Calvinists, Altar Calls, and Evangelism

In a post at Soteriology 101 (I can't remember which post though), I responded to a comment by someone named Cynthia.  If I remember correctly, she was sharing that she had been hurt by dogmatic, condescending Calvinist leaders at her church and that she had to leave her church because of it.  She also commented on Calvinist pastors doing altar calls and on the contradiction of Calvinists evangelizing and doing missions work and trying to draw people closer to Jesus, when they essentially believe that we have no free-will and that God's already decided everything and that He alone controls everything.  

These are things I have thought about too.  

Our Calvinist pastor is really enthusiastic about missions work, and I couldn't figure out why.  It was perplexing to me how someone who believes that God controls all we do, that we have no free-will, and that everything has already been predestined could also believe in evangelism, as if evangelizing could make a difference in Calvi-god's predestined plans for us.  

Also, I noticed one day - after he had been pastor for a long time - that I've never seen him give an altar call.  I've heard him tell people they need to repent, but I've never heard him challenge anyone to pray to ask Jesus into their heart, to raise their hand or come up to the front of the church if they wanted Jesus in their life.  I've practically never even heard him talk about God's love for us.  (But he does remind us over and over again that we can't want or seek Calvi-god unless Calvi-god causes us to!)

Why is that!?!

After observing him for awhile and after eventually stumbling across some articles he wrote, I finally have answers for some of my questions.  And I wrote them in the response I gave to Cynthia (heavily updated for clarity and better understanding):

Cynthia,  I am sorry for your experience.  It’s not the way church is supposed to be.  We are in the process of leaving our church – that we’ve been at for almost 20 years (Update: We left in May 2019) – because of a new-ish Calvinist pastor.

You mentioned the lack of altar calls and about Calvinists supposedly trying to “draw you closer to Jesus.”  These exact things have been on my mind lately.

My Calvinist pastor is really big into missions, into going to other countries to spread the Gospel (his Calvinist idea of the Gospel, that is).  And I could never figure out why this is so, especially since Calvinists believe we don’t have any effect on anything anyway.  But I was looking through some old church posts from him when I found the answer.

He once wrote about his view of missions.  He said that he used to be apathetic about missions (probably because, as I said, Calvinists don't think anything we do really matters because God's already planned it all and nothing can change His plans) until he realized what he thinks is God's greatest goal in life: To be famous.  

And that totally revolutionized his enthusiasm for missions work.  And now his whole goal in missions is to "make God famous among all people because that’s God’s goal."  

But in his articles about why we should do missions work, it's what was missing that I noticed the most.  There was no talk about sharing the love of God with the people, or drawing them to a personal relationship with God and Jesus, or helping hurting people find forgiveness and healing.

It was all “making God famous,” as if being famous is God’s only goal.  (How does this make the God of the Bible different from any other glory-seeking, power-hungry false god out there?  Just because a god is famous doesn't mean it's for the right reasons!)

That’s when I realized that Calvinists do not care about “drawing us to Jesus,” as in drawing us into a relationship with Jesus.  They are not about a relationship with God.  They are only about "honoring" Him as Supreme Ruler.

And since, in Calvinism, there is no emphasis on the relationship we have with God or that God has with us (even though I think God Himself does put an emphasis on it), they do not focus on His love for us or on how much He cares about us or on how much we matter to Him.

They don't emphasize that kind of stuff because that would be “too glorifying” to humans.  As if it would somehow diminish God's glory if He valued us, focused on us, or loved us "too much."

And Calvinists are all about God’s glory (their idea of God’s glory, that is!) – about God getting as much glory and fame as He can, no matter the cost, even if it means reducing people so much lower than God values us.  Even if it means saying that God causes sin and predestines people to hell.    

But as long as they say “it’s all for God’s glory,” then they are okay with it.  They excuse some of the most horrible theology with "God can do whatever He wants for His glory.  Who are we to contradict Him or deny His right to do whatever He wants for His glory!?!"

It’s insane!  

[Calvinist James White said that God is the cause of child rape.  Because if He didn't cause it then there would be no purpose for it.  It would be meaningless.  

Umm ... right ... so it's much better for God to cause child rape than to simply let people have free-will, the right to choose between evil and good, huh!?!  SO!  MUCH!  BETTER!  Because then child rape is "worth it" and has value.  Calvi-god causes all things - all sins, all unbelief, and apparently even child rape - for his good pleasure, his plans, and his glory.  Now that's a god worth worshipping and loving and trusting!  

Frickin' insane!  The damage it does to God's character in its effort to force Calvinism into the Bible!  Using God's glory to destroy God's glory and character and Truth!  Frickin' insane!  Also see the note after this comment.]

Anyway, I realized that their motives (at least my pastor's) for missions and evangelizing are very different than the Gospel’s.

The God of the Bible is a relational Being who is about love and wanting a relationship with us and wanting to heal us and care for us and draw us near to Him (and yes, about His glory, too).  

But Calvinists don’t care about anything other than His glory.  They do not see Him as a relational Being.  As I said, they only see Him as Supreme Ruler.  And so the image of God they spread in their evangelizing is of God as Supreme Ruler who basically cares only about Himself and His glory and who loves Himself most.  (My husband says Calvi-god is little more than a "self-pleasuring god.")

And they defend this idea with "Well, God would be an idolater if He didn't put Himself first!"

I have no problem with God putting Himself first - that's only fitting since He is God.  But I do have a problem with how much they shrink His love for people and how much damage they do to our relationship with Him in order to elevate Him as high as they can, reducing us to tiny, little, worthless worms who are only here so God can use us for more glory for Himself.  Calvi-god doesn't care about us.  Not really.  He only cares about himself.  And they convince you that you are being a good, humble Christian if you accept this.  If you accept that He can do whatever He wants - even cause sin, unbelief, child rape - for His glory.  (Also see "Are we only here for God's glory?  What about God's love?")

(Give me a moment here.  My anger is bubbling up inside!  Taking a deep breath ... calming down a bit ... okay, let's go on ...) 

It makes me sad to think about the kind of “mission” that people like my pastor are carrying out, about how much the people they are witnessing to are missing out on because they aren’t getting a proper view of God and faith and God’s love and God’s grace and Jesus’s sacrifice, etc.

It's a sad version of God they are getting - a self-loving, glory-hogging god who values us simply for whatever glory he can squeeze out of us for himself, who causes sin and unbelief but then damns people to hell for their sin and unbelief ... all for his pleasure and glory!

And by golly, we better just praise him for it and we'd better dare not question him (or Calvinism) because that would be dishonoring to him! 

Hogwash and nonsense!  

Absolute garbage!

My pastor also wrote about how he doesn’t believe in altar calls, because he's afraid the people who come forward might end up believing they are saved simply because they "walked the aisle."  

He says he believes we are to call people to repent, that we should do that instead of altar calls.  But then he won’t even give them the chance to express their desire to repent by going forward publicly in something like an altar call.  He calls them to repent but doesn't ask if they want to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior.  

How do you tell someone to repent but then not give them the chance to do it!?!  How do you tell someone they need Jesus but then not ask them if they want to choose Jesus as their Lord and Savior!?!

I don’t get it.

Actually, I do get it.  

He doesn't refuse to do altar calls because he's afraid people might think they're saved just from "walking the aisle."  He's afraid of making people think they have a choice about Jesus, that we get to decide if we want Jesus as Lord and Savior or not.

Calvinist pastors cannot have people running around out there thinking that salvation is a choice we make.  That we have the free-will to make decisions about our salvation.  Because that contradicts the very foundation of their theology.  

In Calvinism, God makes our decisions for us.  He decides if we choose to believe or not believe.  But giving altar calls - asking people to decide if they want to make Jesus their Lord and Savior - implies we have a choice about the matter.

They erroneously and detrimentally believe that “accepting Jesus” is that same thing as “working our way into heaven.”  That accepting a free gift Someone made available to us is "earning" that gift or "working for it."  And since we can't earn or work for salvation then we can't "accept Jesus."  According to them.  

They think that salvation has to be all God’s doing (for His elect only, of course) or else He’s not a sovereign God (according to their definition of sovereignty) – that He has to cause us to repent and believe, that we don’t get a choice.

But doing altar calls is asking people to make a choice about Jesus – something they vehemently deny we can do.  My pastor’s not afraid people might wrongly trust in their “walk the aisle” experience.  He’s afraid they might actually think they have a choice about it.

[Besides, isn’t it the pastor’s job to help those who came forward in altar calls to understand what they are doing, what faith is, what being a Christian means, what does and does not save you?  However, I shudder to think of what a Calvinist would say about this.  Maybe it’s best he doesn’t do altar calls after all.  

And of course, some Calvinists do believe in giving altar calls and evangelizing.  But not because they think they can affect anything or "change people's minds."  But simply because "God told us to do it," even if they believe it doesn't have any effect at all.  

And some believe it's because that's how God decided the elected people will become saved.  Yet, I ask, doesn't God commanding us to evangelize mean that God expects us to obey His command to evangelize?  And doesn't that imply we can disobey God's command to evangelize?  And doesn't that bring us right back to free-will, to us having to decide between obeying and disobeying?  Conundrum!]

Once again, Cynthia, I am sorry about your experience.  But be thankful that you got out of there.  I am currently staying home from our church, watching good sermons online instead.  And while it’s a little lonely and makes me sad, at least I feel like I can breathe.  

The regular Calvinist-beatings we got at my church for so long had begun to suffocate my soul.  There was (and is) no talk on God’s love or Him caring about us or helping us through life.  There was no encouragement for the hard times, no hope.  It was all (paraphrased) “God is God.  He can do whatever He wants.  He only cares about His glory.  He causes all things – even child abuse – for His purposes and glory, and He can do that because He’s God, and if you don’t agree then you are unhumble and you are disagreeing with the Bible.” 

I’d rather be home alone watching sermons than listening to that soul-killing, faith-destroying garbage week after week.  God bless you for the trials and heartache you went through.

--- end of comment ---

*NOTE:  There was a great comment (from regular commenter Graceadict) in another post at Sot101 called "5 Reasons Why I Stayed Out of Calvinism".  This comment zeroed in on the abuse of "God's glory," of using "It's all for God's glory" to excuse some of the most horrible teachings of Calvinism.

Graceadict starts by referring to a quote from John Calvin that goes like this: “Hence it is not strange, that by the Apostle a taste of heavenly gifts, and by Christ himself a temporary faith, is ascribed to them. Not that they truly perceive the power of spiritual grace and the sure light of faith; but the Lord, the better to convict them, and leave them without excuse.”

(This quote is about Calvin's belief that Calvi-god sometimes tricks unelected people into thinking they are elected, that they are truly saved, so that he has even more reason to damn them to hell.  So I guess sending them to eternal torment in hell for the unbelief he himself caused in them, through no fault or choice of their own, just isn't enough, huh!?!  Now he's got to make them think they are saved just so he can damn them even more strongly!?!  Yep, Calvi-god is wonderful!)

And this is where Graceadict starts commenting (altered slightly for clarification):


This is such a disgraceful distortion of who God is…  Just think of God’s moral attributes of TRUTHFULNESS, HOLINESS, LOVE, MERCY, JUSTICE, KINDNESS, GOODNESS, LONGSUFFERING, SHOWS NO PARTIALITY.  It (Calvinism's god) is nothing like the God of the Bible.

It is even more horrible when we understand that, under the Calvi-god system, God could just as easily ascribed a “genuine faith” to them instead of a “temporary faith” (which propels them towards destruction), that Calvi-god wants to deceive them and others and deeply wants them in hell more than anything and so instead of a genuine faith, HE irresistibly gives them a “temporary faith”.  

In their system no one can have faith apart from God “effectually giving” (forcibly giving) it to them at some point in their lives.  So the fact that God gives a damning faith to them instead of the genuine faith reflects on the nature of their Calvi-god, a morally distorted being who does not align with the Biblical definition of Good, Loving, Merciful, and Holy.

Under the Calvinist paradigm they forget that God is truly a moral being, and a morally GOOD being.  They think their definition of Sovereignty can trump any moral attribute that God has.  So the Calvi-god can author evil, can be unloving, unmerciful, unjust, untruthful, as long as you say:

“WELL GOD IS SOVEREIGN – HE CAN DO ANYTHING, WE MUST SIMPLY ACCEPT IT AND CALL IT HOLY AND GOOD” even though it contradicts the Scriptures’ own definitions of what is Holy, Good, and Loving.

It is not our own standard of Holy, Good, and Loving that is being contradicted.  It is the very SCRIPTURE’S definitions of these terms that is being contradicted.

They think that the term “SOVEREIGN” means He can be as evil and distorted as they want to make HIM out to be and that the Word “Sovereign” takes care of all of those distortions.

“A Sovereign God can do anything.  Who are you, O man, to question God?”

BTW – We are not questioning God.  We are questioning your profaning His Holy name and then thinking by tacking on “Sovereign” it makes your blasphemy go away.  It does NOT.

Just like Calvinists use the words “Mystery, Paradox, and Tension” to cover over all kinds of Calvinist contradictions to the Bible (which they assert are true) ... SO ALSO when they use the WORD “SOVEREIGN,” it is often a tactic to cover over the fact that they have in many cases constructed their Calvi-god who is demonstrably unloving, unmerciful, unjust, untruthful, unholy, evil.  But they think if they just apply the word Sovereign and say “Sovereign God can do whatever HE wants,” it excuses all the Profaning of God’s Holy name and BLASPHEMY that they have just engaged in.

“Sovereign” is NOT a word that can be employed to cover over the profaning of God’s Holy name that goes on in Calvinism.

Take note how they use the word Sovereign to do just that. It does NOT Glorify God… it is truly profaning His Holy name.

My comment to Graceadict:

"Graceadict, WOW!  Excellent comment and observation!  All of it!  It totally gets to the heart of what’s wrong with Calvinism.

I particularly loved this: “They think their definition of Sovereignty can trump any moral attribute that God has.  So the Calvi-god can author evil, can be unloving, unmerciful, unjust, untruthful, as long as you say: “WELL GOD IS SOVEREIGN – HE CAN DO ANYTHING, WE MUST SIMPLY ACCEPT IT AND CALL IT HOLY AND GOOD” even though it contradicts the Scriptures’ own definitions of what is Holy, Good, and Loving.”

Amazing!  And such brazen blasphemy against God’s good character!"

And an additional note I want to add, not from the comments on Sot101:

If God, in the Bible, is glorified when people choose to worship Him ... but Calvinists decide God is only glorified if He causes all things that happen and makes our decisions for us ... how can they be said to be glorifying God!?!  When they are changing God's character and Jesus's sacrifice and the way to salvation in order to fit their idea of how God has to be in order to be God, in order to be glorified!?!

Altering God and the Gospel to fit your own view - telling God how He has to be in order to be "sovereign" in the way you think He has to be - is not glorifying to Him!

I think Calvinism is a brilliant Satanic theology because it's so subtle, because it uses God's Word and His glory against Him, because it manipulates and shames people into believing it by making them feel like it's the "humble" thing to believe.

It's brilliant!

Evilly genius and geniusly evil!

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