We Must Be Careful That We Do Not Distort
Calvinistic Doctrine Into Fatalism
by Stuart DiNenno
Anyone who claims to understand the TULIP doctrines but says something like “our efforts to suppress heresy and maintain pure doctrine do not matter because God has a fixed and predetermined number of elect persons” does not understand the biblical concepts of election and predestination. The faithful efforts of Christians (1) will change the number of people saved in their generation, but (2) will not change the number of the elect which has been decreed by God from before the foundation of the world, and there is not the slightest bit of contradiction between these two propositions.
It is obvious that in times of reformation when the church is strong and faithful, preaching is at a high degree of purity, and false doctrine is suppressed, the harvest will be much greater than in times when the church is weak and unfaithful, preaching is at a low degree of purity, and false doctrine is allowed to flourish. However, God is the one who brings the times of reformation and God is the one who allows the church to drift into apostasy. Both are part of His eternal plan, which in the mind of God is foreordained and unchangeable, as are all things within it, including the number of the elect.
Being mere finite creatures confined by time in a temporal world, rather than being the eternal and omniscient Creator who is outside and above time, it is not possible for us to know God’s eternal decree, and from our perspective events are contingent. To say that “our efforts to suppress heresy and preach the truth do not matter because God has a fixed and predetermined number of elect persons” is as silly as a farmer saying “my effort to earn a living for myself does not matter because God has predetermined the degree of my success or failure.” God ordains the means as well as the ends, and if He has determined that the farmer is to have a successful year, then God also will cause the farmer to diligently and wisely work his fields, and the farmer cannot expect success without such work. Likewise, Christians cannot expect the blessing of a fruitful harvest if we do not work at suppressing false doctrine and maintaining purity in preaching, and we are foolish to believe that whether we do so or not is going to be inconsequential to our results.
We have to be careful that we do not twist Calvinistic doctrine into a fatalism which leads us to believe that our actions, whether faithful or unfaithful, make no difference.