Steve Gaines on Calvinism

We are beginning to feel the arrival of Hurricane Wilma here in Southwest Florida and have been told to expect to loss of electrical power in the next couple of hours. I thought I should go ahead and post this, even though I may not have time to offer many comments.

Last week on the website of Bellevue Baptist Church of Cordova (Memphis) Tennessee, a sermon by new pastor, Dr. Steve Gaines, was posted, entitled “I Believe in Salvation,” based on 1 Timothy 2:1-10. The featured sermon on that site evidently changes weekly, so I am not sure if you can still access this sermon from there.

I will give some excerpts from it and try to comment on them briefly as long as electricity remains available.

I got the impression that Dr. Gaines is not overtly hostile toward Calvinism but that he believes it is unbiblical and dangerous and so he needs to warn people against it. Unfortunately, despite quoting from AW Pink’s The Sovereignty of God, he perpetuates caricatures of historic Calvinism. As you will see from his comments, these misrepresentations are typical. They are also inexcusable in this day of readily accessible information.

Here are excerpts:

“Today it’s very popular to believe that Jesus died only for, and I quote, for the elect, end quote. This is real popular on college campuses and even in some seminaries. This teaching, which I believe is foreign to scripture, comes from a theological view known as Calvinism. It’s named for one of the heroes of the Protestant Reformation, John Calvin. Calvin’s teachings have been summarized into five major points that I would like you to write down….”

“It can be remembered by the acronym TULIP

T-total depravity; … man’s utterly lost in sin
U-unconditional election, man cannot save himself because God has elected him by his grace.
L-limited atonement-Jesus only died for the elect
I-irresistible grace-that if God wants to save somebody they don’t have a choice of it, he’ll just save them if he wants to, they can’t resist it
P-perseverance of the saints-that’s another of talking about once saved always saved”

Of course, his brief description of irresistible grace, or effectual calling, is a complete caricature. Do you know anyone who believes what he has described?

“Now I want to say something, I am not a Calvinist. …. I am not a five-point Calvinist. I don’t believe that points three and four are in the Bible. I don’t believe you can find in the Bible limited atonement. I don’t believe you can find in the Bible irresistible grace. I tell you there are people that Jesus wanted to save but they resisted his grace.”

“How many of you know that God won’t make you do anything? He won’t make you do anything. Nothing. I tell you, coerced love is not love.”

Will God make people go to hell or stay there? Did He make Adam and Eve leave the Garden?

“No where in Scripture, you will not find one verse in the Bible that says Jesus died exclusively for the elect. So I am not a Calvinist. I am not knocking people who are, but they know themselves that they got the idea of limited atonement from their own logical thinking, they didn’t get it out of the Bible…. That doesn’t mean that Calvinists are all bad; that doesn’t mean that we don’t like them and that they’re the enemy. Its just that we disagree with them on this point.”

“This teaching is pervasive on college campuses in our day…. It is absolutely taking college campuses by storm.”

Then he quotes AW Pink: “‘Many have affirmed that a merely conditional provision of salvation has been made by his death.’ I believe that. I believe that it’s conditional.”

Dr. Gaines here affirms–rather boldlly–that he believes in a conditional atonement. Jesus did not actually accomplish anyone’s salvation but rather accomplished the possibility of everyone’s salvation. This is an Arminian view.

“This [limited atonement] is an unbiblical teaching and I don’t believe it.”

“What does the Bible say, John 1:29, 2 Corinthians 5:15; Hebrews 2:9; A Calvinist cannot give you one verse that says Jesus died [only for the elect].”

“I was talking to a Calvinist one time and he said, “Well, you are a universalist.” I said, “No I’m not. I believe Jesus even died for the people who go to hell.” He didn’t know what to say.”

“Get your theology from the Bible…”

Well, amen to this!

Maybe I can comment on this more in days ahead. The electricity is flickering here, so I am out for now!

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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