Lesson 29B Preview: Norman Geisler Lecture (see below) “Why I Am Not a 5 Point Calvinist”; John Gerstner video Lecture (see link below) “The Life and Theology of Zwingli”
“Norman L. Geisler (born 1932) is a Christian apologist and the co-founder of Southern Evangelical Seminary outside, Charlotte, NC where he is now the president… [In 2009, Geisler co-founded Veritas Evangelical Seminary in Murrieta California. The seminary offers masters degrees in Theology, Apologetics & Divinity. Geisler currently serves as Chair of Christian Apologetics at the school.]
He has taught at the university and graduate level for fifty years and has spoken or debated in all fifty states and in twenty-five countries. He holds a Ph.D in philosophy from Jesuit Loyola University…Geisler is noted for his philosophical approach to theology. His four volume Systematic Theology [which is now available in a one-volume condensed edition] offers a blend of philosophy and biblical exegesis. Theologically, Geisler is a conservative evangelical…” [Wikipedia]
Dr. Geisler delivers a talk titled “Why I Am Not a 5 Point Calvinist” and below are the videos. There are nine segments; however, going through all of them will only take about an hour as each segment is quite short. On a personal note, this is one of the finest presentations I have ever witnessed on the subject of Calvinism.
It may be useful to quickly review the Five Points of Calvinism before viewing Geisler’s videos. From Wikipedia we learn,
“The central assertion of these canons is that God is able to save every person upon whom he has mercy, and that his efforts are not frustrated by the unrighteousness or inability of humans.
- “Total depravity“: This doctrine, also called “total inability”, asserts that as a consequence of the fall of man into sin, every person born into the world is enslaved to the service of sin. People are not by nature inclined to love God with their whole heart, mind, or strength, but rather all are inclined to serve their own interests over those of their neighbor and to reject the rule of God. Thus, all people by their own faculties are morally unable to choose to follow God and be saved because they are unwilling to do so out of the necessity of their own natures. (The term “total” in this context refers to sin affecting every part of a person, not that every person is as evil as possible.) This doctrine is borrowed from Augustine who was a member of a Manichaean sect in his youth.
- “Unconditional election“: This doctrine asserts that God has chosen from eternity those whom he will bring to himself not based on foreseen virtue, merit, or faith in those people; rather, it is unconditionally grounded in God’s mercy alone. God has chosen from eternity to extend mercy to those He has chosen and to withhold mercy from those not chosen. Those chosen receive salvation through Christ alone. Those not chosen receive the just wrath that is warranted for their sins against God
- “Limited atonement“: Also called “particular redemption” or “definite atonement”, this doctrine asserts that Jesus‘s substitutionary atonement was definite and certain in its design and accomplishment. This implies that only the sins of the elect were atoned for by Jesus’s death. Calvinists do not believe, however, that the atonement is limited in its value or power, but rather that the atonement is limited in the sense that it is designed for some and not all. Hence, Calvinists hold that the atonement is sufficient for all and efficient for the elect. The doctrine is driven by the Calvinistic concept of the sovereignty of God in salvation and their understanding of the nature of the atonement.
- “Irresistible grace“: This doctrine, also called “efficacious grace”, asserts that the saving grace of God is effectually applied to those whom he has determined to save (that is, the elect) and, in God’s timing, overcomes their resistance to obeying the call of the gospel, bringing them to a saving faith. This means that when God sovereignly purposes to save someone, that individual certainly will be saved. The doctrine holds that every influence of God’s Holy Spirit cannot be resisted, but that the Holy Spirit, “graciously causes the elect sinner to cooperate, to believe, to repent, to come freely and willingly to Christ.”
- “Perseverance of the saints“: Perseverance (or preservation) of the saints (the word “saints” is used in the Biblical sense to refer to all who are set apart by God, and not in the technical sense of one who is exceptionally holy, canonized, or in heaven). The doctrine asserts that since God is sovereign and his will cannot be frustrated by humans or anything else, those whom God has called into communion with himself will continue in faith until the end. Those who apparently fall away either never had true faith to begin with or will return.”
The late Dr. John Gerstner, a Calvinist seminary professor for many years at Pittsburgh Seminary (Presbyterian), provides us with an excellent video lecture (approximately 1/2 hour) on the life and theology of Zwingli. You will find especially helpful his comments on Zwingli’s predestinarianism. Please click here and you will go to the page where you will be able to click on the video player and the lecture will begin.
Quote for Your Consideration: “In undertaking the exposition of Calvin’s predestination it is also noteworthy to recognize that this doctrine must not be understood as the centre or foundation of his teaching (Wendel 264). Theologian, Paul Wernle, writes that ‘it cannot be over-emphasized . . . predestination is a long way from being the centre of Calvinism’ (Wendel 265). In the Institutes of 1536, predestination did not even appear as an independent doctrine. Calvin mentioned it only in two places; in the explanation of the second article of the Creed, and in regard to the definition of the Church (Wendel 265). Wendel observes that Calvin accorded a growing importance to predestination because of ‘the sway of ecclesiological and pastoral preoccupations rather than in order to make it a main foundation of his theology’ (Wendel 264).” From Rev. Bryn MacPhail’s John Calvin’s Doctrine of Election (click to read entire document)
Questions for Discussion: The first five questions are based on Dr. Geisler’s videos above and all are derived from the popular TULIP acronym that links to the Five Points of Calvinism.
In your Sunday School class a student has commented, “I ran into an old friend who attended the same Presbyterian church I used to go to. He said he was now a member of an Orthodox Presbyterian Church here in north Phoenix. He has heard that Lutherans aren’t really reformed Christians after all. He doubted they were even saved because they don’t accept ‘Five Point Calvinism’. What is Five Point Calvinism? Could you take a couple of minutes to explain this and where we Lutherans stand on these five points?”
1. T= Total Depravity? How would you define in very simple terms for a Sunday school class this concept before you related it to Lutheranism? To help you formulate your answer as it deals with a Lutheran perspective, please consider reading a posting at this site, and this site.
2. U=Unconditional election? How would you define in very simple terms for a Sunday school class this concept before you related it to Lutheranism? To help you formulate your answer as it deals with a Lutheran perspective, please consider reading a posting at this site, and this site.
3. L= Limited Atonement? How would you define in very simple terms for a Sunday school class this concept before you related it to Lutheranism? To help you formulate your answer as it deals with a Lutheran perspective, please consider reading a posting at this site, and this site.
4. I= Irresistible grace? How would you define in very simple terms for a Sunday school class this concept before you related it to Lutheranism? To help you formulate your answer as it deals with a Lutheran perspective, please consider reading a posting at this site, and this site.
5. P= Perseverance of the Saints? How would you define in very simple terms for a Sunday school class this concept before you related it to Lutheranism? To help you formulate your answer as it deals with a Lutheran perspective, please consider reading a posting at this site, and this site.
6. According to Dr. John Gerstner in his video lecture, what was Zwingli’s position on the doctrine of predestination? How did he arrive at his position?
7. What was Zwingli’s position on the doctrine of baptism? How did he view the Anabaptist movement? What is pedobaptism?
8. What was Zwingli’s position on the State (i.e., the government)? What do you think was his possible motivation for taking this position?
To go to the Bonus Lesson: Zwingli-Calvin Library click here.
Glossary of names and terms:
10. Diet of Augsburg
12. Gospel of James
14. Saint Anne