Thursday, August 16, 2007


This is the latest in my series of posts responding to Pastor David Cloud’s attack on Reformed theology, “Calvin’s Camels.” His words are in blue below.

THE JEWS RESISTED THE HOLY SPIRIT -- “Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye” (Acts 7:51).

Stephen charged his Jewish persecutors with resisting the Holy Spirit. Here again we see that the Holy Spirit strives with men and that they can willfully resist Him.

As I’ve pointed out previously, Cloud thinks that any instance in which men resist God is proof that man’s will can thwart God’s purposes in the earth. He keeps harping on this in an effort to show that God is not sovereign (at least not in the Calvinistic definition of “sovereignty”.) But we’d stress that the Bible shows men doing evil things that God has ordained must be done. Therefore, their rebellion is no threat to our take on sovereignty. God has ordained their sin, so their sin is no threat to God’s rule.

The Calvinist answer [sic] this by claiming that the “bondage of the will” works only one way, meaning that the unsaved can reject the truth but they cannot, on the other hand, receive the truth.

Yes, but we didn’t make that up. We get that from places like 1 Corinthians 2:12-15. It says we have “received the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand” and that the natural man cannot receive the things of the Spirit. In the context of the passage, from the beginning of the book, it is the Gospel of Jesus that is being discussed, and nothing else. We are given the Spirit to understand it, and if left to ourselves, we cannot receive it. Calvin didn’t write that passage of Scripture.

We would also stress that man’s inability to receive the truth is not something that is forced upon him. His inability is not due to the fact that he’s not “allowed” or even that he doesn’t have the mental capacity to make a choice. He doesn’t choose righteousness because he hates it. Men love darkness rather than light, for their deeds are evil. Fallen man is free to repent and do right, but he simply will not. He isn’t “bound” by anything other than his own affections. It is not as if God has to force him to choose the wrong option.

According to this doctrine, only the elect are given the ability to believe the gospel while the non-elect are left in their Totally Depraved condition with their will in bondage and unable to believe. The Bible nowhere teaches this.

This is a very bold statement. And, we note, it is an assertion totally lacking an argument. You see, I thought that’s what this whole article was about: showing where Calvinism disagrees plainly with the Bible. Simply stating what you need to prove is not the same as actually proving it. I find it amazing that in all of the studying of Calvinism that David Cloud has done, he’s found not one instance in which a Calvinist has offered Biblical proof of this doctrine. In all the volumes he poured through in an effort to get this right, not one scholar pointed to places like Romans 9:15-18, or to the conversion story of Lydia, whose heart the Lord opened so that she could receive what Paul preached?

Instead, from the beginning to the end of the Bible, from Cain to those who follow the antichrist, men are called by God and are expected to respond and obviously are able to respond and are condemned when they do not.

I am at a loss to think which particular Scriptures show that the fallen people of the world “obviously are able to respond.” Which text or texts make that obvious? I see many places where the command to repent is given. I see no places where the Bible makes it obvious that every person who hears the call is able to do what is commanded. Surely, these places ought to be legion in the Scripture for Cloud to argue that it’s obvious, right? Or, is it possible that this is a philosophical presupposition he has brought to the text, one in which responsibility can only be co-extensive with ability (which, by the way, was the founding principle of the Pelagian heresy?)

Where does the Bible teach that everyone who is commanded a thing is fully capable of doing what is commanded? Many have pointed out that Scripture commanded the Jews to keep all the commandments of God, knowing full well that the sinfulness of their flesh made this an impossibility. Scripture also commands us to be perfect. So, logically, and obviously, the Bible teaches perfectionism, since we have got to be able to do what it tells us to all on our own.

That some do and some do not respond to the light that God gives is not because only some are pre-ordained to respond.

Okay. I’m glad to see David Cloud come this far in being honest about his beliefs, but he stops here, just on the verge of dropping off the cliff. He’s bold enough to say that the difference between belief and unbelief does not lie with God’s election. So, where does that difference lie? When one believes and one does not, what is the explanation for the difference? Who gets the credit? He’s already said it isn’t God, so…am I over-reaching here to suggest that the only other option is the believer himself? “Thank you, Lord, that I am not like other men. I fast twice a week. I give alms of all I have to the poor. I was spiritually sensitive enough to respond to the Gospel where others failed.”


Rhett said...

"If I ought, I can." -Pelagius

jazzycat said...

You are very good at defending Biblical truth. Doug Mabry and I are contributors over at Bluecollar. I am going to link you so I will remember to visit more often.

gordan said...


No need to introduce yourself or Blue Collar to me. You are already regular reads for me. Thanks for the encouragement, though. May we all continue to sharpen one another.


Fred said...

Good post Gordan. Your answers were very well thought out. The law is our our tutor. The fact that we are unable to keep it points to our need for a Savior and Substitute.

Dusty McDust said...

As firmly as I disagree with Cloud, I guess I do see what he's saying (his strongest point, in my opinion) with that first quotation here; the Acts 7:51 bit.

In 1Cor.2 we see that we need to be given the Spirit in order to possibly believe. But since Acts 7:51 speaks of people resisting the Spirit, then the logic (better logic than Cloud employs in most other places) would be that we can resist receiving that thing which we need to receive in order to believe and be saved. That is, we can resist God's attempt at giving us His Spirit, which is synonymous with being given salvation.

One doesn't resist receiving that which isn't being given, I think is what Cloud is thinking. But, yeah, the guy seems to be generally unclear on the concept that God's logic doesn't always perfectly mesh with our own (Isaiah 55:8).

Hindsey said...

Me again...

Can you give me an example of, "But we’d stress that the Bible shows men doing evil things that God has ordained must be done."


Hindsey said...

I do need to make one more comment regarding the last part of your post. Abraham believed God. And because Abraham only believed God, he had nothing to boast of. You are trying to make Faith or Believing something to boast about (you reference to the Pharisee), but the Bible clearly distinguishes that from works, and the Bible clearly says that it is not something that we glory in. Romans 4:1-5.