The most common arguments I get against Calvinism have precious little to do with Scripture. People very rarely say “so, what do you make of this verse here?” It happens sometime, but it is not that common.
Instead, I get frequent appeals to consequences. This is an argument of the form “If X is true, then Y would follow. I don’t like Y, so X must not be true”.
There is a valid form of argument that goes “If X, then Y. Not Y, so not X.” This assumes that Y has some truth value. It’s a proposition that can be evaluated as true or false.
In an appeal to consequences, Y does not have a truth value. It’s not measured as true or false.
For instance, yesterday people complained that a belief in unconditional election and God’s sovereignty leads to fatalism and a loss of urgency in evangelism. They are wrong in those assertions, but the argument was also wrong.
As Biblical absolutists, we must believe the Bible. We cannot have any problems, objections, or embarrassment about what the Bible says. Once we understand what it says, we must be willing to obey it, regardless of the consequences.
So, if the Bible does teach God’s sovereignty, then we must believe it whether or not it makes us fatalists. If the Bible teaches us election, we must believe it, even if it takes away some sense of urgency in evangelism. Now, in my opinion, it _does_ take away that “wretched urgency” and that’s a _good_ thing. But it doesn’t matter. We must believe the Bible.
I get the same arguments when I advocate separation from the world (2 Cor 6:14-18). I’ve rarely had anyone respond to the passages I quote or the commentaries and preachers I refer to as having taught this very same thing. Sometimes I get an arrogant dismissal of them, “They are missing the whole point of Christianity!” But I almost never get someone to actually respond.
Instead, I get an appeal to consequences. “No, if we were to separate from the world, then how could we possibly _reach_ the world? Don’t you know that salt in the shaker is useless?”
The assertion that Christians are called to reach the world is absolutely true, and utterly relevant to the larger discussion of how we relate to the world. But it is completely useless as an argument against separation. If the Bible teaches separation, we must “come out from among them, and be ye separate”.
The better way to handle the Bible is to realize that the Bible teaches election and God’s sovereignty. The Bible also teaches man’s responsibility and the necessity of evangelism. We then see that God’s sovereignty does _not_ lead to fatalism or laziness in evangelism. But we were able to do this without trampling all over the Bible.
Similarly, the Bible teaches Christians to be separate from the world. It also teaches us that it is impractical and undesirable to _leave_ the world, and that we are to go into the world to build the kingdom. The right way to handle this is to not compromise any of those teachings, but to understand them in light of one another. It’s not a question of “How can I reach the world if I am separated from the world?” The question is, “How can I reach the world _while_ I am separated from it.” And then you realize that, just as a city on a hill is visible by virtue of not being in a valley, we are visible to and reach the world _because_ we are separated from it.