Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Mark Cahill's Calvinism Critique Weighed and Found Wanting (Part 2)

I hope that one aspect of Mr. Cahill's beliefs that you picked up on from reading his statement on Calvinism is a decidedly "man-centered" bias.

Now, I do realize that Mr. Cahill would most likely deny that his theology is man-centered, and in many ways, I'm sure it is not.

However, pay particular attention to his arguments. He begins with the premise that
man is able to repent. He weaves this idea throughout his entire statement. Note these quotes (remember, I am assuming that you have read his entire statement before reading my take on it...if you haven't yet read it all, please do so) from Mr. Cahill...

"Man is separated from God by his sins, but that in no way means that he cannot repent and believe."

"Remember the Bible says it is the fool that has said in his heart that there is no God. It is a choice to come to that conclusion. It wasn’t that he couldn’t come to the conclusion that there is a God, but he chose to make that decision; and because of that, there is no good thing in him."

"How can God judge people that had no ability to repent and believe in Him?"

"Men loved the darkness and not the light. That doesn’t mean they couldn’t repent and go towards the light."

"Because everyone has the ability to repent: the only question is will they do it or not?"

"People can choose."

It is said that one will not understand Calvinism (or the so-called "doctrines of grace") if one does not understand the "T" in "TULIP"...

Total depravity.

Based upon the arguments contained in his statement, Mark Cahill doesn't understand total depravity. He begins his arguments with man.

He's primarily concerned with man's ability.

He's primarily concerned with man's choice.

He's primarily concerned with man's will.

Brothers and sisters, if we are going to even begin to understand what it means to be saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, we absolutely must begin with GOD.

GOD'S ability.

GOD'S will.

GOD'S purpose.

It is by no accident that the Bible begins with these words...

"In the beginning, GOD...."

Mr. Cahill wants us first to consider what man can do. He wants us to first understand that man has a sovereign will. He wants us to first understand that man has a sovereign choice. He wants us first to understand that man has the ability to repent.

But we always must in all things begin with GOD when pondering salvation.

That is why I say Mr. Cahill shows a "man-centered" bias in his arguments.

Look at his explanation of Acts 17:32...

"This is just one more verse that makes it easy to
disprove the idea of total depravity, because these folks wanted to hear more about the things of God. I
thought man had no desire for those things? The truth of the matter is that I meet people all the time who
have questions about God and eternity. Why? God has placed that curiosity in us and the creation
around us speaks of this wonderful Creator!!"

Now wait a second. Mr. Cahill--so much the proponent of man's "free will"--tells us that "God has placed curiosity in us." What if folks didn't want to be curious? Would that not violate our free will as Mr. Cahill has structured his argument? But I digress...

Having questions about God and eternity doesn't mean that man is not totally depraved in mind, heart, and deed. Demons believe in God (James 2:19)! Did Mr. Cahill consider that the fact that some people who have genuine curiosity about God and eternity just might be those of the elect of whom God is drawing to Himself? Or maybe they're just people who simply have curiosity about God and eternity.

In either case, Jesus makes it abundantly clear that no one comes to Him unless God the Father draws (a word that literally means "to drag") him.

No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.
(Joh 6:44 ESV)

So, whether somebody is curious about God, the Bible, Heaven, Hell, salvation, baptism, or anything contained in the Bible, or whether they could care less about those things, one thing is clear...

They will NOT come to Jesus Christ unless they are drawn to Him by God the Father.

So--ultimately--whose "choice" is it that a sinner come to Christ?


And he said, "This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father."
(Joh 6:65 ESV)

Please note that Mr. Cahill--in his explanation of man's sovereignty--never mentions what Jesus taught in John 6. Honestly, how can anybody who believes that man is ultimately sovereign over his salvation offer an explanation of John 6?

If the words of Christ contradict our beliefs, it's time to change our beliefs.

Continuing on with Mr. Cahill's statment, pay attention to how he describes divine election...

"Calvinism teaches that God has unconditionally elected certain people to go to heaven. It has nothing to do with that person. Nothing they believe comes into play. God has decided in eternity past to regenerate certain people who are dead in their sins and therefore want nothing to do with Him, and make them born again. But in order to hold that position, you also have to hold that God has unconditionally rejected certain people to go to hell and there is nothing they can do about it. The interesting thing is though that there is something God can do about it! But He chose not to. Does that sound like the loving God that we read about in the Bible?"

Well...NO, Mr. Cahill. That doesn't sound like the God of the Bible. Of course, his arguments above are "straw men" fallacies. Mr. Cahill doesn't understand Calvinism.

"It has nothing to do with that person." This is GRACE, Mr. Cahill. Of course my salvation has nothing to with me as a person. If I could do anything to merit my own salvation, then I couldn't honestly say I saved by the grace of God, could I?

This is not to say that repentance is not still commanded (Acts 17:30), but the faith in Christ we exercise is itself a gift.

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.
(Eph 2:8-9 NASB)

Contrary to what Mr. Cahill seems to be saying, salvation is purely and solely by grace (shown by God) through faith (given by God) in Jesus Christ (the sole object of faith).

He continues...

"But in order to hold that position, you also have to hold that God has
unconditionally rejected certain people to go to hell and there is nothing they can do about it."

"There is nothing they can do about it?" Again, we're back to total depravity. There is nothing they WANT to do about it. They are dead (Ephesians 2:1). They are hostile to God through their wicked works (Colossians 1:21). They are God's enemies (Romans 5:10). Does this sound like people who want to have a covenant relationship with God?

Here is one of the more troubling statements made by Mr. Cahill. He quotes Ezekiel 33:11 and then writes the following...

"God does not want wicked people to die and go to hell. That is why He provided a way out for all people through the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ!"

There are several errors in these few sentences that need to be addressed.

"God does not want wicked people to die and go to hell." Before I go any further, I should say that this is a common phrase used by street preachers. I have to admit that I have used it myself. However, upon prayerfully studying the Scriptures and using both His word and sound reason, I have to say that such a statement is profoundly inaccurate.

Does God take some sort of sick pleasure in the destruction of the wicked? Of course not, as Ezekiel 33:11 clearly states. "God is no sadist," R.C. Sproul has said.

A judge is bound by law to see that justice is done. Does that mean he takes pleasure in sending people to prison for life? Does he get his kicks from upholding death sentences for murderers? I would hope not! However, does he "want" to uphold the law and see to it that justice is carried out? I would hope so!

So, in that sense, God certainly does "want" the wicked to be punished. The God of the Bible is a God of justice (Genesis 18:19; Deut 32:4; Job 34:12; Job 36:6; Psalm 7:11; Psalm 10:18). While God doesn't get any sort of sadistic pleasure out of destroying the wicked, He does want to carry out justice and thus bring glory to His name.

Then from Mr. Cahill...

"That is why He provided a way out for all people through the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ!"

Is this how he sees the cross of Christ? Did Jesus Christ die for a possibility? This is a fundamental flaw in Arminian theology. Mr. Cahill is saying that--through the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ--God provided a POSSIBLE way of salvation. It is "possible" in the sense that some will accept this atonement, and some will reject this atonement. Even if one buys the notion that God did indeed passively "foreknow" who would accept Him and who would reject Him, the Arminian position is still that He died for all people, both the receivers and the deniers.

The real question is this: Did Christ die for a PEOPLE, or did Christ die for a POSSIBILITY?

If Mr. Cahill is correct and Christ died for "all people," then Christ really died for a possibility, since--obviously--not everyone is saved (universalism is the logical end of this particular Arminian doctrine).

I've asked this question before, but I'll ask it again.

Let us suppose that everyone who ever lived and who will ever live in the world actually REJECTED the payment that Jesus made on the cross.

This is certainly a possibility using Mr. Cahill's reasoning. Everybody has "free will," thus everybody is free to either accept or reject. As Mr. Cahill wrote many times, everybody has the ability to repent or reject.

So what if everybody rejected the payment of Christ?

Then exactly who or what did Jesus Christ die for?


His death? Meaningless. His resurrection? Useless.

Of course, the truth of the Bible is that Jesus Christ died for His sheep.

just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.
(John 10:15 ESV)

The truth of the Bible is that Christ gave His life for His bride. His church.

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,
(Eph 5:25 ESV)

If Christ gave Himself up for everybody, then the above verse would be completely robbed of its meaning.

Mr. Cahill uses the usual proof-texts to make a case that Jesus Christ died for everybody in the world...

He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.
(1Jn 2:2 ESV)

The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!
(Joh 1:29 ESV)

Of course, "the world" as used in these verses (not limited to just these, however) doesn't mean the whole of creation. Nor does it mean every person who has ever lived and who will ever live in the entire world. Look at these verses...

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered.
(Luk 2:1 ESV)

Did this decree go out to every erson who has ever lived and who will ever live in the entire world? We can all agree that is obviously not the case.

because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and growing--as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth,
(Col 1:5-6 ESV)

Was Paul referring to the Gospel bearing fruit in every person who has ever lived and who ever will live in the entire world? The Gospel had not traveled across the globe at that point. Paul could not have meant "the world" in the sense of "every person who will ever live and who will ever live in the entire world."

So, why is it always assumed that when it speaks of Christ's vicarious atonement for sins, it must be for everybody who has ever lived and everybody who will ever live in the entire world?

What we DO know from Scripture is that God will draw His elect from "every tribe,"every tongue" and "every nation" (Revelation 5:9). Salvation isn't limited to the Jews. Gentiles from all across the world will share in God's effectual grace.

This is a GLORIOUS truth from Scripture (Revelation 7:9), and it is completely gutted and diminished when one ascribes to the Arminian doctrine of universal atonement.

Later in his statement, Mr. Cahill shares with us a fairly bizarre scenario...

"Can you imagine having to preach, “Ladies & gentlemen we are here to tell you that Jesus only died for some of you!” That is totally absurd! But that is what you would have to preach as a true Calvinist, because to them, Jesus did not die for all people. His blood was only shed for the elect."

The "good news" to be preached to sinners is this...

Jesus Christ died for sinners!

I personally do not believe that I should tell everybody I run into that "Jesus died for you" because--quite simply--the Bible doesn't teach that. The apostles never preached in that way, and we who are bringing the apostolic message shouldn't preach in that way, either.

We are to preach this...

The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.
(1Ti 1:15 ESV)

If people do not believe themselves to be sinners, then that message would be foolish. And--not surprisingly--God reminds us that the message we preach will be looked upon many as foolish.

but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles,
(1Co 1:23 ESV)

Mr. Cahill would also have Christianity redefine the word "election." Those who hold to Arminian theology--apparently--are unsure of what to do with the many instances of the term "elect" (used to describe God's people) used through the New Testament. One cannot simply ignore the word, but I suppose one can certainly try and change its meaning. Case in point...

"Election does not mean that God elected some and rejected others. The word election, according to 1
Peter, simply means that God, since He is omniscient, knew who would believe in Him and it is those
people He calls the elect. It is really that simple. We mustn’t change the definition of a word!"

I wonder, was Mr. Cahill referring to this from 1 Peter...

and "A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense." They stumble because they disobey the word,
as they were destined to do. But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
(1Pe 2:8-9 ESV) (emphasis mine)

Well, that probably wasn't what he was referring to. To be honest, I'm not sure exactly what it is in 1 Peter that Mr. Cahill was referring to.

The dictionary defines the word "elect"--in the Christian sense--as this:

"To select by divine will for salvation. Used of God."

So He selected those who are His elect. He chose those who are His elect. That is why we are called "His elect." Now who is it that is attempting to change the definition of a word?

There are a few more instances of misrepresentations and flawed reasoning via Mr. Cahill in his statement, but to continue would--in my estimation--be getting repetitive.

In conclusion, I would to correct Mark Cahill one last time. I'm not sure who he's speaking to/about when he states this...

"One of the amazing things I have found when I talk to both Calvinists and people who have left Calvinism is that they never tell me they found Calvinistic teachings reading their Bibles. They always tell me they found them reading someone’s book or listening
to someone’s teaching tapes!"

Let me assure you, Mr. is one Calvinist who sees total depravity, unconditional election, limited atonement (or particular redemption), irresistible grace, and perseverance of the saints throughout the Bible.

And so we arrive at Mr. Cahill's final point...the point about which this latest controversy began brewing in the first place. Given that he believes such a radical thing, notice how flimsily he makes his point...

"I just got this statement from a Pastor: “These REFORMED THEOLOGY people are preaching another Jesus and another gospel and are under the ‘accursed’ terminology as God wrote in Galatians 1:8-9 that I quoted today in my morning message. I believe God's Word is totally against any part of ‘reformed theology.’ As such, we must be careful to avoid CLOSE fellowship with them lest we are swayed by their false philosophy. One thing is sure. They MAJOR in this one thing and won't quit talking about it.”

If you believe in the god and jesus of Calvinism, you are either in Galatians 1 territory, or you are heading straight toward it."

I don't mean to sound as though I'm taking this lightly, but...

That's IT????

I don't deny the substance of the warning Paul gives in Galatians 1. However, Mark Cahill has not made his case that Calvinism is "another gospel."

The Jesus I believe is the Jesus of John 6. Mr. Cahill, explain how we are not drawn (literally, dragged) by the Father toward Christ Jesus. Jesus said that nobody can come to Him unless the Father draws him. Should I believe this Pastor or you, Mr. Cahill? Or should I believe the words of Christ?

The God I believe in is the God of Romans 9. Mr. Cahill, explain that chapter and how election is not really God's final decision. The objections that Mr. Cahill raises in his arguments against Calvinism are really arguments against the doctrine explained by Paul in Romans 9.

Having said that, my response to Mark Cahill's objections is really Paul's response...

But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, "Why have you made me like this?" Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory-- even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?
(Rom 9:20-24 ESV)

Although the writings of other theologians have certain been helpful and it the entire concept of godly men teaching other Christians for the purposes of building up the body is Chrsit is BIBLICAL (2 Timothy 2:2), I can clearly see the teaching of election shown throughout Scripture.

If Mark Cahill honestly believes that Reformed theology is heretical, then he should be willing to sit down with a Calvinist and a Bible and discuss it.


Ever since it became public that Mr. Cahill holds the views he does, I have noticed--in various blogs/forums/Facebook--many comments from Christians that seem to reappear again and again. I would like to answer a few of these concerns/objections that have spawned out of this controversy. Please note that I'm not quoting anybody specifically (at least not consciously); these are paraphrases.

"Ultimately, this issue doesn't matter."

I must directly take issue with the attitude that "doctrine doesn't matter."

We can take it from Paul, who had his fair share of doctrinal battles...

Sound doctrine does matter.

Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and
whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine, in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted.
(1 Timothy 1:8-11 ESV) (emphasis mine)

If anyone teaches
a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain.
(1 Timothy 6:3-5 ESV)
(emphasis mine)

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
(2 Timothy 3:14-15 ESV)

He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.
(Titus 1:9 ESV)
(emphasis mine)
But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine.
(Titus 2:1 ESV) (emphasis mine)

Those who would deny the vital importance of sound Biblical doctrine are in continual danger of falling into error.

"We'll never get this issue resolved in this life."

I'm not one to say that we--as fallen, depraved individuals--are ever going to come to a perfect understanding of every doctrine contained in the Bible, but using that fact to downplay the importance of contending for the faith is unwise.

Remember the words of our Lord, speaking through Jude...

Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.
(Jude 1:3 ESV)

Let us contend, Christian.

Let us be loving...

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.
(1Co 13:1 ESV)

Let us be patient...

Better is the end of a thing than its beginning, and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit.
(Ecc 7:8 ESV)

Let us be overflowing with grace...

Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.
(Col 4:6 ESV)

But let us contend nonetheless! Let us struggle to come into unity in our doctrine, recognizing that all Christians are being sanctified.

Brothers and sisters, I would not be responding to what Mark Cahill wrote if I didn't care about doctrine. Those who think it better to remain silent as well-known ministers of the Gospel make public statements that condemn not only Biblical teaching, but also those who follow such teaching, I would vehemently disagree. Mark Cahill is not benefited by our silence. Yes, I recognize and trust that the Lord can open the eyes of Mr. Cahill to see the truth of His word. We as Reformed street preachers also know this very well: God uses preaching to change lives.

And God can use His word delivered by other Christians to open Mr. Cahill's eyes.

So pray for Mark Cahill.

And let us watch our own lives, our own walk, and our own doctrine.

That is one lesson we all can learn from this controversy.

Keep on proclaiming...

- Shane


  1. You ask a lot of question of Mark Cahill. Have you contacted him to get his answers?

  2. Good question. I did contact him via email and sent him the link to both parts of my blog.

    I am hoping and praying that he reads and responds to my specific points.

    God bless!

  3. "I did contact him via email and sent him the link to both parts of my blog."

    Speaking of Galatians, Paul said he shared the Gospel "privately to those who were of reputation, lest by any means I might run, or had run, in vain" (2:2).

    12,237 days

  4. one comment on this note: A God who makes the choice to send people in hell! What love is this?
    Personally, i don't beileve in a God who is the author of sin and saves only a few elect and choses billions more to hell. Mark CaHill is right: