Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Darby vs. Moody on Calvinism

A couple weeks ago I started reading a biography of D. L. Moody's life titled A Passion For Souls, by Lyle W. Dorsett. I'm about 130 pages into the book, and this morning I was reading about Moody's first trip to England and how he was introduced to Charles Spurgeon, George Muller, and the Plymouth Brethren - John Nelson Darby among them. Concerning the latter, Moody was attracted to many of the Plymouth Brethren distinctives, but as time went on he became increasingly uncomfortable with some of their teachings, particularly the Calvinistic teaching of Limited Atonement. Dorsett gives the following details:
     Moody's initial love affair with the Brethren movement was inspired by their love for the Bible and their purposeful focus on reaching the lost for Christ. Therefore, Moody spent much time in Brethren assemblies on his [first] trip [to England in 1867], and he would invite many, including John Nelson Darby, to come to America and preach at the Illinois Street Church.
     Within a few years, however, Moody became uncomfortable with the Brethren. Not that he eventually swayed from his commitment to Scripture, premillennialism, missions, and evangelism, but he did find the increasingly separatistic views of the movement to be personally distressing and ultimately harmful to Christian unity. For instance, Darby was a staunch Calvinist who held unyieldingly to predestination and the doctrine of the elect. Increasingly, Darby unleashed verbal warfare against anyone who gave quarter to the Arminian and Wesleyan view that Christ died for all men and women. Moody was never a predestinarian, and as the years went by, his proclamation theology was like that of John Wesley rather than the one embraced by John Calvin (and Darby). Furthermore, while Darby wanted less and less to do with Christians who advocated clergy ordination, liturgy, and using women in ministry, Moody was seeking ways to unify all the denominations.
     Finally, Darby personally launched an ugly, verbal attack on Moody's "Arminian" views, arguing that he and most Americans, except for a few Presbyterians, did not know "the first principles of grace". Indeed, one day while doing a Bible reading time at Farwell Hall in Chicago, he and Moody had a verbal exchange on free will. The session ended when Darby, in disgust with Moody's emphasis on "whosoever will may come," [Rev. 22:17, KJV] closed his Bible and walked out; and he never returned.1
I find this information very interesting because I've attended Moody Bible Institute  in Chicago, and I would say that most of the present-day students and faculty would probably agree with Darby on this issue, not Moody! The present-day Moody Bible Institute is "generally Calvinistic,"2 while I'm not so sure that Moody himself was.3

I also find it interesting that in response to Moody's quoting of Scripture, Darby closed his Bible and walked away! This reaffirms to me that Calvinism really cannot stand up to the Word of God - in this case the simple truth that "whosover will, let him take the water of life freely" (Rev. 22:17, KJV).


ENDNOTES:

1 Lyle W. Dorsett, A Passion For Souls, The Life of D. L. Moody [Chicago: Moody Publishers, 1997], pp. 136-137. NOTE: Moody was not an "Arminian"; neither was he a Calvinist. Instead, Moody held to a Biblical balance between the two positions.

2 See the Moody Bible Institute "Doctrinal Statement".

3 I am reminded of the following statement by D. L. Moody, which I taped to the outside of my dorm room door while I was living in Culbertson Hall: "But some say, Faith is the gift of God. So is the air; but you have to breathe it. So is bread; but you have to eat it. So is water; but you have to drink it. Some are wanting a miraculous kind of feeling. That is not faith. 'Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God' (Rom. x. 17). That is whence faith comes. It is not for me to sit down and wait for faith to come stealing over me with a strange sensation; but it is for me to take God at His Word." (Moody, The Way to God [Chicago: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1884], p. 51.)

28 comments:

  1. The Lord liveth and because He lives so does D.L. Moody.

    Peter Cantalupo

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  2. I hope the rest of Lyle W. Dorsett's work is not so inaccurate. Darby was not a Calvinist. Darby believed Jesus died for everybody, and I don't think he would have been at all disgusted by, "whosoever will may come". Indeed, this was an issue that he disagreed with Calvinists on.

    But it is true that Darby did not believe in free will, and thought that Moody had misunderstood the Bible. From what Darby said, it appears that he thought Moody had failed to grasp the concepts presented in scripture. Therefore, it is likely that after much discussion, Darby concluded that to continue would be unhelpful, and this is why Darby closed his Bible. He told Moody, "I came here to give you the scripture. I can't give you the brains to understand it".

    Darby was indeed a separatist, and his separation did increase as the years went on. However, he was against the notion of Clergy from the very beginning. One of the distinctives of the Plymouth Brethen is that they are against the appointment of ministers. In the early days Darby wrote a tract called, "The notion of Clergymen: Dispensationally the sin against the Holy Spirit".

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  3. It sounds to me like your response to Dorsett is largely conjecture. You use words and phrases such as:

    "I don't think"
    "it appears"
    "it is likely"

    If you want people to take you seriously may I suggest that you at least cite your sources of information?

    Personally, I find it hard to believe that Dorsett's account is "so inaccurate". Dorsett is a respected researcher and writer. He has well documented sources. Actually, this was one of the things that impressed me as I read through his book. It was clear that he had done his research. Dorsett and his team of researchers consulted countless primary sources as well as the libraries of the Moody Bible Institute, Wheaton College, the Northfield Mount Hermon School, Yale Divinity School, Syracuse University, the University of Wisconsin, the State Historical Society of Wisconsin, and the Library of Congress. He referenced personal letters and correspondence from Moody's family. He also referenced other standard biographies of Moody's life and talked with other biographers. Not to mention that his book was endorsed by the President of Moody Bible Institute and is published by Moody Press.

    All this does not conclusively prove that Dorsett's account is correct - but if I had to chose between Dorsett's account on the one hand or an anonymous blogger's unverified comment on the other hand, I would definitely side with Dorsett.

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  4. [Part 1 of comment]

    I appreciate that it may be difficult to believe the claims I made, given that I am an anonymous blogger as you say, and Dorsett published a book on the matter.

    However, I stand by my claims. My first claim was that Darby was not a Calvinist. The L in the TULIP of Calvinism stands for "Limited Atonement", a doctrine which teaches that Jesus died only for His elect people, not for everybody. On this point, Darby had the following to say:

    "He is a propitiation for the whole world. All has been done that is needed. His blood is available for the vilest whoever he may be. Hence the gospel to the world says, “Whosoever will, let him come.” In this aspect we may say Christ died for all, gave Himself a ransom for all, an adequate and available sacrifice for sin, for whoever would come—tasted death for every man."

    (see The Collected Writings Of J. N. Darby, Expository No. 6, Volume 27 at http://www.plymouthbrethren.org/article/11296)

    For Dorsett to say that "Darby was a staunch Calvinist" is really quite remarkable. I don't believe I've ever met a member of the Plymouth Brethren who has not strongly opposed Calvinism.

    The second point I made was that it was true that Darby denied free will. Darby said in a tract called "Man’s So-called Freewill": "This re-appearance of the doctrine of freewill serves to support that of the pretension of the natural man to be not irremediably fallen, for this is what such doctrine tends to. All who have never been deeply convicted of sin, all persons in whom this conviction is based on gross external sins, believe more or less in freewill" (p. 1)

    My fourth point was that Darby rejected clergy from the very early on in his ministry: it was not something that came later. Indeed, the whole idea of Plymouth Brethrenism is that they reject clergy so that their meetings might be led by the Holy Spirit. From very early on in his ministry, Darby called the notion of clergy "The sin against the Holy Spirit"! Please see the tract I mentioned: "The notion of Clergymen: Dispensationally the sin against the Holy Spirit". In the preface to a later printing of the tract, Darby references the fact that it was first printed, "I suppose, now seven-and-thirty years ago" (see http://www.stempublishing.com/authors/darby/ECCLESIA/01003E.html). Clearly Darby had believed that clergy was sinful for a very long time. Also see the most authoritative recent history of the open Brethren called, "Gathering to His Name" by Tim Grass - a 450 page, very small print, mammoth work of scholarship (ISBN: 978-1842272206). This book makes it very clear that Darby was set against the notion of clergy from the very beginning. Indeed, part of the cause of the split between Darby and Benjamin Wills Newton was that Darby thought Newton was re-introducing clergy, just because Newton was going too far, even though Newton publicly rejected clergy too!

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  5. [Part 2 of comment]

    My third point was that Darby concluded it was unhelpful to go on with Moody. Darby had been invited by Moody to preach, as Dorsett says, but things ended with a disagreement about free will. W. G. Turner who wrote the book "John Nelson Darby" says:

    It is interesting, too, to know that while in Chicago on one occasion Mr. Darby was invited by D. L. Moody to give a series of Bible readings in Farwell Hall. These were attended by many lovers of the Word of GOD, but unfortunately suddenly came to an abrupt end as the two clashed over the question of the freedom of the will. Mr. Darby held to what Mr. Moody considered extreme Calvinism on this point, affirming that so perverted was man's will he could not "will" even to be saved, and he based his contention largely on the texts " Which were born not... of the will of the flesh... but of GOD "; and " It is not of him that willeth.. but of GOD that showeth mercy." Mr. Moody insisted that man as a responsible person was appealed to by GOD to turn to Him and would be condemned if he did not. Ye will not come to me that ye might have life," said Jesus to those who refused His message. "Whosoever will" is the great gospel invitation. The controversy became so heated one day that Mr. Darby suddenly closed his Bible and refused to go on, thus losing one of the great opportunities of his life, as it will seem to many."
    (see W.G. Turner's 'John Nelson Darby' (1944), http://www.stempublishing.com/authors/turner/WGT_JND.html)

    I may have been wrong about the exact situation in which Darby is reported to have said, "'I am here to supply exposition not brains,' or words to that effect" (W.G. Turner). Nevertheless, Turner says that the conversation between Moody and Darby suddenly ended when Darby closed his Bible and refused to go on. But the question in all this is, how does Turner know? The reason I use the words "I don't think", "it appears", and "it is likely" is that I was not there at the time of the meeting. And neither was Turner nor Dorsett. The historian can only guess about such things. How does Dorsett know that Darby "personally launched an ugly, verbal attack"? That is quite an accusation! What did Darby say that was such an "ugly verbal attack"? From Turner's account it appears that Darby and Moody disagreed sharply on free will. But that hardly implies an "ugly verbal attack" as Dorsett says.

    Also, Turner merely says that Moody "considered" Darby as holding to extreme Calvinism, and puts, "The controversy became so heated one day that Mr. Darby suddenly closed his Bible and refused to go on". But if Dorsett is citing Turner as his source, then it is quite an embellishment to say that "Darby, in disgust with Moody's emphasis on 'whosoever will may come,' closed his Bible and walked out; and he never returned". Indeed, if Dorsett is citing Turner as his source, then he appears to have misunderstood the reason why Turner even mentioned, "whosoever will". Turner does not report that Darby was disgusted at an emphasis on 'whosoever will'! So, if Dorsett is citing Turner, then his scholarship appears to be embellished and revisionist. Please, take a look at the reference in Dorset (reference 39, page 137 I believe) and tell me, who was Dorset citing? I'm eager to know, as I don't have the book!

    By the way, when I said, "so inaccurate" I was not using the word "so" to mean, "very inaccurate". I was using "so" to mean, "as inaccurate as he has been in the quote you provided".

    Hope this helps.

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  6. Yes, thank you for those comments. There are very interesting and helpful.

    If I understand you correctly you're saying that Darby wasn't a Calvinist because he didn't believe in the "L" in TULIP. In other words, you seem to be saying that Darby wasn't a Calvinist because he didn't believe in the Calvistic doctrine of "Limited Atonement".

    But in response I would say that would only make Darby a four-point Calvinist instead of a five-point Calvinist. Can a person be a four-point "staunch Calvinist"? I would argue yes.

    I looked up in the book who Dorsett was citing as his source(s) - and he wasn't citing W. G. Turner. Instead, Dorsett cited James F. Findlay, Stanley Gundry, and Max S. Weremchuk. Here is what Dorsett says in endnote 39, page 137, chapter 5:

    "A splendid brief summary of Darby and Moody's agreements and disagreements is in Findlay, Moody, 125-27. See also Gundry, Love Them In. The most recent biography of Darby by Max S. Weremchuk, John Nelson Darby (New York: Loizeaux, 1992), 143-44 contains the story of Darby's angry exit." (Dorsett, A Passion For Souls, p. 429.)

    Anyways, good discussion!

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  7. Thank you for your response. Now I'm interested to know who Weremchuk was citing! Perhaps I'll purchase his book, as it looks interesting.

    Certainly I would have to disagree that someone can be a staunch Calvinist and reject Limited Atonement. Staunch Calvinists not only believe that Christ died solely for His elect, but also that God solely loves His elect and has no love for the reprobate. The reprobate are seen by staunch Calvinists as vessels made unto dishonour, so that God could show His wrath on them, made for the day of evil, made for eternal hell. Darby did not believe this.

    Moderate Calvinists, on the other hand, say that God loves everybody with common grace, which does not save, but that He loves His elect with special grace, which does save.

    Moderate Calvinists are infralapsarians, whereas staunch Calvinists are supralapsarians. I doubt that Darby even believed that God ordained the Fall, so he wouldn't fit in either camp.

    But of course, just as to a liberal moderate conservatives are "ultra-right wing" so to an Arminian, people who don't even qualify as being moderate Calvinists are "staunch Calvinists" merely because they reject the doctrine of free will. Calvinism is much more than a mere denial of the doctrine of free will.

    I will grant, however, that the doctrine of free will is the turning point on the spectrum from Calvinist to Arminian: those who believe in free will are more Arminians than they are Calvinists, whereas those who deny free will are more Calvinists than they are Arminians.

    Those in the middle are more like the Amish I think, though the Amish don't believe in justification by faith alone, so they differ from both Calvinists and Arminians on this point. Though, Calvinists and Arminians traditionally define faith differently.

    Thanks again for the quote.

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  8. You said: "Certainly I would have to disagree that someone can be a staunch Calvinist and reject Limited Atonement."

    Please notice that isn't what I said in my previous comment. My statement was more general. I said: "Can a person be a four-point 'staunch Calvinist'? I would argue yes."

    According to what you said in your previous comment Darby would be a four point Calvinist instead of a five point Calvinist - because you said that he didn't agree with the "L" in TULIP.

    My point was that if it is accepted that there is such a category as a four point "staunch Calvinist" generally speaking (and I believe there is), then Darby would have to fall into that category specifically speaking if what you said is correct. It is a logical necessity. Anything else would be a double standard - a case of special pleading.

    I do agree with you that deciding whether or not someone is a "staunch Calvinist" is somewhat subjective because even a four point Calvinist is a "staunch Calvinist" to me - someone who is not even a four point Calvinist. In other words, what I think is a "staunch Calvinist" and what you think is a "staunch Calvinist" are probably two different things. It might be more profitable to just discuss objectively which points of Calvinism Darby agreed with and which points he disagreed with.

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  9. Hello again. Thought I'd reply to ensure we understand each other.

    Firstly, I wasn't disagreeing with what you said. I was disagreeing with what you implied, which was that there is such a thing as a 4 point staunch Calvinist. You say, "if it is accepted that there is such a category as a four point staunch Calvinist generally speaking" and this is exactly what I don't accept, so I explained how it couldn't be the case.

    As we both agree, the words "staunch Calvinist" are subjective. So in my subjective experience, as someone who has spent years going to all kinds of Calvinist churches, I have learnt what is considered "staunch Calvinism" and what is considered "moderate" by Calvinists. I have also been to various Brethren assemblies in my life, spending two years with one of them, and amongst the various assemblies I have been to, I have encountered a most remarkable opposition to Calvinism. Darby did not hold even to what the "moderate Calvinists" such as John Piper, hold to, let alone what the, "staunch Calvinists" such as John Gill, hold to.

    But I am using the word "Calvinist" in a narrower sense than you, and this is why we are coming to different conclusions, as you say.

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  10. Thanks for that explanation. I think what you said is fair enough.

    Would you care to discuss objectively which point(s) of Calvinism Darby agreed with and which point(s) he disagreed with?

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  11. Sure, although I'm not confident of the answer.

    I think you may be right about Darby being a so called "4 point Calvinist". However, the fourth point is dubious, so perhaps he was a "3 point Calvinist" (a misnomer for sure).

    In addition to denying Limited Atonement, I think it's possible that Darby may have denied the Perseverance of the saints. Clearly he believed in "once saved, always saved". But this is not, in an of itself, the same as the doctrine of perseverance. Calvinists maintain that those who are saved persevere in faith until the end. So whereas a liberal might say something like, "those who have faith can go onto loose their faith and die without faith, but they'll still end up in heaven because they once believed in Jesus" a Calvinist will virulently disagree. The saints have confidence of this very thing, that he who began a good work in them will complete it unto Jesus Christ's day. This position holds that those who believe in Jesus Christ and then fall away, believed only on a superficial level and never had a root in themselves.

    However, certain dispensationalists (including Scofield in his day, as I understand it), hold to the idea that people can come to faith, and then either fall away and still go to heaven, or continue living without recieving sanctification and go to heaven. Clearly this is a wicked doctrine, and I'm dubious that Darby actually believed it. But I hold it up as a logical possibility.

    On Limited atonement, Darby believed that the death of Christ was symbolised by the two goats of the day of attonement. He held that one goat was sacrifised for everybody (the lot that fell for Jehovah) and the other goat bore the sins away solely for God's people (the scape goat). Thus Darby held that Christ died for everybody in one sense and solely for the elect in another. The first sense was what he called "God-ward" the second was "man-ward". He maintained that the blood of Jesus being shed for everybody enabled God to 'step out in love' towards all, but the role Jesus fulfilled as the scape goat for God's people meant that only those who believed would be saved.

    In accordance with this, Darby held that faith itself is counted as a believer's righteousness, as opposed to faith being "into" God's righteousness; or in other words, faith being the means by which the righteousness of God is imputed to the believer. From this it appears that Darby would have had to maintain that faith is the rightoeusness of God, though I'm not sure he ever explained it quite like that!

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  12. Thank you for those very helpful insights.

    I really appreciate your analysis especially because I'm not as familiar with Darby's teachings as much as some other dispensationalists like e.g. C. I. Scofield, Lewis Sperry Chafer, and Charles Ryrie.

    I have read some of Darby's writings - mostly having to do with eschatology, ecclesiology, identification truths, and some other miscellaneous topics. The Moody Bible Institute has The Collected Writings of J. N. Darby (40+ volumes), and I have consulted them at different times, and I have often found his Synopsis of the Books of the Bible a great help. I've also read some of his writings on the Stem Publishing website. But he has been for me a bit more removed (in terms of my reading) than some of the later dispensationalists like Scofield, et al., although I'm sure Darby has influenced their writings greatly.

    Miles Stanford has a helpful chart showing Darby's influence on later theologians called Dispensational Theologians.

    I'm actually quite a Darby fan, even if he was more Calvinistic than me. There is still so much to learn from him.

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  13. [Part 1 of comment]

    Thank you for the chart; its been of interest. Nevertheless, I am not a dispensationalist. My belief, if you would like to know it, is as follows:

    I believe that there were two Israel's in "Old Testament": Firstly there was the national/racial Israel which consisted of anyone who was descended from Jacob. This Israel was a picture/type/figure of the Israel of God. Secondly there was that which the figure depicted, the Israel of God, which consisted only of God's elect people. To show that there was a second Israel, distinct from the national/racial Israel, I cite Paul, "not all are Israel which are of Israel".

    In "Old Testament" times, those who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ and were saved, came mainly from the stock of Israel as a national/racial people. Therefore the picture represented the reality to a certain degree. However, the Jews killed the Lord Jesus Christ and denied the preaching of Him to the nations, and therefore wrath has come upon them to the uttermost. They were stripped away, by which I mean that, though they still had a nation, and though they still constituted a race, nevertheless God no longer draws them, as He once did, to faith in the Messiah. In other words, they are not, by and large, true descendants of Abraham any more; for Abraham walked by faith and is the father of all the faithful. Today it is the Gentiles that God primarily draws to Himself.

    The Gentiles, who were not previously called "My people" are now called "My people" by God, in that they, who did not previously live by faith, now live by the faith of Jesus Christ. In this sense they are grafted into the tree of Abraham, who lived by faith, as it is written, "Therefore [it is] on the principle of faith, that [it might be] according to grace, in order to the promise being sure to all the seed, not to that only which [is] of the law, but to that also which [is] of Abraham's faith, who is father of us all".

    The Jews are the natural branches in that they are the natural born heirs of the promise; they are physically speaking Abraham's seed; to them pertain the oracles of God (such as circumsision and a national identity) which showed by figures the nature of God's true elect nation and people, the Isreal of God. However, they have been cut away because of unbelief, as I said before. Now unnatural branches - Gentiles - have been grafted in, to whom the promises concerning the nation and the other oracles such as circumsision do not pertain. But those who have been grafted in, as well as to the circumsision who lived by faith, are the true seed; theirs is the fullness of the promise that was given to Abraham. I quote it again, "Therefore [it is] on the principle of faith, that [it might be] according to grace, in order to the promise being sure to all the seed, not to that only which [is] of the law, but to that also which [is] of Abraham's faith, who is father of us all". Therefore, those whom God now calls "My people" are of the true elect Isreal of God, as it is written, "But ye [are] a chosen race, a kingly priesthood, a holy nation, a people for a possession, that ye might set forth the excellencies of him who has called you out of darkness to his wonderful light; who once [were] not a people, but now God's people; who were not enjoying mercy, but now have found mercy".

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  14. [Part 2 of comment]

    Note, God only has one elect people. The fact that God only ever chose the national/racial people Isreal (i.e. Isreal after the flesh), shows that He only ever chose a single elect people for Himself, since the national/racial people Isreal are a picture of God's elect. "You only have I known of all the families of the earth".

    In that Paul said "on the principle of faith" he meant that all who are faithful, regardless of nationality or race, shall inheret the promise. For as he previously explained, the righteousness of God is reckoned to the faithful by means of faith. Where we read that Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him "for" righteousness, the word, "for" in the Greek is "eis" and in the "New Testament" it is usually translated "into". Darby was entirely wrong in his view of faith. Faith is not the righteousness of God! Faith is the means by which God's people are reckoned righteousness. They believe into the righteousnss of God. Darby, in his translation (which I use) tried to get away with the word "as" as in "it was reckoned to him AS righteousness". Good try, but not enough. "Eis" in almost all contexts means, "into". In this passage it is usually translated "for" as in "it was reckoned to him FOR righteousness" but even here, the meaning of the Greek word is stronger than the English word "for". We are hindered, somewhat, by the limitations of our language.

    God will one day strip away the Gentiles and graft back in the natural branches, as it is written "blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the nations be come in". It may very well be that when great tribulation comes, there will be no believing Gentiles left in the world, or perhaps an extreemly small number. In which case it will be the Jews who will flee to the mountains, and to the countryside. However, I see no evidence for a pre-tibulation rapture in scripture. As I read it, those who are alive shall be caught up in the cloud to meet Jesus in the air, and shall accomany Him back to earth. Indeed, this is suggested by the very language used. F.F. Bruce writes:

    "When a dignitary paid an official visit (parousia) to a city in Hellenistic times, the action of the leading citizens in going out to meet him and escort him back on the final stage of his journey was called the apantesis.....Compare with Matthew 25:6 where the bridal party is summoned to go out and meet the bride groom (eis apantesis autou), so as to escort him with a torchlight procession to the banqueting hall, and Acts 28:15, where Christians from Rome walk south along the Appian Way to meet Paul and his company (eis apantesin hemin) and escort them on the remainder of their journey to Rome"
    (Commentary on 1 Thessalonians, New Bible Commentary Revised Ed., p. 1159)

    That's my understanding of the matter. One thing I would like to know from you is, what do you mean when you say you deny Calvinism? Do you mean you believe in free will?

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  15. Thanks for that explanation. Those are some good thoughts, though personally I believe the Bible teaches a pre-tribulation rapture.

    How is what you said in conflict with dispensationalism - or did I misunderstand you?

    I'm not sure where I said that I "deny Calvinism". I don't deny that it exists as a theological system. I don't agree with it, if that's what you mean. You asked if I believe in free will - are you referring to one of the five points of Calvinism?

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  16. Hi,

    Well, technically speaking you could call me a dispensationalist, but only in the sense that I believe we are in a different dispensation at the moment to the one Israel was in. But covenant theologians would also accept that, so I don't think its a very good sense to use. I was really referring to dispensationalism as it pertains to the nature of the relationship between Israel and the Church.

    Classic dispensationalists teach that God has two peoples: an earthly people, Israel, and a heavenly people, the Church. I do not believe this. I believe God has one elect people made up of natural and un-natural branches, and that national/racial Israel was only a picture of the Israel of God containing all Christians and believing Jews throughout time. Are you saying there are dispensationalists who believe this?

    When I said before, "you say you deny Calvinism" I meant "you have said something which indicates that you don't agree with Calvinism". I could have been clearer. What you said was, "Moody was not an 'Arminian'; neither was he a Calvinist. Instead, Moody held to a Biblical balance between the two positions." I take it from this that your claim is that you do not believe in either Calvinism or Arminianism. Also I noticed that you put "Arminian" in quote marks but left Calvinist without quote marks, which I thought might perhaps indicate that you lean more towards Arminianism than Calvinism, and would rather your view wasn't labelled as Arminianism so as to identify it with the Bible rather than Arminius.

    So my question is, since you imply that neither Calvinism nor Arminianism are Biblical, and that the Biblical position is a balance between the two, what is your position as it pertains to your view of Calvinism in so far as you seeing it as un-biblical? And further, do you believe in free will?

    To answer your question , "free will - are you referring to one of the five points of Calvinism?" I suppose I am, in that the first point of Calvinism is a doctrine that Calvinists call "Total Depravity". By "Total depravity" they mean that human beings never 'choose aright'. In other words, Calvinists mean that human beings never make the right decision when it comes to matters of morality. Furthermore, humans are not merely partially depraved, such that, with help from God, they can choose aright. Rather, they are totally depraved, such that, no matter how much God helps them, they will never choose aright; unless, that is, God helps them to the extent that He actually causes them to choose aright, over-riding their own will with His. In other words, God has got to remove their will completely, and put in its place a new will. Should election depend even one tiny bit on human will, there would be no elect people, for the human will never, despite all the help in the world, choose aright. Human beings are not merely wounded, but dead in sins and trespasses, and no amount of bandages, ointments, or even miracles will do anything, except it be the miracle of God raising them from the dead, entirely without any consultation with them or decision on their part; exclusively by His grace. This is the Calvinist doctrine of Total Depravity denied by Arminians.

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  17. Hi there,

    You said: "I believe God has one elect people made up of natural and un-natural branches, and that national/racial Israel was only a picture of the Israel of God containing all Christians and believing Jews throughout time. Are you saying there are dispensationalists who believe this?"

    I think that classic dispensationalists might make more of a distinction between Israel and the Church than that, although you do seem to make some distinction between “Christians” (a New Testament concept) and “believing Jews” (which seems to refer to saved Old Testament Israelites - unless I misunderstood you).

    You said: "Also I noticed that you put 'Arminian' in quote marks but left Calvinist without quote marks, which I thought might perhaps indicate that you lean more towards Arminianism than Calvinism, and would rather your view wasn't labelled as Arminianism so as to identify it with the Bible rather than Arminius."

    That's very perceptive of you! Yes, you're exactly right.

    You said: "what is your position as it pertains to your view of Calvinism in so far as you seeing it as un-biblical? And further, do you believe in free will?"

    In answer to your first question please see the books in the Calvinism section of my library. (Click on "The Traditional Free Grace Library" link in the top right corner of my blog and then scroll down to where it says "Calvinism".) There is a plethora of information there to satisfy even the most inquisitive. I might not agree with every single detail in every single book, but I would agree with the majority of information there if you know what I mean.

    In answer to your second question, you said that by "free will" you are referring to the Calvinistic doctrine of "Total Depravity". If that is what you mean by free will then no, I do not believe in free will. For one thing, I would disagree with your implication that receiving Christ is a matter of morality - that's works! According to the Bible, believing in Christ is not considered a work (Rom. 4:4-5).

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  18. Hi yet again. I just want to resolve a few things,

    When you say "I think that classic dispensationalists might make more of a distinction between Israel and the Church than that" do you mean you are not a classic dispensationalist?

    I would make a verbal distinction between "Christians" and believing Jews, but not a theological one. Since "Christian" was not a name used until the time of the "New Testament" I use it simply to refer to believers in the Lord Jesus who actually got called "Christian", as opposed to believers under the old dispensation.

    To clarify, when you say "you are referring to the Calvinistic doctrine of 'Total Depravity'. If that is what you mean by free will then no, I do not believe in free will" do you mean that you agree with Calvinists about free will? - that salvation is not left in any sense whatever to anything man chooses, and that the number of the elect was actively fixed by God before the world began, who made His choice entirely irrespective of what men would go onto choose or will or think, meaning that nobody who is not of God's elect will ever be saved?

    I would appreciate either a "yes" or a "no" to this question, although I don't mind reading any qualifying explanation. I just want to be absolutely clear that I'm hearing you right.

    Also, you say "I would disagree with your implication that receiving Christ is a matter of morality". Again, to clarify, do you mean that there is no respect in which recieving Christ can be considered a 'moral' or 'good' thing, such that it does not make sense to speak of it being good to recieve Christ?

    Also, what do you mean when you say "receiving" Christ? Do you mean believing in the blood of Jesus Christ to save *His elect*? Or do you mean believing in the blood of Jesus Christ to save *me*?

    And in what sense is believing either of these things a matter of "receiving"? Do you mean being willing to believe either of the above? - although one might not actually believe either yet?

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  19. Hi there,

    You asked: "do you mean you are not a classic dispensationalist?"

    I do consider myself a classic dispensationalist, but I don't consider myself an authority on the subject. That's why I said: "I think that classic dispensationalists might make more of a distinction between Israel and the Church than that".

    You asked: "do you mean that you agree with Calvinists about free will?"

    No, I do not agree with Calvinists about free will. You said that by "free will" you were referring to the Calvinistic doctrine of "Total Depravity". Again, if that is how you define "free will" then I disagree with it.

    You asked: "do you mean that there is no respect in which recieving Christ can be considered a 'moral' or 'good' thing, such that it does not make sense to speak of it being good to recieve Christ?"

    Let's make sure we understand what "morality" is - that's the word you used. Webster's dictionary defines "morality" this way:

    1a: a moral discourse, statement, or lesson, b: a literary or other imaginative work teaching a moral lesson
    2a: a doctrine or system of MORAL CONDUCT, b: particular moral principles or RULES OF CONDUCT
    3: conformity to IDEAL OF RIGHT HUMAN CONDUCT
    4: MORAL CONDUCT : VIRTUE

    The root word of "morality" is "moral". Webster's dictionary defines the word "moral" this way:

    1a: of or relating to PRINCIPLES OF RIGHT AND WRONG IN BEHAVIOR : ETHICAL, b: expressing or teaching a conception of RIGHT BEHAVIOR, c: conforming to A STANDARD OF RIGHT BEHAVIOR, d: sanctioned by or operative on one's conscience or ETHICAL judgment, e: capable of RIGHT AND WRONG ACTION

    Friend, that's not grace - that's WORKS! According to the Bible, believing in Christ is CONTRASTED with those things: "Now to the one who does not work, but believes" (Rom. 4:5).

    And so in answer to your question, if you are defining "good" to mean "moral," then I would say that receiving Christ does not fall into that category. In other words, receiving Christ is neither "good" nor "bad" morally speaking because it does not fall into the category of morality.

    You asked: "what do you mean when you say 'receiving' Christ?"

    When I talk about "receiving" Christ I'm speaking in reference to such Bible verses as John 1:12.

    You asked: Do you mean believing in the blood of Jesus Christ to save *His elect*?"

    Although this is true, the unsaved might not have this understanding yet - or put it in those words.

    You asked: "Or do you mean believing in the blood of Jesus Christ to save *me*?"

    Yes.

    You asked: "And in what sense is believing either or these things a matter or 'receiving'?"

    Well, because "receiving" is simply a biblical synonym for "believing" (cf. Jn. 1:12). And because Christ is a gift to be received by faith: "For God so loved the world that He GAVE His one-of-a-kind Son, so that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life" (Jn. 3:16).

    You asked: "Do you mean being willing to believe either of the above? - although one might not actually believe either yet?"

    I do not simply mean "being willing to believe" - I mean to actually "believe".

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  20. Thanks for clarification.

    You said: "that's WORKS! According to the Bible, believing in Christ is CONTRASTED with those things: 'Now to the one who does not work, but believes' (Rom. 4:5)"

    And of course I agree that faith is not works. But can I ask you, then, if faith is not works, then what would you say it is?

    Also, I have some news. If you recall, we were having a discussion on the passage that Dorsett wrote, which you quoted in your article above. I said that if Dorsett is citing Turner, then his scholarship appears to be embellished and revisionist, because he simply made things up, such as the statement, "The controversy became so heated one day that Mr. Darby suddenly closed his Bible and refused to go on". Turner certainly doesn't go this far, as indeed I wonder how Turner could know that the account he gave was correct.

    So I asked you the question, "who was Dorsett citing?" You informed me that in Dorsett's endnote, he says, "The most recent biography of Darby by Max S. Weremchuk, John Nelson Darby (New York: Loizeaux, 1992), 143-44 contains the story of Darby's angry exit." (Dorsett, A Passion For Souls, p. 429.)"

    Well, I went to Amazon and purchased Weremchuk's biography: John Nelson Darby. And finally it arrived! So what is the verdict, I hear you ask? On page 143 to 144 what do we find?

    Nothing other than a very long quote from Turner! Indeed, exactly the same quote that I cited above!

    I began this discussion by commenting on your article, "I hope the rest of Lyle W. Dorsett's work is not so inaccurate". And now, I feel utterly justified. It seems as though Dorsett is willing to exaggerate events, even if he ends up just short of slandering other people, just to make his own writing a little more spicy for his readers. Now, if he were here then he might try to defend himself by saying that he was only trying to imagine what the scene might have been like. But if that is so, then he should have stated it. Did he? (I don't have his book - I don't know). What I do know, is that if he didn't, then from the quote you provided, it seems as though he acted in much the same way as a trashy tabloid journalist! I hope the rest of Lyle W. Dorsett's work is not so inaccurate.

    Please don't take this comment as an attack on yourself - nothing of the kind is intended. Indeed, I have enjoyed our discussion, and I thank you for it. I'm still interested in reading what you have to say about the definition of "faith".

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  21. Hello,

    I commend you on your research - it's very interesting!

    You might be right about Dorsett embellishing the Turner quote, but I would be hesitant to say for sure until Dorsett's other sources are checked. If I remember correctly Dorsett cited at least two other sources beside Weremchuk that could shed additional light on the issue.

    Now I'll get to your question, when you asked: "if faith is not works, then what would you say it is?" The Bible says that "faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen" (Hebrews 11:1). When I was a student at New Tribes Bible Institute, the professor made a point about how in the Bible the word "hope" isn't used in the same way that it's often used today - as implying some kind of uncertainty. Instead, when the Bible uses the word "hope" it means "confident expectation" (cf. Rom. 4:17-18). Faith is "being fully convinced" that what God has promised He is also able to perform (Rom. 4:21).

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  22. I just re-read your previous comment, and I have a question about when you said: "if Dorsett is citing Turner, then his scholarship appears to be embellished and revisionist, because he simply made things up, such as the statement, 'The controversy became so heated one day that Mr. Darby suddenly closed his Bible and refused to go on'. Turner certainly doesn't go this far...."

    But in one of your initial comments in this thread you quoted Turner as indeed going that far. You quoted Turner as saying: "'The controversy became so heated one day that Mr. Darby suddenly closed his Bible and refused to go on, thus losing one of the great opportunities of his life, as it will seem to many.'
    (see W.G. Turner's 'John Nelson Darby' (1944), http://www.stempublishing.com/authors/turner/WGT_JND.html)"

    And so it seems to me that if there is anyone to blame, it is Turner, not Dorsett (Dorsett is merely referencing Turner). But that's an entirely different discussion because we are talking about Dorsett, not Turner.

    But apparently Turner is credible enough for Weremchuck to reference him as well.

    So I'm not exactly sure what you are saying? What is your point? Could you please clarify?

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  23. Ha ha! I quoted the wrong man! Well spotted.

    As you say, Turner does say that, "The controversy became so heated one day that Mr. Darby suddenly closed his Bible and refused to go on".

    What I should have said was that Dorsett goes furhter than this in saying, "Darby, in disgust with Moody's emphasis on 'whosoever will may come,' closed his Bible and walked out; and he never returned". Dorsett also says that Darby, "personally launched an ugly, verbal attack" which I previously said was quite an accusation, and one that needs to be supported. I think Dorsett was referring to a later thing that Darby wrote, but again, without support its hard to know.

    But onto the more interesting topic of faith. I have been thinking about the definition of faith for a very long time now. Indeed, only this morning I was reading yet another concordance to try to better understand the matter. Only yesterday I read yet another definition of faith from a man called Marc Carpenter, who maintains that faith simply is assurance. (see http://www.outsidethecamp.org/faithassur.htm)

    Calvin said something very similar, defining faith as, "a firm and sure knowledge of the divine favor towards us, founded on the truth of a free promise in Christ, and revealed to our minds and sealed on our hearts by the Holy Spirit."

    The word, "substance" from the Hebrews quote you provided can also mean, "foundation" or, "assurance" depending on the context. So in other words, it leaves room for different understandings.

    Carpenter argued that faith was assurance, and I am not averse to this interpretation. However, the question remains, assurance of what?

    Carpenter considered only one possibility: assurance of salvation. However, one can easily see how it might not be seen as assurance of personal salvation, but rather assurance of the promises of God to His elect. This latter 'assurance' leaves room for doubting one's own salvation while still having faith. For on this account, one might be entirely confident that God's promise to save His people from their sins based on the attoning blood of Christ and His imputed righteousness. But one might still be unsure whether *I* am of that number.

    Many of the Puritans maintained that on could be a true Christian (i.e. be a man of faith) and yet lack assurance.

    What is your position?

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  24. I've been thinking about when you said:

    "Dorsett also says that Darby, 'personally launched an ugly, verbal attack' which I previously said was quite an accusation, and one that needs to be supported. I think Dorsett was referring to a later thing that Darby wrote, but again, without support its hard to know."

    I disagree with your assertion that Dorsett's accusation is "without support". I noticed that in your previous comment you only quoted part of Dorsett's statement. I think we need to understand his statement more fully in context. For example, Dorsett says: "Finally, Darby personally launched an ugly, verbal attack on Moody's 'Arminian' views, arguing that he and most Americans, except for a few Presbyterians, did not know 'the first principles of grace'."

    Notice that when Dorsett says "Darby personally launched an ugly, verbal attack" he's not saying that Darby attacked Moody, but that Darby attacked Moody's "'Arminian' views"! With the possible exception of the word "ugly" (which is admittedly somewhat subjective), Dorsett's statement is quite matter-of-fact.

    Furthermore, Dorsett does support his accusation when he goes on to explain that Darby was "arguing that [Moody] and most Americans...did not know 'the first principles of grace'." Notice that Dorsett supports his claim by quoting Darby as saying that Moody did not know "the first principles of grace".

    Now let me move on to answer your question about faith and assurance. I agree with Dr. Earl Radmacher when he says that “Hodges puts it simply: ‘What faith really is in biblical language, is receiving the testimony of God. It is the inward conviction that what God says to us in the gospel is true. That – and that alone – is saving faith.’ This is the faith that saves from eternal destruction because it has the gospel as its object (cf. 1 Cor. 1:21; 15:1-5). It would be even more consistent to talk about faith in the saving gospel rather than about saving faith.” (Radmacher, “First Response To ‘Faith According To The Apostle James’ By John F. MacArthur, Jr.,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 33 [March 1990]: pp. 38-39, italics his.)

    And so to answer your question assurance of what? Assurance "that what God says to us in the gospel is true. That - and that alone - is saving faith."

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  25. Ah, well, thank you for both of those comments. Hodge's definition certainly does help. I suppose that on that definition one can lack assurance while still having faith, for one can still be inwardly convicted that the gospel is true, while being uncertain as to whether *I* am of God's people. Unless of course one wanted to say that the promise of God is specifically to save Joe Blogs, Jo Blags, John Smith, and a list of other names, so that for those specific people to not believe they are saved simply *is* to not believe in the promise of God.

    Concerning Dorsett, you said, "when Dorsett says 'Darby personally launched an ugly, verbal attack' he's not saying that Darby attacked Moody". I think I would disagree with that. His inclusion of the word "ugly" seems to imply to me that Darby was verbally attacking a man rather than a doctrine. For, it is a rare thing indeed to speak of an ugly verbal attack on a doctrine. It is much more common to speak of an ugly verbal attack on a man for holding to a particular doctrine.

    However, my case stands upon the notion that it is not "ugly" or wrong at all to say that most Americans didn't know the first principles of grace. Indeed, from what I can gather from American history, the first principles of grace were lost very early on by the vast majority of people.

    Your comment would again be appreciated.

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  26. You said: "my case stands upon the notion that it is not "ugly" or wrong at all to say that most Americans didn't know the first principles of grace."

    That's fine - but what one person thinks is "ugly" another may not. And it's not like Dorsett hasn't forewarned the reader of his biases - he has! In the very "INTRODUCTION" of his book, Dorsett writes the following under the heading "AUTHOR BIASES". He says in part: "In this spirit [of candor] let the reader be forewarned that I have a point of view. I like Dwight L. Moody. The more I have read his letters and probed his inner life, the greater my admiration has grown. This affection for my subject notwithstanding, I determined to reveal his considerable shortcomings. To make any attempt to cover them over is to distort the man and render him unbelievable." (Dorsett, A Passion for Souls, p. 25.)

    And so I would say that Dorsett's use of the word "ugly" must be understood in the context of the whole as his "point of view".

    You are entitled to your point of view and he is entitled to his point of view.

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  27. Ok. Looks like we'll have to leave it there then.

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  28. I'll give the final word to D. L. Moody.

    In his book Sovereign Grace, he writes the following concerning Revelation 22:17:

    "'WHOSOEVER WILL, LET HIM COME!'
    It is the last time that the word 'Come' appears in the Bible; and it occurs there over one thousand nine hundred times. We find it away back in Genesis, 'Come, thou and all thy house, into the ark'; and it goes right along through Scripture. Prophets, apostles, and preachers, have been ringing it out all through the ages. Now the record is about to be closed, and Christ tells John to put in one more invitation. After the Lord had been in glory for about sixty years, perhaps He saw some poor man stumbling over one of the apostles' letters about the doctrine of election. So He came to John in Patmos, and John was in the Spirit on the Lord's Day. Christ said to His disciple, 'Write these things to the Churches.' I can imagine John's pen moved very easily and very swiftly that day; for the hand of his Lord was upon him. The Master said to him, 'Before you close up the Book, put in one more invitation; and make it so broad that the whole world shall know they are included, and not a single one may feel that he is left out.' John began to write - 'The Spirit and the Bride say, Come,' that is, the Spirit and the Church; 'and let him that heareth say, Come!' If you have heard and received the message yourself, pass it on to those near you; your religion is not a very real thing if it does not affect some one else. We have to get rid of this idea that the world is going to be reached by ministers alone. All those who have drunk of the cup of salvation must pass it around.
    'Let him that is athirst, come.' But there are some so deaf that they cannot hear; others are not thirsty enough - or they think they are not. I have seen men in our after-meetings with two streams of tears running down their cheeks; and yet they said the trouble with them was that they were not anxious enough. They were anxious to be anxious. Probably Christ saw that men would say they did not feel thirsty; so He told the apostle to make the invitation still broader. So the last invitation let down into a thirsty world is this: 'WHOSOEVER WILL, LET HIM TAKE THE WATER OF LIFE FREELY.'
    Thank God for those words 'Whosoever will'! Who will come and take it? That is the question. You have the power to accept or to reject the invitation. A man in one meeting once was honest enough to say 'I won't.' If I had it in my power I would bring this whole audience to a decision now, either for or against. I hope many now reading these words will say, 'I will!' If God says we can, all the devils in hell cannot stop us. All the infidels in the world cannot prevent us. That little boy, that little girl, can say, 'I will!' If it were necessary, God would send down a legion of angels to help you; but He has given you the power, and you can accept Christ this very minute if you are really in earnest."

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