does this strike you as funny?

The latest 9 Marks eJournal is out. There is an article by Owen Strachan attempting to sketch the history of the doctrine of conversion in America. In the article, he cites George Whitfield in the line of the classic Calvinistic preachers who believed in conversion of a Calvinistic sort, the kind where a man is first regenerated (i.e., converted), then has faith given him, after which he is expected to respond to God’s invitation, repent and believe, in order to be converted after having already been converted.

Here’s the quote from Whitfield

But thus it must be, if Christ be not your righteousness. For God’s justice must be satisfied; and, unless Christ’s righteousness is imputed and applied to you here, you must hereafter be satisfying the divine justice in hell-torments eternally; nay, Christ himself shall condemn you to that place of torment. And how cutting is that thought! Methinks I see poor, trembling, Christless wretches, standing before the bar of God, crying out, Lord, if we must be damned, let some angel, or some archangel, pronounce the damnatory sentence: but all in vain. Christ himself shall pronounce the irrevocable sentence. Knowing therefore the terrors of the Lord, let me persuade you to close with Christ, and never rest till you can say, "the Lord our righteousness." Who knows but the Lord may have mercy on, nay, abundantly pardon you? Beg of God to give you faith; and, if the Lord gives you that, you will by it receive Christ, with his righteousness, and his All. (From The Works of the Reverend George Whitefield, London, 1771-1772, accessed here online.)

And here is Strachan’s following paragraph:

Like Edwards, Whitefield told his hearers to entreat the merciful Lord for pardon. He simultaneously explained the righteous character of God, detailing the way Christ has accomplished his mission of salvation, and implored his audience to close with Christ. The sermonic material was always God-centered. Whitefield made it clear that conversion occurs by God’s pleasure, yet that hearers were still responsible to respond.

Does that strike you as funny? Note especially this bit from Whitfield’s quote:

Who knows but the Lord may have mercy on, nay, abundantly pardon you? Beg of God to give you faith; and, if the Lord gives you that, you will by it receive Christ, with his righteousness, and his All.

Hmm… I thought those Calvinists believed in Total Depravity! Apparently not.



  1. Dave Doran says:

    I am not seeing your point, Don. Can you be more specific?

  2. Larry says:

    1. Don’t most Calvinists distinguish between regeneration and conversion? You equate them here by saying “regeneration (i.e., conversion)” and talking about being converted after having already been converted, but the typical ordo has regeneration followed by conversion, which is repentance and faith. But I don’t know of any Calvinists who would agree with your presentation. Do you?

    2. What’s the funny part?

    • Well, here’s what I thought was funny. As I understand it, according to the Calvinistic doctrine of Total Depravity, one can’t believe God without God regenerating him and giving the faith, etc, because you are so depraved that you won’t seek God on your own, you don’t want God, you hate God. etc.

      So here’s Whitfield, telling people to beg God to give them the faith. Why would they do that? They hate God, they don’t want God, they can’t seek God. They’re Dead, brother.


      As for the distinguishing between regeneration and conversion, I realize that it is true the C’s make a distinction. But as I understand the term, “re” means “again” and “generate” means “to make alive”, so “to make alive again”, which sounds suspiciously like New Birth to me. New Birth seems like conversion, but perhaps conversion is an erg that must be added to faith. Not sure… I realize C’s are MONergists, so that probably can’t be it.

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  3. T. Pennock says:


    This is typical Calvinist doubletalk. And, worse yet, it reverses the Biblical order, placing regeneration before faith. It’s the kind of nonsense that hastened the demise of Calvinism in New England.

    Yeah, I see the irony in the post. It reminds me of a funeral I attended years ago. The widow wept bitterly over her husband’s casket, pleading for his return. Everybody knew he wasn’t coming back, even at the earnest tears of a sorrowful wife. Her pleas went unanswered as she completely melted down.

    Yet this same senario is repeated over and over in Calvinism’s gospel offer, peachers pleading for dead men to do what no dead man can do. Nevertheless, Calvinists tell us this is God’s method with sinners, to plead for an impossible response and feign sincerity in the process.

  4. Dave Doran says:

    Thanks for answering. At least it helps me understand why you thought it was funny.

  5. Larry says:

    1. I think most Calvinists attach the regenerating and converting work of the Spirit to the preaching of the Word, so it is entirely Calvinistic to preach the Word and plead with sinners to believe/ask God for faith. (This also answers T. Pennock’s post.)

    2. Since you admit that Calvinists distinguish between regeneration and conversion, should not you reflect that in your post? It sounds like you are saying “We know that Calvinists don’t believe this, but we are going to accuse them of it anyway in order to make our point.” It seems to me that if you are going to talk about their positions, you should use their dictionary.

    3. With respect to “regeneration” I think you are committing a fundamental exegetical fallacy of trying to break words down into parts. That doesn’t always work, and this is one of those cases. Regeneration, theologically, is the giving of spiritual life to the spiritually dead. It doesn’t really have to do with “again” so far as I know. You can say it means making alive again, but I doubt you will find many theologies that will say that. And it will probably make people wonder why you are creating your own meaning instead of using the common one.

    4. Even if you are right about the order and definition, it still seems incorrect to liken regeneration (making alive) with conversion (repentance and faith). In the traditional Calvinist position, regeneration precedes conversion. In the traditional non-Calvinist position, conversion precedes regeneration. In either case, they are not the same.

    • hey, Larry, please note the category on this post: “Fun and Games”. This is not meant to be a serious post. We are not attempting to do theology. We are attempting to enjoy the foibles of theology that we all have. I am sure you will be able to find some statement of mine where I say something that doesn’t match my professed theology.

      But when you try to make a “Fun and Games” post serious and sober, you run the risk of proving the theory that Calvinists are humorless androids.

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  6. Larry says:

    Fair enough … I didn’t notice the category.

  7. Keith says:

    “Calvinists tell us this is God’s method with sinners, to plead for an impossible response and feign sincerity in the process.”

    No proper Calvinist would tell anyone that. Rather, God’s method with sinners is to sincerely plead for a response which those who are regenerated will certainly (not just possibly) make. The message is one of His means for accomplishing his purpose.

    “I am sure you will be able to find some statement of mine where I say something that doesn’t match my professed theology.”

    Of course that’s true for anyone. And, it’s totally fine to have fun with Calvinists or anyone else. However, Whitfield’s statement here is in complete agreement with his Calvinist theology.


    • Keith, no one thinks a ‘proper Calvinist’ would tell anyone that. Nevertheless, it is what they do.

      And Whitfield’s statement is still ludicrous.

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  8. Keith says:


    No it isn’t. Only an ingnorant, aberrant “calvinist” tells anyone to “feign sincerity.” That’s why your “fun and games” here isn’t funny. Everyone who properly understands calvinism believes, with passion, that you sincerely plead with people to repent and believe — there’s no feigning involved.

    And, I understand that your misunderstanding/misinterpretation of Whitefield is ludicrous. In fact it really does fit the bill of “fun and games.” Whitefield can’t claim credit for the laugh though.

    • Well, Keith, we could go on and on as usual. But let’s just give it a rest.

      It is ludicrous to think that someone who isn’t regenerated could want to have faith, according to Calvinist dogma. They can’t want it. They are dead. It would be like pleading with a corpse to want to get up.

      If it’s all of God, according to Calvinist theology, they should plead with God, not the sinner.

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  9. Keith says:


    One last reply, then I’ll gladly give it a rest as you say . . .

    Yes, it is ludicrous to think that someone who isn’t regenerated could want to have faith. However, a preacher speaking to a gathered congregation does not know who is elect. He also knows that he has been commanded to preach the gospel — which is one of God’s means of regenerating the elect. He pleads with people for God, and God will use that pleading to do His work. No calvinist says that “it’s all of God” in the sense that God rules out means. On the contrary, they strongly insist that God’s ordinary way is not unmediated but by means.

    Here’s an analogy. It’s wartime and word comes that the camp — which includes the infirmary tent — is about to be overrun by the enemy. You run into the medics tent and shout, “Wake up and get up, we’ve got to get out of here!” You don’t know who died earlier in the night and who is still alive — but you sincerely call out to all. Those who are alive, will respond.

    Now to rest.

    • Hi Keith,

      Well, the preacher should plead with people to believe, because that is what God does. God says, “Ho! Every one who thirsts, come to the waters; And you who have no money come, buy and eat. Come, buy wine and milk Without money and without cost.” (NAU Isaiah 55:1). He doesn’t say, “Ask me to give you faith.” He says, “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else.” (KJV Isaiah 45:22). He has Paul say, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.”

      I would challenge you to find anywhere in the Bible where it says “Beg of God to give you faith;”. Everywhere the appeal is simply to believe, exercise faith, not ask for it.

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3