Matthew R. Perry

Did Falwell Really Use the Word “Heresy” to Describe Calvinism?

In Religious Organizations, SBC, Theology on April 14, 2007 at 12:21 pm

Jerry Falwell this past Friday preached a sermon to 1828 prospective new students to Liberty University entitled “Our Message, Mission, and Vision.”  In their blog, Founders’ Ministries points out one tragic statement when Falwell addresses the atonement:

We are not into partcular love or limited atonement. As a matter of fact we consider it heresy.”

“Heresy”?  What an unfortunate use of words.  Irenaeus in the 2nd century defined heresy in a work of his as such:

Error, indeed, is never set forth in its naked deformity, lest, being thus exposed, it should at once be detected. But it is craftily decked out in on attractive dress, so as, by its outward form, to make it appear to the inexperienced (ridiculous as the expression may seem) more true than truth itself (IrenaeusAgainst Heresies 1.2) (HT: Matt Slick, CARM)

In fact, condemnation falls upon those who are false teachers of false doctrines. Galatians 1:8-9 tells us:

But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you [MRP: that is, preaches heresy], let him be accursed. [9] As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.

Also in Titus 3:10:

As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him,

Clearly, this is a serious matter. Clearly, the use of this word should never be used lightly. Clearly, we must be careful when calling something we do not hold to be true or agree with ‘heresy.’

Tom Ascol makes an excellent point here:

Does Jerry Falwell and Liberty University really judge John Piper to be a heretic? If we take his words seriously, as surely we ought if we are to honor him, then he believes that Al Mohler, R.C. Sproul, John MacArthur, D. James Kennedy, Ligon Duncan, Mark Dever, Tom Nettles, Wayne Grudem, Sinclair Ferguson, James White and Fred Malone teach heresy.

That certainly is his and Liberty’s right to believe. I simply regret that they believe it. I do not regard my universal redemptionist brothers to be heretics because of their views of general atonement. I think they are wrong and they think the same of me. But that does not mean that we have to accuse each other of being heretics.

In a recent blog entry (“Why All the Angst Against Calvinism, Objection I: They Are Not Evangelistic“) that has just recently caught some attention, I understand the objections against it — in fact, I used to hold to them rather stringently as well. Yet, I never found myself telling others they were flat heretics when they believed in Christ and his atoning work on the cross. This is a hard issue to reconcile and I have my convictions which I believe speak from Scripture.

But when Jerry Falwell with his influence begins to use this language, and when Ergun Caner says that “Calvinists are worse than Muslims,” I shake my head that these men as leaders of an influential bastion of an evangelical institution of higher learning throw out comments such as this. It seems rather irresponsible.

But, as Ascol also points out, at least he’s forthright and honest about his beliefs. Disagree, but do so in a manner which does not slanderize those who disagree with you. I expected more from Falwell and Caner.

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  1. Crazy!
    We are heretics then???!

  2. “If we take his words seriously, as surely we ought if we are to honor him, then he believes that Al Mohler, R.C. Sproul, John MacArthur, D. James Kennedy, Ligon Duncan, Mark Dever, Tom Nettles, Wayne Grudem, Sinclair Ferguson, James White and Fred Malone teach heresy.”

    Absolutely. Though surely this will illicit strong reactions, all of the above teach heresy and are heretics. These men should not go up to a stranger on the street and tell them with a straight face that Christ loves them and died for them. This simply isn`t the case if their god had not preselected the person to be given the ability to respond. This would make the evangelist a liar if he told them this. The Calvinist god may well have ordained this person to the eternal flames, all for this god`s “good pleasure.” And though a “general call” may go out to them, it amounts to the same thing as a mother calling her deaf child to supper. What a fraudulent and disingenuous god this Calvinist god is. Yes, heresy and unscriptural. There is nothing else to call it amigo. May you come to the knowledge of the word, which emphatically declares that God sent his son to die for all, takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, is not willing that any should perish, and desires all men to be saved. No amount of gymnastics can fit these facts into your system.

  3. John:

    Thank you for your feelings on the matter. I still believe that “heretic” is still too strong a word. We are simply taking what the Bible says as truth, even if it may seem hard. While my sensibilities may not like this, at least we are trying to take all of what the Bible says at face-value. Would you go so far to say that the verses such as John 6:37-44, Ephesians 1:3-14, Romans 9, and even the Old Testament where God chose a people out of all the nations of the world to show himself (Genesis 12:1-3; Deuteronomy 7:7-8) are heretical?

    It just seems as if you are getting on us about picking and choosing verses when you are guilty of the same thing. It’s not a “Calvinist god,” it’s the same God that inspired both sets of verses — so there must be some reconciliation somewhere, even if we don’t understand what it may be. But calling preachers who preach unashamedly on Scripture ‘heretics’ is a dangerous and irresponsible charge to levy.

  4. Calvin was a murderous heretic as he tortured and killed true believers, amongst others, in the name of God. To misrepresent God as evil (as the Pharisees did to Jesus)by dictating that God predestines people to hell, may be the unpardenable sin. Calvin misrepresented the character of God with his evil doctrine, and a significant number of ignorant people continue to perpetuate this evil even today!

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