More from Joel McDuffie on John Calvin

Reverend Joel McDuffie has expressed great displeasure with me for posting excerpts from his article in my critique of what he had written. Although I explained to him that reviews of published material do not typically reprint the entire body of material under consideration, I offered to do so if he would grant me permission. After 3 requests, he consented. Following is the unedited version of the article as it was sent to me by him on February 2, 2006.

Reverend McDuffie has accused me of selecting the quotes that I used “out of context.” He also wrote, “Sir it is obvious the article is over your head or your responses and those of your readers would not be so shallow” and made this request, “when you [sic] understanding is adequate to comprehend what I wrote please respond.” He also specifically stated that “when anyone cares to point by point debate the issue I will look forward to it.”

Well, though I am not sure that my understanding will ever rise to Reverend McDuffie’s standard of adequacy, I will, nevertheless, give a more thorough analysis of his article–point by point, if you will. I do this, not because I take any pleasure in it. Nor do I have any desire to upset Rev. McDuffie any more than is already the case. My main reason for doing this is is twofold. First, he has requested it–almost demanded it in a sense. Second, his publicly stated views are so erroneous that the thought of anyone thinking he gives an honest representation of Calvin or Calvinism is alarming. The pastor who sent me his article was disturbed about this very thing and said that Rev. McDuffie regularly publishes these kinds of unfounded assertions in the local paper. McDuffie himself confirmed that by sending me over 40 of his articles and informing me that he is working on another with the probable title of “Calvin’s Cockeyed Convictions.”

What follows is his whole article–unedited–with my own observations (in red) inserted where appropriate.

Is John Calvin in Heaven?
Rev. Joel McDuffie


Excerpt from “His Ashes Cry Out Against John Calvin

“At best, Calvin was spiritually blinded by this hate and therefore, spiritually hindered from rightly dividing the word of truth. At worst, which was apparently the case, John Calvin himself was unsaved, according to Scripture”
Dan Corner
Is John Calvin in heaven? Can a true Calvinist be saved? This may not seem like a question some would ask, but the fruit of this man’s teaching could very well leave many who follow him lost in the end.
A thesis this ambitious demands at least some documentation from primary sources in order to be taken seriously. How would McDuffie regard such an assertion made about him and his teaching that was then followed by a whole article that never once cited his actual words. I suspect he would cry, “foul,” and he would be justified for doing so. This article does not contain one word of the man who is slanderously accused of teaching doctrines so false that many of his followers could well wind up in hell by believing them.

The heart of Calvinism contradicts the heart of everything revealed in scripture.

This is a gratuitous assertion (GA, for short; unfortunately, this abbreviation will appear many more times in my critique). It tells us more about the author than it does about Calvinism. Again, to illustrate, I could assert that “the heart of McDuffie’s theology contradicts the heart of everything revealed in Scripture.” But that proves nothing. It is simply an assertion and by reading it you know more about me than McDuffie or his beliefs. So all this statement says is that McDuffie believes that what he understands to be the heart of Calvinism contradicts what he understands to be revealed in Scripture.

It also makes irrelevant the heart of man, which is precisely what all of this is about.
GA. (see above)

Calvinism in its purest form, removes free-will entirely as part of the equation of who will be saved and who will be lost.

This depends on what is meant by “free will.” If libertarian freedom is meant (that an act cannot be both free and determined at the same time), then McDuffie is correct, Calvinism rejects that notion as unbiblical. Calvinism recognizes compatibalistic freedom (that freedom and determinism are not mutually exclusive categories) as taught in such passages as Acts 2:23, “Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God[determinism], you have taken by lawless hands [freedom], have crucified, and put to death.”

The danger in Calvinism lies in assumption that the sovereignty of God will ultimately be to blame for one’s eternal destiny, rather than the herat and will of each and every individual.
Surely this unqualified statement was unguardedly made. Is McDuffie saying that the heart and will of each and every man will ultimately be to blame for his own eternal destiny? Are we to suppose, then, that heaven will populated by people who can say, “I am responsible for getting myself into heaven. It is my heart and my free will that are to blame!” McDuffie’s theology at this point has more in common with William Ernest Henley than with any part of the Word of God.

If you believe God will do for you, something He has clearly revealed you must do for yourself, certainly the potential exist to bring many who hold to such, an unwelcome surprise in eternity.
This sentence is convoluted. I think he is trying to suggest that believing wrongly about your own responsibility could well lead you to hell. That is certainly true. But Jesus says, “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (John 3:36). Faith in Christ is required to avoid hell. Calvinism teaches this and does not teach that God will believe for anyone.

The sovereignty of God cannot and should not be minimized. In fact it is an oxymoron to do so.
I agree. A minimized sovereignty of God is oxyomoronic.

God by virtue of being God, allows for the minimizing of nothing. However, it also does not exclude free-will from being part of that sovereignty. Sovereignty can and does include free-will. To place free-will under the umbrella of God’s sovereignty is no different than anything else. All of its implications, possibilities and eternal ramifications fit as neatly under the umbrella of sovereignty as God’s plan to crucify Christ before the foundation of the world. If He is sovereign, there is no explanation as to why true and realized free-will cannot function within His sovereignty and must be excluded.

This can actually make sense, if “free will” is not defined in libertarian terms. Unfortunately, the next paragraph disabuses us of that wish. If McDuffie would think more deeply about what the Scripture teaches on the crucifixion of Christ as it relates to God’s eternal purpose and man’s sinful enactment, he might find a way out of his erroneous notions about freedom and predestination.

The one who believes in Calvinism is fighting all of scripture.

GA. One would think such a sweeping accusation would be backed up with at least one Scripture reference and one reference from a credible Calvinist!

If choice and self determi
nation is not real, then why does everything God create demonstrate this ability.
Allow me to quote my earlier observations on this: Why don’t we go ask a rock? But, let’s give McDuffie the benefit of the doubt that by “everything” he only means “people.” Choice is not the same thing as self-determination. Of course we have the ability to choose. McDuffie exercised his ability to choose in publishing his article and I am exercising mine in responding to it. But the capacity to choose does not mean that one is free to choose any and everything which he might determine for himself. McDuffie cannot, by self-determination, choose to live on Pluto just as I cannot choose to run 100 meters in 6 seconds (I am not even sure I could choose to do it in 15 seconds!). Why is that? Because in both cases, our choices are limited by our natures. He is not a space alien and I am not a cheetah. Let me say it again, our ability to choose is limited to our natures.

Even the angels demonstrate the ability to choose unhindered, whether to follow God or not.
Can Satan now choose to follow God? Where does MeDuffie get that idea? Certainly not from the Bible.

A more important question to ask would be, if God did not intend free-will to be genuine and all things were to be predetermined, why not just create the world you want to begin with?
Again, McDuffie reveals by the presuppositions behind this question that he has more more in common with free will theists than with historic Christian orthodoxy. If he wants to affirm free will theism, then that is his prerogative, but he is out of step with historic Protestant, Baptist, evangelical and biblical Christianity.

How does sovereignty from the Calvinist point of view, explain the meaningless and futile events of history, mankind and more importantly the cross?
As I Calvinist I renounce the very idea that there are any meaningless or futile events of history and I find it bordering on blasphemous to suggest that any of the events surrounding the cross of our Lord were “meaningless and futile.” Romans 8:28, Ephesians 1:11 and Matthew 10:29 come to mind in opposition to this view of God’s world.

What Calvinist are advocating is that God predetermined an unnecessary world, with unnecessary suffering and an unnecessary savior.
Such “Calvinist[s]” exist only in McDuffie’s mind. The fact that he cannot quote even one writer who would suggest such a foolhardy view indicates that once again what we have is a GA.

All God had to do was create heaven the first time, end of story. Filling heaven with beings predetermined not to sin is no more difficult than creating those who can.
Surely McDuffie is not suggesting by this second conjecture that he believes heaven will be populated with beings who are NOT predetermined to sin! Does he think that sin will be a possibility in heaven with the redeemed of earth and holy angels?

There is no rational explanation for God creating the world we live in if it is all predestined, when what is predestined could have been created to begin with.
The logic of this sentence escapes me. My only comment is to note that what seems “rational” to McDuffie is not the litmus test of truth. Jehovah’s Witnesses use this same argument to reject the incarnation of Christ. “It is not rational.” A thing need not make sense to me to be true. Nor is rationalism the final arbiter of truth. Some things are supra-rational and are to be believed because they are revealed.

Calvinism reduces God and this creation to the awful experiment in futility that the atheist , agnostics and the lost world say it is, if God is behind it.
GA. Hardly. Calvinism views creation, to borrow Calvin’s very language, as “the theater of God’s glory.” God is working all of creation out to reveal His great glory for all of eternity. No one who has read Calvin with any understanding at all could make such an assertion without intentionally breaking the 9th commandment.

Calvinism also sets God up as a liar and fraud.

GA. A slanderous one at that.

From the first story of man in the Bible to the last chapter of Revelation, the Calvinist must ultimately admit, is nothing more than a grand illusion or sick prank. Although they will not express it as such, in effect that is what they are saying.
The first sentence is a GA. The second one is also with the admission that no Calvinist would ever admit to MeDuffie’s assertion. If it is true, he should marshal forth evidence to prove it rather than simply assert it and expect his readers mindlessly to believe it because they saw it written in the newspaper.

In the garden of Eden, did God ask Adam not eat of a tree He had actually been predetermined to eat?
I don’t remember God asking Adam anything before sin entered the world. Did God actually command the Jews and Romans not to murder Jesus whom he had predestined from before the foundation of the world to be crucified? If so, then should we not take that as a key by which to understand the nature of reality and the freedom and determinism that operate within it, including in the garden of Eden?

Did He place a tree of life there as well so he could eat of it and live forever if he didn’t sin, or was that just a sick ploy? Why does God use cherubim to guard the tree of life if Adam is predetermined not to eat it? If Calvinism is true, everything in Eden, is a great big hoax. Man is nothing more than an unfortunate victim in a sick drama he had no choice to play in. In this drama he is subject to illusions, lies and manipulation by his creator. He is told not to eat of the tree or he will die, he is shown a tree of life by which he can live forever, but then God makes the decision for him and damns him for it.
McDuffie’s demonic Calvinism is so obnoxious that if my definition of Calvinism were no better than his (and no more accurate historically or biblically), then I would hate it as much as he does. The problem is, he is erecting straw men and destroying them, thinking that they are Calvinists. Where in the Bible or in the writings of Calvin do we read that God makes decisions for His creatures? MeDuffie’s protest sounds frighteningly close to Paul’s objector in Romans 9:19. The Apostle’s answer in vv. 20-21 should suffice for any humble-minded man.

A Calvinist will never express their view to such extremes, [this is absolutely true] but these are unmistakably the implications of what they are saying [this is absolutely false and another GA].

Throughout scripture, if man is not free, God is responsible for his sin.

A simple Scripture reference would have been nice here. MeDuffie needs to define freedom before expecting his readers to accept his assertions about what implications do and do not extend from it.

If all things are predetermined then the choice to sin is not man’s but God’s, plain and simple.
Plain and simple to McDuffie’s mind, maybe, but certainly not to the Bible. See above on the crucifixion of Christ.

If God has predetermined sinning in anyway, shape or form, God needs redeeming not us!
This sounds like blasphemy. I will give the benefit of the doubt and assume that the author does not mean what he actually says. In his mind, to predetermine something is to be culpable for it. Yet, even McDuffie admits that the crucifixion of Jesus was predetermined by God. I assume he would also admit it was carried out by sinful men–thus it was at one and the same time predetermined and sinful.

Also, if God will in turn punish those He predetermined to sin, what can we say about the character and nature of God himself.
McDuffie should read Romans 9 and see what Paul says about the character and nature of the God who raised Pharaoh up “for this very purpose.”

And if that were not enough, what about the celebration in heaven and the presenting of the bridegroom and the bride at the marriage supper of the lamb? No one really had a choice or was invited. No one came out of true love and devotion. No one truly of their own free-will is in attendance. The praise , worship, singing and celebration was all staged. God ultimately is adored and worshipped by creatures who were predetermined to do so. He is declared to be holy, while a number as great as the sands of the sea, fashioned by Him to be unholy, look on from the flames of hell. As the last great expression of His greatness, all of creation bow down and proclaim Him Lord, Him knowing full well He predetermined it all and no one ever had a choice in any of it!
Such confusion exists because the author cannot accept that real human freedom is fully compatible with real divine sovereignty. Rationalists pit them against each other. Calvinists accept them both because they both are revealed in Scripture.

Can a true Calvinist be saved? Maybe it can be answered another way. What do you think would be the sentiments of a Son whose Father executed Him for people He predetermined to sin? How do you think a King would feel if no one in His kingdom was loyal and loved Him genuinely for who he was? And lastly, how could one claiming to be perfectly holy, live with himself, knowing he is responsible for the actions of those he has punished. That is the God of Calvinism, and all its tenants lead ultimately to the same conclusion. God’s sovereignty is great enough to let God be God , but it is also great enough to let man be man, free-will and all!

McDuffie’s conclusion shows the same kind of misunderstanding that is sustained throughout the article. He has misrepresented Calvinism, Calvin and all those in history who can properly be called Calvinists. He has strongly implied that Calvin is in hell as are many of those who believe as he did about sin, salvation and eternity. Among this number are some of the most noble, useful, holy and God-honoring men and women the world has ever known: Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield, William Carey, Adoniram Judson, Ann Hasseltine, Charles Spurgeon, James P. Boyce, John Broadus, Basil Manly, and P.H. Mell. To say nothing of such great teachers today such as John Piper, John MacArthur, CJ Mahaney, RC Sproul and Sinclair Ferguson. I wonder, is McDuffie willing to consign them to hell? Will he be honest enough, if he does not change his views, to publicly declare that such men are leading people to hell with their teaching?
Reading this article reminds me of the little boy who took a broom handle and broke a light bulb then went around boasting about how he had extinguished the sun. It is sad. Very sad.


Tom Ascol has served as a Pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Cape Coral, FL since 1986. Prior to moving to Florida he served as pastor and associate pastor of churches in Texas. He has a BS degree in sociology from Texas A&M University (1979) and has also earned the MDiv and PhD degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Ft. Worth, Texas. He has served as an adjunct professor of theology for various colleges and seminaries, including Reformed Theological Seminary, the Covenant Baptist Theological Seminary, African Christian University, Copperbelt Ministerial College, and Reformed Baptist Seminary. He has also served as Visiting Professor at the Nicole Institute for Baptist Studies at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida. Tom serves as the President of Founders Ministries and The Institute of Public Theology. He has edited the Founders Journal, a quarterly theological publication of Founders Ministries, and has written hundreds of articles for various journals and magazines. He has been a regular contributor to TableTalk, the monthly magazine of Ligonier Ministries. He has also edited and contributed to several books, including Dear Timothy: Letters on Pastoral Ministry, The Truth and Grace Memory Books for children and  Recovering the Gospel and Reformation of Churches. He is also the author of From the Protestant Reformation to the Southern Baptist ConventionTraditional Theology and the SBC and Strong and Courageous. Tom regularly preaches and lectures at various conferences throughout the United States and other countries. In addition he regularly contributes articles to the Founders website and hosts a weekly podcast called The Sword & The Trowel. He and his wife Donna have six children along with four sons-in-law and a daughter-in-law. They have sixteen grandchildren.
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