Frank Page and Calvinism
For those of you in the know, Frank Page, pastor of Warren Baptist Church in Augusta, Ga., has announced that he will accept a nomination for president of the Southern Baptist Convention. In what is increasingly becoming common in the blogosphere, Pastor Page was immediately given a good scouring by the blogs on his church profile and theology, and Timmy Brister pointed me towards this article about Pastor Page’s views on the Calvinism issue.
Now, let me be the first to say that I am just as guilty as everyone else for getting caught up in this whole Calvinism deal. It’s silly. But I would hope I’m caught up in it for the right reasons — I want to understand just what Calvinism actually is and not what it has been misrepresented as. Is that not a God-honoring reason? Test the spirits, whether they are of God?
That being said, I took issue with Pastor Page’s misrepresentation of the doctrine of grace as understood by Calvinists. He said, and I am quoting a section from the article:
Looking at God’s grace through a Calvinistic view is missing what God means by grace, said Frank Page, pastor of Warren Baptist Church in Augusta, Ga., during a March 4 chapel service at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.
“Calvinism presents a God who arbitrarily selects some to be saved and some to be lost,” Page said, adding grace is not a term of selection but an expression of love and acceptance.
A Calvinistic perspective on grace misses the most important part of the true nature of grace, he said.
“It portrays a nature of God who is capricious and even cruel in his selection of those who would be elect and non-elect,” he said.
Page cautioned that by seeing a God who selects his children randomly with no concern for the lost, Christians are not genuinely seeing who God is.
“Not only does the Calvinistic view portray a nature of God that is other than that in the Bible, but it also neglects an overall teaching of [the nature of God] in the Scripture,” he said.
Wow. My jaw just dropped at the apparent ignorance of this passage.
No Calvinist I know believes that God is, nor would they ever dream of portraying God as, “capricious and even cruel.” In my initial forays into Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion, I find a God who is greatly concerned about humanity and desires the best for His creation, for the praise of His eternal glory. In the few Puritan works I have read, this theme continues wholeheartedly. It is found abundantly in the works of Spurgeon, and so on up until today, with good friends and acquaintances such as Shane and Timmy who revel in God’s love for all people so much that they try their best to evangelize at every opportunity.
The article goes on:
The wonderful thing about grace, he said, is that God’s grace does not end once one has accepted God’s forgiveness and received Christ as Savior.
“God’s grace is not only a saving grace, but it’s enabling grace, living grace and daily grace,” he continued.
Telling students that God’s grace is the tool God uses to train his children in righteous living, Page said, “God’s grace involves us in the greatest training school in the world.”
By continually walking in God’s grace, God instructs Christians on how to become more Christlike and less worldly, he said, adding “God’s grace teaches us to say no to ungodliness and worldly passions.”
Interesting. This is a wholly Calvinistic view of grace! Is anyone else more dumbfounded than me that Pastor Page, a very intelligent man, completely misses the point? Some of you boys and girls out there correct me if I’m wrong, but does he not realize he believes in essentially the same view of grace espoused by Calvinists?
Pastor Page continues by asserting that Scripture teaches God’s grace is a gift God desires to give all men. Uh-huh. No disagreement there from the Calvinist camp, either. But Pastor Page commits a big error. Desire does not equal decree. If God’s desire for all to be saved actually meant that everyone would be saved, then we’ve got a huge problem because people are dying left and right without Christ, some even cursing Him to their last breath! To hold such a fallacious view of God’s desire means that one must embrace a universalist view of salvation! God forbid!
No, just like we do things all the time that we don’t desire to do, we have got to understand that God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked (Ezekiel 18:23, 33:11). He does not desire that the wicked perish, but we have got to understand that God has already decreed that all the wicked shall perish, unless they repent. God has already decided that humanity is going straight to hell! And that is in no way, shape or form cruel or capricious. It is the just and holy action of a just and holy God. How is it cruel for God to (if you read the context of the Ezekiel passages) desire that people turn to righteousness and live? When one understands that this is impossible for man naturally, it becomes clear that God has got to decree for people to turn to Him if anyone is going to do it! And that isn’t cruel, it’s the just and holy action of a just and holy God.
While I’m on that particular rant, where do we get off telling God how to save His creation?!?!? Have we not read Job 21:22 – “Can anyone teach knowledge to God, since He judges even the highest?” Oh my stars and garters, we have got to get off this lemming trail that says “no, God saves us THIS way” before we all go over the cliff!
In that respect, Pastor Page does say one thing I and Calvinists wholeheartedly agree with:
Quoting Titus 2:11, which speaks of God’s grace and the salvation he offers to all, Page said it is “inaccurate and dangerous to adopt philosophies that are manmade” because they are faulty and are not from God’s Word.
He did not completely discount human philosophies, stating that they may have some parts, if based wholly on Scripture, that are correct. The problem, he said, is where to draw the line between what is true and what is not.
“We may agree with the Calvinists in the total depravity of man or with the Armenians in their free will concept, but the Scripture is so plain,” he said. “Scripture shows that grace is a gift that God desires to give all men.
“Without looking at other doctrines, we need to look at the doctrine of the gospel,” he said, adding God’s true nature can only be seen by looking fully at his grace and God’s Word is always the ultimate authority on the matters of God’s grace.
Amen and amen. I’m reminded heavily of Rev. Danny Akin’s message about “worshipping a system instead of a savior.” Preach it, brother Page! Now if only Pastor Page would actually examine the Calvinist gospel against Scripture. As a decided non-Calvinist, I would lay down money he would find the near exact gospel preached in Scripture. Christ died to save sinners, of which we (the elect) are without a doubt the worst. And we’re the worst because we know just how short of God’s glory we fall.