Jerry Walls lectures on objections to Reformed theology

Sherlock Holmes and John Watson are going to take a look at the data
Sherlock Holmes and John Watson are going to take a look at the data

WARNING: This lecture is a very sharp and pointed critique of Calvinist theology. Viewer discretion is advised. 

In Protestant Christianity, there is a division between people who accept Calvinist doctrines and those who don’t. Both groups think that the other group are genuine Christians, but the debate has more to do with the human free will, human responsibility and who God loves.

About Dr. Jerry Walls:

  • BA in Religion and Philosophy, Houghton College
  • MDiv, Princeton Seminary
  • STM, Yale Divinity School
  • PhD in Philosophy, Notre Dame

He is a professor at Houston Baptist University.

Dr. Walls is Protestant (like me). He is a substance dualist (like me). And he believes in a real eternal Hell (like me). And he is very, very assertive. Definitely no confidence problems here. And you’re not going to have a problem keeping your attention on this lecture!

Note that I do not agree with or endorse Dr. Walls on all of his views.

Here’s the lecture: (64 minutes)

Summary:

  • What are the main doctrines of Calvinism? (TULIP)
  • A look at the Westminster Confession
  • The nature of freedom and free will
  • Calvinist doctrine of freedom: compatibilism
  • The implications of compatibilism
  • Who determines what each person will desire on Calvinism?
  • Who does God love on Calvinism?
  • The law of non-contradiction
  • Does God make a genuine offer of salvation to all people on Calvinism?
  • Does God love “the elect” differently than the “non-elect” on Calvinism?

He quotes at least a half-dozen Calvinist theologians in this lecture, including John Piper, J.I. Packer and D.A. Carson. And he also mentions 3 videos at the end of the lecture where he goes over specific Bible verses that seem to support Calvinism (part 4, part 5, part 6 are the ones he mentioned).

This lecture is very strong stuff, and I think that he could have been nicer when presenting it, but he hit on every single objection that I have to Calvinism, and he worked through my reasoning too! So I really liked that he validated all of my concerns about Calvinism. I’m not as bothered about the problems with Calvinism as he is, though. I don’t think it’s a big divisive issue. I almost always read Calvinist theologians when I am reading theology. I just conjoin Calvinism with middle knowledge and resistible grace, and it’s fine. You get divine sovereignty AND human responsibility, and without having to swallow determinism and double-predestination (doctrines which cannot be separated from 5-point Calvinism). Calvinists are some of the best theologians, but I think that they are just wrong on the things he discusses in his lecture.

Calvinists who are interested in this issue would do well to read a book on the other side of the fence, like “Salvation and Sovereignty” by Kenneth Heathley. That’s a good defense of the middle knowledge perspective.

9 thoughts on “Jerry Walls lectures on objections to Reformed theology”

  1. I remember having a good chuckle at Walls’ lectures back when I was Molinist-leaning, he’s a bright, funny and very passionate guy (perhaps a tad too passionate at times). I don’t know why, but he also reminds me of the late Bill Paxton. For a alternative look at Dr. Walls’ presentation; check out the following (starts around 15 minutes in): http://www.aomin.org/aoblog/2013/09/03/radio-free-geneva-and-continued-review-of-yusuf-ismails-comments/
    Just a few side-notes WK:
    – Sadly, the link to Dr. Walls’ profile at HBU is broken.
    – You note “…the debate has more to do with the human free will, human responsibility and who God loves.” I’d like to add, it also has a lot to do with God’s libertarian freedom, the nature of His omni-attributes, human depravity, divine simplicity (and its denial by almost every modern proponent of synergism) and whether God’s knowledge is analogous or of the same kind as our own. All massive questions, which tie in to this discussion and tend to be sadly overlooked.
    – By “I do not agree with or endorse Dr. Walls on all of his views”, I’m assuming you’re referring to his belief and defense of Purgatory? If so, I tend to agree. Its something which has concerned me about Jerry, he tends to let his philosophical reasoning lead him to rather unbiblical conclusions.

  2. James White is no Calvinist.

    Calvinism is a complete theological system. Infant baptism and the spiritual presence view of the Eucharist are every bit as essential to Calvinism as TULIP.

    My brother is a member of a Dutch Reformed church. When I told him about the Phoenix Reformed Baptist Church, he said “Is it Reformed or Baptist? Because the two are totally different theologies.”

    I remember a Reformed theologian stating that adding Calvin’s TULIP to an Evangelical Baptist theology is a recipe for disaster. It takes its monomaniac tendencies (e.g. a fanatical obligation to evangelize) and applies them to one piece of Calvin’s worldview. You need the rest of his theology to function like control rods in a nuclear reactor.

    You have the same practical obligations regardless of whether TULIP is accurate or not (purgatory is a different matter). So I don’t understand why “Calvinist” Evangelicals are so obsessed with making sure everyone believes in TULIP.

    1. Drew, regarding the disagreement over the specifics of what constitutes ‘Reformed’ or ‘Calvinistic’ and who gets to utilize the moniker. If you want to see a friendly dialogue on the issue, between a Presbyterian and Reformed Baptist, have a listen to this podcast: http://www.regularreformed.com/

      Personally, since I view TULIP as biblical, I don’t think the issue of staking a claim on the name of Calvin is important in the least. Calvin wasn’t infallible and echoes men who came before him; noticing these themes of God’s all-encompassing Sovereignty in Scripture. We can debate whether he was correct in his understanding of Paedobaptism etc. Honestly, the battle of these words is a little silly, imo. 🙂

      1. I’m just saying that we need a new word for Baptists who believe in TULIP. We had one historically, Baptists who believed in TULIP were called Particular Baptists while those who did not were called General Baptists.
        I don’t care if you see TULIP as biblical, since I don’t see that it makes any difference in one’s religious practice.
        The podcast sounds interesting. On which episode did they have a debate as to whether a Baptist can be a true Calvinist?

  3. I went to a Reformed-leaning seminary (let’s put it this way that Wesleyan Arminian Gordon Fee was a very small minority and felt a bit uncomfortable there) but I don’t think TULIP was ever used as a bellwether or barometer nor was it ever pushed as an agenda.

    There are also moderate Calvinists worth reading (e.g., Millard Erickson) and even of course original source material, like John Calvin’s Institutes and various of his commentaries. Amusingly there are differences between say John Calvin and John MacArthur. This PDF appeared in Christianity Today about 9 years ago: http://www.christianitytoday.com/assets/10272.pdf (regarding Baptists and Calvinism)

    Erickson (who wrote “Christian Theology”, a standard systematic theology textbook) is a more nuanced moderate Calvinist, e.g., he favors the language of “the Atonement: Unlimited in Potential, Limited in Scope (i.e., only to believers)”, which is effectively Limited Atonement — but worded better.

    He’s also a fan of double perseverance (different than double predestination) i.e., God perseveres with the saints, BUT those who are true believers also persevere with God.

    I think I did a contrast one year where John Murray (Scottish Presbyterian), John Calvin, and Millard Erickson had a slightly different ordo salutis as compared to John MacArthur, Tim Challies, and John Piper.

    Maybe the most valuable thing is to understand heretical systems of belief (e.g., classic Arminianism, Pelagianism, Semi-Pelagianism) and to understand why these were denounced. And to realize there’s slight differences and these nuances in using theological terms (e.g., Augustine and the modern-day Reformed crew in referring to Original Sin).

    1. I have the Millard Erickson systematic theology, and I agree that it’s “gently” Calvinistic. I actually like Wayne Grudem the best because he writes so much practical stuff, especially on moral issues and policy issues. He’s more hard-line on the Calvinism, but oh well. They are both great theologians.

  4. Doesn’t Walls hold to some form of Post-Mortem Evangelism? PME in my church experience is an Evangelism killer. Don’t believe me? Just go to a church/denom where such is held and then go to a group of people and say

    “Hey guys! Whats up? Lets get a group of people together and get out to the streets and engage some people with the Good News about Jesus Christ!”

    Then watch the responses.

    {Yawn… sigh…} “No. Its Ok You go. I believe God is a God of love. He will take care of them. They will eventually have their moment with Him and I am sure everything will go well then.”

    or

    {Groan} “Oh. No… not me… I am not very good at evangelism. I will say the wrong thing. I will just mess up my words. Better to let them just have their day with God because God can explain it better than little old me.”

    or

    “No way! Why do I wish to be the means by which someone will reject Jesus and get cast into Hell? Instead – let them meet God on Judgment Day. I’m sure when they meet God and see that awesome beatific vision and what not, they will certainly not reject Jesus.”

    So it goes… .

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