Tag Archive: John Calvin

Atheists Really Believe in God But Refuse to Admit It says Pastor Nate Pickowicz

atheists dont exist

Calvinist Nate Pickowicz, pastor of Harvest Bible Church in Gilmanton, New Hampshire, recently wrote a post for the Entreating Favor blog titled The God-Fearing Atheist. Pickowicz trots out the age-old, worn-out argument that there really is no such thing as an atheist:

It has been said that there is a “God-sized hole” in every person. In other words, the human heart was designed to want and need God. It’s a kind of fingerprint that God leaves on the souls of those created in His image (Gen. 1:26-27). Here’s the rub, not every person acknowledges or believes that God exists. How then do we explain this?

In John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion, he makes a case for “the knowledge of God implanted in the human mind”.1 Because it is often argued that religion is a man-made invention to subjugate the masses, Calvin points to indigenous tribes of people who are fully convinced of the existence of God. Furthermore, almost uniformly, these tribes worship blocks of wood and stones as gods rather than believe in the absence of deity. They are naturally prone to worship.

Calvin then addresses the atheist.

He writes, “The most audacious despiser of God is most easily disturbed, trembling at the sound of a falling leaf.” He’s referring to the abject fear within a person when one comes to the end of himself. We’ve all heard the recently deemed politically incorrect phrase “there are no atheists in foxholes.” This is what Calvin is talking about. Intellectually, one can deny God all day long, but placed into a situation which appeals to a person’s instincts, that “God-sized hole” becomes a gaping, aching chasm. In conclusion, Calvin writes, “If all are born and live for the express purpose of learning to know God, and if the knowledge of God, insofar as it fails to produce this effect, fleeting and vain, it is clear that all those who do not direct the whole thoughts and actions of their lives to this end fail to fulfill the law of their being.”

Did you catch that? Because we’re hard-wired to acknowledge God; if we don’t seek Him, then we violate our own nature!

According to Pickowicz, everyone is hardwired to know God exists. His proof for this claim? The Bible. He presents no empirical proof. Pickowicz, quoting the God of Calvinism, John Calvin, points to the fact that even indigenous tribes acknowledge the existence of a God. Fine, let’s run with this argument for a minute. Let’s say everyone is hardwired to acknowledge God. Why is it then that this knowledge of God is so varied? If it is the Christian God who puts it in the heart of everyone to acknowledge him why is it that so many people acknowledge the wrong God? I would think that the Christian God would make sure that everyone knew that he alone is God, yet day after day billions of people worship other Gods. Why is this?

Pickowicz needs to get his nose out of Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion and do some serious thinking about WHY people are religious and WHY they choose the God they do. Last January, I wrote a post titled Why Most Americans are Christian. In this post, I explained why most Americans, when asked if they believe in the Christian God, will answer yes:

Cultural Christianity is all about what  people say and not what they do. This is the predominant form of Christianity in America. When asked, do you believe in the Christian God? they will say Yes. It matters not how they live or even if they understand Christian doctrine. They believe and that’s all that matters.

It is this Christian world  into which every American child is born. While my wife and I can point to the various conversion experiences we had, we still would have been Christians even without the conversion experiences. Our culture was Christian, our families were Christian, everyone around us was Christian. How could we have been anything BUT Christian?

Practicing Christians have a hard time accepting this. They KNOW the place and time Jesus saved them. They KNOW when they were baptized, confirmed, dedicated, saved, or whatever term their sect uses to connote belief in the Christian God.

Why are most people in Muslim countries Muslim? Why are most people in Buddhist countries Buddhist? Simple. People generally embrace the dominant religion and practice of their culture, and so it is in America.

It is culture, and not a conversion experience, that determines a person’s religious affiliation. The conversion experiences are the eggs the Christian chicken lays. Evangelicals, in particular, have built their entire house on the foundation of each person having a conversion experience. However, looking at this from a sociological perspective, it can be seen that a culture’s dominant religion affects which religion a person embraces more than any other factor.

Only by looking at religion from a sociological perspective can we understand and explain why people believe in a particular God. People such as Pickowicz deny the value of such explanations, preferring to let their Bible do the talking. It is impossible to have a reasonable conversation with people who think such as this. For them, God has spoken, and any knowledge, be it sociological or neurological, that doesn’t affirm the Biblical narrative is rejected out of hand.

Only by looking at religion from a sociological perspective can we understand and explain why people believe in a particular God. People such as Pickowicz deny the value of such explanations, preferring to let their Bible do the talking. It is impossible to have a reasonable conversation with people who think in this manner. For them, God has spoken, and any knowledge, be it sociological or neurological, that doesn’t affirm the Biblical narrative, is rejected out of hand.

Pickowicz, like Calvin, thinks that when put in circumstances where death is a distinct and imminent possibility, atheists will abandon their godlessness and cry out to God. And evidence for this? There is none. I am sure there are stories of atheists crying out for God when dying, just as there are stories of Christians cursing God when facing death. Again, there are numerous reasons for why these things happen, but Pickowicz rejects them all, assured that all atheists KNOW there is a God and when they die they will cry out to the Christian God. (I would love to hear Pickowicz’s explanation for the fact that most people, when they die, will call out for some other God besides the Christian one.)

Christopher Hitchens, arguably one of the most notable atheists of our generation, died December 15, 2011. Detailing Hitchens’ final days, Ian McEwan of the New York Times wrote:

The place where Christopher Hitchens spent his last few weeks was hardly bookish, but he made it his own. Close to downtown Houston is the Medical Center, a cluster of high-rises like La Défense of Paris, or London’s City, a financial district of a sort, where the common currency is illness…..

….. While I was with him another celebration took place in far away London, with Stephen Fry as host in the Festival Hall to reflect on the life and times of Christopher Hitchens. We helped him out of bed and into a chair and set my laptop in front of him. Alexander delved into the Internet with special passwords to get us linked to the event. He also plugged in his own portable stereo speakers. We had the sound connection well before the vision and what we heard was astounding, and for Christopher, uplifting. It was the noise of 2,000 voices small-talking before the event. Then we had a view from the stage of the audience, packed into their rows.

They all looked so young. I would have guessed that nearly all of them would have opposed Christopher strongly over Iraq. But here they were, and in cinemas all over the country, turning out for him. Christopher grinned and raised a thin arm in salute. Close family and friends may be in the room with you, but dying is lonely, the confinement is total. He could see for himself that the life outside this small room had not forgotten him. For a moment, pace Larkin, it was by way of the Internet that the world stretched a hand toward him.

The next morning, at Christopher’s request, Alexander and I set up a desk for him under a window. We helped him and his pole with its feed-lines across the room, arranged pillows on his chair, adjusted the height of his laptop. Talking and dozing were all very well, but Christopher had only a few days to produce 3,000 words on Ian Ker’s biography of Chesterton.

Whenever people talk of Christopher’s journalism, I will always think of this moment.

Consider the mix. Constant pain, weak as a kitten, morphine dragging him down, then the tangle of Reformation theology and politics, Chesterton’s romantic, imagined England suffused with the kind of Catholicism that mediated his brush with fascism and his taste for paradox, which Christopher wanted to debunk. At intervals, Christopher’s head would droop, his eyes close, then with superhuman effort he would drag himself awake to type another line. His long memory served him well, for he didn’t have the usual books on hand for this kind of thing. When it’s available, read the review. His unworldly fluency never deserted him, his commitment was passionate, and he never deserted his trade. He was the consummate writer, the brilliant friend. In Walter Pater’s famous phrase, he burned “with this hard gem-like flame.” Right to the end.

So much for atheists leaving this world screaming for God. Hitchens entered the foxhole of mortality, knowing that thoughts of God were for those unable to face the brutality of death. Hitchens died as he lived, a man who held true to his godlessness until the end. (If you have not read Hitchens’ final book Mortality, I encourage you to do so.)

I know there is nothing I can write that will change Pickowicz’s God-addled mind. But perhaps time will. Pickowicz is a young guy who has not experienced much of life. I can only hope that he will get to know a few flesh-and-blood atheists before he dies. I hope he will have the opportunity to observe not only how atheists live but how they die. I am confident that the young preacher will find that dying atheists hold true to their convictions until the end. Unlike countless Christians when faced with death who have to be reassured of their salvation, atheists will need no such reassurance. Atheists knows that death is the end. All that remains are the memories their friends and families have of a well-lived life. And that, my friend, is enough.

Calvinists and Their Love of Theological Porn

size matters

Three Calvinists checking to see who has the largest library

Calvinism is generally described as an adherence to five theological points (TULIP):

  • Total Depravity (total inability)
  • Unconditional Election
  • Limited Atonement (particular redemption)
  • Irresistible Grace (effectual call)
  • Perseverance/Preservation of the Saints

Simply put, Calvinism is a system of theological beliefs that states:

  • Every person, thanks to the sin of Adam in the Garden of Eden, is born a sinner, alienated from God, and deserving the wrath of God and hell. Every person is dead in trespasses and sin, unable to do anything about their sinful condition. Total depravity is also called total inability. An unregenerate (lacking spiritual life) sinner is unable, by his own power, to seek God and salvation. Unless God gives the sinner eyes to see and ears to hear, he can never understand the Christian gospel and be saved.
  • From before the foundation (creation) of the world, God determined to whom he would give salvation. Only those whom God gives salvation will be saved. God knows exactly who will be saved. Those not chosen by God will never be saved, neither can they be since God did not give them the means necessary to seek and find salvation. No one deserves to be saved, and there’s is nothing anyone can do to merit salvation. Those who are saved are given spiritual life only because of the unmerited favor of God bestowed on them when the Holy Spirit caused them to effectually respond to the gospel. From start to finish, Salvation is of the Lord.
  • Jesus died on the cross (shed his blood) to provide salvation only for those whom God, the Father has chosen to save (the elect).
  • Those whom God has chosen and Jesus died for, will, without fail, at a time appointed by God, be saved. God will save every person he intends to save. When the Holy Spirit begins to draw a person to Jesus, if the person is someone God intends to save, he will be unable to resist the Holy Spirit.
  • Those granted the glorious, wonderful Calvinistic version of the grace of God will persevere until death. God, by his almighty power, will preserve the chosen, regenerated, and converted sinner until the end.  If someone falls away before the end, say someone like a Calvinistic preacher named Bruce Gerencser, this is proof that he was never were one of the elect (chosen).

Got all that? I’m tired just from typing it. The short version is this: God is Sovereign, Salvation is of the Lord, No others need apply.

For most Christians, Calvinism seems like word salad, loads of theological jargon that only those schooled in Calvin-speak can understand. Calvinism is what I call an intellectual man’s wet dream. Most Calvinists are drawn to the intricate and intellectual aspects of the Calvinistic way of thinking. Let’s face it, Brother Billy Bob down at the local Baptist church has neither the time or inclination to plumb the depths of Calvinistic theology or read John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion. All Brother Billy Bob knows is that he was a drunk and Jesus saved him! Hallelujah!!

The men and women drawn to Calvinism tend to love intellectual pursuits. They love reading long, wordy books that purport to impart knowledge and understanding that most mere humans do not have. Most Calvinists end up building a substantial library of books. At one time, I had a library of over one thousand books. Once, a church member came into my study and, upon noticing my large library, asked me if I had read every one of the books on my bookshelves. He was astounded when I said, Yes, every last one of them.  Years later, I came to understand that the size of a Calvinist’s library is akin to the size of a man’s penis. Size matters. The bigger the library, the greater the theological prowess.

Instead of just enjoying the grace of God and the wonders of unconditional election and particular redemption, Calvinists tend to spend an inordinate amount time making sure they are right. There’s always a new book to read, a lecture to listen to, or a new video to watch. They are like a man or woman watching YouPorn videos. Click, ooh, ah, click on another video link, ooh ah, ah…and so it goes. From video to video the porn-seeker goes, hoping to find a video that will stir his passions even further.  This is exactly what many Calvinists do. They are always looking for the latest book that will provide them some sort of new insight into their depraved condition or the grace of God. Unlike the porn-seeker who finally realizes that once he’s seen one porn video he’s  seen them all, Calvinists continue to seek that which they think are deeper understandings and experiences with God. This is why most Calvinists become intractable as they age. The longer they study, the surer they are that they are right.

A perfect example of this is the Facebook group: Calvinism Fellowship, Debate & Discussion Online Discussion Forum. The administrator for the group, Nick Schoenberger, posted the following and turned it into a sticky so every reader would see it:

At this time of year, there always seems to be an increase in the number of 2nd commandment violations we have in CFDD, so I’m pinning this post in the hopes that we can avoid having to take action by preventing such posts in the first place. In short, any posting of an image that portends to depict a member of the Godhead will be removed and may result in a temporary or permanent ban of the poster.

Reference: Westminster Larger Catechism Q109, 110 and 2nd Helvetic Confession Chapters IV-V

In other words, don’t post ANY artists’ renderings of Jesus. Such pictures are a violation of the second commandment:

Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. (Exodus 20:4)

Instead of enjoying the holiday season, Schoenberger is more concerned about a blasphemous picture of Jesus being posted to the forum.

Those who frequent the Calvinism Fellowship, Debate & Discussion Online Discussion Forum  seem to be focused on the minutest detail of proper doctrine, who is and isn’t saved, and attacks on the evil theological belief called Arminianism. There’s also a good bit of self-flagellation and groveling before the thrice Holy God of Calvinism. Calvinists are experts at not only pointing out the sins of others, but also digging down into the depths of their own souls (minds) to find long-buried affronts to God. Is it any wonder that many Calvinists have doubts about their salvation? They see little niggling sins in their lives and this causes them to wonder if they truly are of the elect. Of course, if Calvinists are true to their doctrines, they cannot really know that they are saved until they die. Remember, Calvinists must persevere unto the end to be saved.

Calvinists, in their never-ending pursuit of intellectual nirvana, often lose sight of humanity. They become so infatuated with intellectual porn that they fail to notice that real flesh and blood people surround them. They metaphorically equate the porn they see on the screen with sex with their spouse or significant other. As Calvinists continue down the path to theological perfection, they become like Elijah who believed that he was the only remaining true prophet of God. It’s hard not to picture the lone Calvinist in a room masturbating to his own theological thoughts. Instead of drawing Calvinists towards inclusion, their beliefs often lead them off into closed minded exclusivism. Calvinist Henry Mahan told me years ago, when I asked him about the other churches in Ashland, Kentucky, Well Bruce, God doesn’t need more than one true church in town. In other words, Thirteenth Street Baptist Church, the church Mahan pastored at the time, was the only church God needed in Ashland. They alone preached the true gospel of Sovereign Grace. Pity all those other Christians in Ashland who just so happened to attend the wrong church. Of course, if God wanted to save them he would lead them to visit Thirteenth Street Baptist Church so they could hear Mahan preach to them the true gospel. (And I’m sure some Calvinist is going to read this and say to me that Mahan isn’t a true Calvinist; he is an Antinomian.)

God’s chosen ones will likely find this post offensive. How dare I equate their beliefs and their quest for understanding the “deeper” things of God to pornography, a devotee of the doctrines of grace will say. Yet, for those of us who at one time pulled up a stool at the John Calvin Pub and drank deeply of Calvin’s predestination brew, the pornography connection is, on one hand quite humorous, but also quite depressing. We are reminded of a day when we valued theological purity over people. Our thoughts hearken back to a time when we were willing to eviscerate anyone who did not hold to the same “truth” that we did. We are painfully reminded of good people who left our churches because they could not or would not accept the five points of Calvinism. While Calvinists roundly dispute the notion that the five points equal the gospel, if you attend their churches, read their blogs, or peruse their forums,  such as the one mentioned above, you will find that significant verbiage is expended disparaging non-Calvinists. The fair-minded observer will quickly discern what message Calvinists are trying to convey: believe like us or you will go to hell. The only qualitative difference between the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist church and the Calvinistic Baptist church is the matter of free will.  When it comes to exclusivity of their beliefs, both believe that they are the purveyors of the one true gospel. (An interesting fact is that many Calvinistic Baptists were at one time Independent Fundamentalist Baptists.  While their soteriology changed (the doctrines of salvation) their Fundamentalism remained.)

Note

The primary focus of this post is on Evangelical Calvinism, the belief system of men like John MacArthur, Al Mohler, John Piper, and Mark Driscoll. I’m well aware that there are many shades and nuances to Calvinism. Writing a post that covered all of them would result in a document with more words than the Bible.