It's good to hear from you again. Yes, I do remember you.
First, about discouragement: Keep in mind that in the battle between good and evil, evil outnumbers good, but that is of no consequence, if we are on the side of God and truth (Judges 7:2, 7; I Samuel 14:6-23; Matthew 19:26
). The sad but real truth is that there are few who will be saved (Luke 13:23-30; Matthew 7:21-23; I Peter 3:20
). I've recently had some similar email exchanges with some other young men, who shared similar struggles. If you don't mind, I'll copy and paste them at the bottom. If you study each of the scriptures, I think you'll find the passages to be greatly encouraging.
Second, about reaching Calvinists: Please keep in mind that this is not a simple error or misunderstanding over a single fact or verse. It represents a fundamental fallacy in one's core belief in God. This creates a prejudice that filters every verse they read and interpret. However, if people are honest, they will change. Such people (not all or most) just need time and patient, kind, humble, repeated exposure to Scripture. There's a reason why the Devil is anxious to get people distracted and divert the minds from Scripture (Matthew 13:1-4; 18-19; Luke 8:11; I Peter 1:22-25; II Timothy 3:16-17; II Peter 3:15-18
). It may take months or even years to get through to them. Don't feel like you have to resolve or galvanize them within a few days or weeks. Long term Bible studies of books, like Acts or Luke, in addition to focused studies on Calvinism may prove helpful.
A lot of people associate Calvinism with orthodox Christianity, because it was taught by the Catholic Church and Protestant Church since Augustine and Calvin. You need to identify their fundamental assumptions and challenge them with questions, just like the so-called orthodoxy of Catholicism must be challenged. The gospel is only "man based" if it came from men. If you are teaching God's truth, then it is God based! Make them go back to Scripture. Make them read the verses out loud. Get them to explain the verses to you. Calvinism is logically consistent with itself and its assumptions. They will not personally challenge their assumptions unless they read enough verses that say otherwise. Ask them to explain inconsistencies with their view and Scripture. In essence, you will work best, if you think of yourself as the voice of their struggling conscience. Just keep asking questions and ask them to reconcile inconsistencies. Of course, you will have to explain and teach the truth from Scripture. You can't just tear down (II Corinthians 10:3-5
). You also have to build up (I Corinthians 3:5-15
). But, questions aimed at their conscience will be the most effective in causing them to stop and think. Just know when to stop. Give them time to think, if it is a relationship that has time (i.e., family, friends, co-workers, etc.).
If you reconcile Romans 4
and James 2
in your mind, you will go a long way toward understanding the answer to their question about works, grace, and faith, and you will be able to answer it. They key is to let the context define the words. Paul and James are not using "works" the same way in the two contexts, which is evident by their descriptions of the word. Let me dig up some material on this point, and I'll email it to you.
In many ways, this is like being a baby all over again. You have to learn to walk and talk all over again. You are going to fall down a lot, and some gibberish is going to come out of your mouth too.
But, keep trying! Giving up is not an option.
Like our earthly parents, and contrary to Calvinism, God's hands are extended toward all of us (Acts 17:26-27
)! Keep reading, studying, talking, praying, and reflecting (II Timothy 2:15
). Like everything, the more you do it, the better you get.
Hang in there! Keep up the good work!
May God help us to have a sincere love of truth (II Thessalonians 2:9-12; Isaiah 66:4
Other Correspondence - Hopefully this will help you too!
Don't be discouraged. I think the truth of the matter is that every generation has its own battle (Judges 3:1-6
). The nature and timing of that battle may vary wildly, but regardless, we have what we need to overcome (II Corinthians 10:3-5; Ephesians 6:10-18; II Timothy 3:16-17; Romans 8:31-39
). The question is, "Are we being faithful in our generation and to them?" (Acts 13:36; Genesis 6:9
)? I have every confidence you have been and will be. Turning our back helps no one and hurts everyone (Ezekiel 33:1-9; 3:18-21
). With love, pursue the salvation of every opportunity given to you (Matthew 13:3-9; II Corinthians 8:12
), knowing that the apostasy of some will grieve us deeply (I Corinthians 3:10-15
), but the final salvation of others will bring the greatest joy (III John 4; I Thessalonians 2:19-20
). With repentance and forgiveness, whatever the past may be, we must move forward with thoughts and hopes only toward the present and future (Philippians 3:13-14
). The conclusion of all battles always has been and always will be in the Lord's hand and on His shoulders (II Thessalonians 2:1, 8-12
). So, don't let the Devil put too much on your shoulders. And, no matter what, you are never alone (I Kings 19:18; II Timothy 4:16-17; John 16:32; Hebrews 13:5-6
... I hope you find these verses helpful, as they have been to me.
The key, I believe, is not to focus on any one individual, except Christ. I think Jesus demonstrated the proper attitude most saliently in the case of the rich young ruler. Putting the texts together, Jesus reaction to him is, "He looked
at him ... loved
him ... and said
...". We need to carefully analyze those with whom we interact out of love for them. Also, from this we learn that love says what needs to be said - at all costs. It is a selfish love that desires the relationship more than the other's salvation. So, prepare yourself (as you already have done and are doing, Ezra 7:10; Matthew 7:1-3; II Timothy 2:15
); look carefully at what people say; give them the benefit of the doubt (I Corinthians 13:4-7
); but it also never hurts to ask questions humbly to eliminate doubt; and then say what they need to hear, just as Jesus did. Maintain humility always - in your heart and tongue - just as you are already doing (James 4:6-10; Proverbs 15:1
)! Wisdom begins in part by recognizing that we are ever children (I Kings 3:7-10
I remember being younger and not wanting to turn into a bitter, old, cynic, who saw a hardened false-teacher behind every comment or question. Certainly, some valiant soldiers in truth become jaded after many wars. Just the little bit of experience I have accumulated has introduced me to enough arguments for error that I find myself recognizing error where others don't yet recognize it. (I'm confident and hope they will see it in time too.) Like all struggles, frequent struggles with the same opponent will teach you his "moves". However, I have also found that frequent disappointments in others - as well as self - bring a constant challenge to maintain hope. These two factors - experience and disappointments - cause the old warrior to be misjudged and sometimes rightly judged at the same time.
Remembering my own failures and naiveness helps me to be patient and merciful with others, and above all, remembering the price paid and that the world still stands also helps me to hope, because the Lord Himself lets the world stand in His hope at His mercy (Romans 8:18-21
). And, He is too knowledgeable and too wise to blindly hope in error. If we are still here, then there is still some people left to influence for good (I Kings 19:18
)! It may be a "lurker" reading our Facebook posts, whom we never know is even there. It may be someone watching us stand up and resist the Devil that is emboldened to do the same (Philippians 1:12-14
). It may be that we are serving a generation that we will never know this side of eternity, who is reading what we write right now - maybe even in another country! Regardless, we serve the Lord, and He's clearly not done with this world. So, we have hope and work to do! So, take joy in life, but whenever you touch on serious things - as you rightly and frequently do, write not just for the benefit of the other person, but for the silent reader, and the generation to come. Write and speak for history.
Cast your bread upon the waters, For you will find it after many days. Give a serving to seven, and also to eight, For you do not know what evil will be on the earth. (Ecclesiastes 11:1-2)
Some day, you'll meet them, and they'll thank you - maybe even help you, and you can praise the Lord together!
I have a feeling I'm telling you what you already know.
... Thanks for the encouragement and admonition! Hang in there! You are doing a great work! And, I praise the Lord for it and you. May the Lord be praised in all things!