Letter to Tim Challies of challies.com

The following is a guest post (written by Marc Carpenter):

Hi, Tim –

I’m new to this site, but in my brief perusal of it, I found three instances in which you used the argument that “perfect doctrinal orthodoxy” or “understanding many of these things” is not a “prerequisite for salvation.”

Here are the quotes I saw:

==Now I do wish to clarify that while “Calvinism is the gospel and nothing else,” this does not mean that the other systems of theology have no truth in them whatsoever. Further, it does not mean that God can or will not save others despite their systems of theology. Thankfully God does not require perfect doctrinal orthodoxy as a prerequisite to salvation. I have no doubt that ardent Arminians can be saved despite the errors in their theology. Similarly, I believe that there is some truth in the Roman Catholic Church because the Bible is present and honored. The fact, though, is this: these systems of theology do not encapsulate the truth as revealed in Scripture as thoroughly as Calvinism.==

==Third, the opposite of Biblical Theology (in the way I used it) is not necessarily Unbiblical Theology. It is more likely to be less-Biblical theology. Arminianism represents a theology that is grounded in Scripture, but is less-Biblical than Calvinism because it does not have as full an understanding of God’s sovereignty and man’s depravity. As I indicated yesterday, “thankfully God does not require perfect doctrinal orthodoxy as a prerequisite to salvation.”==

==Fortunately understanding many of these things are not prerequisites for salvation.==

I find it very interesting that the majority of Calvinists I’ve encountered who know what Arminianism is and who say that at least some Arminians are saved (even “ardent Arminians,” as you put it) use the “knowledge of doctrine isn’t a prerequisite for salvation” argument (or some form of it). This implies that those of us who believe that all Arminians are unregenerate are saying that knowledge of doctrine IS a prerequisite for salvation. In fact, this has been a very common accusation of us. They say things like, “You’re adding requirements to salvation” or “You’re saying that someone must have a perfect knowledge of doctrine in order to be saved” or “You’re making salvation contingent on belief of certain doctrines,” ad nauseam. Some just come out and say we’re advocating a works salvation.

Why is this? Why is it that you and many other tolerant Calvinists believe that judging all Arminians to be unregenerate automatically means that knowledge of doctrines, doctrinal orthodoxy, etc., is a prerequisite for salvation?

Let’s first look at your logic: Some Arminians are saved because God does not require perfect doctrinal orthodoxy as a prerequisite to salvation. According to you, Arminians do not have perfect doctrinal orthodoxy, and since God does not require perfect doctrinal orthodoxy as a prerequisite to salvation, some Arminians are saved. Let’s apply this logic to other heretics. Take the Jehovah’s Witnesses, for example. Let’s apply your logic to Jehovah’s Witnesses. Jehovah’s Witnesses do not have perfect doctrinal orthodoxy. Since God does not require perfect doctrinal orthodoxy as a prerequisite to salvation, some Jehovah’s Witnesses are saved. Does that makes sense? Of course it doesn’t. The logic doesn’t follow at all. It called a non sequitur. You could use this flawed logic for any heretical group. Among other things, Jehovah’s Witnesses do not believe in a key part of the gospel, which is the deity of Christ. So if I say that all Jehovah’s Witnesses are unregenerate, does that mean I believe that perfect doctrinal orthodoxy is a prerequisite to salvation? Does it mean that I believe that a knowledge of the doctrine of the person of Christ is a prerequisite to salvation? Am I adding conditions to salvation when I say that no Jehovah’s Witness is saved? Of course not. But that’s the kind of logic that the tolerant Calvinists use.

And what is this thing about PERFECT doctrinal orthodoxy? This, too, is something I find frequently when I encounter tolerant Calvinists. They accuse us who of saying that we require PERFECTION of doctrine as a condition of salvation when we say that all Arminians are unregenerate. Where did this come from? Let’s look at your logic in this area: Calvinism is the gospel, but not all non-Calvinists are unsaved, because God doesn’t require perfection of doctrine. But wait a minute! Even you have said in many places that you do not believe your doctrine is perfect. Yet you equate Calvinism to perfect doctrine. This, again, does not make sense. For more on this, please see “Some Form of Perfectionism?” at www.outsidethecamp.org/letters72(2).htm .

Here is the truth about what salvation is conditioned on: Salvation is conditioned on the work of Jesus Christ alone. There are NO conditions or prerequisites that the sinner has to meet in order to be saved. Knowledge of doctrine isn’t a prerequisite. Knowledge of the doctrines of grace isn’t a prerequisite. Doctrinal orthodoxy (perfect or not) isn’t a prerequisite. NOTHING in the sinner is a prerequisite. If we believed that salvation were conditioned on knowledge of doctrinal orthodoxy, then we would be just as unregenerate as the Arminians, because they do not believe that salvation is conditioned on the work of Jesus Christ alone. For more on this, please see “Doctrinal Regeneration” at www.outsidethecamp.org/doctregen.htm .

Let’s now look at your statement, “Calvinism is the gospel and nothing else.” Do you really believe this? Did Charles Spurgeon, whom you quoted, really believe what he said when he said that Calvinism is a nickname for the gospel? Let us look into this further. The Bible is clear that those who do not believe the gospel are unregenerate (see Mark 16:16 for example). Let’s apply this to those who say that Calvinism is the gospel. If they are consistent with God’s Word, then they would have to say that those who do not believe Calvinism are unregenerate. It is very simple logic: (1) All who do not believe the gospel are unregenerate. (2) The gospel = Calvinism. (3) All who do not believe Calvinism are unregenerate. Now before anyone starts accusing me of saying that all non-Calvinists are unregenerate, I must reiterate that this is NOT my logic; this is the logic of those who say that Calvinism is the gospel, if they were consistent with God’s Word that all who do not believe the gospel are unregenerate. But do you really believe this, Tim? No, you don’t, based on your statement that some “ardent Arminians” are saved. So what must we conclude? We must conclude that you either do not really believe that Calvinism is the gospel, or you do not believe that all who do not believe the gospel are unregenerate (or possibly both).

What would be more in line with what you (and other tolerant Calvinists) believe is this: “Calvinism is the fullest, most mature, most consistent expression of the gospel.” That would make more sense in what you believe. Then you could say that “Arminianism is a less full, less mature, less consistent expression of the gospel.” You’d probably agree with these statements. Some tolerant Calvinists have stated their views in these terms. What do these statements show? They show that tolerant Calvinists believe that Calvinism and Arminianism differ in DEGREE rather than in KIND. They believe that Arminianism is still on the true gospel continuum or spectrum, but it’s just on the less consistent side of the continuum or spectrum than Calvinism is. Thus, they believe that belief in universal atonement is NOT belief in a false gospel, just belief in a “lesser version” of the true gospel.

What you and the tolerant Calvinists do not realize is that Arminianism is a COMPLETELY DIFFERENT GOSPEL than the true gospel. The difference between the gospel of salvation conditioned on the work of Jesus Christ alone and the gospel of Arminianism is one of KIND, not of DEGREE. Arminianism is a different KIND of gospel. It is just as different from the true gospel as the Jehovah’s Witness gospel is different from the true gospel. In the case of Arminians, they do not believe in the atoning work of Christ. They do not believe that the work of Christ on the cross actually accomplished atonement, remission, redemption, propitiation, and reconciliation for all whom He represented on the cross. See the article “Gospel Atonement” at www.outsidethecamp.org/gospatone.htm. They do not believe that it is the work of Christ alone that makes the difference between salvation and damnation. They do not believe that it is the work of Christ alone that demands and ensures the salvation of everyone for whom He died. They deny the very heart of the gospel, which is the efficacious atonement of Jesus Christ. This is no mere matter of degrees of consistency- this is a matter of cutting out the very heart of the gospel. Those who believe that Jesus Christ died for everyone without exception (which includes all Arminians without exception) DO NOT believe the true gospel TO ANY DEGREE. They believe a TOTALLY FALSE gospel. They talk of “Jesus” and “atonement” just as the Jehovah’s Witnesses do, but their “Jesus” and their “atonement” is a different KIND of “Jesus” and “atonement.” It is not just a different DEGREE. The false gospel of universal atonement (and thus salvation conditioned on the sinner) is not just a “less consistent version” of the true gospel of salvation conditioned on the work of Christ alone. Those who hold to this false gospel MUST believe that the work/effort of the sinner makes the ultimate difference between salvation and damnation. And thus, all who hold to this false gospel are unregenerate.

Does this mean that we are conditioning salvation on a perfect understanding of doctrine? Do we believe that God requires perfect doctrinal orthodoxy as a prerequisite to salvation? I hope I have already been sufficiently clear that this makes no sense. We believe that salvation is conditioned on the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ ALONE, with no contribution from the sinner. Salvation is not conditioned on what the sinner believes or does IN ANY WAY TO ANY DEGREE. So how is it, then, that we believe that all who believe the false gospel of universal atonement are unregenerate? It is because we understand that when God saves someone, He causes that person to believe the true gospel of salvation conditioned on the work of Jesus Christ alone. He causes that person to believe in the PERSON and the WORK of Jesus Christ. This belief is not a prerequisite or condition of salvation; it is an immediate, necessary, and essential FRUIT of salvation. Belief of the true gospel is not a PREREQUISITE; it is a RESULT of salvation. Thus, every true believer believes the TRUE GOSPEL of salvation conditioned on the work of Jesus Christ alone. Every true believer believes that it is the work of Jesus Christ alone that makes the difference between salvation and damnation. He will never believe the false gospel of salvation conditioned on the sinner. He will never believe in the damnable heresy of universal atonement, because it is a false gospel that cuts out the very heart of the true gospel. Please see “Letter to Credenda/Agenda” at www.outsidethecamp.org/credenda.htm.

This leads to your statement,

“Further, it does not mean that God can or will not save others despite their systems of theology.”

Am I saying that all Arminians CANNOT EVER be saved and will surely go to hell? Am I saying that God CANNOT or WILL NOT save Arminians? By no means! God saves the ungodly! God saves the self-righteous! God saves those who believe a false gospel! We get accused of damning or condemning Arminians to hell, although we have NEVER said such a thing. We do not know who among the unregenerate are God’s elect. That is not for us to know. Certainly there are the elect among the God-hating Arminians. But what you and the tolerant Calvinists do not realize is that when God saves an Arminian, he CHANGES that person’s belief! That person goes from believing a false gospel of salvation conditioned on the sinner to believing the true gospel of salvation conditioned on the work of Jesus Christ alone! That person goes from believing that it is one’s own effort that makes the ultimate difference between salvation and damnation to believing that it is the work of Christ that makes the ONLY difference between salvation and damnation! When God saves an Arminian, that person is NO LONGER an Arminian! That person NO LONGER believes the damnable false gospel of universal atonement! This is the same for any person in any false religion. When God saves a Jehovah’s Witness, does that person remain a Jehovah’s Witness? When God saves a Mormon, does that person remain a Mormon? When God saves a Muslim, Hindu, or Buddhist, does that person remain a Muslim, Hindu, or Buddhist? OF COURSE NOT! That person becomes a CHRISTIAN- a believer in the TRUE GOSPEL! He REPENTS of his false gospel! He counts all of his former religion as DUNG! He believes he was LOST when he was a Jehovah’s Witness or Mormon or Muslim or Hindu or Buddhist OR ARMINIAN!

I can hear someone say now,

“But that doesn’t fit with my experience. I remained an Arminian for a period of time after God saved me. I only came into the doctrines of grace later in my life. Does that mean I wasn’t saved until I had a full understanding of the doctrines of grace?”

My answer is this: No, you weren’t saved when you “came into” the doctrines of grace, because you are still not saved. You do not consider universal atonement to be a false gospel. You have not repented of your former religion. You do not believe that you were dead in your sins when you were a universal atonement advocate. You still speak peace to your former self. And, inevitably, you speak peace to those who are in the religion you used to be into. You call them brothers in Christ. This is only logical. For if you considered yourself lost when YOU were an Arminian, then you’d have to consider ALL Arminians to be lost. If you did not consider yourself lost when you were an Arminian, then you couldn’t consider all Arminians to be lost, since you were one of those saved Arminians before you “came into” the doctrines of grace. Please see the sermon “Gospel Repentance and Judgment” at www.outsidethecamp.org/gosprepjudg.htm.

I hope you’ve noticed one thing I left out when talking about the true gospel vs. Arminianism. But if you or any other readers haven’t, I will point it out. Please note that I am NOT talking about CALVINISM vs. Arminianism. Notice the paragraph that began, “What would be more in line with what you (and other tolerant Calvinists) believe is this: ‘Calvinism is the fullest, most mature, most consistent expression of the gospel.'” That is the last paragraph that mentioned Calvinism until this current paragraph. Back in that paragraph, I was talking about what you and tolerant Calvinists believe. But when I went into the true gospel vs. Arminianism, Calvinism was nowhere to be found. We have had people accuse us of believing that only Calvinists are saved. Well, that would be an impossible thing for us to believe, since WE ARE NOT CALVINISTS! So if we believed that only Calvinists are saved, we’d be saying that we’re not saved. That wouldn’t make a whole lot of sense, would it? We’re not Calvinists — we’re Christians. We don’t believe Calvinism — we believe the gospel. We couldn’t care less if someone has ever heard of Calvinism or Arminianism. We do not judge based on that. We judge based on this: DO YOU BELIEVE THE GOSPEL? Those who believe the gospel are saved; those who do not believe the gospel are lost. The “doctrines of grace” as they have come to be called are NOT Calvinism. Most who call themselves “Calvinists” or “Reformed” equate the two, but, in reality, they are not the same. The doctrines of grace are some (not all) of the essential gospel doctrines. Yet Calvin didn’t even believe in what has come to bear his name! He believed in universal atonement. See www.outsidethecamp.org/norefcal.htm . So we are definitely not Calvinists. We believe the true gospel.

Most who call themselves “Calvinists” believe their own version of salvation conditioned on the sinner. I’ve heard a Calvinist say that our everlasting habitations are based on our present stewardship. I’ve heard and read many Calvinists who say that salvation is conditioned on faith. I’ve read Calvinists who say that the covenant of grace has a condition or conditions that the sinner must meet. I’ve heard and read many Calvinists who say that our assurance is based on our works. Is it any wonder why these Calvinists speak peace to Arminians? It’s because they, too, believe a false gospel of salvation conditioned on the sinner! As I have thought about why many Calvinists would say that we add conditions or prerequisites to salvation, I am understanding that, many times, it’s because they believe that faith is a condition! And they believe that we ADD MORE CONDITIONS to FAITH! I’m seeing the conditionalism of Calvinism more and more, not just in present conversations with Calvinists but being exposed to more writings of past Calvinists.

I want to reiterate what tolerant Calvinists believe. For the purpose of this consideration, let us call the tolerant Calvinist (a Calvinist who considers at least some Arminians to be his brothers and sisters in Christ) “TC.” Consider: (1) TC believes that some who believe universal atonement are saved. (2) TC believes that all saved people believe the gospel. Thus, (3) TC believes that some who believe universal atonement believe the gospel. What does this show about TC’s belief about the gospel? Since TC believes a person can believe the gospel and believe universal atonement at the same time, then he MUST believe that the gospel does NOT include the efficacious atonement of Jesus Christ. TC has just DENIED the very heart of the gospel.

Also, consider the following logic: (1) All who believe a false gospel of salvation conditioned on the sinner are unregenerate. (2) Universal atonement is a false gospel of salvation conditioned on the sinner. Thus, (3) all who believe universal atonement are unregenerate. TC and every person who would consider at least some universal atonement advocates to be regenerate MUST disagree with #3. And the only way people can disagree with #3 is if they disagree with at least one of the first two statements. Consider those who disagree with #1. These are people who believe that at least some who believe a false gospel of salvation conditioned on the sinner are regenerate. Can a true Christian disagree with #1? Of course not. Consider those who disagree with #2. These are people who believe that universal atonement is not a false gospel of salvation conditioned on the sinner. Can a true Christian disagree with #2? Of course not. Thus, all who disagree with #3 (all who consider at least some universal atonement advocates to be saved) are unregenerate.

The following are some more articles (in addition to the ones I’ve mentioned thus far) to consider:

“Answering the God-haters” www.outsidethecamp.org/letters44.htm

“Are All Arminians Unsaved?” www.outsidethecamp.org/review81(1).htm

“Arminianism versus Christianity” www.outsidethecamp.org/efl4.htm

“The Damnable Heresy of Arminianism” www.outsidethecamp.org/heresyarmin.htm

“Deadly Ignorance” www.outsidethecamp.org/deadignor.htm

“Essential Gospel Doctrine” www.outsidethecamp.org/egd.htm

“Heterodoxy Hall of Shame – John Reisinger” www.outsidethecamp.org/heterodoxy42.htm

“Righteous Judgment” www.outsidethecamp.org/rightjudg.htm

“‘Shares in his evil works’: A study on 2 John 11” www.outsidethecamp.org/2John11.htm

“Speaking Peace to God-haters” www.outsidethecamp.org/letters33.htm

“The Thief on the Cross” www.outsidethecamp.org/letters72(1).htm

“Three Reasons Why Arminians Are Not Saved” www.outsidethecamp.org/three.htm

The gospel is the good news of God’s promise to save His people conditioned on the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ alone. THE atonement whereby Jesus Christ, the God-man mediator, as a representative and substitute for His people, in His bloody death on the cross, accomplished full pardon, full redemption, full propitiation, and full reconciliation for everyone whom He represented, is the very essence, the very heart, the very core, the very foundation, the very cornerstone, the very crux of the gospel. One cannot deny the atonement by believing in universal atonement and still believe the true gospel. All who deny the atonement, including all who believe that Jesus Christ died for everyone without exception, are not true Christians. One cannot deny that the atonement is an essential gospel doctrine by believing that some universal atonement advocates are saved and still believe the gospel. All who deny that the atonement is an essential gospel doctrine, including all who speak peace to universal atonement advocates, are not true Christians. The cross of Christ is what Christianity is all about. If there is no atonement, there is no Christianity.

To God alone be the glory,

Marc D. Carpenter

www.outsidethecamp.org