12 January 2012

An Open Letter to Frank Turk

Sir Aaron, as posted by Phil Johnson

his message came to us via e-mail and is posted without editorial revision:

Dear Frank:

I know your open letter series has come and gone, but since your last open letter I've been thinking that there was one open letter that was never written but should have. So I took it upon myself to fill that gap by writing this letter to you.

I think I started reading the Pyromaniacs blog in 2008 or early 2009. I suspect I'm unusual in that I first discovered Dan Phillips and only after following his blog for a while did I take my first jaunt over to Pyromaniacs. From the very first post I read at Pyro, I was hooked. Fortunately for me, that first post wasn't written by you because, and I hate to say this, of the triumvirate that really is Pyromaniacs, I just didn't get you. I shamefully confess that I did not look forward to days you posted, at least not at first. If my first introduction to Pyromaniacs had been one of your posts, I might have left and never returned. Had that happened, I know you and the other Pyros would have missed me like a horse misses a fly, but I truly would have missed out on some life changing content. But let me be more specific: I would have missed out on posts you wrote that changed my life.

When I say life changing, I don't mean it in some amorphous way, the same way a man looks back through time and says his life has changed. I realize we are always changing so it's an easy matter to say "my life changed." And for that matter, one cannot read every blog post at Pyro for nearly three years and remain unchanged. But when I say you changed my life, I mean that I can point to specific posts you wrote that affected my thoughts and my deeds in such a way that it unmistakably altered the trajectory of my life. As much admiration as I hold for both Phil and Dan (which sometimes borders on idolatry), I cannot point to a specific post by either one of them that had as much singular influence as I can with you.

I don't recall how I started reading this particular series since it predated any comment I made at Pyro, but your Stay or Go series forever changed my thinking about church membership. More specifically, in your post, Why I Left, I was immediately convicted by your statement: "when my church fails, I am at least partially responsible." Church membership was not a new concept to me and the need to be part of a local congregation was never a doctrine I, in any way, disputed. But until I read your post, my membership was closer to intellectual assent than genuine action. Never before did I accept personal responsibility for the state of the church to which I belonged. So in 2011, when my church had some significant challenges, I didn't mosey on to greener pastures nor did I sit on my hands. I translated my belief into action and took a leadership role that I believe has helped me and helped my local church body. And that, my brother, is something I credit to you, through God's grace.

You also have used a phrase in several posts that resonated with me. You've said, "Be in the Lord's house on the Lord's day with the Lord's people." I know it is such a small thing but after a long work week, sometimes it takes just a gentle reminder to get my lazy self out of bed. When Sunday mornings roll around and I'm eyeing the clock from my bed contemplating sleeping past the Sunday service, it is your words that motivate me: "You—Be in the Lord's house today." And it works. It's weird, I know, but there you go.

My appreciation for you has grown since I've been reading Pyro, but this last year I was overwhelmed by your generosity towards me, personally. A few months ago, I tweeted you asking if I could email you about something unrelated to Pyromaniacs. You didn't just send me your email address, but offered to let me call you even though you had no idea what it was I wanted to discuss. I don't know a single blogger who would have done the same, and that gesture touched me.

So you gushed on and on about Phil and Dan and even the great John MacArthur, but somebody needed to say something about the tremendous work you've done at Pyro and other places. You have truly been a blessing to me and I'm sure to all the other readers at Pyromaniacs.

May the Lord continue to bless you and your ministry at Pyromaniacs in 2012.

Sir Aaron

Phil's signature


Brad Ogden said...

I would like to "second" that opinion.

Solameanie said...

Very deserved.

Andrea said...

May I add an Amen.

I can't say I always "get" Mr. Turk, either. But when I read the love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control that is exercised in his posts and in every meta he joins, I thank God for men like him, whether his quirky sense of humor matches with my mood or not.

I, too, have been challenged to make my church a priority from writings such as the author of this open letter mentioned. I have also been deeply impressed at the humble yet deeply convicting truths expounded in the open letter series last year. When I talk my sons through the relevent parts of the Matthew 18 process, it is this sort of attitude that I want them to learn--speaking the truth to the best of their knowledge with love and a desire for righteous reconciliation.

Don't ever doubt that your contributions are appreciated, Mr. Turk. Thanks to God for all the gifts he has given you, and to you for using them faithfully in his service.

David Rudd said...

Frank is my favorite Pyro, also... and the leaving the church series was one of his best. Kudos to Frank.

Anonymous said...

Frank has been my preferred option since I first discovered Pyro as well.

But really, the choices are A, A1 or A2. And the names could go in any order.
All three of you have blessed and helped my in important ways, that series on church membership has impacted me greatly as well.

Scooter said...

A well deserved letter.

Randy Talley said...

Hopefully this finally answers the question, "Can any good thing come out of Arkansas?".

Call me weird, but I "get" Frank... and appreciate him and his insights as much as anyone else I read out here in bloggerland.

Andrew Lindsey said...

So... this letter is from Tom Chantry?

Susan said...

Whoa...just noticed that the rating stars are gone!! I was planning to lick on star #5 to show how much I liked this open letter! :(

Rachael Starke said...

Well that's just great.

If Frank goes off and launches PyroFrank.TV, with pictures of himself in bright green super-hero spandex all over it, I'm blaming "regular Pyro reader".

Rachael Starke said...

IOW, I "got" Frank and loved him like a brother from the first post I read. He writes like a man who's been genuinely saved from his sin, and adopted by God can't get over it.

I think I say something to myself or someone else about "you, personally" at least every couple of days. And when people hint at us about why we're not leaving our church in the midst of its identity crisis, I'm tempted to say "because Frank would reach through the Interweb and whack me over the head with a Costco meat chubb."

Tom Chantry said...


Not quite, all though I could have written parts of it. Read it closely and I think it's clear it was not written by a pastor. And I discovered Pyro via a different path. Otherwise, as I've stated before, My appreciation for Frank has grown from "that annoying guy that blogs with Phil and Dan" to "that Pyro that just doesn't get it half the time" to "that Pyro with some pretty good insights that maybe I don't get half the time" to "that guy who not only really really cares about the gospel but whose quirky way of putting things truly makes me think."

Pierre Saikaley said...

If Frank Turk ticks you off as a Christian-imagine what he'd be like as an atheist.

I'm glad Bro. Turk is on our side.

We're all a little sharper because of Frank's brilliant posts. His words are not the multiplied kisses of an enemy but the faithful words of a friend in Christ.

Frank Turk said...

"Why was this letter posted anonymously? Don;t we abhor anonymous bloggers?" comes the question.

Yes, I abhor anonymous bloggers.

A reader who sends an e-mail (you know: they brought their concern in privately, and the trope goes) who is kind enough to allow it to be made public does not deserve the treatment guest bloggers generally get here.

If the writer wants to self-identify, of course we'd never prevent it. But this is a full-contact zone, and most people, frankly, aren't ready for that.

That should clear that up.

To the rest of you, especially the kind ones who have been moved by my ranting, I'm grateful that you have benefited and that God will use a crooked and rusty piece of barbed wire like me to draw a straight line to himself for you. I suspect 2012 is going to be a very interesting year.

Robert said...

Great letter...I have definitely found myself examining my own actions and motives more and more as I have read Frank's posts (many of those open letters served this purpose). Of course, that goes for each of the writers here and even for a lot of the commentors.

I just started reading through the Stay or Go series because of this letter...of course it probably would have been better to have read it before making the decision to leave my old church, but (sadly) I don't think it would have affected the outcome. It is good to see somebody take up the effort to flesh out the thoughts that you did there, Frank, and I hope that the readers all are better for having read it.

donsands said...

Nice. Thanks for posting that Phil. There's really no team like the Three Amigos TeamPyro.


Jamie said...

Frank, I am just glad that anonymous confronted you personally first before this was published. It's about time someone told you like it is.

Seriously though - I can only say Hear, Hear!

Thank you.

Frank Turk said...

This person did not buy me coffee, and I resent it.

Tom Chantry said...

I would like to come to the defense of the Anonymous Blogger who failed to buy Frank coffee.

AB recognized a fairly obvious fact. We all know what Frank Turk is like. Do we really want to see Frank Turk on extra caffeine?

stratagem said...

That sentence about being in the Lord's house on the Lord's day has gotten me to church on more than one lazy occasion, too!

Frank Turk said...

Chantry -

You're assuming this is me without coffee. This is me with coffee. Without coffee would be like The Captain without Tennille.

Tom Chantry said...

Since a number of you have commented on it, I would like to point out something which is a remarkable strength in Frank - although it has more to do with where God has placed him than anything, so the glory is His.

Frank is not a pastor, nor does he aspire to be one. He is not a seminary professor, nor even (insofar as I know) a church officer. I've not heard that he so much as teaches a Sunday School class, though perhaps he does.

Now, why is this significant? Read through this comment thread and it is clear that Frank's fans (small and marginalized group though we may be) all understand that part of what motivates him is a sound commitment to church. Many of us love Christ, but do we love His Church? Frank does. I think it is not putting words into his mouth to say that, given the knowledge that we all err, he would rather err on the side of too much loyalty to the church than too little. Thus his blogging has relentlessly pressed not only involvement but wholesale commitment to church.

Other people could say the same, but here is why I praise God for Frank's voice: his paycheck doesn't come out of the offering plate and probably never will. He is clear of any suspicion of mixed motive.

There's a guy I know who is an elder as well as a successful businessman. Periodically, when asked to go as a guest preacher when some pastor is on vacation, he preaches on giving financially to the church. He openly admits that he can get away with this since he isn't paid by any church. He can say things that faithful pastors might be afraid to say.

There is something of that in Frank's pro-churchiness. I've labored in more than one small, struggling church - both as a pastor and as a member. There is a desperate need for the case that Frank makes - that if you love Christ you'll love His church, and that if you love His church you'll give of yourself to make it succeed rather than sit on the sidelines and carp against its weaknesses - that message so needs to be made. And frankly, when small church pastors make that speech it sounds self-serving.

Consider, then, what God has done. He's created Frank Turk and given him the sort of exasperating style that it's hard to ignore. He's given him a love for the church and an insight into how it must be supported by thoroughly sold-out (or is it "buying-in"?) Christians. He's granted him a platform like TeamPyro to make that message heard. And he's caused at least a few non-pastors to take that to heart and throw themselves more fully into the lives of their congregations.

That's a huge win for the Body of Christ, and the glory is all God's.

Tom Chantry said...

@Frank - It's why I said "extra caffeine."

Frank Turk said...

You know: we can beat up Rick Warren and Perry Noble and Pastor-Next_big_thing every day all day without a lot of effort. A lot of people do.

But you know what? Most people are not pastors. In fact, that's really what God intended, right? Not many of you will be teachers. That's God's plan, and it's a good thing.

What God intends is that many of us (yes: I mean that) will be saved, and many of us will be holy, and many of us will be glorified, and many of us will be suffering for righteousness sake. Hum-bugging lousy pastors doesn't teach any of us how to to those things, which is what we are called to do.

And not belonging to a local church also will never get you where you ought to go.

So: thanks Tom. I know you get it. May your tribe increase.

Solameanie said...

Careful, Frank. You'll get accused of being Emergent again now that you've brought up the lack of being confronted over coffee. Between that, the reference to the Captain and Tennille, and the barbed wire, my brain is going to be a psychedelic mess today, but that's not out of the ordinary.

Tom Chantry: Dr. John Aker (former pastor of First Evangelical Free Church in Rockford, IL) got me thinking about that whole issue of loving the church a couple of years ago when he was in town speaking at one of SGA's chapel services. There's a lot of stuff in there to unpack and mine. How many of us really love the church as Christ loves the church? If we did, I suspect that we'd find ourselves behaving differently in many ways, not the least the way we communicate.

Editor's note: Nothing in the last sentence of the above post should be construed as approval of the Tone Police.

DJP said...

The post was put up anonymously for the reasons explained above. I've spoken with the author, he's up to it, so I edited the post to credit Sir Aaron.

And "amen," too.

Frank Turk said...

While we are talking about my accomplishments, I am also the one who wrote the code which cycles thru the header graphics. It makes the whole blog better, and gives me pleasure every time I load the page.

Sir Aaron said...

Ok, I confess publicly that I owe Frank a cup of java. He just has to drive a few hours to Houston.


Anonymous said...

I gotta say, that the one thing that tends to stick with me more than almost anything I've read from Frank is his admission that it is, in large part, his struggle with his tongue that keeps him from accepting an elder's position.

That one thing raises you up pretty high in my estimation.

That's why I've never understood the "arrogant" accusation.

Frank may be arrogant. Probably is. Just like me, and most other people I know, given the right situation.
But he knows it and not everybody does. And of those who so, not many will say so.

stratagem said...

One thing I really appreciate about Frank is, he seems to get the fact that leadership of the church ought to be 99.999% about working at what we've been told to be doing, and about 0.001% (or, zero %) about coming up with the next gee-whiz idea or fad.

Chris H said...

Frank Turk is a menace and must be stopped.

That line always makes me smile, especially when it's Frank himself who says it.

colet1499 said...

We love you man.

Frank Turk said...

What I like about Frank Turk is that he's not afraid to talk about himself in the 3rd person.

Chris H said...

Frank Turk does this to emphasise his special brand of greatness....

Robert said...

I can say from experience that this series did indeed have an impact upon Sir Aaron. And for that, I thank you Frank. And I thank Aaron for becoming involved with his church. I am pretty sure that he, his family, and the church have all seen improvement due to the work he has done there.

Sir Aaron said...

When Frank starts talking to himself in the third person, I may have to add a postscript.

Anonymous said...

One more open letter...from Frank to Frank, where Frank is the first to comment...in disagreement with the post.

Would anyone be surprised?

David Regier said...

I, on the other hand, call him to repent from ditching http://centuri0n.blogspot.com/ It was my favorite blog ever, period.

Other than that, he's a great guy.

ZSB said...

Guys... please tell me we're not doing this because Frank is dying or something...

Sir Aaron said...

The reason for the letter is stated in the letter.

Darlene said...

I'm not sure when I first encountered the Pyro blog, but I can say that the experience was, well...unpleasant (to put it nicely). I just commented in these parts for the first time recently, last week I believe.

I've been coming back for reasons quite different from the open letter admirer. You see, I just can't quite figure out Calvinists. My closest friend is one (as well as her husband) and often we speak right past each other. She has observed me undergoing a transformation of sorts as I've struggled with various aspects of the Christian faith. Her dissatisfaction with certain viewpoints I've come to adopt has become quite evident. You see, we met before Calvinism was even on my radar, and Reformed was a word I'd associated with rehabilitated ex-cons. At some point, my friends and those of my husband's were becoming Calvinists. They began talking about TULIP and doctrines of Grace, and using the word sovereignty like it was the next best thing to sliced bread. They introduced us to A.W. Pink, Spurgeon, and a sprinkling of The Institutes. Still, we were unconvinced. We just couldn't join the Camp of the Reformed. And thus it still remains that way to this very day.

I came to Pyro thinking I might just meet a Calvy that isn't a mad dog type, that understands what it is to communicate with others in a dignified and respectful manner. Such a thing is difficult to find among 5 pointers in the blogosphere (and elsewhere as well), but I'm thinkin' not impossible. Many of us who reside outside of the Reformed Camp have been on the receiving end of some less than charitable exchanges. But who knows, miracles are the very stuff of the Christian faith and I happen to believe in them!

And here's hoping each of you have a peaceful day in the Beloved.

Solameanie said...

Frank, if you can refer to yourself in the third person, does that mean you are the Bob Dole of Christian blossom?

Solameanie said...

Blast iPhone's auto correct! I meant "blogdom."

St. Lee said...

Still, "Bob Dole of Christian blossom" does have a ring to it, even if the meaning is not immediately clear.

Other than that, I just wanted to risk being labeled a "fan-boy" by adding my Amen.

Strong Tower said...

There is still something about a derelict gas station and an OL to Frank that seems to prime the pump...

Jared T. Baergen said...

I read your previous comment and it was quite an encouragement to me. I am glad you found your way to Pyro and I want to affirm to you that there are plenty of calvy’s out there that aren’t the mad dog type. Sometimes we tend to press the point that the sovereignty of God is all over scripture. It almost doesn’t make sense why someone wouldn’t affirm that God is completely and totally sovereign, including over salvation. You can read Moses in the book of Exodus where you will see that God told Moses to do this, this, and this and He would do this, this will happen, and then I’ll do this. Read Exodus 3:9-4:12 and you will see God telling Moses what to do. In the next few chapters, what happens? Exactly what God said would happen, exactly the way God said it would happen. Pretty sweet stuff!

In all of that, I just wanted to encourage you that there are some of us out there that aren’t mad dogs. If anything, we should be more humbled than anything else. I’ll share with you two recent examples.

A few days ago, I took a friend to the college group at my church. I don’t know whether he was a believer or not (I think he had just become one due to reading Dan’s “The World-Tilting Gospel”). When we got to the group, I realized we were going over the five points of Calvinism (or reformed doctrine). Long story short, here is what the guy said to me on the way home, “If God did all of this for me (sovereignly choosing me, redeeming me and giving me this faith that none of us deserve nor can maintain), and I’m claiming to be a Christian, why am I not living for Him?” He went on to say that this gave him a very different perspective on the Christian life. It made Him, in a sense, more humbled than he ever was before.

Within a few days at work, several people (including myself) could tell an extremely heightened joy in his life. I asked him why he was so happy just yesterday and he smiled and said the same thing as before, “If God has done all of this for me, I need to do everything to please Him. I owe Him that.” What a profound way to look at the Christian walk. I hope that is a bit encouraging to you, and even some readers.

The other example is while I was working yesterday, I was having an absolute miserable day, for many reasons. However, what humbled me and helped me get through the day was this question, “why did God pick me?” I was such a failure yesterday. I messed everything up. I failed to live out my testimony in public, and in private. Why on earth would God choose a guy like me when clearly I’m such a failure? I couldn’t get my mind around it. But when I got home from work, that is the very same thing that brought me to my knees, humbled before God.

Isn’t that how Christians should be? I see "angry, mad-dog calvy’s" and I think to myself that that is exactly what God wants us not to be. We should be humbled before God. 1 Corinthians 1:26-31 says that because God chose you and me, the foolish things of the world, don’t boast in yourself or in your calling, but let your boast be in the Lord. What a great work he has done for us, amen? That is why we as calvy’s need to be dogmatic about preaching the Gospel! If we have received salvation and an immeasurable joy In Christ, it would be wrong for us to stand on the side and hog the shoulder instead of risking everything we have to move the person standing in the middle of the road while that truck is barreling down the hill.

I’m glad God sovereignly brought you here Darlene! Stick around, stay in the Word, and stay devoted to Christ, even when the going gets tough!

Jared T. Baergen said...

@Frank Turk
To tie this all in to the whole discussion here, that is exactly what Frank Turk has taught me. We can bash other people and claim false this false that, pragmatism here pragmatism there, but what matters most is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Gospel is what changes lives and the Gospel is what needs to be preached. If something hinders that or changes the Gospel message, then we’ll call them out. Until then, preach the Gospel and be true to it from Scripture. Thanks Frank for teaching me the importance of the Gospel above all else!

~Mark said...


mike said...

I have also enjoyed much of Frank's writing, especially on church matters. I have found his writing on SBC issues especially interesting since the church I'm a member of is SBC.

P.S. The Captain himself is pretty boring, even with Tennille. Just sayin'.

Tom Chantry said...

Many of us who reside outside of the Reformed Camp have been on the receiving end of some less than charitable exchanges.

We have a phrase for that sort of thing - a “Cage Stage Calvinist.” I’m not sure where that originated, but it either means the sort of Calvinist who needs to be put in a cage, or - more likely - the sort who treats every theological discussion like a cage fight. Sometimes, I must admit, we’ve had that sort of commenter at Pyro, and they do us no credit. None of the three contributors, though, fits that bill. Phil Johnson, for that matter, does a pretty good job of admonishing the commentariat (I’m trademarking that word, btw) whenever it gets out of hand.

What I would point out, though, is that Calvinism is not alone in its occasional lack of charity.

Would you believe that sometimes we have visitors come into the meta here at TeamPyro, day after day, who…

…loudly proclaim to all and sundry that they’re not Calvinists, regardless of the topic under discussion?

…demonstrate a complete failure to comprehend what we are and what we believe?

…accuse us of believing things that we never believed and never said, because once an (alleged) Calvinist (allegedly) said those things?

…attribute every disagreement, including those which are imagined, to our Calvinism, because, you know, you just can’t trust those Calvinists?

…employ a smug, superior, self-satisfied tone whenever discussing the defects of Calvinists?

…close each comment with a statement indicating that all Calvinists are mean and nasty folks?

Yes, believe it or not, we really do see that sort of person from time to time. I don’t know about others, but when I see them, I tend to doubt that they are really looking to learn anything or to understand us. I find it more likely that they are an under-reported phenomenon: “Stage Cage Arminians.” Or maybe it’s not a stage so much as a character defect, but that goes beyond what one can really discern in a comment thread.

Frank Turk said...


Let me say simply that there is no one outside of this thread who will believe that. The blogosphere is completely and utterly convinced that I am a bad guy with mean-spirited intentions, as are Dan and Phil.

Your testimony here will be discounted as aberrant and unhelpful -- perhaps a lie, if they can muster the words to say that out loud.

However, it's a massive encouragement to me. That there are guys like you who have received what I have siad over the years the right way is, in the end, the only reason I have done it. My thanks to you for having the ears to hear it.

Jared T. Baergen said...

“That there are guys like you who have received what I have said over the years the right way is, in the end, the only reason I have done it.”

I would make a case that that is not the only reason you have done it, but you have done everything out of obedience and love for the Lord, true? See, your love for the Lord is clear in your desire to share the Gospel of Truth. We desperately need the Gospel, and that is your passion.

Based on that, your reasoning for preaching the Gospel isn’t about numbers is it? That would follow the pragmatism that we are fighting so hard against. You are preaching the Gospel out of obedience and because of your love for the Lord. To see others receive what you have said over the years is merely your joy that comes from the Lord working in you, amen? I know you probably will affirm all of that.

Whether people accept my comments, testimonies, and/or critiques isn’t so much my concern. My concern, as you have taught me recently, is that the Gospel is what matters most; it needs to be preached, and those who claim to preach it need to abide by it.

All of the Pyro team receive more criticism than probably any other blogger(s) in the blogosphere. And yet, your love for the Lord and desire to contend for the Truth is evident. What other people think of you really doesn’t matter as long as you are obedient to the Lord and your conscience is clear.

And so I say thanks to all of you, and keep fighting the good fight!

Jared T. Baergen said...

To quote Dan Phillips:

"The Gospel is offensive to human pride. If what we preach as 'Gospel' is not offensive, we're doing it wrong. An inoffensive Gospel is a false Gospel, a damning Gospel-because the only Gospel that saves is the Gospel that offends (1 Cor 1:18,21,23; 2:2; Gal 1:10; 5:11; 6:12,14).

It is time that we [start preaching] that offensive, saving Gospel." Dan Phillips, The World-Tilting Gospel pg 73.

Frank Turk said...

DJP wrote a book?

DJP said...

Two! Who knew?


Mary Elizabeth Tyler said...

Wonderful letter by Sir Aaron, and I totally agree. I also loved to read your articles, Frank, when you posted over at Evangel. I think that was the name of the blog.

God bless you,


Darlene said...

Jared: Thanks so much for responding in a "charitable" (there's that word again) fashion. I haven't the time at the moment to respond at length, but I will say this much: I, too, have encountered similar experiences that you mention in your anecdotes. However, there was no correlation in that experience to Calvinism or Reformed doctrines.

I look forward to picking up on this theme and others. Blessings to you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

APM said...

They should name a whole country after Frank.

I vote for Turkmenistan, if it's not already taken.

Frank Turk said...

Franktopia sounds so much more Art Nouveau and peppy -- sort of a Jetsons meets the Incredibles sort of thing. "Turkmenistan" makes it sound like we're all dressed in giant rusted-battleship colored tents and we have a look about us that we've never imagined anything fun or enjoyable ever; a people with eyes that say, "no sunshine, no rain".

Franktopia it is.

Larry Geiger said...

:-) :-) :-)

Jared T. Baergen said...


Amen, and thank you! Hope that was at least an encouragement to you.

Here's a good passage that gets me through those tough days: Romans 11:33-36.


Darlene said...

Tom Chantry: "What I would point out, though, is that Calvinism is not alone in its occasional lack of charity."

Indeed! And by the way, I found the "Cage-Stage" description amusing. No doubt a large portion of humanity falls victim to such from time to time, myself included. It's difficult not to fall prey to caginess when one is passionate about something. :-)

Darlene said...

Jared: As to your example of the man who was encouraged to hear the 5 points of Calvinism and find them reassuring, that is because he believed Christ chose him in particular. I have known someone who has been tormented by the Calvinist understanding of John 3:16 because they agonized whether or not "they" were one of the "elect" for whom Christ died. They had known a person within their local parish who had left the faith, then some time later had died. The person who had left (let's call him Bob) was considered a brother while among them. He had even taught Sunday school while among them. What to make of such a thing? It was said that "Bob" was never saved in the first place. Yet by all accounts when he was among them it seemed that he was saved. And since Calvinists don't believe that a Christian could lose their salvation, well it all amounted to Bob putting on a show for everyone - he had conned everyone in that congregation into believing he was a brother in Christ, while actually being a "fake" the whole time. Why Bob even did a pretty good job of fooling himself, it seemed.

Prone to scrupulosity at times, this person would look out among the other people during worship and wonder if perhaps many there really weren't saved. What of the pastor - maybe he really wasn't saved either. What of himself? Maybe he wasn't one of God's elect either, but rather one of the reprobates. And furthermore, if this was the case, there wasn't a darned thing he could do about it. If he was destined for reprobation, no matter how much he thought he loved Jesus, he was just a fake. He could not be comforted by Limited Atonement because he might just end up like Bob - Bob who used to take comfort in Limited Atonement, but alas, fell away.

This person felt absolutely impotent in this predicament. His freewill was an illusion and all the exhortations to "take heart", "lay hold of", "press on", "resist sin", etc. became meaningless platitudes. There was nothing he could do one way or the other. If he was one of the reprobates, and surely that could be, then there was nothing he could do to change that.

There are similar accounts of others with whom I have had contact that have experienced the same disillusionment within the Reformed Camp - some even to the point of an inexorable depression that clings like a tenacious bull dog.

Please understand, I do not say these things as ad hominem attacks. Nor am I challenging you to heated argumentation. Simply, I am responding to your anecdotal comments with some of my own, albeit of a contrary persuasion.

Jared T. Baergen said...


I have also encountered those situations, and it is sad when stuff like that happens. But what is encouraging to me is knowing that I'm not God, and the Scriptures give me comfort. I'll give you some examples from Scripture so that you will be armed the next time that scenario arises :)

"There was nothing he could do one way or the other. If he was one of the reprobates, and surely that could be, then there was nothing he could do to change that."

The interesting thing in Scripture is that there is no doctrine of "reprobation." It is an assumption that says, "since God chooses some to be saved, He chooses the others for hell." But it is based on the premise that because we're chosen, we don't have a will. This is the error all throughout history since the reformation. Sovereignty is pitted against human will. That is the first fallacy that leads to that type of thinking.

Here's an example where the Scriptures show that God is perfectly sovereign, and yet man is fully accountable for his own actions: Isiah 10:5-7. God used Assyria to pillage and plunder Israel and take many captive. He was sovereign over the whole situation, but in the end God's anger burned against Assyria for destroying Israel. God was perfectly sovereign, and yet Assyria was fully responsible for their own actions. There are many examples in Scriptures of this. That's just one of them. Some others are in John 3 and John 6.

Lastly, for those situations, we can't know the mind of God, nor should we ever claim to. Romans 9:19-20, Romans 11:33-36, and Daniel 4:34-35 are good verses to go to. We can't fully understand the mind of God. And who are we to think that we can, or that God has to answer to us, right? It brings me great joy knowing that I can't know everything and that God is ultimately sovereign in every situation.

When I explained all of this to my friend the other night (since he had many of the same issues that you just posed), he realized that our thinking of God is corrupted by sin and God is ultimately sovereign and glorified in everything he does.

I hope those examples help! Good discussion :) If you have any questions or want to talk more, feel free to email me so we don't take up the meta here at Pyro.