Ligon Duncan Explains the Charge of Calvinists as Poor Evangelists

Via Provocations and Paintings

It has been said time and time again that Calvinists are poor evangelists. I just listened to a sermon this morning where a preacher said, “Well, if you believe that half the people are damned to hell, then why in the world would you go and evangelize?” The Caner brothers charged Calvinists believing in election as an excuse to be lazy, to not knock on doors, that it saps the evangelism of every church it infects, and so on. Ironically so, Mark Dever points out the following stats:

14.8% decline in the United Church of Christ
11.6% decline in the PCUSA
6.7% decline in the United Methodist Church
5.7% decline in the American Baptist Churches
5.3% decline in the Episcopal Church
5% growth in the Southern Baptist Convention
18.5% growth in the Assemblies of God
21.8% growth in the Christian and Missionary Alliance
40.2% growth in the Church of God
42.4% growth in the PCA
57.2% growth in the Evangelical Free Churches

* Statistics from the last 10 years in denominational life found in Dave Shiflett’s book Exodus.

The SBC saw 5% growth where the PCA saw 42% growth. Looks like those of us in the SBC can learn something from that disease-infested, lazy Westminster boys who sit around and see how “hyped” they can get. Even with all our megachurches, “million more” campaigns, decisional regeneration emphasis, and dishonest statistics one would think that the SBC could at least make it to 10%. But I guess that the Founder’s fault right? That’s what they want us to believe. It’s those Calvinist’s fault that over 10,000 churches didn’t baptize one person (all of which we must presume have been eaten away by the doctrines of grace).

Here’s where Ligon Duncan responds. While Duncan gives a seven-point response in his post, I want to quote him on number three:

“Calvinists are often considered poor evangelists because of historical ignorance. The standard fare of anti-Calvinism (Calvinism kills evangelism and missions) so often served up in the SBC and in wider evangelicalism is, of course, wrong. Dead wrong and demonstrably wrong. The greatest evangelists and missionaries of Protestant era have been Calvinistic or Reformed. That is, they have embraced and preached the doctrines of grace. Whether it is Bunyan or Spurgeon, Carey or Nettelton or Whitfield or Duff or Stott, that you are talking about – the Baptist tradition, the Congregational tradition, the Anglican tradition, the Presbyterian tradition and so on – find the hall of fame evangelists and missionaries and you’ll find folks who live, breathe, teach and preach the doctrines of grace.”

This reminds me of Steve Hays’ recent post “Ahistorical Theology.” In response to why he believes the PCA has seen such growth, Duncan replies,

“the growth of the PCA (and other strong reformed churches like CHBC and CLC and GCC and BBC) is not because we are better evangelists but because we have a better evangel (that is, a more biblical one) and a gracious, sovereign God who is at work changing hearts by his Spirit.”

Not better evangelists but a better evangel . . . if only we could only embrace that reality.

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About John
A follower of Christ and sinner who needs his grace everyday.

14 Responses to Ligon Duncan Explains the Charge of Calvinists as Poor Evangelists

  1. AMG says:

    Nowhere in the scriptures does it say after learning of Jesus we cannot believe in him on our own. Calvinism is a man made doctrine. I sincerely care, and that is why I post this to you today. God bless.
    Where do you think that faith comes from? Calvinists say God gives us the Holy Spirit to allow us to believe, but that is nowhere in the scriptures. Scripture says that our faith comes from HEARING the word, see Romans 10:14. From hearing the word and being TAUGHT, Colossians 1:5, 7. From continuing in what we have been CONVINCED of, see 2 Timothy 3:14, and being PERSUADED, 2 Corinthians 5:11; and Romans 4:21. Again, nowhere in the scriptures does it say God gives us the Holy Spirit to make us believe, nowhere.

  2. marc mullins says:

    As usual Ligon preaches what IS ACTUALLY IN THE BIBLE and actually seeing in reality in the church

  3. Brian says:

    Regeneration precedes faith. I was never just simply convinced of anything, I was given new life, re-birthed through the living and abiding Word,1 Pet 1:23. Before this, you may know of a god but not “The” God of the bible.
    Yes, it is up to me to study and read and do all the common graces God gives us, and that grows me, but it all hinges on what God does.
    The name Calvinist of course is man made but the doctrine behind it is not. It is the Gospel.

    • AMG says:

      Brian,
      You said you were never just simply convinced of anything. Nevertheless, you were taught! How would you even know the gospel if someone did not preach it? Show me the scripture that says regeneration precedes faith. There is no such scripture. You believe in a manufactured belief. I can show you many scriptures that tell you faith comes from hearing, from learning of Jesus, but nowhere do the scriptures say faith comes from the Holy Spirit first enabling all who will believe to believe. You said you may know of a god but not “The” God of the bible. However, when the gospel is preached, it is preached that Jesus is the Son of the One and Only God, so how is it that you say we do not know He is “The” God of the Bible? You believe in nonsense. We might not fully understand the gospel until after God gives us wisdom, but we do not even have to rely in the beginning on our own understanding, but in all ways acknowledge him, and he will make our path straight, see Proverbs 3:5-6. We do not even have to have understanding.
      After we believe, we receive the Holy Spirit, and have the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us, see 1 Corinthians 2:12. We do not even receive the Holy Spirit until be obey, see John 14:23; and Acts 5:32.

      Calvinists teach we receive the Holy Spirit first then believe. That is not the Word of God.

      John 14:23 Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.
      Acts 5:32 We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”

  4. Brian says:

    As I stated, I was never just convinced of anything. What I mean is, It was not just a decision to do something, like saying” I’ll have faith”. Something happened to me, something occurred to even cause me “hear” what I was hearing through the preaching an teaching. Your also correct in saying I was taught! Man taught me verbally and audibly but much more so I was taught by God. It was god who opened the eyes and even ears of my heart.
    What does Jesus tell Simon in Matthew 16:17?
    16Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”17And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.

    I was preached to and preached to. I heard the teaching, heard the teaching yet heard it again but yet still dead in my sin. Why did it take so long?
    At the right time God tore my vail from top to bottom, thus bringing me in from afar, to the most holy of holy’ s. He did it in such a way that it is a miracle and I could not poss take any credit. Just as in Deut 9:6: we are a stiff-necked undeserving people.
    All we have done is build wrath upon wrath unto ourselves
    -I was dead now I’m alive. Eph 2:1, 5
    -I was a child of wrath now I’m a child of God. Eph 2:3, 4
    -I once had an unrepentant, insensitive heart inclined to sin, enslaved to it. Now it is receptive to sin. Ezekiel 36:26,
    ** I will put my spirit within you and cause you to walk in my statues….**
    – Faith in God is always the work of the holy spirit and regeneration.

    John 3:6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh and that which is born of the sprit is spirit. Thus being born again is being born of the spirt. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared,5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit..Titus 3:4-5

    In no other way can we come to Christ and be saved than we be drawn out of death and darkness (just as Lazarus) by the father towards Christ. Sinful man, of his own not go to the light because, he cannot, his flesh always avails.
    Unless you are born again you cannot even see the kingdom. So I ask, How can a dead man see, How can a dead man walk? How can a dead man repent? He must first be raised to newness of life through the Spirit.

    Martin Luther says this:
    If any man ascribes anything of salvation, even the very least thing, to the free will of man, he knows nothing of grace, and he has not learned Jesus Christ rightly.

    • AMG says:

      You said: John 3:6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh and that which is born of the sprit is spirit. Thus being born again is being born of the spirt. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared,5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit..Titus 3:4-5

      My reply: You have not proved from the scriptures that we do not have to believe first. In fact, you go against the scriptures when you keep saying we receive the Holy Spirit before we believe.

      You said: In no other way can we come to Christ and be saved than we be drawn out of death and darkness (just as Lazarus) by the father towards Christ. Sinful man, of his own not go to the light because, he cannot, his flesh always avails.

      My reply: Lazarus was a believer in God when he had died. You prove nothing from the scriptures for Calvinism.

      You said: Unless you are born again you cannot even see the kingdom. So I ask, How can a dead man see, How can a dead man walk? How can a dead man repent? He must first be raised to newness of life through the Spirit.

      My reply: We must be born again. That does not say we cannot believe that there is One God, for even the demons know that. As for you asking how can a dead man repent, do you believe the time before the Holy Spirit was given to all who believe, that the Holy Spirit caused all the Jews (except the Pharisees and teachers of the law) to repent and be baptized with John’s baptism? We do NOT receive the Holy Spirit before we believe! To believe we receive the Holy Spirit before we believe is to go against the Word of God. John 7:39 By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.

      You said: Martin Luther says this:
      If any man ascribes anything of salvation, even the very least thing, to the free will of man, he knows nothing of grace, and he has not learned Jesus Christ rightly.

      My reply: I love God’s Word. Man’s words are rubbish. Martin Luther believed in some seriously false teachings. Among Martin Luther falsely believing we receive the Holy Spirit before we believe, he also falsely believed in infant baptism and real blood and flesh in the bread and wine.

  5. Brian says:

    These blog entries are new to me, so I ask your forgiveness if it’s hard read. And if I’ve said anything not seasoned with salt, I ask your forgiveness for that also, God bless.

    Your RE: You have not proved from the scriptures that we do not have to believe first. In fact, you go against the scriptures when you keep saying we receive the Holy Spirit before we believe.

    My answer: Definitely, we must believe first, we’re both well grounded in that area I think, no conflict there what so ever. “Believe on the Lord and you’ll be saved.”

    Question1: How can a person believe? Does a lost person just find enough faith within himself then stand up proud and have faith and believe?
    Or does a Sovereign God, from the foundation of the earth foreknow who will believe? And I’ll also add, from what I read He foreknew this because it was determined before the creation of the world. Ephesians 1:4

    “Blessed are the feet who run tell good news.”
    So, we tell them the dilemma; their dead in sin, even conceived in sin, there for none are searching for God, all are led astray and will be condemned so on and so on…..

    Some repent some refuse….I beg you, why? Why was it the some do repent?
    Rightly interpreted not one of them should have believed and repented, no one, correct?
    Why cant anyone believe? Here is the shorter version:
    Romans 3:9 … For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin,
    10 as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; 11. no one understands; no one seeks for God. 12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” 13 “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.””The venom of asps is under their lips.” 14 “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood; 16 in their paths are ruin and misery, 17 and the way of peace they have not known.” 18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

    Now, when even one of these wretched people are able to repent and believe it is as much of a miracle as a natural child birth, possibly even more amazing. God has done a mighty thing.

    Process:

    In due time through the Law, we see our un-righteousness and grieve.
    God raises sinners, draws them through the power of Christ and no other way. John 6:44

    Here is how i believe we believe initially;
    1. We’ve recognized we are lost and un-reginerate, and he does this by different means.
    2. But, when the goodness and loving kindness appears, he saved us. Not by our works but by his mercy. Tit 3
    3. Jesus says we must be born again, we must be made new. This is only done as a work of God.
    Being born again is not a walk down the isle, or an un-heart-felt prayer or a decision to be a Christian, but an act of Gods sovereign and free grace on a hell bound sinner.

    We, evil, unregenerate people, refuse to come out of darkness into the light because we know our deeds will be exposed, who ever does come out into the light for him it will be clear that his works were carried out by God.

    The natural person cannot please God because without the work of God’s drawing power of man to himself through Christ.

    • AMG says:

      You said: Definitely, we must believe first, we’re both well grounded in that area I think, no conflict there what so ever. “Believe on the Lord and you’ll be saved.”

      My reply: No way, Brian, you cannot act as if we believe the same there. Calvinists claim that we cannot believe on our own after learning of Jesus; however, nowhere in the scriptures does it say that. Do not add to God’s word! In addition, the scriptures say we receive the Holy Spirit after we believe, but Calvinists believe we receive life, the Holy Spirit, that makes us believe. This is no small discrepancy.

      You said: Question1: How can a person believe? Does a lost person just find enough faith within himself then stand up proud and have faith and believe?

      My reply: This is an easy question to answer; faith comes from hearing the word, from being taught, from being convinced, and persuaded. That is what the Word of God says! You have been so brainwashed by Calvinists, so much so that you say do we “stand up proud and have faith and believe.” Why bring up “proud”? Do you think Calvinists cannot stand up proud and say God chooses me for eternal blessed life for no known reason but God chooses you for condemnation? I could laugh at some of your beliefs, if they were not so serious an error against God’s Word! Non-Calvinists HUMBLE themselves for Jesus to save them, as the scriptures tell us to do! So do not throw in the Calvinistic brainwashing comments that have no merit.

      You said: Or does a Sovereign God, from the foundation of the earth foreknow who will believe? And I’ll also add, from what I read He foreknew this because it was determined before the creation of the world. Ephesians 1:4

      My reply: Non-Calvinists believe God knows before we He created who all will believe!

      You said: Some repent some refuse….I beg you, why? Why was it the some do repent?

      My reply: The Bible tells us why some do not believe, and none of the reasons are for what Calvinists say, NONE. I wrote these reason from the Bible on a post on my site, please check it out, it is called Why People Do Not Believe.

      You said: Rightly interpreted not one of them should have believed and repented, no one, correct? Why cant anyone believe? Here is the shorter version:
      Romans 3:9 … For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, 10 as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; 11. no one understands; no one seeks for God. 12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” 13 “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.””The venom of asps is under their lips.” 14 “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood; 16 in their paths are ruin and misery, 17 and the way of peace they have not known.” 18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

      My reply: This is about Paul describing the Jews, and how they are not different than any other race of people. You do not understand this passage. I get into explaining these versus more in my post called Disputed by Calvinists Refuted by the Truth.

      You said:God raises sinners, draws them through the power of Christ and no other way. John 6:44

      My reply: You have been confused about John 6:44. God draws those to Jesus who believed in Him FIRST, they were God’s, and God gave them to Jesus, they are God’s and they now have to go through Jesus to remain with God. THE PEOPLE WHO ALREADY BELIEVE IN GOD ARE DRAWN TO JESUS BECAUSE THEY RECOGNIZE JESUS AS SPEAKING GOD’S WORD. THAT IS WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS. God HARDENED all the other Jews who did not believe in Him first, God hardened them so they cannot go to Jesus.

      You said: We, evil, unregenerate people, refuse to come out of darkness into the light because we know our deeds will be exposed, who ever does come out into the light for him it will be clear that his works were carried out by God.

      My reply: You just added to the scriptures when you said that! You called those who want to obey Jesus “evil, unregenerate people.” The Bible does not say that.

      You said: The natural person cannot please God because without the work of God’s drawing power of man to himself through Christ.

      My reply: How dangerous Calvinism is, to sneak in and craftily twist God’s word is a horrible thing. I love speaking God’s truth. Calvinism is a doctrine of a man’s assumptions, what Calvinists believe is not in the word of God.

  6. Brian says:

    The original post is about poor evangelists. I think it what the listed #s above boil down to is not poor evangelist but biblical evangelist. God calls everyone to repent, over and over he commands through men of old REPENT OR PARISH! Repent and Believe and be saved, that simple.
    Well, I do ask you, Sir, once again, why do some repent and believe?
    I spoke with a teenage boy last night till I was almost in tears as I pled with him. Mind you, this was after my above response to your last post and it completely affirms both of our ways of understanding “belief”.
    You ask how can we both be right? Simple. He must believe. He wants to believe, but he can’t.
    Time and time again this kid has had a deacon or pastor lead him to go down and pray and all be ok. Nothing is ok, he is a mess, he is playing with drugs and disobeying his parents and knowing everyday that it is wrong but continues. I wrestled with this kid last night over this very issue of salvation.
    This was a very intense but also very highly evangelistic meeting. (not to mention cold and dark outside). I pled with this young man, I read Scripture over and over to him, the Cross, the Bronze serpent, Isaiah telling the people to look unto me, Jesus words come to me all who labor, I made him read out loud to me, it went on and on. I was begging this kid to look to Christ in faith. He finally told me what I already knew, he don’t believe.
    He grew up in church but is so deep in sin that it scares me. I made it so simple for him. Why cant he believe? Why cant he just simply look unto Christ? Yes, I dId use the word “CAN’T” because that is what is holding him up, he has no ability. This kid was in tears, he told me time and time again that he has been lead in a prayer in his church but and nothing never happened. I think we both know that his heart is not right, he loves his sin, he knows it is wrong but he refuses to turn from it, freely, by faith in the work of Christ. He has heard preaching his whole life, I have talked to him for a year about this but last night was really intense. But, unless God shows reveals this to him, through the living and abiding Word he will still be in his sin today.
    I love God and want this kid saved from the wrath to come but it’s not up to me to save him or “get him saved”. Yes, I affirm the doctrines of grace and yes, I also realize many that do affirm these doctrines are not graceful but I pray I am not one of them.
    So ending here, I ask you, my brother, pray for this young man. He could very well be the instrument that God uses to share these same truths to his earring father who is also in sin. Pray for his mother as she is a Godly woman but is very quickly loosing heart. Pray for me, as I am not to proud to ask my Arminian brother for prayer:)
    Whether or not we can come to terms with this, I know that if you are redeemed by the blood of Christ you are my brother and we will someday be at our Saviors feet together, in unity.

    • AMG says:

      You said: God calls everyone to repent, over and over he commands through men of old REPENT OR PARISH! Repent and Believe and be saved, that simple.
      Well, I do ask you, Sir, once again, why do some repent and believe?

      My reply: Why would God tell the wicked to turn so they will not die if He knows He must first enable them, yet does not? God calls, and many people refuse. It is their sin! They cannot say they did not know, for God called and they did not answer. The Bible tells why people do not repent and believe it is because they CHOOSE what displeases God. If you would like, I will give you scriptures to everything and anything that I say. They refuse to believe, they are rebellious and stubborn. They exchange the truth of God for a lie. They are self-seeking and they reject the truth and follow evil. Read my post Why People Do Not Believe. That post will be many of the reasons from God’s Word.

      You said: I spoke with a teenage boy last night till I was almost in tears as I pled with him. Mind you, this was after my above response to your last post and it completely affirms both of our ways of understanding “belief”. You ask how can we both be right? Simple. He must believe. He wants to believe, but he can’t.

      My reply: He cannot believe because he is stubborn and rebellious, and he chooses not to believe! Those are God’s Words! You however speak John Calvins’s words, and the likes of Paul Washer.

      You said: Time and time again this kid has had a deacon or pastor lead him to go down and pray and all be ok. Nothing is ok, he is a mess, he is playing with drugs and disobeying his parents and knowing everyday that it is wrong but continues. I wrestled with this kid last night over this very issue of salvation.
      This was a very intense but also very highly evangelistic meeting. (not to mention cold and dark outside). I pled with this young man, I read Scripture over and over to him, the Cross, the Bronze serpent, Isaiah telling the people to look unto me, Jesus words come to me all who labor, I made him read out loud to me, it went on and on. I was begging this kid to look to Christ in faith. He finally told me what I already knew, he don’t believe.

      My reply: He chooses not to believe. One day he might search for God, and find God!

      You said: He grew up in church but is so deep in sin that it scares me. I made it so simple for him. Why cant he believe? Why cant he just simply look unto Christ? Yes, I dId use the word “CAN’T” because that is what is holding him up, he has no ability. This kid was in tears, he told me time and time again that he has been lead in a prayer in his church but and nothing never happened. I think we both know that his heart is not right, he loves his sin, he knows it is wrong but he refuses to turn from it, freely, by faith in the work of Christ. He has heard preaching his whole life, I have talked to him for a year about this but last night was really intense. But, unless God shows reveals this to him, through the living and abiding Word he will still be in his sin today.

      My reply: Do not blame God for his sins.

      You said: I love God and want this kid saved from the wrath to come but it’s not up to me to save him or “get him saved”.

      My reply: The Bible tells us that we CAN save others. Paul talks about how he tried to make his Jewish brothers jealous to save some of them. A wife by her behavior can save her husband.

      You said: Yes, I affirm the doctrines of grace and yes, I also realize many that do affirm these doctrines are not graceful but I pray I am not one of them.

      My reply: You say, “I pray I am not one of them.” You would have more peace in the Lord if you would learn the truth.

      You said: So ending here, I ask you, my brother, pray for this young man. He could very well be the instrument that God uses to share these same truths to his earring father who is also in sin. Pray for his mother as she is a Godly woman but is very quickly loosing heart. Pray for me, as I am not to proud to ask my Arminian brother for prayer:)

      My reply: I will pray. The Bible says we are to pray to God for others. We are to pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. God calls people to Him through our preaching of the truth. However, the Bible tells us that people can resist the Holy Spirit. They might have something terrible happen to them to where they then turn and search for God and call out to the Lord to save them. The Bible speaks of such times. They might hear something taught and explained to them to where someone persuaded them and so they begin to understand. Jesus tells us the violent take it by storm. They have to want the Kingdom of Heaven more than we want anything else. By the way, I am a Christian, and I am not an Arminian. What I believe in is Jesus’ words. No matter how much truth Arminius might have believed, they are not his words. The Bible forbids us to say we follow mere men. Besides, Arminius was a believer in infant baptism, and he believed in real blood and flesh in the bread in wine. Are you aware that most people who call themselves Arminians actually believe we cannot believe on our own after learning of Jesus?

      You said: Whether or not we can come to terms with this, I know that if you are redeemed by the blood of Christ you are my brother and we will someday be at our Saviors feet together, in unity.

      My reply: Let us discuss more together. I can show you that the Word of God is not how the Calvinists explain. If you only want God’s Truth, then do not believe in man’s assumptions. Saying we cannot believe in Jesus after being taught is not in the scriptures.

  7. Brian says:

    Who are the people john is speaking of in John 1:11-12?

    He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,

    • AMG says:

      You said: Who are the people john is speaking of in John 1:11-12? He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,

      My reply: Jesus is God in the flesh. The Jews were God’s people, everyone else were excluded. When God came in the flesh, His people the Jews did not receive Him. To all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, even the once excluded Gentiles. The Jews and Gentiles who believed in Jesus, God gave them the right to be His children. God did not give the Jews or Gentiles the right to be children of God because of natural decent, or blood, not because they are Jews. Nor because anyone’s husband made the decision and convinced God to allow them to be a child of God, but they are born of God because they believe in His Son. It is God’s grace and plan from before the world was even created, that we shall be saved by believing in His Son.

  8. Brian says:

    http://calvinismisthegospel.com/2011/11/regeneration-precedes-faith/

  9. Pingback: Appointment of Dr. Ligon Duncan to Chair of Systematic and Historical Theology at RTS Furthers Gospel Vision | Dr. Michael A. Milton's Blog

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