January 22, 2020

It’s Called “Calvinism,” & It’s Not That Long of a Line

Recently I heard a radio broadcast of a sermon by Pastor Steve Lawson.1 The message title is, The Long Line Continues.2 In the message Pastor Lawson makes frequent use of the phrase, “the doctrines of grace.” What does this phrase “the doctrines of grace,” mean? Very simply “the doctrines of grace,” is a new way of introducing a centurys old theology popularized by the French theologian John Calvin (1509-1564). That theology is commonly known as “Calvinism.”

What is Calvinism? Calvinism is best known for its emphasis on five distinct doctrines. These are technically known as the “Five Points of Calvinism.” The five points are commonly recognized and defined from the acronym T-U-L-I-P. Taking each in turn, the letters of the acronym stand for:
  1. Total (Human) Inability
  2. Unconditional Election
  3. Limited Atonement
  4. Irresistible Grace
  5. Perseverance of the Saints
The whole of Calvinism rests on these five points, and they are inseparably linked. So that you have a basic understanding of Calvinism’s five points, following this article I will be providing definitions for each under the heading, Defining Calvinism’s TULIP? Here we will demonstrate the terminology that Steve Lawson, essentially representative of every Calvinist, uses to rename Calvin’s T-U-L-I-P.
  • Total Inability is renamed, “Total Depravity,” or “Radical Corruption.”
  • Unconditional Election is named the same or “Sovereign Election.”
  • Limited Atonement is renamed, “Definite Atonement,” or “Particular Redemption.”
  • Irresistible Grace is renamed, “Effectual Calling,” or “Sovereign Regeneration.”
  • Perseverance of the Saints is named the same or “Persevering or Preserving Grace.”
The centuries old debate over the theology that bears John Calvin’s name will never be settled this side of heaven. In the meantime, I do not believe it wise to accept and/or adopt in our language the evolved labels for John Calvin’s theology. We do not want to allow for terminology that tends to cloud, confuse or camouflage the theology of Calvinism’s T-U-L-I-P.

Compounding Error Upon Error
A fundamental understanding of Scripture makes clear that Calvinism is held together by forcing into or extracting from the Bible things that are not there. Calvinism proper, therefore, has spawned numerous theological errors.  Among them for example Steve Lawson said, They [the doctrines of grace] are completely counter intuitive…are entirely antithetical to the natural mind…We would naturally reason that you must first believe and then you will be born again.” Lawson is saying that to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved (John 3:16; Acts 16:31), is solely based on our own human reasoning.

The Calvinist believes man is so “dead in trespasses and sins” that he must first be regenerated: That is to say, be born again (initial justification), made alive by the Spirit of God, indwelled by the Holy Spirit, and given the new nature prior to and apart from personal repentance toward God and faith in Jesus Christ (Acts 20:21).3 Furthermore, even faith, according to Calvinism, is the gift that was given to him after he has been regenerated (Eph. 2:8-9).4 These are two examples of egregious errors rooted in Calvinism.

Just How Long is That Line?
Pastor Lawson gives the impression that Calvinism’s “long line” can be traced back to the Pentateuch, as far back as Genesis and throughout the Old Testament. He believes the “long line continues” through the New Testament, on to the church fathers, the Reformers and beyond.  He said,
These teachers of the doctrines of grace [Calvinism] really began with Moses and Joshua and Samuel…. As we come to the New Testament we see Jesus Christ Himself…proclaimed and taught the doctrines of grace [Calvinism]…. Peter, on the day of Pentecost, began teaching the doctrines of grace [Calvinism]…the Apostle Paul became a chief author and architect of the doctrines of grace [Calvinism]….”
What we find, however, is that the “long line” of Calvinism is not so long after all. Calvinism traces directly from Augustine (4th century). New Calvinists say Calvin merely re-iterated Augustine. Any placing of the five points of Calvinism to Genesis would be based on the idea that the church began in Genesis and continues to today.

Steve Lawson’s message sheds light on how he arrives at five-point Calvinism. What we find is in the answer to the question, What is Rationalistic Fatalism?
“Rationalistic fatalism is understandable in light of dictionary usage.  According to Franklin’s Dictionary and Thesaurus, ‘rationalistic’ is literally: ‘reliance on reason as the basis for the establishment of religious ‘truth,’ and ‘fatalism’ is the ‘belief that fate determines events.’ Of course, ‘fate’ is a cause beyond human control to determine. Looking at that statement in this light demonstrates that those referred to rely solely on reason rather than revelation as the basis for their theological moorings. The ‘circle logic’ of five-point Calvinism is just that for the whole system crumbles when a single link in the chain is broken. One must approach the system with reason rather than faith. That of course leads to the fatalism, which holds that God has predetermined the destiny of human souls and that all the witnessing, praying, and missionary effort in the world will not change the outcome.”5
Close:
Those who reject Calvinism should avoid falling into the trap of accepting and agreeing to the new terminology.  In any discussion about or debate over Calvinism, no matter how many times the term, “doctrines of grace” appears, we will refer to and reiterate the historic, unambiguous label, “Calvinism.” Calling the theology of John Calvin “the doctrines of grace” does not change the theology of what we know today as “Calvinism.” Our priority is to equip uninformed and/or unsuspecting believers to first recognize the so-called “doctrines of grace” as Calvinism, and then be able to reject it from the Bible.

Yours faithfully,


LM

Footnotes:
1) Steve Lawson: Professor of Preaching at The Masters Seminary (John MacArthur, chancellor emeritus), member of The Gospel Coalition.

2) The Long Line Continues (Feb. 6, 2019 edition).

3) The key to understanding Calvinism’s irresistible grace is that the Holy Spirit regenerates the elected individual, thus, they can then receive the Word and exercise faith. This regeneration can occur years before exercising their act of faith. Some Calvinist’s define this regeneration as taking place at conception, others at physical birth, and others at some later time. But ALL Calvinist’s teach it occurs prior to and independent of any act of faith or any foreseeing by God of their eventual faith. When thought through, biblically to be regenerated, literally meaning to “be born again,” means that the elect one possesses or is indwelled by the Holy Spirit at that point. For further study see,
The Danger of Teaching That Regeneration Precedes Faith


5) Dr. David L. Cummins, in an email to me answering the question, what is rationalistic fatalism.  Dr. Cummins response appears on pp. 261-262 of In Defense of the Gospel: Biblical Answers to Lordship Salvation, 1st edition only, 2006.

Related Reading:

After reading Bob Jones University’s position paper, I feel that it reflects a style commonly employed by many New Calvinists. Their writing typically skirts issues to avoid offense or exclusion, while maximizing inclusivity. They achieve this by allowing the reader to supply his or her own theological definitions rather than offering clear-cut ones that would reveal Calvinist views. The fact that BJU’s paper appears to use a similar strategy concerns me. I see this tendency through the paper. For example, it contains the term “exercise faith” four times. (Dr. Rob Congdon: An Analysis of Bob Jones Universitys Position Paper on Calvinism...)

Oops! I Thought I Was a Four-Point Calvinist & An Alternative View of Election

Defining Calvinism’s T-U-L-I-P?
Following is a succinct definition of T-U-L-I-P. Following each of the five-points we will reiterate the way Calvinists rename each of the five points.

T- Total (Human) Inability
The Bible teaches man’s human depraved nature, human depravity, – that is all have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Rom. 3: 23). All are sinners and separated from God.  Calvinism added the term “total” to the term human depravity, to indicated that apart from God’s intervention through the regeneration of the Holy Spirit prior to faith, man can never understand, accept, react, or respond spiritually in any way to God, His Word, and the work of the Holy Spirit. (Jer. 17:9; Romans 3:10-12; Eph. 2:1)
Lawson renames Total Inability, “Total Depravity,” or “Radical Corruption.”

U- Unconditional Election
For the Calvinist God has elected only a select group of the world’s population for Heaven, while all the rest enter this world headed to an eternal existence in Hell. Some Calvinists explain God taking an active role in bringing the elect to salvation, but as for the rest, He is completely passive toward, and essentially abandons them on the road to Hell. (2 Cor. 5:18-19)

Many Calvinists, however, teach that God elected some to heaven and some to hell – in other words, He did not just extend grace to some, the elect, and allow the others to follow their own path, independent of God’s electing them to Hell. It should be noted that most people believe in Calvinistic Unconditional Election or Arminianism, which allow them to reject God later after first trusting Him. It is important to realize that the Bible’s use of the term “election” always refers to service and never salvation; hence there is a third view of election, independent of both Calvinism and Arminianism.
Lawson retains “Unconditional Election,” or “Sovereign Election.”

L- Limited Atonement
Limited Atonement is the most controversial of the five points. Many in the Reformed camp back away from this point of Calvinism and call themselves four-point Calvinists. Many five-point Calvinists consider those who do not fully embrace a limited atonement as falling short of being a true Calvinist. The five-point Calvinist believes Christ died only for the elect; the shed blood of Christ and His atoning work on the cross were intended only for the select group chosen for salvation. This means Christ’s substitutionary death paid the penalty of sin only for certain sinners, and not for the sins of all mankind past, present and future. (Isaiah 53:6; John 3:16; 1 Jn. 2:2)
Lawson renames Limited Atonement, “Definite Atonement,” or “Particular Redemption.”

I- Irresistible Grace
Calvinism teaches that the Holy Spirit extends a special inward calling, but only to those elected to salvation. Through this calling the sinner is irresistibly drawn to Christ and the Spirit causes the sinner to cooperate. The lost man may have no desire for Christ, no interest in the claims of the gospel, but he has no choice in the matter. Because he has been unconditionally elected for salvation the Spirit puts the choice in his mind, removes any barrier or hindrance and compels him to respond to the gospel invitation.

Many indicated it is not necessary to respond to a gospel invitation. They describe an eventual realization that they are elect and rather than an act of response, they merely believe their spiritual interest and/or acknowledgement of Christ indicates they are elect. The Calvinist often uses the term “exercise faith” rather than trust in Christ alone for their salvation.

This irresistible grace cannot be rejected and does not depend on man’s cooperation. The ability of individuals to reject Christ’s offer of salvation answers Calvinism’s irresistible grace. The Bible teaches that man can be reproved over and over, and resist the working of the Holy Spirit in his heart. (Gen. 6:3; Prov. 1:24-26; 29:1; Matthew 23:37; John 5:40; Acts 7:51-52)
Lawson renames Irresistible Grace, “Effectual Calling,” or “Sovereign Regeneration.”

P- Perseverance of the Saints
There are two views on Perseverance of the Saints. The traditional position is found in Reformed confessions of faith. The non-traditional view is typically found in some Baptist and Evangelical circles. The common denominator is that the elect are eternally secure and will persevere in the faith. The way Perseverance commonly addresses those who fall away is to conclude they were never saved in the first place or will return eventually. In its most extreme form Perseverance is articulated (for example by John Piper and Kevin DeYoung) as the only way to ensure “final salvation,” of final justification, to reach heaven, i.e., glorification.

To the Calvinist, a person must persevere their entire life by doing good works and spiritually living to demonstrate at the Great White Throne Judgment that they are truly elect. Thus, all men will appear at the Great White Throne Judgment (Rev. 20:11-15). Notice they are judged by their works. You often read in Calvinistic writing that a person cannot truly know they are righteous or the elect until the day they die, but Scripture says you can know you have eternal life right now (1 John 5:13). For the true believer who has accept God’s gift of salvation by faith alone, he does not have to persevere but depends upon God to preserve Him as promised in Jude 1 and Jude 24.

Thus, a saved man’s eternal security, his assurance and position in Christ are not dependent on how he performs as a Christian. He is saved and secure because of what Jesus Christ has done for him. (John 10:28-29; Eph. 1:13; 2 Tim. 1:12; 1 Peter 1:3-9Lawson retains Perseverance of the Saints,” or “Persevering or Preserving Grace.”

January 14, 2020

This is Not Your Father’s Bob Jones University, A Continuation (ReDUX)

As we begin this new article I encourage all readers to visit or re-visit the previous article.

In it we detailed several examples of BJU abandoning its foundational separatist principles.  Among them was this reference, “Dr. Sam Horn participating in a local Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) conference.” That reference required editing, it has been, and is the opening subject of this article.

What we have learned is that BJU president Steve Pettit participated in this (PCA) conference that being, Here We Stand: Greenville Conference on Reformed Theology held October 11-13, 2019 at the Second Presbyterian Church. Who are the two men whom Steve Pettit shared the platform with?

Dr. Joel R. Beeke, “President and Professor of Systematic Theology and Homiletics at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary, a pastor of the Heritage Reformed Congregation in Grand Rapids, Michigan, editor of Puritan Reformed Journal and Banner of Sovereign Grace Truth. His PhD is in Reformation and Post-Reformation theology from Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia). He is frequently called upon to lecture at seminaries and to speak at Reformed conferences around the world.”

Dr. Richard D. Phillips, “Among his many activities, he serves on the board and council of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, the council of The Gospel Coalition, and the board of trustees of Westminster Theological Seminary.”

What has BJU president Steve Pettit shown us by taking an active role in this conference, with these speakers? First, he has removed any lingering doubt of having led the University to embrace Reformed Theology. Second, The Gospel Coalition (TGC) includes men in its leadership who are some of the most egregious of ecumenical compromisers among the so-called “conservative” evangelicals. (More to follow on The Gospel Coalition) Steve Pettit has, by his example, diminished biblical admonitions (Romans 16:17-18; 2 Thess. 3:6, 14-15) that once protected BJU students from cooperative ministry with evangelicals who actively reject the principles of biblical separation. 

To date, I have kept these next comments private until such time as seemed appropriate.  Steve Pettit’s speaking at the Greenville Conference on Reformed Theology (GCRT) is the appropriate time. Following the Spring 2019 semester, through mutual acquaintances, I crossed paths with two BJU students, one in the seminary and the other in the university as an undergraduate preacher boy.  Both said Covenant Theology (CT) is tolerated and being taught at the university.  Through an intermediary I posed another question to the undergrad because he may have misunderstood the lectures with dispensationalism and CT possibly being contrasted and compared, and he was confused.  He said, “No, CT was being taught as the correct lens through which to interpret Scripture.”  I know of no reason to doubt either of their accounts.

At 37:45 Steve shared some of his early background.  He grew up in a Presbyterian Church where the gospel wasn’t clear. Yet, he is now building bridges with the PCA crowd by referencing the apostate church in which he grew up. Without explanation – what Steve was saying could have possibly been interpreted by the reformed theologians in front of him as something of a covenant relationship since his childhood. Steve trusted the Lord during his freshman year at the Citadel after a college student witnessed to him. Has he subtly or unwittingly denigrated his born-again experience?

It would do well for Steve Pettit to be reminded of Dr. Bob Sr.’s disagreement with the Billy Graham crusades. His complaint with Billy Graham was not his preaching.  It was with his associations. Dr. Pettit’s conference message might be something we would agree with, but his appearance with the GCRT crowd, is proof positive that he has an affinity with this crowd. Drs. Pettit and Horn continue to engineer associations with the Southern Baptist Convention and the PCA.

As if we haven’t seen enough of BJU’S direction, Dr. Andy Naselli was the guest speaker at the Seminary for the Dr. Stewart Custer Lecture Series held Nov. 11-12.

Andy Naselli was trained in fundamentalist schools with a BA from Baptist College of Ministry, an MA & Ph.D. from Bob Jones University, and followed with a Ph.D. from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. Today, however, Andy walks a different path.

Andy Naselli is associate professor of New Testament and theology at John Piper’s Bethlehem College & Seminary (BCS), and an elder of Bethlehem Baptist Church. Upon joining BCS in 2013 Andy posted on line five reasons for doing so.  Among them include, in his words,
The doctrine BCS affirms and celebrates is what we affirm and celebrate.” Among the things Andy Naselli affirms and celebrates we find at the BCS site, which Andy linked to, including, “Reformed in our soteriology, baptistic in our practice, and charismatic in our affections.”

Andy is, furthermore, on staff of The Gospel Coalition (TGC). BJU honored him and gave him a platform presence, a man who has rejected the biblical separatism he was taught at BJU in favor of John Piper’s doctrinal aberrations and The Gospel Coalition’s ecumenical compromisers.
To any objective observer surely enough has been seen to erase any lingering doubt that BJU has abandoned its foundational, separatist principles.

Pastor Travis Smith recently posted, Lunging Toward the Cliff of “No Return.” 
Make no mistake…Andy Naselli was privileged to serve as the highlighted guest speaker at BJU’s Seminary. The University and its administrative leadership has accepted the baggage that goes with [John] Piper and his cronies- The Gospel Coalition, Together for the Gospel to name two. 
Under Dr. Steve Pettit’s leadership, Bob Jones University continues to follow a path of ecclesiastical compromise, embracing the spirit of Neo-evangelicalism, and rejecting its historical legacy as a Bible fundamental, separatist institution.
At least we who were in classes and privileged to be challenged by separatists like Drs. Bob Jones., Bob Jones III, Gilbert Stenholm and Richard Rupp can take consolation in this: Whilst the current administration has sadly tarnished the reputation of Dr. Stewart Custer, they have so far spared the Jones’ of that humiliation.
The Jones era always took and stressed a strong separatist position. A number of pastors recall Dr. Bob Jones, Sr. strongly challenging preacher boys to come back and shut the school down if it departed from the fundamentals.  Of course, the current administration would argue, what are the fundamentals on this point?

Some alumni hold the opinion that Steve Pettit has already done enough to alienate the alumni to the point of ensuring the university’s demise whether or not the preacher boys come back to do it.
Ian Paisley

The University has always been theologically broad. So – that’s not new. What is new is the association with compromised denominations that have never espoused fundamentalism. Dr. Bob, Jr. loved Ian Paisley (Free Presbyterian). No one waved the fundamentalist-separatist flag more boldly than Paisley. What Steve Pettit is doing is different in that he embraces those who never have identified as fundamentalists (PCA/SBC/The Gospel Coalition). Thus, the university is being lead away from the Fundamentalist camp into the evangelical camp, which is the avenue to new evangelicalism.
He is in the way of life that keepeth instruction: but he that refuseth reproof erreth,” (Proverbs 10:17).
The ear that heareth the reproof of life abideth among the wise. He that refuseth instruction despiseth his own soul: but he that heareth reproof getting understanding,” (Proverbs 15:32).
Alumni and friends of BJU have reached out to Steve Pettit personally about the direction he and Sam Horn are taking the university. On hearing the reproof of friends they have chosen not to change, and instead stepped on the gas-pedal. The trajectory the university is set upon can have only one of two outcomes, neither good.
  1. The university will continue to lose students, and fold like Northland, Pillsbury and Clearwater.
  2. Or the university will become ecumenically compromised like Fuller, Liberty and Wheaton.
May God help the administration and board of BJU heed the reproofs of those who love the school, its heritage and what it can still be for the cause of Christ.


LM
(Originally published Nov. 2019)

Related Reading:

Analysis of BJU's Position Paper on Calvinism, Arminianism and Reformed Theology

“After reading BJU’s position paper, I feel that it reflects a style commonly employed by many New Calvinists. Their writing typically skirts issues to avoid offense or exclusion, while maximizing inclusivity. They achieve this by allowing the reader to supply his or her own theological definitions rather than offering clear-cut ones that would reveal Calvinist views. The fact that BJU’s paper appears to use a similar strategy concerns me.”

Fundamentalism vs. Apostasy: Ian Paisley March 2, 1969
“I am quite happy to be identified as a Fundamentalist. I like to be identified with those who are fighting the Lord’s battles. You know there are some fellows who would like to be called fundamentalists, but they have no right to the name. They are pseudo-fundamentalists. They come into the fundamentalist nest, they would use the fundamentalist’s money and they would destroy the fundamentalist’s stand.” (8:40 of the message)
The Joseph Zichterman Issue
On May 7, 2007 It was suddenly announced Joe Zichterman was leaving the IFB movement and would transfer his church membership to the Willow Creek Community Church. The announcement was made by Joe himself through a website he opened, which has since been taken offline.

November 20, 2019

An Analysis of Bob Jones University’s Position Paper on Calvinism, Arminianism and Reformed Theology

Dr. Robert Congdon
As a follow-up to Lou Martuneac’s article of November 14, 2019, entitled “This is Not Your Father’s Bob Jones University,”[1] I have been asked to review Bob Jones University’s position paper on “Calvinism, Arminianism and Reformed Theology.”[2] The following is a brief analysis of that paper.[3]

After reading BJU’s position paper, I feel that it reflects a style commonly employed by many New Calvinists[4]. Their writing typically skirts issues to avoid offense or exclusion, while maximizing inclusivity. They achieve this by allowing the reader to supply his or her own theological definitions rather than offering clear-cut ones that would reveal Calvinist views. The fact that BJU’s paper appears to use a similar strategy concerns me.

I see this tendency throughout the paper. For example, it contains the term “exercise faith” four times. A standard dictionary definition of “exercise” is “an act of bringing into play or realizing in action.”[5] While this term could apply to an action resulting in salvation, fundamentalist Christians typically select a phrase such as “receive Christ by faith as your Savior” in this context.  Once upon a time, BJU used phrases such as “believe,” “put your faith in” and “ask Him into your heart,” to describe one’s salvation response.

As used by New Calvinists, the phrase “exercise faith” fits within the dictionary definition of “realizing in action.” Calvinism’s teaching on election is that one is regenerated prior to faith. Later on, that person "exercises faith" or “acknowledges” or “realizes” that Jesus is his or her Savior. Ligonier Ministries, a major outlet for New Calvinist teaching, says:

If the Lord has changed our hearts, giving us the disposition[6] to love Him, we will certainly exercise faith and persevere in it to the end (Phil. 1:6). But that we exercise faith at all is due to God’s sovereign grace.[7] 

A writer for The Gospel Coalition, a New Calvinist group, also uses this term, “exercise faith.”

Objectively speaking, faith is a gift from God (Eph. 2:8, although the “gift” is the whole work of salvation, not just the faith). Subjectively speaking, the person exercises faith in the gospel (Eph. 1:13). [8]

Interestingly, if you google the phrase, you’ll also find that Brigham Young University uses it:

To exercise faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is to accept Him as Savior and live in accordance to His will through repentance and obedience to His commandments. Learning to act in accordance with one’s faith in Christ is fundamental to enjoying deep, life-changing learning. [9]

It is rather sad that a Mormon school offers a clearer definition of “exercising faith” than BJU!

Contrary to the Calvinist teaching of regeneration before an act of faith, the Bible teaches that a person hears the Scriptures (Rom. 10:17), after which the Holy Spirit convicts that person’s heart, revealing the sinful condition and the need for a savior (Rom. 3:23). The person then responds by receiving, accepting, and trusting Jesus Christ alone as Savior (John 1:12).

BJU potentially reflects a Calvinist viewpoint when it says, “God’s invitation of salvation is freely offered to all men . . . and available to anyone who desires to be saved.” [10] I take this to suggest that an unsaved person has a desire to be saved. But in my experience, and in the experience of others holding similar positions, it is not desire but rather the conviction of being a sinner in need of a savior that drives a person to ask for God’s gift of salvation.

On the other hand, I have read several New Calvinist statements implying that when one is elect, and therefore regenerated prior to faith, he or she develops a desire to exercise faith or to acknowledge or recognize Jesus Christ as Savior. BJU’s phrase could be interpreted in either way and is therefore ambiguous, potentially satisfying both Calvinists and Biblicists.

Similarly, consider 2 Peter 3:9:

The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

The Calvinist considers “all” to mean “all the elect,” while a Biblicist believes that “all” should be taken literally as referring to all human beings. Clearly, the Bible reflects this in its use of “whosoever will” in salvation passages (John 3:16; Rom. 10:13; Rev. 22:17). Again, BJU’s statement is very weak in its terminology. 

Further on in the position paper, BJU says that our sanctification “will be completed when we stand before God in our resurrection bodies.”[11] This appears to be drawing from Reformed terminology. The Biblicist position teaches that our sanctification will be completed when we appear before Jesus Christ, our Bridegroom, at the Bema. But the phrase, “stand before God” comes directly from Revelation 20:12 and refers to those at the Great White Throne Judgment.

Calvinists believe that all people from all ages, both saved and unsaved, will stand before God at this judgment event (Rev. 20:11-15). Here, God will assess who is elect and who is not. Biblicists believe that the Bema (2 Cor. 5:10) is a time of accounting (Rom. 14:12) with Jesus Christ, our Bridegroom, and not a judgment for “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus…” (Rom. 8:1). The English word, “condemnation,” is a translation of the Greek word for “judgment.”[12] Again, BJU uses weak and ambiguous phrasing.

BJU says, “We believe that Scripture presents certain great paradoxes concerning salvation which we gladly embrace as belonging to God . . .”[13] It’s curious that here BJU uses the word, “believe” but speaks of exercising faith earlier.

Interestingly, Calvinists often use similar phrasing about “paradoxes,” yet I do not find “great paradoxes” in the Bible with reference to salvation. Surely, this is the most elementary and crucial issue of mankind. Does God truly leave this issue as a paradox unresolvable by mankind? If so, then why present it in the Scriptures at all, rather than deferring it as a matter to be dealt with in eternity?

My booklet, An Alternative View of Election offers no “paradox” but a straightforward interpretation of the biblical use of the term “election.”[14]

Finally, BJU’s view on the “doctrine of the Second Coming and Reformed Eschatology” is worded in the New Calvinist style. Reformed Theology is very weak on eschatology. It blends the catching up of the church, the Rapture event (1 Thess. 4:16ff), with the Second Coming (Matt. 24:30; Rev. 19:11), claiming that these events occur together.

Similarly, BJU says that “we believe in the visible return of the Lord Jesus Christ at His Second Coming (John 14:3; Acts 1:11; 1 Thess. 4:16; Heb. 9:28; 1 John 3:2-3)”[15] Notice, they combine references associated with the Rapture (John 14:3; 1 Thess. 4:16; 1 John 3:2-3) with references associated with the Second Coming (Acts 1:11 and Heb. 9:28).

BJU appears to favor this combination when it declares that “we acknowledge that there are interpretative differences . . . related to the timing of this glorious appearing . . .” [16] They continue by referencing Titus 2:13 that specifically speaks of the “glorious appearing” as the Second Coming of Christ to the earth. This strategy subtly combines what the Biblicist sees as two distinct events into a single “glorious appearing.”

Interestingly, the BJU Seminary Catalog stated in the front matter that “The seminary faculty holds to...a pretribulational, premillennial approach to eschatology.”[17] By its very definition, “pretribulational” distinguishes the catching up of the church prior to the 7-year Tribulation from the Second Coming of Jesus Christ at the end of the Tribulation. What has changed since BJU’s Dean Stephen Hankins quoted this statement in an email in 2011? BJU’s present usage therefore reflects either carelessness or a Reformed/Calvinist interpretation of these verses.

BJU may not officially be a Reformed or Calvinist school. But its recent publications suggest an awareness and apparent endorsement of Reformed/Calvinist thought and teaching. Perhaps its lack of precision and ambiguous use of Scripture stem from ignorance or a poor understanding of the current meanings of these terms and phrases. If so, we could excuse it and ask that the school become more informed. If, however, BJU is following the pattern exhibited by New Calvinist writing, then there is a much deeper problem at work requiring immediate action to reverse this intrusion of Reformed and Calvinist theology.

Analysist: Robert Congdon





[1] Lou Martuneac, “This is Not Your Father’s Bob Jones University” In Defense of the Gospel blog, Nov. 14, 2019.  https://indefenseofthegospel.blogspot.com/2019/11/this-is-not-your-fathers-bob-jones.html
[2] Position Statements, “Calvinism, Arminianism and Reformed Theology” (Greenville, SC: Bob Jones University, nd.) retrieved from https://www.bju.edu/about/positions.php on 08/21/19.
[3] The above views reflect observations by the analyst acquainted with Bob Jones University and its many graduates but who is not an alumnus. This analysis is presented as a call to BJU to rethink its position paper and also to alert BJU students and alumni to a possible trend. Presenting this analysis is at the request of some BJU alumni.
[4] New Calvinism is a repackaged form of classic Calvinism that is presented in a form more appealing to the present generations. This analysis uses the terms “Calvinist,” “Reformed,” and “New Calvinist” as essentially equal when speaking of these doctrinal statements in the BJU paper. Today, New Calvinists represent the vast majority of Calvinists.
[5] “Exercise” Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary retrieved from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/exercise on 08/21/19.
[6] Calvinism teaches that the “changed heart” is the result of regeneration before faith, thereby an elect person is now predisposed to love Christ and exercise faith about Him.
[7] “Faith and Assurance” Ligoner Ministries website, retrieved from https://www.ligonier.org/learn/devotionals/faith-and-assurance/ on 11/18/19.
[8] Eric McKiddie, “How to Call for a Gospel Response Like a Calvinist” The Gospel Coalition November 24, 2011, retrieved from https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/how-to-call-for-gospel-response-like-a-calvinist/ 11/19/19.
[9] “Exercise faith” Learning Model – Brigham Young University, retrieved from http://www.byui.edu/learning-model/5-principles/exercise-faith on 11/18/19.
[10] Position Statements, “Calvinism, Arminianism and Reformed Theology.”
[11] Position Statements, “Calvinism, Arminianism and Reformed Theology.”
[12]κατάκριμα” Joseph Henry Thayer, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1977), 332.
[13] Position Statements, “Calvinism, Arminianism and Reformed Theology.”
[14] Available at www.CongdonMinistries.org website.
[15] Position Statements, “Calvinism, Arminianism and Reformed Theology.”
[16] Position Statements, “Calvinism, Arminianism and Reformed Theology.”
[17] BJU Seminary and Graduate Studies Catalog (Greenville, SC: Bob Jones University), 38. This was confirmed in a private email from Dean Stephen J. Hankins, July 21, 2011.