Example 12 – Erwin Lutzer: How His Calvinism Expunges His Good News


Back to Chapter 11 – Examples of Calvinist Interpretive Incoherence


Calvinist pastor Erwin Lutzer speaking on Acts 17 says,

“…this past week a student asked me a very good question.  He said, I know somebody who said he’d receive Christ as Savior, but he won’t because of the problem of evil – how could God see thousands of kids starve, how could he put up with the horrors of the holocaust and all that.  I can’t believe. So this is the answer I gave.  It isn’t the total answer, but I believe it’s an answer. The problem of evil does not call into question the existence of God, but it does call into question what kind of a God exists.  What kind of a God is it that can watch all the evil going on and not intervene?  So how do we respond to the fact that God exists and evil exists?  Couple of comments.  One of the places we can’t go is to say that God doesn’t care.  We can’t do that because Jesus is a reminder of the fact, as he hung there on the cross for us, God cares, and he cares very deeply.  So we can’t go in that direction.  If you wonder how come you know that God is love, you can’t look at nature, though sometimes you see it, you hurry to the cross and you say yes God is a God of love, for God so loved the world that he gave.  But then I said this.  Actually the problem of evil should drive people into the arms of Jesus rather than turn them away.  If God is the kind of God to be able to watch the holocaust and to see the tremendous evil in the world and not intervene, I think you better make sure really fast that you’re at peace with him.  That’s what I suggest.  If God can put up with natural disasters and blow people away and all the terrible things that happen and the untold suffering, maybe the doctrine of hell is not as strange or as far out as you think it is.  I’d say, since the Bible says our God is a consuming fire, I would say run to Jesus really fast because in him we have protection from the wrath of God, we have complete acceptance, we have complete forgiveness.  All that is waiting for you if you believe on Jesus [applause].”[1]

Lutzer continues,

“…the Bible also says God will not be mocked.  If you’re a mocker here today, you came to hear the right sermon to bring you to the kind of repentance that ends your mocking and thanking God for Jesus… The Bible says if you hear his voice don’t harden your heart.  Don’t say tomorrow.  You have heard enough today to know that there is a God and there is a judgment coming and Jesus is the answer to your need.  You’ve heard enough to know that. Don’t put it off. …I encourage you to believe the gospel.

…And today as I preach this sermon and it’s heard here and it’s heard in different places of the world and heard over the radio, I expect those three responses.  Some, no I can’t believe because of pride.  You mock.  Some ah, yeah, I think this could be true but I’ve got lots of time.  I’m young.  And then there are those who say, if God is God, and if Jesus is the only savior, today, I believe.  And you can do that even where you are seated or where you are listening.  If in your heart God has granted you that faith to say today I receive Jesus as savior, today is the greatest day of your life [applause].  There is none greater.  And if you believe would you tell a member of the pastoral staff or me or someone.  We want to encourage you in your faith, because at the end of the day it’s all about Jesus and the resurrection.”[2]

Pastor Lutzer then prays,

“Father, we thank you today from the depths of our hearts that the apostle Paul did not stay in the synagogue.  And we pray that we might not stay in our churches, but to know that there’s a marketplace out there – there are jobs, there are neighbors, there are friends.  And we need not be intimidated.  We can tell people what Jesus did for us, we can do that much.  We can give them a gospel of John.  Help us Father to realize that there are people out there who you are calling to salvation whom you intend to save through us.  And save people now we pray in Jesus name.  Amen.” [3]

Lutzer is inconsistent when he says, “If God is the kind of God to be able to watch the holocaust and to see the tremendous evil in the world and not intervene…”  As a Calvinist he should have said, “If God is the kind of God to be able to predetermine and cause the holocaust and to predetermine and cause the tremendous evil in the world…”  That determinism is true to his Calvinism.  But then he would have to leave out, “and not intervene,” because intervention into a world of events that God has already predetermined to occur down to the minutest detail – events which are unalterable – would make no sense.  He may participate, but he would not be intervening.  Intervening seems to presuppose changing a situation from what it otherwise might be.  But Calvinists maintain God has unalterably predetermined all things.  According to Calvinism “divine intervention” is never an option.  God’s eternal decree has predetermined everything and that decree cannot be changed.  There’s no need to intervene.

And again, Lutzer says, “If God can put up with natural disasters and blow people away and all the terrible things that happen and the untold suffering…”  But this is inconsistent with his Calvinist determinism.  God doesn’t “put up with” anything.  God predetermines everything.  “Put up with” would presuppose another will in action that is acting contrary to God’s will.  Contrary to Calvinist determinism, God’s chosen response would be to “put up with” or “allow” that will to play out its evil desires and actions.

Lutzer rephrases the student’s question as, “So how do we respond to the fact that God exists and evil exists?”  Here Lutzer conspicuously avoids the free-will defense to explain the problem of evil to the student because this too is not an option that is open to Lutzer due to his theistic determinism.  It is almost as if he avoids talking about human freedom in any sense for it would diminish the credibility of his determinism as incoherent with it.

So what does Lutzer do knowing that his theistic determinism lays the responsibility for evil on God?  He employs his doctrine, not to answer the student’s question, but to confront him with the threat that God, being the kind of God who (again, inconsistent with Lutzer’s own theology), is “able to watch” and “put up with” and “not intervene” in the evil in the world, may very well do the same to the student in hell.  So Lutzer, at least here, does not address the student’s concerns, neglects the free will defense of the problem of evil, doesn’t present the fact that God has intervened on account of the evil in the world in Christ, but rather (and again not being forthright or consistent with his unconditional election), says,

“Actually the problem of evil should drive people into the arms of Jesus rather than turn them away.  If God is the kind of God to be able to watch the holocaust and to see the tremendous evil in the world and not intervene, I think you better make sure really fast that you’re at peace with him.  That’s what I suggest.  If God can put up with natural disasters and blow people away and all the terrible things that happen and the untold suffering, maybe the doctrine of hell is not as strange or as far out as you think it is.”

So hell is not “as strange or as far out as you think it is.”  But what has that to do with anything?  The student is either predestined to heaven or hell, and nothing he can do will change his eternal destiny.  Is Lutzer suggesting that in light of the problem of evil the student is responsible to make a decision that will determine his eternal destiny and that he is to choose to run to “the arms of Jesus” and that he is to  “make sure” that he is “at peace” with Jesus?  It certainly sounds like this is what Lutzer his saying.  But this is incoherent with Lutzer’s theistic determinism and unconditional election.  If Lutzer states, “Well, God works through the means of warning unbelievers and presenting the alternatives of peace with Jesus or the sufferings of hell to call his elect to salvation,” the problem here is that these “means” that “God works through” to bring about what he has predetermined not only for the elect but in all things, are contingent in nature.  The “means” just are the presentation of contingencies.  And contingencies are contradictory to determinism.  So the Calvinist is speaking a contradiction when they say “God works through means” and those means are descriptive of contingent actions and realities.  They are also uttering a redundancy when they say “God works through means” as if “the means” were something separate from what God has predetermined.  God has predetermined even “the means,” therefore God is just working out his predetermined plan that encompasses all things – period. “God works though means” does not successfully interject genuine contingency and human freedom in a deterministic universe.  

Furthermore, Lutzer is unclear when he states, “…Jesus is a reminder of the fact [that God cares very deeply], as he hung there on the cross for us…”  If Jesus hung on the cross “for us,” then who is this “us” that Lutzer is referring to?  Everybody?  The student?  Lutzer says the cross tells us God “cares very deeply.”  Does he care very deeply for all individuals or just the elect?  Obviously, just the elect.  Therefore Lutzer ought to “go in that direction” when thinking through the problem of evil because that is what his theology requires.  Given unconditional election and reprobation God does do evil to many people.  He can do the evil of the holocaust because given theistic determinism that is precisely what he did.  Looking to the cross does not help because the cross does not apply to the non-elect reprobate.  It tells us nothing about our own salvation, whether God has us as one of the elect or non-elect.  Looking at the cross tells us God is a God of love, but only for his elect ones.  Lutzer then alludes to John 3:16.  But what would Lutzer say the word “world” means in that verse?  How does John perceive the nature of this love of God for the world, the salvation Jesus accomplished on the cross and the nature of belief in the immediate context and his gospel as a whole?   I submit that John’s understanding of faith, although multi-faceted, is ultimately incoherent with the Calvinist understanding of God having to “grant” faith to a predestined number of elect individuals otherwise no one would be able to believe and be saved.  And this is precisely what Lutzer smuggles into this otherwise libertarian free will non-Calvinist gospel presentation and challenge.  Lutzer states, “If in your heart God has granted you that faith to say today I receive Jesus as savior…”  This is a reference to the doctrines of the effectual call and unconditional election.  For all his talk about how God cares and cares very deeply, making sure you are a peace with God, running to Jesus really fast because in him we have protection from the wrath of God, that in God we have complete acceptance and complete forgiveness, it applies only to limited elect persons who are unknown to any of us, even to themselves. People do not and cannot believe unless they are among the elect.  Therefore, it is God who causes people to believe.  “If in your heart God has granted you that faith to say today I receive Jesus as savior…”  What Lutzer gives with one hand as to the possibility of salvation for all, he takes with the other by introducing the limiting, exclusionary doctrine of unconditional election.

Again, it certainly sounds as though Lutzer presupposes genuine human freedom in his advice to the student and his hearers, and therefore Lutzer is being inconsistent.  He says what the problem of evil ought to do is “drive people into the arms of Jesus.”  Lutzer tells the student questioner, “I think you better make sure really fast that you’re at peace with him.  That’s what I suggest.”  But he can only have peace with God is he is among the elect.  Note what he also says, “I would say run to Jesus really fast because in him we have protection from the wrath of God, we have complete acceptance, we have complete forgiveness.  All that is waiting for you if you believe on Jesus.”  Obviously this is being presented as if this “protection from the wrath of God,” this “complete acceptance” and “forgiveness” applies to this student and all who hear Lutzer – and that is as widespread as “in different places in the world” where they are hearing his sermon. But Lutzer doesn’t clarify who the “we” refers to. It certainly seems to be inclusive of all, but that would be contrary to his unconditional election.  On his theology the “we” must only be the elect.  Also, Lutzer’s Calvinist soteriology or “doctrines of grace” do not provide protection from God’s wrath nor complete acceptance nor forgiveness.  In fact, according to Calvinism, the reprobate, or non-elect persons, have been created by God especially for him to vent his wrath upon them.  There are a multitude of non-elect people that are not accepted by God but have been rejected by him and upon whom he will demonstrate his wrath and whom he has predestined to spend eternity in hell.  They have no decision in the matter.  Salvation is not for them.  And yet Lutzer can say, “…since the Bible says our God is a consuming fire, I would say run to Jesus really fast because in him we have protection from the wrath of God, we have complete acceptance, we have complete forgiveness.”  He feels perfectly comfortable assuring everyone hearing him of the salvation that can be theirs when he says, “All that is waiting for you if you believe on Jesus.”  This implies that all the sinner must do, and can do, is believe on Jesus.”  The point is that Lutzer is presenting as a possibility for all persons what in reality is not a possibility for all persons.  What Lutzer knows or doesn’t know as to the salvific status of any particular person is beside the point.  This is an ontological issue – that is, what is the reality of the matter – that involves the word of the God of truth to those who hear it.  It is obvious that on Calvinism such a presentation is disingenuous.  For a Calvinist to talk about “if you believe in Jesus” doesn’t mean that you can believe on Jesus and that this is something you are responsible to do, rather it must mean, “If God has elected you and grants you belief in Jesus…”  Taken in their plain sense, Lutzer’s words that speak of a universal salvation are inconsistent with his doctrines of unconditional election and an effectual call.  Lutzer states, “If in your heart God has granted you that faith to say today I receive Jesus as savior…”  This is consistent with Calvinist unconditional election and the effectual call.   But Lutzer makes it sound like believing is something youthe person – can and must do to be saved.  He makes it sound like anyone can have faith and therefore be saved.  He makes it sound like God wants everyone to have access to salvation by believing – that God desires the salvation of all persons.  But this is simply not true on his Calvinism.  So Lutzer does not clarify what he means here according to his Calvinism.  But again, he does so when he states, “If in your heart God has granted you that faith to say today I receive Jesus as savior…”   So Lutzer presents two incompatible soteriologies and gospel messages.

Lutzer continues with more contingent statements.  He goes on to talk about mockers having come “to hear the right sermon to bring you to the kind of repentance that ends your mocking and thanking God for Jesus.”  This is to say that this sermon will do just that in those mockers predestined to salvation and in no others.  Indeed, God has predetermined and caused all mockers and their mocking, but also the salvation of those mockers that are among the elect.  Repentance is not for everyone, because certain mockers and sinners will not be granted repentance by God.  So the call and command to repent or turn from sin is one of these examples of the contingent “means” God uses to bring to pass what he has determined to occur by his own will.  According to the Calvinist, God uses what amounts to a universal command (it applies to all persons) to perform a contingent act of the will (repent) to achieve what he has predetermined solely by an act of his own will to occur only in an elect number of people.

Lutzer says, “The Bible says if you hear his voice don’t harden your heart.  Don’t say tomorrow.  You have heard enough today to know that there is a God and there is a judgment coming and Jesus is the answer to your need.  You’ve heard enough to know that. Don’t put it off. …I encourage you to believe the gospel.”  These are very straight forward statements made to all that are designed to persuade and encouraging people to believe the gospel.  They presuppose that all those who are hearing them can and should believe on the basis of what they have heard and now know.  Libertarian free will is presupposed here.  The situation is presented as contingent, that is, dependent upon the person’s responding in faith or remaining in unbelief.

But this is not an accurate reflection of Lutzer’s Calvinism.  Contrary to Lutzer’s presentation of the situation, there are those hearing this that God never intended to save, will not save and therefore cannot be saved.  If Lutzer says he does not know who is elect and who is not so he preaches the good news to all, then that is to ignore the issue of the truth of one’s statements.  And that is just the problem which the Calvinist conveniently chooses to ignore.  What they don’t know is precisely the crux of their ethical problem here.  The Calvinist cannot tell people that they can and should be saved when they don’t know their elect or non-elect status.  Ignorance may be bliss in other contexts, but here it is to tell a falsehood to those to whom it does not apply.  And neither can the Calvinist present salvation to the elect or non-elect as if it were a contingent matter involving human freedom, responsibility and culpability.  It is rather a predetermined event in which the person has no part to play whatsoever.  It is disingenuous to be tell the non-elect they can be saved on the basis that you don’t know who they are, and disingenuous to speak to all as if salvation were a contingent matter by saying, “…don’t harden your heart.  Don’t say tomorrow…Don’t put it off. …I encourage you to believe the gospel.”  Lutzer’s words are not coherent with his deterministic theology and soteriology.  Lutzer is not being consistent with his Calvinism.  He is being disingenuous.

Furthermore, what is this “gospel” Lutzer is taking about?  We can assume it is “there is a God and there is a judgment coming and Jesus is the answer to your need.”  Again, contrary to his Calvinism, Lutzer certainly is making it sound like salvation is contingent and universally applicable.  Lutzer has to do this because there is no good news in his “doctrines of grace.”

Lutzer talks about three responses he expects to get to his sermon.  In the last response he emphasizes the possibility and responsibility to believe when he says, “there are those who say, if God is God, and if Jesus is the only savior, today, I believe.  And you can do that even where you are seated or where you are listening.”  When Lutzer states, “You can do that” in reference to believing he is making a statement that is in direct contradiction with his Calvinist doctrines of total inability, unconditional election and the effectual call.  But note what he does next.  He contradicts what he just said about believing by slipping in three Calvinist “doctrines of grace” – total inability, effectual calling and unconditional election – when he says, “If in your heart God has granted you that faith to say today I receive Jesus as savior…”

Here Lutzer has just erased his previous universally applicable “good news” gospel call that is conditioned on faith alone – something that is, by definition, not meritorious and therefore possible for all who humble themselves and accept God’s remedy for their predicament of sin – and replaced it with his doctrines of doubt.  Now the belief or faith and repentance he made us think was a possibility and the responsibility of sinners when he said “Jesus is the answer to your need” and therefore salvation was applicable to all sinners, he now takes away by informing us that God must grant this faith.  This reflects the doctrines of total inability which states that because of our sinful condition no one is able to respond in faith to God’s offer of salvation without first having been regenerated by the Spirit.  Through an effectual call or irresistible grace the sinner is regenerated and then then believe.  Now, this effectual call or irresistible grace and “granting” of faith only happens to those predestined to salvation.  That is the doctrine of unconditional election.  All this God does in those he has chosen to save and does not do in those he has not chosen to save.  God may grant you this faith, or he may not, depending upon what eternal destiny he has predetermined for you.  You may be among the elect, but then again you may not.  That is the reality of the matter.

Therefore, whatever “good news” Lutzer previously spoke of has now been negated by smuggling in the Calvinist “doctrines of grace.”  What Lutzer first gave us on the one hand (non-Calvinist) he has now taken with the other (Calvinist).  He has, of course, attempted to accommodate two incompatible soteriologies in this sermon, but note both the incoherence of the presentation and the negative affect upon the gospel as “good news.”  It is no longer the good news.  Lutzer states, “If in your heart God has granted you that faith to say today I receive Jesus as savior…” is not the gospel of good news to sinners.  The assurance of each and every individual must have that God loves them and desires their salvation as demonstrated to them in Christ’s atoning work on the cross and to which they may look in humility, repentance and faith to receive salvation, has been eroded.  There is no more “good news.”  This distorted “gospel” is aptly described by Calvin when he defines his doctrine of predestination.  He states,

“We call predestination God’s eternal decree, by which he compacted with himself what he willed to become of each man.  For all are not created in equal condition; rather, eternal life is foreordained for some, eternal damnation for others.  Therefore, as any man has been created to one or the other of these ends, we speak of him as predestined to life or to death.”[4]

 Lutzer’s “gospel” amounts to, “We don’t know who can and cannot be saved, that is, whom God has predestined to life or to death.  But if God has chosen you to be saved, then that’s good news for you.  So there’s nothing for you to do but wait and see what happens – whether God will regenerate you and evidence this by granting you faith or just leave you in your sin and condemn you to eternal damnation.”

Lutzer also resorts to his Calvinism in his closing prayer.  He says, “We can tell people what Jesus did for us, we can do that much.  We can give them a gospel of John.  Help us Father to realize that there are people out there who you are calling to salvation whom you intend to save through us.  And save people now we pray in Jesus name.  Amen.”

We need to point out the veiled Calvinism in these words.  What does Lutzer mean by “Help us Father to realize that there are people out there who you are calling to salvation?  Does he mean to tell us, as his own context indicates, merely that we need to bring the gospel to them so that they may be saved?  Probably not, or at least, not that simply.  Rather, according to his Calvinism, he must mean that there are those person’s that God has unconditionally elected to salvation, therefore, through an effectual calling, he intends to save them.  Lutzer’s prayer is one in which he wants us to realize that God has elect persons in the world that he will effectually call to salvation, but this happens “through us.”  We already realize that there are people out there whom God is calling to salvation when we bring the gospel message to them.  That is what the gospel is and does.  It calls sinners to salvation.  But on Calvinism, what we also need help realizing are these doctrines of predestination and effectual calling.  We need help realizing that the elect whom God intends to save are effectually called to salvation by the gospel brought to them through us.  Here Lutzer talks about our testimony and handing out the gospel of John.  “We can do that much.”  But the point is that only the elect will respond because of God’s effectual call and intention to save those particular individuals.  The point is that the effectual calling of the unconditionally elect happens by certain means – our witness, a copy of the gospel of John, and of course bringing them the gospel message.  (What the precise content of the gospel message is that would be consistent with Calvinism is something we would like to know.  That the message as “good news” is inconsistent with the Calvinist soteriology was discussed above.)   Again, the dynamics of salvation in the elect happens through certain “means” which Lutzer is referring to when he adds the words “through us.”

Let’s briefly look into this “God works through means” idea that Calvinists employ in an attempt to retain some degree of human involvement, freedom, responsibility in light of their deterministic doctrines of unconditional election and effectual calling.  God has people he has predestined to save, and he does this saving by calling them to salvation, but not apart from any involvement by us.  God accomplishes his predetermined ends through certain “means.”  But are these “means” coherent with the Calvinist doctrines of grace” and its theistic determinism?  For instance, Lutzer states, “We can tell people what Jesus did for us.”  But what relevance does that have?  Is this supposed to communicate that Jesus can do the same for the person we are talking to?  Well, that will depend upon whether they are elect or not, which is something we don’t know.  So no promises can be made.  And there goes the gospel.  Surely it is disingenuous to speak a promise to them that we do not know can ever be fulfilled or realized in their life.  Given Calvinist unconditional election, what then do we say to them?  “Here’s what Jesus did for me, I don’t know that he will do the same for you.”  If you’re a Calvinist, that’s the honest, forthright answer you should give to people.  If you disagree, I would like to know why?

So where has the gospel as “good news” gone?  And certainly Jesus can do for others what he did for us, but that is not the issue here.  This is not a question of Jesus’ ability.  The question is does Jesus want to do for others what he did for us.  And the answer to that on Calvinism must be “not necessarily.”  Again, the fact of the matter is that you may not be predestined to salvation and therefore you cannot be saved.  But Calvinist’s do not speak honestly nor consistently with their Calvinist doctrines.

Therefore one’s salvation now revolves around the dark mystery of whether or not one is unconditionally elected to salvation.  It is no longer the “good news” that anyone looking to Jesus can assuredly know the love God has for them and that it is his desire that they be saved.  So what can the Calvinist tell the unbeliever that is consistent with Calvinism?  If the Calvinist is honest, it would have to be, “God and Jesus can do the same for you if you are among the elect.  Know that your salvation has nothing to do with you and we don’t know that God and Jesus want you to be saved.”  Now no Calvinist will put things this way and they are sure to object to my statements.  But I challenge them to show where there is a misstatement of their position here.  Again, the truth of Calvinism just sows seeds of doubt and confusion.

Lutzer prays, “Save people now we pray” which is consistent with his effectual call and unconditional election, but this prayer can and should more accurately reflect Lutzer’s Calvinism.  He should say, “Save your elect people now we pray.”  The former prayer is worded generically so that its meaning remains vague – applicable to non-Calvinist and Calvinist alike.  But it is also safe for the Calvinist in that it hides what would otherwise be the stark meaning according to Calvinist soteriology, that is, “Save your elect people now we pray.”  Sure, God saves people.  But given Calvinism God saves the elect and only the elect.   This prayer is only telling God to do what he has already predetermined to do.  Calvinists will say that God works through the “means” of prayer.  But this is to say that if we do not pray God will not work.  But this introduces contingency into theistic determinism, which is a contradiction. 

And in contradiction with what Lutzer has just suggested above about unconditional election and effectual calling he ends the broadcast by saying,

“Oh my friend today from my heart to yours if you’ve never accepted Jesus Christ as your savior, do it!  Do it right now.  Get saved!  It’s the most important decision you can ever make and God is there to help you make it.”[5]

Here we have a direct and immediate appeal to the person, and presumably to their will, to act to be saved.  They do not have to wait for an effectual call.  They can “get saved!” and “right now.”  Lutzer calls it “the most important decision you can ever make.”  Here is another of “the means” Calvinists will say God uses to save the elect.  But again, this is to use a “means” that presupposes contingency and freedom of the will which lands the Calvinist in a contradiction with his own theistic determinism.  “Decision” presupposes a substantially free, individuated will at work.  It is a call to act; to decide.  As a call to decision, it is characterized by free agency, potentiality and contingency.  All that Lutzer says here presupposes that the person can either accept that salvation or reject it.

So such “means” fail the Calvinist in two ways.  One is that when they presuppose human freedom, contingency, responsibility, etc., they stand in contradiction to the Calvinist determinism.  The second is that given universal divine causal determinism, all “means” are also subsumed within that determinism as also determined.  And that makes these imperatives and calls to decisions meaningless. God is not “there to help you make it,” he is there to effectually make it through you in accord with way he predetermined it should be.”  Also according to Lutzer’s doctrine of an effectual call, God is not there to “help you to make [the decision], he causes the decision to made by you.  So the Calvinist finds himself stuck between the “means” being in contradiction to their determinism and the “means” also being determined and therefore meaningless.

Actually when Lutzer says, “…and God is there to help you make it,” he is affirming good non-Calvinist theology.  Non-Calvinists maintain that God is at work in and through the gospel message to enable the person to decide positively about what is being heard.  No irresistible or prevenient grace is in play but simply the activity of the Spirit that always accompanies the proclamation of the gospel.  The content of the gospel informs us of the possibility for the sinner to believe and be saved because that content contains the assurance of God’s love and provision of salvation in Christ to the sinner.  This is what the Spirit does.  The gospel also includes the command, invitation, encouragement and imperative to believe this good news.  There is the call to believe that comes to the sinner as the word of the God of truth and thereby we know belief is a genuine possibility.  God desires those who hear his “good news” to be saved by believing it, yet God does not compel a decision or grant a person faith in the sense of cause them to believe.  Without the work of the Spirit no one can be saved, but the Spirit does not make that decision for the person.  The gospel message speaks God’s message of saving grace to the sinner, but it is not an “irresistible grace.”  The sinner must decide to believe what they are hearing of God’s love and provision of salvation for them.  That is the “good news.”  It is “good news” to them because they know it applies to them.  In order for salvation to come to them personally, they must know that God loves them, desires their salvation and has provided it for them in Christ.  All that God requires is for the sinner to agree, rest, trust and believe what God is telling them in the gospel. God loves every single person he has made and therefore has accomplished salvation for everyone in Christ, and in that this salvation can be appropriated by anyone through simple faith, is what makes the gospel good news.  This is antithetical to Calvinist soteriology, which as we have seen has no “good news” to proclaim.  Rather, it causes what the Calvinist attempts to proclaim as “the gospel” to be incoherent, confusing and disingenuous.  I completely agree with Lutzer’s closing prayer.  It is just that it is inconsistent with his Calvinist theology and soteriology.


Back to Chapter 11 – Examples of Calvinist Interpretive Incoherence / Table of Contents / Home


[1]  Erwin W. Lutzer, Sermon series “The Legacy of a Converted Man – Witnessing for Christ, Part 4.” August 16, 2015. Accessed May 1, 2020.  .https://www.moodymedia.org/radio-programs/running-to-win-15/witnessing-christ-part-4/#.Xdw5yZNKipp  (5:04 – 7:49) 

[2] Erwin W. Lutzer, “Legacy of a Converted Man.” (8:19 – 11:37)

[3] Erwin W. Lutzer, “Legacy of a Converted Man.” (11:37 – 12:20)

[4] John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, ed. John T. McNeill, (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1960), 926.

[5] Erwin W. Lutzer, “Legacy of a Converted Man.” (12:20 – 12:38)

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