Dan Delzell, pastor of Wellspring “Lutheran” Church in Papillion, Nebraska, and a regular contributor to Christianpost.com, has written a post, “Infant Baptism and 5-Point Calvinism are Limited,” where he says that infant baptism and the 5 Points of Calvinism have “limitations” and “find no support in Scripture.”
He bases his rejection of infant baptism on the fact that many teens who have been baptized as infants turn out to be unbelievers, “there are so many teenagers and adults who were baptized as infants… but are not spiritually reborn through faith in Christ,” and it gives people “a false sense of security.” Why does he not argue against the more foundational paedobaptist’s biblical-theological framework of covenant theology?
Is this all his basis for rejecting infant baptism, a doctrine so precious to Luther that in his Large Catechism, he calls people like Delzell “simpleminded and unlearned” (47), “presumptuous, clumsy minds” (58), “fanatics” (Anabaptists), “blinded” (61)? Delzell also rejects the Lutheran view of baptismal regeneration of both infants and adults!
And how does Delzell reject Calvinism’s “five points”? He says that “limited atonement” limits and robs Christ’s atoning work on the cross of its glory. He says, “I find passages in Scripture that describe Jesus dying for His sheep.” But then he adds, “But I do not find so much as one passage in God’s inerrant Word which says Christ died ONLY for His sheep.” I don’t see Jesus nuancing his death “for his sheep” and “only for his sheep.” He also quotes Hebrews 2:9 (“Jesus dying for everyone in the world”), and 1 John 2:2 (“for all people in the world”).
The problem with Delzell and all others who reject the Reformers’ view of the extent of the atonement is once again, prooftexting out of context. When New Testament writers speak about Jesus dying for “everyone,” “all,” and “world,” the context is always talking about believers alone! For example, in Hebrews 2:9, “everyone” refers—in the next three verses—to “sons” who are sanctified and would be brought to glory, and who are Christ’s “brothers” (Heb 2:10-12). See also my article, “The Death of Christ and the Eternal Covenant.”
Then Delzell attacks the doctrine of double predestination, which he says is an “abhorrent teaching” and is “found only in the logic of man.” But in saying this, Delzell is using his subjective human logic that cannot comprehend God’s sovereignty in election and reprobation. It will be well for Delzell to read R. C. Sproul’s words in “‘Double’ Predestination”:
If God has predestined some but not all to election, does it not follow by what Luther called a “resistless logic” that some are not predestined to election? If, … all salvation is based upon the eternal election of God and not all men are elect from eternity, does that not mean that from eternity there are non-elect who most certainly will not be saved? Has not God chosen from eternity not to elect some people? If so, then we have an eternal choice of non-election which we call reprobation. The inference is clear and necessary, yet some shrink from drawing it.
I once heard the case for “single” predestination articulated by a prominent Lutheran theologian in the above manner. He admitted to me that the conclusion of reprobation was logically inescapable, but he refused to draw the inference, holding steadfastly to “single” predestination. Such a notion of predestination is manifest nonsense (emphasis added).
Does this “Lutheran” dunce even realize that Judas Iscariot, unlike the other eleven apostles who were “chosen,” was predestined to be “the son of destruction” (John 13:18; 17:12; Acts 1:16)?
He then mocks Calvinists by saying that we pray for our unsaved loved ones like this, “Lord, save my unbelieving uncle [or neighbor or friend] … if he is one of the elect.” But I’ve never heard a Calvinist pray like that. Instead, we pray as in the Lord’s Prayer’s “Thy will be done”: “Lord, if it be Thy will, save my unbelieving uncle.” In ridiculing particular atonement, he says Calvinists pray, ”Thank you Lord for dying on the cross for those people who belong to the elect.” Has anyone ever heard a Reformed believer pray that? Instead, we pray with these words, “Thank you Lord for dying on the cross for your people.” Another non-prayer that he thinks Calvinists pray is this, ”Help me Lord to be careful when I preach the Gospel that I do not give the impression that Christ died for everyone.” Has anyone ever heard a Calvinist preacher call, “Repent and be baptized, all you elect!” or “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, you elect, and you will be saved”?
In short, all seven of Delzell’s imaginary Calvinist prayers are, as Sproul says, manifest nonsense!
What Delzell’s human logic cannot comprehend is God’s sovereignty in salvation and reprobation. He has imagined God to be a God of mercy and not justice, so that God loves everyone, including his beloved family and friends, with a saving love, even those who perished in the great flood in Noah’s day, from unborn babies to 600-year-old folks, and are now in hell’s torment. Poor Jesus, he suffered a most cruel death for all those who are now in hell!
Sproul comments on the ludicrous idea of God sending Christ on a mission to die for everyone:
I don’t think we want to believe in a God who sends Christ to die on the cross and then crosses His fingers, hoping that someone will take advantage of that atoning death. Our view of God is different. Our view is that the redemption of specific sinners was an eternal plan of God, and this plan and design was perfectly conceived and perfectly executed so that the will of God to save His people is accomplished by the atoning work of Christ.
Perhaps Delzell thinks that Calvinists teach a symmetrical, positive kind of predestination: God positively chose to give salvation to the elect, and he also chose to actively prevent the non-elect from receiving salvation. Sproul explains this caricature by Arminians such as Delzell:
The distortion of double predestination looks like this: There is a symmetry that exists between election and reprobation. God works in the same way and same manner with respect to the elect and to the reprobate. That is to say, from all eternity God decreed some to election and by divine initiative works faith in their hearts and brings them actively to salvation. By the same token, from all eternity God decrees some to sin and damnation … and actively intervenes to work sin in their lives, bringing them to damnation by divine initiative.
Sproul contrasts Delzell’s aberrant misconception and the Reformed view of double predestination:
In the Reformed view God from all eternity decrees some to election and positively intervenes in their lives to work regeneration and faith by a monergistic work of grace. To the non-elect God withholds this monergistic work of grace, passing them by and leaving them to themselves. He does not monergistically work sin or unbelief in their lives (emphasis added).
This “passing by” of the non-elect is taught in all Reformed confessions, as in the Westminster Confession of Faith:
The rest of mankind God was pleased, according to the unsearchable counsel of His own will, whereby He extends or withholds mercy, as He pleases, for the glory of His Sovereign power over His creatures, to pass by; and to ordain them to dishonor and wrath for their sin, to the praise of His glorious justice (Chap. III: Art. 6 and 7).
In questioning God’s sovereignty in predestinating some to salvation and others to perdition, Delzell is actually arguing against Paul:
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 (Rom 9:20-22, emphases added)?
As Christians, Delzell says, we should not pray the above “Calvinist” prayers, but pray like this name-it-and-claim-it Arminian, Pentecostal prayer: “Lord, save my unbelieving uncle … and I have absolute confidence from your Word that Jesus died for him and wants him in heaven.” But what does it mean for Jesus if this uncle is never saved, and goes to hell? Jesus is a liar; not only that, his death was useless.
So who limits the atoning death of Christ? If he died for every single person born into this world to save every one of them, but most of them are eventually thrown into hell, one can only say, “Poor Jesus!”
Finally, Delzell might profit from reading these words of Charles Spurgeon:
We are often told that we limit the atonement of Christ, because we say that Christ has not made satisfaction for all men, or all men would be saved. Now, our reply to this is that, on the other hand, our opponents limit it, we do not.
The Arminians say, Christ died for all men.
Ask them what they mean by it. Did Christ die so as to secure the salvation of all men?
They say, “No, certainly not.”
We ask them the next question—Did Christ die so as to secure the salvation of any man in particular?
They say, “No.” They are obliged to admit this if they are consistent. They say, “No; Christ has died so that any man may be saved if”—and then follow certain conditions of salvation.
We say then, we will just go back to the old statement—Christ did not die so as beyond a doubt to secure the salvation of anybody, did He? You must say “No.” You are obliged to say so, for you believe that even after a man has been pardoned, he may yet fall from grace and perish.
Now, who is it that limits the death of Christ? Why you … We say Christ so died that He infallibly secured the salvation of a multitude that no man can number, who through Christ’s death not only may be saved, but are saved, must be saved, and cannot by any possibility run the hazard of being anything but saved. You are welcome to your atonement; you may keep it. We will never renounce ours for the sake of it (Sermon 181, New York Street Pulpit, IV, p. 135).
Gene Veith, Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College and columnist for World Magazine and Tabletalk, has this to say about Delzell’s other recent article rejecting the Lutheran view of the Lord’s Supper.
It is so full of misunderstandings and theological bloopers that one does not know where to begin … I don’t, however, expect a Lutheran pastor to reject this teaching or to misunderstand it in such a spectacular way. In what sense, I wonder, can he still consider himself a Lutheran? (“Lutheran pastor attacks Lutheran view of Lord’s Supper”)
The same exact thing could be said of his article about the “limitations” of infant baptism and Calvinism.
For a comprehensive article on this subject, read “Limited Atonement” by R. Scott Clark.