The Biblical Examiner
An Examination of Biblical Precepts Involved in Issues at Hand

(Originally Published in 1993)

Saving Souls?

By R.E. McMaster, Jr.

In modern Christendom, there are two perspectives on the Gospel, the Good News. The first is from God's perspective. This is often called the Calvinistic Gospel. It rests on God's sovereignty. It focuses upon His election, calling, predestination, foreknowledge and men who are chosen by God, saved eternally. The second perspective, the Arminian perspective, focuses on man, and man's so-called "free will." The Arminian viewpoint in effect declares that man has the option of choosing or not choosing Jesus Christ as his personal Savior, and thus determining for himself his eternal destiny. This makes man effectively sovereign.

The Arminian perspective puts Jesus Christ in the awkward position of having walked victoriously through life on earth in the flesh without sinning, fending off all of Satan's temptations, going ot the cross, taking on the sins of the world, defeating Satan and all his demons of hell, rising from the grave, ascending, sitting at the right hand of God the Father, and now having to wait and hope that sinning man chooses Him. This Arminian perspective makes Jesus Christ not unlike a dog waiting for a pat on the head from his master.

Who is the master, Christ or man? The Scriptures clearly teach that faith is a gift given by God. Faith is not something that arises automatically from within the heart, mind and soul of naturally fallen, sinful man.

A problem in church history with the Calvinistic perspective is that the God who is sovereign and elects, calls, foreknows, chooses, and predestines, picked the "frozen chosen." Along with a lack of emphasis on evangelism. "After all, if God is sovereign, He'll take of saving His elect," to often is the attitude. By contrast, the Arminian free will perspective, which de facto has man as sovereign, is openly and aggressively evangelistic. After all, from this perspective, if Christians don't get out there and witness and evangelize, they won't save souls and people will go to hell, lost forever. There is a sense of urgency to the Arminian viewpoint.

Like so many principles in Scripture, rather than an either/or perspective, the truth lies in a harmonious "both," with the authority relationship differentiating. Just as Christ is the bridegroom while the church is the bride, and the husband is head of the wife in a covenantal marriage, so too is the sovereignty of God in eternal salvation superior to man's perspective of having chosen God.

Look at it this way. Because God is sovereign, which makes Him God, He has in fact elected, chosen, predestined, called and foreordained His elect, who will be awakened to the reality of their eternal salvation during their time here on earth. That's the purpose of the Gospel, the Great Awakening. God the Holy Spirit during some point of time in an elected man's life will move on him, probably when he hears the Gospel. Then faith is given, his human spirit is quickened, and one of God's chosen believes in the reality of his salvation through Christ. This man has, from his humanistic perspective, chosen Jesus Christ. He has made a decision to respond positively to the Gospel. But in eternal salvation, as with so many other things man does, man must be careful not to put himself first, not to put the cart before the horse, so to speak. God must come first.

From God's primary and sovereign perspective, the Gospel, the Good News, is past tense. From man's perspective it is present tense.

From God's sovereign perspective, the Gospel is the Good News announcing that Jesus Christ through His sinless life's work, perfect keeping of the law, death on the cross, burial, resurrection, ascension, and seating at the right hand of the Father, has saved His people eternally. Past tense! He has also called his elect to discipleship in time here on earth to do the work and fulfill the calling for which purpose they were created, thus working out their temporal (time on earth) salvation with fear and trembling. So, the Gospel of Jesus Christ awakens God's people to the reality of their gift of eternal salvation through the work of Jesus Christ (and subsequently the Holy Spirit), so they can then grow to maturity, move from milk to meat, and armor up and fight as soldiers in God's army, fully equipped according to Ephesians 6, working out their temporal salvation in time on earth. Thus, salvation rightfully seen Biblically has both an eternal and temporal aspect. After man is awakened to the reality of his eternal salvation, he then grows in Christ to become more Christlike in his remaining years (time) left on earth. After all, faith without works is dead. But the initial quickening, the presentation of the Gospel, speaks of a past tense historical reality. The present tense is the working out of temporal salvation, beginning with the Holy Spirit's awakening to the reality of salvation.

The Arminian gospel, the present tense gospel, standing on it's own, is incorrect, humanistic, because man is not the instrument nor the ultimate determinant of his or any other person's eternal salvation. That would effectively make man God, like in evolution, which also has man saving himself. Neither man nor the Gospel (Good News) is the instrument of salvation in a present tense sense. Let's look at this from the perspective of the heathen.

If the Arminian Gospel is true, if man is responsible for saving other men's souls eternally, and thus the Gospel is both present tense and the instrument of salvation, what happens to the heathen who never hears the Gospel? There are only two choices. The heathen who never hears the Gospel is either (1) eternally saved, or (2) eternally damned. Those are the only two options. If the heathen who never hears the Gospel is eternally saved, then we are better off never taking him the Gospel, ever. Why? Because if the heathen who never heard the Gospel is eternally saved, and we take him the Gospel and he rejects it, he becomes eternally damned. Thus, the Gospel becomes the "Bad News." This is obviously incorrect.

What about the heathen who never hears the Gospel and therefore is eternally? If the heathen is eternally damned unless he hears the Gospel and accepts it, how can a just and loving God bless us rich American Christians when we have nice homes, cars, savings accounts, and sit on our duffs watching NFL football while millions of our fellow man, dying to hear the Gospel, are going to hell? How is a just and loving God going to bless us when we don't give every cent we have to missions and evangelism for the spreading of the Gospel? Clearly throughout Scripture God promises to bless His obedient saints with good health, peace and prosperity. Obviously, this perspective violates the character of God and is contrary to His relationship with His saints.

Obviously neither option is viable in the Arminian Gospel. The Arminian perspective that the Gospel is present tense and that the Gospel/man is the instrument of salvation, that man is responsible for saving other men's souls eternally or else they go to hell or are eternally saved, is an erroneous one. Men are not necessary to save other men's souls eternally. Free will is not primary. Neither man nor the Gospel is the present tense instrument of salvation. The Gospel is instead past tense. God saves eternally. The Gospel is the Good News announcing that the work of Jesus Christ has saved man eternally (past tense). The Biblical Gospel thus focuses on the historical work of Jesus Christ as opposed to the pervasive modern day Gospel which is clearly humanistic.

It's a miracle that God saved any of us, not that He didn't save all of us. God built the entire eternal salvation bridge. God did not build half of the bridge through the work of Christ, and then require man to swim the other half in order to be saved. In fact, more are saved by God's saving them than are saved with man supposedly having to swim halfway to meet God of his own volition (free will). Missionaries to the bush have consistently discovered, more times than not to their surprise, that "primitives" who have never seen or heard the Gospel presented by man before, already have "eternity in their hearts." Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, and His angelic realm have already revealed themselves to these primitives before a missionary ever brought them the Gospel, the Holy Spirit prepared them for the Gospel. They have been "saved" eternally and quickened. This is clearly recorded in missionary history.

So why take to men the Gospel at all? When we present the Gospel, God the Holy Spirit uses it to awaken His elect/chosen/foreordained/called/predestined to the reality (past tense) of their eternal salvation so they can then become active in God's army in time on earth, producing fruit and good works. This perspective should set Calvinists on fire preaching the Gospel. After all, it's lonely out there in today's lost world, We never know whom God has elected, so we preach the Gospel to all. We should be preaching the Gospel to everyone so that God the Holy Spirit can quicken the eternally redeemed human spirit in time here on earth so he can join us for the work that God has created and called us to do. After all, the more workers, the greater the fellowship, the greater the fruit. Also, the greater is the individual corporate peace and prosperity across the earth commensurate with the spreading and application of the Gospel. Secular religious and economic studies have demonstrated that the per capita income of Protestant cultures is six to seven times that of Catholic cultures, and that the per capita income of the Christian community overall versus that of the non-Christian community is a slam dunk win for the Christians! Religion does come down to economics, as faith comes down to works.

One final thought on Christian evangelism. We know that the wages of sin are death. Therefore, over time, those who consistently sin (and their offspring) will die, both in time and eternally. The darkness in them does them in. We have seen this historically, such as during the time of "The Great Sacrilege," when Henry VII and his knights, nobles and coconspirators seized the church's lands and properties, putting the orphans, indigents, widows and poor out in the streets. Less than 150 years later, all of the descendants of the perpetrators of this sacrilege were dead. Their lines were cut off. This applies today to homosexuals, who die on average at age 41, not to mention the AIDS plague. This means, logically, the longer history continues, the more elect there are running around to be awakened. The sinful have died or are dying. Let's preach the Gospel!

We are going through a time in human history now when God clearly is separating the wheat from the chaff, the sheep from the goats (and wolves), the saved from the unsaved. And while the evil rule for a season, they are becoming a dwindling, dying minority. Perhaps this is their last gasp. This means the fields are ripe to be harvested by us.

It's time for Calvinist Christians to become evangelistic reapers! Let's awaken our army to a call to arms. We, by presenting the Gospel, may serve as the catalyst by which God the Holy Spirit quickens/awakens a member of His elect to the reality of his salvation so he can join us. Thereby our numbers increase and for what purpose? For producing fruit and works! Isn't this the essence of "reconstruction"?

We build the kingdom of God from the bottom up, beginning with the evangelism of the individual, then the family, building the church, the schools, the community, the state, the nation, occupying in the world, Basically, as goes the individual human heart, eventually so goes the world, (Christianity on earth is bottom up. Paganism is top down.) Moving out with the balanced perspective of (masculine) dominion and (feminine) stewardship, Christians thereby subdue the earth. What a tremendous basis of hope, What an incredible call to action. Our God is a God of power and absolute victory.

Copyright, 1993, Chalcedon, PO Box 158, Vallecito, Ca 952511. Chalcedon Report, No. 331, Feb 1993.

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