Example 25 – Josh Moody: An Examination of “No Other Gospel”

Back to Chapter 11 – Examples of Calvinist Interpretive Incoherence

Can Calvinists credibly refute those who can demonstrate that their “doctrines of grace” fail the tests of coherence, consistency and non-contradiction?  I have given evidence that they cannot. Also, if the Calvinist claims that their “doctrines of grace” are the very gospel itself, then why is there no clear, outright presentation of the Calvinist soteriological doctrines in books Calvinists write on the gospel?

For instance Calvinist Josh Moody has written a book titled No Other Gospel: 31 Reasons from Galatians Why Justification by Faith Alone Is the Only Gospel.  Does this book expound the Calvinist soteriological doctrines that Calvinists claim are the gospel?  Moreover, we should examine what Moody says in his book to see if he makes statements that are inconsistent with his own Calvinist soteriology.  He writes,

“Christ has come, he has died, he has risen again, and he offers his perfect life and death in our place that we might be justified before God solely through faith in him.”[1]

“…if you want to be pleasing to God, you need to put your faith in Christ and become in Christ…”[2]

“This God-pleasing gospel (the only gospel) is the hope of all people.”[3]

“…we can stand justified before the holy God, if we put our faith into him.”[4]

“That faith has extended around the globe, even to where you are now, and is offered to you this moment.”[5]

“We are all sinners.  We all have much that needs to be forgiven, and we are invited to come to the feet of Jesus.  We are invited to express our love in pouring out the oil of our worship to him. We are invited to believe in him.  We are invited away from the condemnation of legalism, of works righteousness, of Pharisaic self-justification.”[6]

“Only if I let the Spirit do that work of humbling me can I hear “blessed are the meek…”[7]

“Our selfish self is crucified as we put our trust in Christ alone, but as we do, the Holy Spirit makes us new.  The gospel is the power for a new creation…”[8]

“We must embrace it personally, this gospel of the cross that leads to the new creation by the Spirit.  We must also embrace it decisively…”[9]

Taken at face value, surely these statements about the gospel are not coherent with Moody’s Calvinist doctrines of unconditional election, irresistible grace and total inability which require pre-faith regeneration.  Certainly we can read between the lines to make some of these statements accord with Calvinist unconditional election.  The “if you want to…” and “the hope of all people” and “we are invited…” must mean “if God gives you the desire to…” and “all people out of every nation” and “invited but not necessarily chosen.”  But, again, taken at face value as they would be by any reader “uninitiated” in the soteriological thought-world and the unique, double-speak thesaurus of Calvinism, the statements do not forthrightly represent his “doctrines of grace.”

He speaks of the substitutionary death of Christ “in our place” which implies that at least everyone reading these words is included in God’s saving work.  But this does not communicate the clear Calvinist teaching of unconditional election – that only those God has elected can be saved.  He should have and could have said, “in the elect’s place” or “in the place of those he has predestined to save.”  He clearly tells his readers that “you need to put your faith in Christ” and “we also must embrace it [the gospel] decisively.”  This implies that faith is the decision and responsibility of the sinner by which they appropriate to their lives the saving work of Christ on their behalf.  Yet on Calvinism, the sinner is “altogether passive” with regard to their salvation.  God regenerates people first and then “grants” them faith as a gift.  The conditional “if” in “if we put our faith into him” suggests real contingency and possibility in contrast to the Calvinist doctrines of God eternal decree and deterministic “sovereignty” by which he has predetermined “whatsoever comes to pass” and therefore causes to occur by his irresistible power. The idea of being “invited to believe in him” implies the freedom to accept or reject that invitation.  This is inconsistent with the Calvinist’s doctrine of “total inability.”  Moody speaks of the Christian faith as being offered to the reader, implying that it may be accepted or rejected contrary to the doctrines of total inability, unconditional election and irresistible grace.  It “is offered to you this moment” also seems to make one’s eternal destiny dependent upon a dynamic personal decision of the present made by the sinner, not in a decision that God made in eternity past.  “Only if I let the Spirit humble me” is inconsistent with irresistible grace.  It speaks of an individuated will that does not necessarily act or respond in the way God has predetermined.  Contrary to the need for Holy Spirit regeneration prior to becoming a new creation Moody says that “as we put our trust in Christ alone…the Holy Spirit makes us new.”  This is at least a simultaneous happening that involves the person putting their trust in Christ.  All these statements do not cohere with Moody’s Calvinism.

The troubling thing here is that as a Calvinist Moody certainly could and should speak consistent with his Calvinism, but he doesn’t.  Why?  Why hasn’t Moody incorporated his Calvinist soteriology in a book specifically about the gospel if that soteriology is the very content of the gospel itself?  If Calvinism is the gospel itself, how can he avoid his Calvinism in a book about the gospel?  How would the gospel message and the substance of this book change if Moody were to be consistent with his “doctrines of grace?”

May I suggest that Moody simply puts his “doctrines of grace” aside because given these doctrines there would no longer be any “good news?”  Could it be that Paul in Galatians and elsewhere does not teach these “doctrines of grace?”  Certainly Paul’s gospel countered the “legalism” of Judaism, but justification by faith alone does not automatically exegetically equate to the Calvinist “doctrines of grace.”  Moreover, the one place that I can see where Moody does insert his Calvinism, he creates incoherence with what he has said above.  For instance, in contrast to the many statements he made above about faith being something the sinner must do he writes,

“Faith is not something that we do; it is something God has done.”[10]

 So what should we think about this issue of the incoherence and inconsistency of Calvinists?  Would Calvinists answer, “Well, coherence and consistency ultimately do not matter because the Bible teaches the Calvinist doctrines.  We must believe what the Bible teaches.”  But that would be question-begging.  How do we know whether the Bible teaches the Calvinist doctrines except that our hermeneutic incorporates logical coherence and moral reasoning?  Can Calvinists answer the question as to whether coherence, consistency and non-contradiction are indispensable elements in a sound hermeneutic?  Moody should affirm this because he points out that Paul himself, in dealing with those who would add religious works to the gospel, present the two as a contradiction.[11]  It is a contradiction to think salvation can be by grace and works, for otherwise grace is not grace.  My point is that if according to Moody the apostle Paul applied the rules of logic in explicated the truth of the gospel, then those rules of logic should also apply to Moody’s soteriological exegesis and interpretations.

Is Moody willing to state that the canons of reason simply don’t matter in discerning the validity of an interpretation?  If not, why doesn’t he apply them in his hermeneutic and assess his Reformed Calvinist interpretations accordingly?

I what follows I hope to demonstrate that the truth of the gospel is at stake where coherence is ignored in one’s hermeneutic. Therefore, whether coherence is essential for discerning valid interpretations of Scripture, that is, the true meaning and intent of the Divine Author with regard to salvation and the gospel, is the core issue that must be addressed. I agree with the contributor’s to the book Grace Unlimited when they observe that,

“…this theology which, in its dreadful doctrine of double predestination, calls into question God’s desire to save all sinners and which as a logical consequence denies Christ died to save the world at large, is simply unacceptable exegetically, theologically, and morally…”[12]

Note the hermeneutical phrase “as a logical consequence.”  The logical consequences or entailments of the Calvinist “doctrines of grace” must be faced and not cavalierly dismissed.  This issue in hermeneutics can no longer be ignored and excused as a “tension” or “mystery.”  I submit that there is good reason to believe that the observations of the contributor’s to Grace Unlimited regarding Calvinism are justified.  Their justification lies in the recognition that logical, moral, epistemological, and theological coherence are essential to biblical hermeneutics and are necessary to discern a valid exegesis and interpretation.  Without an acknowledgement of the necessity for coherence in our interpretations, our interpretations remain untethered from the rules of thought qua thought and therefore we are divorced from the only means to accurately determine whether an interpretive claim is the valid meaning of a text.  Without the criteria of coherence, eisegesis can easily occur because the very reasoning that allows us to distinguish between two mutually exclusive exegetical claims has been put out of court.  We are left with no way to validate whether or not one’s exegetical and interpretive conclusions are reflective of the actual meaning of the text.  The means by which we discern eisegesis from exegesis has been abandoned.

Many doctrinal distinctions differentiate one Christian denomination from another, yet they can still confidently be called “Christian.”  But it seems to me, as it does for these Calvinists, that at the point of the definition and proclamation of the gospel message a more essential matter is at stake.  Several truths make Christianity uniquely biblical and “Christian”, i.e., the triune God, the virgin birth, the deity of Christ, his penal, substitutionary atonement, his resurrection from the dead, etc.  But I submit that all these essential truths fulfill their revelatory meaning and purpose in the biblical revelation of this “gospel of God.”  The good news of salvation in Christ is the central message of Scripture.

I am convinced we need to resolve this controversy so the truth of the gospel is not only preserved but proclaimed in the power of the Spirit of Truth.  Only the true gospel goes forth as “the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes…” (Rom. 1:16, NIV).  There are critical hermeneutical, theological, existential and evangelistic concerns here that justify a full examination of Calvinist soteriology.

So let me make some observations that highlight my main contention with Calvinism.  First, note that the Calvinist employs reason and logic to discern the mutual exclusivity between their Calvinist gospel and the non-Calvinist gospel, yet when it comes to reasoning whether the Calvinist doctrines of divine sovereignty as theistic determinism and election as unconditional are mutually exclusive with their claims that people make free choices for which God will hold them responsible, especially regarding their rejection of Christ and the gospel, then reason and logic put aside.  What we certainly are able to identify as mutually exclusive concepts within Calvinism itself are dismissed as “mystery” or deemed “incomprehensible.”  The Calvinist asserts that we cannot fathom how the Calvinist doctrines are coherent.  Only God knows this.  The Calvinist can readily identify the incompatibility between Calvinism and non-Calvinism, but they cannot identify or acknowledge the incompatibilities generated by the Calvinist doctrines of sovereignty, election and predestination with human freedom and responsibility.  Why?  This seems ad hoc, something akin to the taxi-cab fallacy of dismissing rationality like a hack when you have reached your desired theological stopping point.  This jettisoning of reason is the core disagreement between Calvinism and non-Calvinism.  Having acknowledged that reason can discern that these positions are mutually exclusive, Calvinists should acknowledge that reason is also able to discern their mutual exclusivity, that is, the incoherence, inconsistency and contradictions, inherent in their own theology.

Calvinists Hide Their Calvinism: The Ethical Problem and Double-Talk

For many Calvinists their “five points” or TULIP theology are the gospel.[13]  But this raises the question as to whether or not Calvinism can be presented as “good news” to the hearer.  We would think that if the Calvinist soteriological doctrines are the true biblical gospel, then there would be no hesitancy in teaching and proclaiming them to everyone at every opportunity.  Evangelism, whatever else it might include, would have to include the clear presentation of the five points of Calvinism, or the four points as is the case for some Calvinists.  That is what would constitute the essence of evangelism and the gospel message.  But it is worth noting that Calvin himself was not at all confident on this matter.  Calvin could not in all good conscience and with consistency teach his doctrine of predestination in any evangelistic sense.  John T. McNeill in his book, The History and Character of Calvinism, describes Calvin’s sentiments and hesitation to teach his doctrine of predestination to children.  McNeill writes,

“Double predestination is a doctrine not to be rashly proclaimed.  Calvin avoids it in his catechism for children, which teaches very simply that God is ‘almighty and altogether good,’ and that each of us ‘should be assured that He loves us and wishes to be our Father and Savior.’”[14]

“Rashly” or not, and to children or adults, it appears that Calvin is admitting that predestination, as he understood it, cannot be proclaimed as consistent with the gospel as “good news.”  Note how he defaults to an “Arminian” posture to achieve existential certainty regarding God’s love and salvation.

What needs to be emphasized is that this is an inconsistent and disingenuous position given Calvin’s own doctrine of unconditional election.  It is another demonstration of the dismissal of logical and moral coherence.  The reality is that many of those to whom Calvin teaches that God is ‘almighty and altogether good’ and assures that ‘He loves us and wishes to be our Father and Savior,’ he has unconditionally predestined to eternal damnation.  Calvin, in effect, is saying that he cannot teach as “good news” what he maintains theologically, therefore it is expedient for him to speak to people what is inconsistent with his soteriological doctrines.  This, of course, raises the moral and ethical problems of speaking disingenuously in relation to one’s soteriological convictions.  Calvin is being false to himself and misleading to his hearers.  Present day Calvinists do the same.

Pastor, theologian and former Calvinist Ronnie W. Rogers makes this observation.

 “…within Calvinism there is a problem of what I call double-talk…I believed in Calvinism, and the Scripture; this brought about conflicts that required unconscious or at least unthoughtful responses to the conflicts, which I now see as double-talk.  This double talk obscured the harsh realities of Calvinism and the inconsistencies between Scripture and Calvinism; what I have now come to describe as disquieting realities of Calvinism.”[15]

Moreover, for the Calvinist to retort that we do not know who is elect and who is not elect among the hearers of “the gospel” holds no weight as a credible response for the following reasons.

First, God knows who they are and the preacher of the gospel is the spokesperson for God’s message of salvation.  It is God who is speaking when one proclaims the gospel message.

Secondly, on Calvinism, ignorance of whether God has chosen one to salvation does not give one license to speak as though it is true, that is, that God is “altogether good” and that we “should be assured that He loves us and wishes to be our Father and Savior.”  Not knowing who is elect and who is not does not allow one to speak as if God loves them and wishes to be their Savior.  To not know who the non-elect and the elect are is to not know.  And not knowing cannot be the basis of speaking as if you do know that this salvation is for all.  The fact of the matter is that it is not for all.  The epistemological issue of what can and cannot be known is very different than the ontological issue of what is actually the case.  The honest way for the Calvinist to proclaim their Calvinist soteriology to those listening is to say just that – this message is “good news” for those who are the elect among us.  This will require the Calvinist to elaborate on his “doctrines of grace,” but this is the only way to be honest and forthright about what he really believes regarding the salvation of individuals.  The “doctrines of grace” are after all the foundation of Calvinist soteriology and one’s soteriology is the basis of their “gospel” message.  After all, the “doctrines of grace” are essential Calvinism, and they must be relevant to “the gospel” and salvation because they are the full and final explanation as to why and how a person becomes saved or ends up in hell.  To speak on behalf of God that we “should be assured that He loves us and wishes to be our Father and Savior” is to lie to the non-elect.  They are not among the elect whom God loves.  The non-elect are not and never were loved by God.  He is not their savior and never intended to be their savior. Again, this is not an epistemological issue about what we know or do not know as to who is elect and who is not.  Rather, it is an ontological issue about there being those that are elect and those that are not and failing to speak in accord with what corresponds to that reality.  To give the impression that you know what corresponds to that reality when you do not is to fail to both know and speak according to the truth.  To speak as if something does correspond with ontological reality when it does not, and to use the excuse that you do not know what corresponds to ontological reality to justify saying it, is to speak an untruth to those for whom it is not an ontological reality.  Therefore, your ignorance of ontological realities cannot be a justification for speaking as though they are ontological realities for the hearers.  That is what needs to be considered here.  It would be especially egregious and grossly duplicitous to speak words that communicate that it is God’s genuine disposition towards all of those hearing that God is “altogether good” and “He loves [them] and wishes to be their Father and Savior,” while soteriologically you also believe that for reasons known only to God, he does not love them, does not wish to be their Father and Savior” and has willed and predetermined not to save certain ones among them.  This divorces the character of God from the will of God in a gross instance of incoherence.

But, to my point, this incoherence is completely discounted by the Calvinist.  It is almost if the incoherence and the ethical implications are not even recognized.  And even if the Calvinist speaker is cognizant that there may be non-elect persons among the hearers and wanted to speak accordingly, it would still be disingenuous to mean by these words that this divine goodness, love and salvation are a possibility for some, as if the word “wishes” expresses something in contrast to what he wills.  To tell a person that God is “altogether good” and that we “should be assured that He loves us and wishes to be our Father and Savior” is to say what these words straightforwardly mean, and that is that because of who God is as “goodness” and “love” he is our “Savior” and we may be saved because of what he has accomplished through Christ and the cross.  That we be saved is precisely what he “wishes.”  These gospel words don’t and never could carry the dreadful subtext “although this might not be the case with you.”  And that is why Calvin does not speak consistent with his theological beliefs.  On consistent Calvinism there is no good news to be preached.  A battle rages inside him.  In his mind his theology requires a “dreadful decree.”  In his heart he cares about the children.  So he “chooses” to speak inconsistent with his theology. 

Calvinist J. D. Greear, pastor of The Summit Church, tells us how Luther also had to stress this love and kindness of God, but in doing so Luther too is inconsistent with his soteriology.  Greear writes,

“Martin Luther said in his Lectures on Romans that true spiritual progress was “always to begin again.”  He said we must daily “embrace the love and kindness of God…and daily exercise our faith therein; entertaining no doubt of God’s love and kindness.”[16]

Note that Luther clearly states that we should have “no doubt” as to God’s love and kindness to us.  He may be referring to believers.  But if it is a truth that God is loving and kind, then we may infer from this that he is loving and kind to all.  That must mean that he has made a way for us all to be saved, unless of course you wish to present an exegesis and argument that predestining a person to hell can be considered an act of God’s love and kindness to them.

It is also important to note that Luther states that true spiritual progress is “always to begin again” embracing the love and kindness of God.  This implies that God’s love and kindness was the gospel message the sinner first heard when they believed.  This assurance of God’s love and kindness to the hearer is of course essential for the gospel to be truly “good news” (the biblical gospel), otherwise it would be merely “news” (Calvinism). It raises the question of what gospel content the Calvinist first heard when they became a Christian.  Was it “the doctrines of grace?”  Not likely.  Author George L. Bryson observes,

“Despite, however, their equating of Calvinism with the gospel, I have yet to meet a Calvinist who claims to have embraced the five points of Calvinism when he turned in faith to Jesus Christ.  For some, the time span between conversion to Christ and conversion to Calvinism may be many years, even decades.  Does this mean that they were not really saved before they came to understand and accept Reformed Theology as the gospel?  If the five points of Calvinism can be equated with the gospel, which is the power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes (Rom. 1:16), why don’t we hear Calvinists talking to the unsaved about the five points?  If the Calvinist version of the doctrines of grace is equivalent to the true gospel, and if believing the true gospel is necessary to salvation, why is it that most true Calvinists avoid any discussion of these so-called doctrines of grace when they are trying to win the lost to faith in Christ?  These are very important questions that demand an honest and straightforward answer.”[17]

The point is that when Calvinists need to preach and teach good news, they default to a non-Calvinist soteriology and message that is inconsistent with their underlying Calvinist soteriology.  This is ethically troubling in that Calvin and Calvinists have no qualms about being purposefully duplicitous here.  If each of us “should be assured that He [God] loves us and wishes to be our Father and Savior,” and we should be concerned about speaking the truth, then that assurance must be based in reality.  It must be a theological and existential truth that God really does love each of us and wishes to be our Father and Savior.  But this is precisely what Calvin’s theology does not teach or believe to be a reality for those who are among the non-elect.  If everyone is to have the assurance that God is “‘almighty and altogether good’ and loves us and wishes to be our Father and Savior,” how then is there a class of people that this same God has predestined to an eternity separated from him with no hope of a remedy for their sinful condition and reconciliation to Him?  Surely these are incoherent concepts and teachings.  Moreover, the Calvinist would have to explain why and how this incoherence can exist within the very nature of God himself.  What the Calvinist is saying is that with respect to both the elect and non-elect God “loves us” and “wishes to be our Father and Savior” and yet with respect to the non-elect God “does not love us” and “does not wish to be our Father and Savior.”  The incoherence is clear.  Will the Calvinist allow this to affect his interpretation?  Will he take coherence and consistency and non-contradiction on board as essential in his hermeneutic?

All this demonstrates that regardless of their claims to the contrary, Calvinists realize that their “doctrines of grace” are not “good news.”  It is evident they are not doctrines that can be put into the service of gospel evangelism, nor do they reflect the biblical definition of “grace.”[18]  As such, they must be withheld until some other time and setting or disclosed in a way that is less than forthright.  Bryson makes the following observations.

“Everyone seriously considering a theological move in the direction of Reformed Theology deserves to know about Calvinism’s dark side before they make a commitment to Calvinism.

…The truth is, some Calvinists do not want non-Calvinists to know the full implications of Calvinism until after they have become committed Calvinists.  Even in the context of a church committed to the Reformed faith, some Calvinists think it unwise to introduce a new believer to the truly distinctive doctrines of Reformed Theology early on.  From a pragmatic point of view, that is probably a wise course of action.  Ethically, speaking, it raises some serious questions.  Loraine Boettner explains at least one of the reasons (or rationalizations) behind the reluctance of some Calvinists to initially lay it all out on the table early on:

In preaching to…those who are just beginning in the Christian life…At that early stage little need be said about the deeper truths which relate to God’s part.  As in the study of Mathematics we do not begin with algebra and calculus but with the simple problems of arithmetic…[19]

“The deeper truths” to which Boettner refers are the distinctive doctrines of Calvinism.  If it were only a matter of spiritual milk versus spiritual meat, and what could be described as age-appropriate information, it would not really be an issue.  That is not the case, however.  As will be documented in the pages that follow, there is a danger and not just a difficulty in the theological deep of Reformed doctrine.  Some Calvinists are not only less than totally up-front, but they are not even being altogether honest with the non-Calvinists whom they are targeting.  In the promotion of doctrines, what is held back or not expressed (relative to those doctrines) can be very misleading.  One Reformed Southern Baptist pastor, in an article entitled “Instructions for Local Church Reformation,” advises other Calvinist pastors as follows:

“Don’t tackle the whole church at one time.  Choose a few men who are sincere, teachable and spiritually minded and spend time with them in study and prayer.  They will help you reform. …In the pulpit, don’t use theological language that is not found in the Bible.  Avoid terms such as Calvinism, reformed, doctrines of grace, particular redemption, etc.  Most people will not know what you are talking about.  Many that do will become inflamed against you.[20]

Whatever the reason or reasons, many Calvinists, when promoting Reformed Theology to a potential convert to Calvinism, typically limit the discussion to those features that seem positive to the uninitiated.  As in so many other areas of life, however, it is what they do not tell you that you really need to know in order to make a truly informed decision.  Packaged just right, a little Calvinism may serve as a lure into the Reformed faith.  When the dark side of Calvinism is exposed early on, it serves as a very strong deterrent.  Most leading proponents of Calvinism know this all too well.”[21]

Bryson concludes,

“If I am right in my assessment of Calvinism relative to the Reformed doctrines of redemption and reprobation, it is my scriptural and spiritual obligation to defend the truth of Scripture from the distortion and challenge of Reformed doctrine.  My contention is that Calvinism is not simply a protest or correction of the errors of the Roman Catholic Church, as so many mistakenly believe.  Instead, it is a challenge to all Christians everywhere who believe God has a saving love for and saving interest in all of mankind, as expressed in John 3:16, 1 Tim 2:4, 2 Pet. 3:9, and elsewhere throughout the pages of Scripture.”[22]

Yes, if Bryson is right, and I think he is, we have a scriptural and spiritual obligation to defend the truth of the gospel from the distortions of Reformed Calvinism. What do you think?

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

Go to Example 26 – Ryken v. Ryken: Calvinist Inconsistency in Light of Billy Graham’s Gospel

[1] Josh Moody, No Other Gospel: 31 Reasons from Galatians Why Justification by Faith Alone Is the Only Gospel (Wheaton: Crossway, 2011), 52.

[2] Ibid. 52.

[3] Ibid. 53.

[4] Ibid. 113.

[5] Ibid. 143.

[6] Ibid. 216.

[7] Ibid. 271.

[8] Ibid. 273.

[9] Ibid. 274.

[10] Ibid. 153.

[11] See Moody’s section, “Contradiction,” on page 219.

[12] Clark H. Pinnock, “Introduction,” in Grace Unlimited, ed. Clark H. Pinnock (Minneapolis: Bethany Fellowship, 1975), 12.

[13] I realize that many Calvinists, rejecting limited atonement, hold to only four of the five points.  But this makes no difference for the issues involved.  It is the T, U and I that foster the theistic determinism that creates the incoherence in the position.

[14] John T. McNeill, The History and Character of Calvinism (New York: Oxford University Press, 1954), 211.

[15] Ronnie W. Rogers, Reflections of a Disenchanted Calvinist, (Bloomington, IN: WestBow Press, 2016), 19.

[16] J. D. Greear, Gospel: Recovering the Power that Made Christianity Revolutionary (Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2011), 22-23.

[17] George Bryson, The Dark Side of Calvinism: The Calvinist Caste System (Costa Mesa: Calvary Chapel Publishing, 2004), 37-38.

[18] Dr. Phillip Ryken’s work, The Message of Salvation, exhibits this same inability to be theologically consistent and forthright.  A non-Calvinist would agree with everything said in Ryken’s book until we reach “PART 2: SAVED BY GRACE, 4. Chosen in Christ, Election: Ephesians 1:3-14.”  Here his Calvinism is revealed.  Here also “the message of salvation” loses its biblical definition as “good news” and is transformed into something troubling and incoherent with what he wrote prior to that point.  Given Ryken’s standard Reformed Calvinist exposition of the doctrine of unconditional election, assurance is lost and the hope of salvation is placed in doubt.  The message is no longer distinctly evangelical.

His work exhibits the typical Calvinist “reasoning” on these matters, where what is written in one place is incoherent and contradicts what is written elsewhere.  You may read it and observe these things for yourself.  I recommend doing so as a prime example of incoherent Calvinist interpretive “reasoning.”

Suffice it to say here that if you were to begin the book knowing of Ryken’s Calvinist position, I think you would be left wondering what he could mean by various sentences and phrases that seem inconsistent with his Calvinist determinism and his belief in unconditional election which he, in time, ultimately reveals.  You may be baffled by his lack of forthrightness to clearly express his own soteriological position.  Up until he is forced to tip his Calvinist hand in his chapter on election he speaks inconsistent with his real theological convictions.  I will demonstrate this clearly in the next example – “Example 26 – Ryken v. Ryken: Calvinist Inconsistency In Light of Billy Graham’s Gospel.”  When Ryken explains his “message of salvation” in terms of an unconditional election we meet with the standard inconsistencies with what he has claimed prior to his exposition on election and realize there is no “message of salvation” in the sense that we can know God’s salvific disposition and will for ourselves.  The glaring characteristic of Ryken’s book is its obvious deficiency of a message of “good news.”  It is a book of theological doctrines which ultimately merely inform us that salvation is for a limited number of elect persons.

If you presume your own election you may find some psychological comfort in his doctrine of unconditional election.  As to a message of salvation that provides hope, light, and life for each of us as sinners it lacks the biblical content of the biblical definition of the gospel as “good news.”  As such, it confirms that Calvinism is not the biblical gospel.  See Philip Graham Ryken, The Message of Salvation, (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2001).

[19] Loraine Boettner, The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination (Phillipsburg, N.J.: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1932), 348.

[20] Ernest C. Reisinger and D. Matthew Allen, A Quiet Revolution, online edition (Cape Coral, Fla.: Founders Press, 2000), “Walk Without Slipping, Instructions for Local Reformation,” Ch. 4 Retrieved March 25, 2004, from  www.founders.org/library/quiet/quiet4.html

[21] George Bryson, The Dark Side of Calvinism: The Calvinist Caste System (Costa Mesa: Calvary Chapel Publishing, 2004), 22-23.

[22] Ibid. 25.

[23] G. I. Williamson, The Westminster Confession of Faith for Study Classes, (Phillipsburg: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1978), X.2, p. 88.

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