, carefully and intelligently - and greatly benefit thereby.

    Thanks again for this article, Roderick!


    Virgil's picture

    "As we are called upon to set aside presuppositions and Creedal traditions..."

    "..become convinced on the strength of argument alone. I believe my position IS solidly supported by the Scriptures...


    Although I can see your point on creedal traditions, you are going to have to explain to me how we can "set aside presupposition."

    Convictions don't precede belief, belief precedes conviction. Everyone brings to the table presuppositions - antecedents to logics or facts.We really can't get around it. As spiritual beings, we shouldn't and don't (dare I say are incapable of, in reality?) begin with facts and logic. Our presuppositions -beliefs -if you will, act on facts and logic.

    You are calling for a rationalistic or humanistic approach to arriving at the truth. This is what atheists and evolutionists do - look at physical facts and observations and use human logic and reason, instead of the revelation of God, to determine the truth.

    "Faith is the substance of things HOPED for, the EVIDENCE of things NOT SEEN." Heb 11:1 - this "faith" or "evidence" is our presupposition planted by God, not congered up by man's imperfect reasoning. The "faith" of the atheist or evolutionist is the presupposition congered up by man's "confused" (your words) or damaged reasoning ability.

    To reiterate, can we really "set aside presuppositions?" We really can't can we? It may be a small point, I know. Maybe you should just admit that you are asking us to "set aside" our FAULTY (in your eyes) presuppositions and to look at the facts/evidence, and use your self-admitted human logic to apply YOUR presuppositions to your argument that you hold God's viewpoint on how things are.

    In a nutshell, that God exists and a few other truths may be self-evident ("by the strength of argument alone") even to a "confused" man (Romans 1:21-22), but the deep understandings of how God does things are reserved for regenerated believers by God's revelation. There is no such animal as "by strength of argument alone" when it comes to God's deeps truths.


    Parker's picture

    Excellent, Roderick! Thank you for "outing" the background of many on this list and for clarifying who stands where. I have been able to put two and two together, not only on the folks you mentioned, but also on others you didn't mention by name including Virgil, John McPherson, and Jason Lile. It helps since I had not been familiar with the Church of Christ theology and am only a novice (couple of years) into the Calvinist teachings.

    We all carry baggage of some sort from previous religious experiences, hopefully holding on to what is true. My background has been in this order - grew up Lutheran (Missouri Synod), went to college and was really nothing. Met a girl who was Roman Catholic, flirted with joining, married this same girl (but did not convert), 6 months after marriage, was born again through televangelist Herbert W. Armstrong - spent 13 years in that church - The Worldwide Church of God - left when found out (a couple of years after HWA's death) it was not the one and only "true" church, attended a Southern Baptist Church after that for 6 years, semi-left and worshipped at home and with a family home church until just recently landed (last 2 years) in the Calvinist area of thinking after much study (at the same time discovering preterism) and have been attending a reformed presbyterian church for the last 6 months.

    It sounds kind of haphazard, but I don't think it was. Don't have time right now to explain. I only want to say how much I appreciate you, Virgil, John McP, Sam F., Ed Stevens, David Green, and so many others for the interaction on this list and other lists. Iron is really sharpening iron and I look forward to the continuing debate towards the truth of God.


    Roderick's picture


    You are not alone in this haphazardness. I come from a background of "unchurched", then 14 years as an Independent/Fundamental/Dispensational/KJV-Only Baptist, to becoming a Reformed Baptist, to attending 6 years with a reformed presbyterian congregation and now (and don't *gasp* for those who may think this article is slamming CoC), I fellowship with a group of CoC Prets in Indianapolis who have loving taken in a stray :)

    I am confident that many of us will transcend these traditions, keeping what is true and discarding what is not -- BUT, there will also be some that will either go back from whence they came, or will reformulate Preterism to fit their denominational slant (I'm not specifying anyone, so no one get offended -- who knows who it will be).

    And as you say, indeed PP and the other forums are good places to sharpen iron with iron. I appreciate our interactions as well and hope to meet more and more people in person.

    God is gracious,

    davecollins's picture

    "...some that will either go back from whence they came, or will reformulate Preterism to fit their denominational slant..."

    My problem is that EVERY denomination, including the one now attending, have beliefs and behaviors I just don't agree with, as I continue to study. The truths I retain, while discarding those proven inadequate, do not seem to point to a body of believers in which I can be in substantial agreement with. And I'm a pretty easy-goin' guy! Go figure. :>)

    SuperSoulFighter's picture

    My problem is that EVERY denomination, including the one now attending, have beliefs and behaviors I just don't agree with, as I continue to study. The truths I retain, while discarding those proven inadequate, do not seem to point to a body of believers in which I can be in substantial agreement with. And I'm a pretty easy-goin' guy! Go figure. :>)

    Years ago, I worked for a farmer who had issues with any "church" he attended, after one or two visits. As a teen, I felt this guy had "authority issues" (odd for a teen to think that way, eh?), but it turns out - he intuitively sensed that he did not need ANY "church" to provide spiritual nourishment and guidance to him and his family. I look back and realize that he was probably more advanced in his understanding of the Kingdom than most Chrstians were at that time.

    I remember, he tested me once with the question, "Do all things work together for good to them that love God?" to which I responded (knowing my Bible relatively well at that age) - "Yes - to those who are called according to His purpose". He grinned and said, "Exactly". NOW I understand so much better the implications of what I only vaguely grasped at that time.

    I, too, am from a mishmash background of denominationalism, Kurt. The last "church" my wife and I attended was an interdenominational Evangelical, fundy "church". We attended there for six or seven years.

    I'm definitely not CoC, though (just to avoid any confusion). My doctrinal position has been independetly derived from my own study of the Scriptures, and is honestly not influenced by any specific tradition or denominational affiliation.

    Just thought I'd clarify that!

    Thank you for your expressions of appreciation, Kurt! I enjoy interacting with you also, and the other members of this great site! Truly, we are in the vanguard of a great, modern exploration of the Truth and its implications! These are truly exciting days!

    John McPherson

    Parker's picture

    Of course the Semi-Pelagian/Arminian and Calvinistic Preterists will split. It's the protestant way. : )

    And why should you feel any care or concern over such divisions, Rod? The "Church" with its essential unity was a thing of the AD 30-70 generation, remember? Why do you seek to mimic that ancient institution of the Old World? Why would you seek to build a "fellowship"? Why would you seek "unity"? You have no command for any such things.

    Gosh, living consistenly with these preteristic theories is really much easier said than done. Look, just admit that many of you have become Deists and be done with it.

    Your friend,

    Virgil's picture

    We should all view this as positive debate, instead of building walls around us. I know that Planet Preterist is a success because of what is happening.

    I hope that people will put their feelings aside and argue with their Bible not church tradition..that's all :) And I do believe that you are exagerrating the influence of the Church of Christ. I have a strong Calvinist and Baptist background and I discovered the errors of Calvinism long ago...

    Roderick's picture

    Perhaps I am exagerrating the CoC influence, but I don't think so as we see Max King, Tim King, Don Preston, William Bell, Charles Geisler, your own pastor and I believe Ed Stevens and Kurt Simmons were or still are part of the CoC denomination.

    Now, am I trying to say that is bad? No, I'm just noting that these soteriological conflicts (hopefully - positive debate as you say), are understandable when you have these two mind-sets trying to mesh together. I meant no offense except to say it is sometimes easier to remove ourselves from a tradition than to remove the tradition from ourselves.

    I'm glad this debate is happening.


    Virgil's picture

    Roderick - Terry is not my pastor..Jesus is. Terry is a minister...

    Your are framing the entire thing in the wrong frame. This is not a Calvinism vs. Arminianism argument..heck, I am not even an arminianist. Calvinists act as if they have an exclusive claim to "sovereignty" and "election." That's far from truth. Arminianism leads to the fact that God has little or almost no involvement in man's affairs...that's not true either.

    This argument is not about's about Preterism kicking it up a notch. Either we blindly trust everything that comes from futurists, or we sit down and take another look at it. Can you name a full preterist analysis of Calvinism? There is no such thing...we've been taking it for granted so far....why?

    mrfullpreterist's picture

    The overwhelming testimony of history shows that ultimately none of us truly know ALL OF THE TRUTH. I myself am an absolute free-will/absolute sovereignty of God advocate. I am not saying that there are no seeming contradictions between these two views as far as human understanding is concerned. I am simply saying that we are ALL simply men living in "flatland" (a book written by Edwin Abbot). Our knowledge is and always will be ( at least in the here and now) FINITE.

    Is the debate then irrelevant? Absolutely not. All I am saying is that it manifests a certain pride for any of us to think that WE have any more of a grasp on these things than all of the learned men of history had...And yet, they still disagreed. However, I believe we all should continue to search for the truth with an open mind.

    God bless our studies and pursuit of His Truth.

    Robert L. Statzer

    mrFOOLpreterist FKA as mrfullpreterist

    Still searching to understand the Truth.

    davecollins's picture

    Roderick, thanks for helping to put this in perspective. Prayerfully this will ultimately unite us and make us all better students of the Word. I know in the face of opposing scholars, with conflicting views from mine, tends to make me search the heart of God and the Scriptures.

    All humans are fallible, so we must prove assertions from the whole of the Bible.It is easy to miss Truth from all sides if we allow our tradition and presuppositions to mask the interpretation.

    I really appreciate your articles! Dave

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