Hello! I have listened to quite a few of your YouTube videos because I was curious about what your views are. After listening, I just wanted to lovingly point out that you are confusing works and Calvinist views and misrepresenting Calvinism in general. God causes the rebirth so that you love to obey His commandments, (His commandments are not burdensome- 1 John) which produces good works. Those works in no way get you to heaven—Jesus’ blood alone and His imputed righteousness have completed the work already. It seems as if you are saying you can have a rebirth from God Almighty without being changed in some way in the new life that you now live on this earth. If a person claiming to be a believer—if his or her attitude toward sin hasn’t changed, believers would have a right to question true supernatural spiritual rebirth, and that question would be rooted in LOVE that Jesus modeled for us in the recordings of the Gospels. In Matthew 7, “MANY will say to me Lord, Lord”….
Also, I ask…if you can remain basically unchanged from rebirth, how do you explain all the places in the Bible that say that you ONCE walked in flesh, you ONCE loved evil, you ONCE followed sinful passions, etc…
Thank you for your consideration,
Hi Lynne, Thanks for listening and writing and being irenic. Let me see if I can answer your questions.
First, are we misrepresenting Calvinism? I don’t think so. But let me qualify that statement.
Calvinism is a big tent. A criticism that applies to one group within Calvinism might not apply to the whole movement. You write, “I just wanted to lovingly point out that you are confusing works and Calvinist views and misrepresenting Calvinism in general.” Hopefully, the kind of works salvation that we critique does not apply to your tradition of Calvinism. If not, great! But are we missing the mark here? I don’t think so. In our defense, here are some Calvinists who recognize that other Calvinists are teaching salvation by works:
Clearly, the exact role of works in salvation is a live debate in Calvinist circles.
Personally, I think there are at least three ways that works salvation is being taught by some Calvinists.
First, some Calvinists redefine saving faith to include doing good works. That is, they will say that only a faith that works (or produces “fruit”) is a faith that saves, thereby making works a condition of salvation. They will say that one element of faith is trust, and one element of trust is obedience; therefore, obedience is part of faith itself. That’s works salvation. Calvinists like Gordon H. Clark did not commit that error, but Calvinists such as John Frame and Wayne Grudem have. I have not yet read a Reformed commentary on James, for example, which does not say that saving faith needs good works to be saving (to know what James was actually talking about, read this ebook).
Second, Calvinists teach works salvation in a subjective sense. What I mean is, they teach people to look to their works to see if they are really saved, or really regenerate, or really elect. That seems to be your position, isn’t it? You are supposed to tell the difference between who is saved and who is not, not based on what they believe, but based on their works. My question is—what kind of practical religion does that lead to? Objectively, you can say that your works do not “get you to heaven.” I can see that. But subjectively, you’ll be doing good works to prove to yourself that you really are predestined/elected/born again, etc. So, practically speaking, both a Calvinist with that mindset and a works-salvation-believing Roman Catholic will be worried about doing enough good works to prove (if only to themselves) that they will be saved.
Third, as the links above show, some Calvinists definitely teach that you must do good works to get final salvation. Those works may not be meritorious, per se, but they are necessary.
So, while our criticisms don’t apply to all Calvinists, they do apply to some Calvinists.
The second part of your question has to do with whether or not the new birth necessarily produces good works in the born-again person. “It seems as if you are saying you can have a rebirth from God Almighty without being changed in some way in the new life that you now live on this earth.”
Free Grace people believe there are up to 40 things that happen to a person at the point of faith. All of those should lead someone to spiritual maturity (and therefore, to produce good works in that person’s life), but they don’t do that necessarily. There is a moral imperative to grow but not a causal result. Spiritual growth and faithfulness in the Christian life are not automatic or guaranteed. People can fail to mature and remain carnal (e.g., the Corinthians). Or they can backslide. It comes down to a choice of the will to obey (see here).
Actually, one of the things that led me to give up Calvinism was precisely this question. If, as you wrote, “God causes the rebirth so that you love to obey His commandments which produces good works,” I had to wonder why God was doing such a terrible job. If sanctification is monergistic—if God does it—then why aren’t Christians sinlessly perfect? Why do they sin and struggle and fail to grow, or only get marginally better than the average person? That view does not fit the evidence.
But the idea that spiritual growth or sanctification in this life is conditional fits the evidence perfectly. If spiritual maturity depends on our application of Bible doctrine to our lives, if it depends on putting the faith into practice, then no wonder sanctification is slow and uncertain, with progression and regression, hills and valley, starts and slumps, and all stages in between. No wonder the NT is filled with commands to be doers, not just hearers, of the Word (James 1:22). We are commanded to do it because God will not do it for us. However, spiritual growth is possible. Believers who were once enslaved to this sin or that sin can escape bondage to that sin. As Romans 5-8 show, believers can escape servitude to sin…but that is not guaranteed.