“Sovereign Grace” & Courtship: A Contradiction?

If you have read my previous post about Courtship being a means for parents extending control of their children then you should have a good idea of where I am coming from.

Courtship: Extending Parents “Protection” Beyond Home Schooling?

Sovereign Grace Ministries, the church association (some would say denomination) that Joshua Harris author of I Kissed Dating Goodbye is a senior pastor in teaches the Calvinistic belief. Harris’s group uses the title “Reformed” and not “Calvinism” though most say they are synonymous. In fact, their name “Sovereign Grace” implies they are Calvinistic/Reformed.

The Reformed Doctrine is based on a strong emphasis on God’s Sovereignty. Some including myself would say that this doctrine takes God’s chosen Sovereignty too far. Their strong emphasis on Sovereignty leads them to believe that God chooses who will be saved and that man has no choice or control in the matter. Put another way God provides an “irresistible grace” to some and those he gives this to are assured of being saved. Putting this another way, man has no free will in his salvation and it is God who decides who He will save including when.

What about those that don’t get this “irresistible grace?” They have no chance of salvation according to Reformed Theology. Either by default or also by God’s selection (depending on which variation of Calvinism taught) they will not be saved and hence eternally damned. This is the dark side of Calvinism that many times proponents choose to downplay.

Nevertheless Calvinism teaches that man has no choice with respect to salvation. God controls who will and who will not go to heaven. Thus this teaching promotes what some say is an extreme view of God’s Sovereignty.

A summary of Sovereign Grace’s teaching is summarized in one message on their web site:

Sovereign Grace & The Glorious Mystery of Election

Note: Many who question the Calvinistic doctrine will state that the use of the term “mystery” is another way of stating the contradictions in Scripture that conflict with Calvinism.

Now here is where I see a contradiction.

Why do groups such as Sovereign Grace Ministries promote a system such as courtship that seems to “over protect” their children while at the same time stating they believe how much God is in control and sovereign? That is according to their doctrine, if God wants to save their children he will do that. Conversely, if God hasn’t chosen to save them, there is nothing they can do to prevent that.

I am not downplaying the benefits of and that one should bring up a child in proper God fearing environment. I am just pointing out the contradiction. Others have shared my same concern. Also, if it is God’s sovereign choice, wouldn’t a Godly environment have no affect on whether their children come to Christ or not?

On a side note, I am always curious if leaders who promote Calvinism are willing to admit that God may not choose to save some of their children. It is easy to teach something like this when it doesn’t hit home and affect your family. It is much easier to say you believe this while pointing to crowd of strangers and not your own family.

One well known Christian author, Dave Hunt, has a book titled “What Love Is This?” That phrase sums it up. How could a God we portray as having a father heart not at least afford all individuals an opportunity to be saved?

Note: I do not hold to or promote a Calvinistic viewpoint though I don’t consider myself to be what is the opposite of the spectrum, an Arminian. If anything I would call myself a “Calminian.”

Tim Lahaye is quoted as saying that Calvinism is “perilously close to “blasphemy.” I would agree with Tim Lahaye. I am just seeing a contradiction. Maybe this should also be called “mystery?” 😉


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8 Responses to ““Sovereign Grace” & Courtship: A Contradiction?”

  1. steve240 Says:

    On another blog, it was pointed out that a pastor at a Sovereign Grace Church was asked to step down because one his adult children had an issue. I again see a disconnect between the doctrine that is taught vs. their actions.

    If a child grows and doesn’t follow the path, then according to a “sovereign grace” doctrine the child just may not be part of the “elect” or God may not yet have chosen this person for “election.” Again I don’t believe in this doctrine but one does need to be consistent.

  2. Dan Says:

    Hi guys, sorry if anyone has already noticed this – but I was interested to see in one of Joshua Harris’s recent blog posts that he paid lip service to being aware that heavy handed legalism has resulted from his book. He wrote;

    “Sadly, there have been many times that people have applied its principles in a very legalistic and heavy-handed way. Some people have had my book forced on them or have been treated as though agreeing with me is the only option for Christians. If you’re one of those people, I apologize. That certainly wasn’t my intention when I wrote it”.


    I guess that’s not going to be much encouragement for any young person who has been forced into a “court-ship” but at least Harris is aware of the legalism hovering behind such a book.

    Sorry …. 😉

    I know that is off the topic of the post. In answer to the original question, I would class myself as a Calvinist quite happily. But I think it very easily lends itself to legalism and to heavy-handed shepherding and all sorts of excesses. So hence horrible things are being done in the Name of the sovereignity of God. I like your “Calminian” approach. Maybe that is worth investigating!

  3. steve240 Says:


    Thanks for your comment. I am not aware of Harris doing any more than the one blog page you shared. I have two blog pages where I blog on this:

    Josh Harris’s “Updated” View on Courtship/Groups

    Josh Harris’s View On People Using His Book Legalistically

    From what I have seen Joshua Harris has done very little to try and reduce the system he promotes being applied legalistically. Besides his two clarifying messages t, I don’t see much being done. Harris doesn’t even share any of the the details of these messages on his blog which would lead to wider distribution of these updated. In summary, he had the time to write the book but doesn’t seem to be taking any time try and correct the misapplication.

    In hindsight if he had shared some of the defects of his approach in his book then maybe this legalism would have been reduced. Also acknowledging that there isn’t a one size that fits all would have helped. Both of these are topics in my blog.

    Now with the book out, he could blog more and try and clarify how he intended his approach to and not to be applied. All the blogging he has done is to say he is sorry which really isn’t doing anything.

    My guess is that this legalism has turned a number of people off about his book and they system Harris promotes. Ironically, had the book been presented or revised earlier in its history to counteract this legalism then maybe it would have been more than a fad.

  4. steve240 Says:


    To answer your comment about Calvinism you may be missing the point of this blog entry. My point is that it is a contradiction for a group that believes in Calvinism to promote such a controlling system. If they believe that God is so in control as Calvinism teaches including deciding if one becomes saved or not then why does the group push a system that seems to be so controlling of their children?

    I am not blaming Calvinism I am saying what Sovereign Grace is doing in this area conflicts with what they say the believe about “sovereign grace.”

    I am starting to do more in depth research on what Calvinism means including its darker side. I take it that you have done some research on what Calvinism stands for? One not believing in Calvinism doesn’t mean one is Arminian; there is a spectrum.

  5. Matthew Says:

    I was passing by your blog and, if you don’t mind, I would like to make a comment.

    First, what you are implying is that human responsibility and the sovereignty of God are incompatible. We reformed Christians do not believe for one second that man is not responsible for his actions just because God is sovereign. We point to passages like the story of Joseph. Though he was sold into slavery by his wicked brothers and sent to Egypt, yet he still said, “What you meant for evil, God meant for Good” (my rough translation).

    The Bible teaches that Josephs brothers were responsible for their sin; yet, it also teaches that God was in control of the entire situation. This is called the doctrine of concurrence. So, we hold to both the responsibility of man as well as the sovereignty of God.

    Another example would be the crucifixion of Christ. God planned it from all eternity, yet he still held the people culpable for their sins.

    The questions remains: is man’s free will and God’s absolute control compatible? Yes they are. Let me explain. A definition of free will is “the ability to do what one wants.” You have to have both the ability and the desire. Someone says, “hey, I want to fly!” That person is not free to fly because he lacks the ability. But, for arguments’ sake, say the person was Superman, having the ability to fly. But let’s say that he doesnt want to. Then, our superman would not be free to fly. For he does not WANT to. you must posess the desire and the ability. That is the only definition of free will that will work.

    Furthermore, sinful man does not seek God (See Romans) nor find Him appealing. He has the desire to sin (that is, not seek the things of God). He also has the ability to sin. Therefore, man is free to sin. Since no one seeks God, God must seek him.

    My question to you would be this. When we all get to heaven, will we be “free” according to your definition of free will? After all, we won’t sin (because we wont WANT to). If you say that God is unjust for not giving us “free will” here on earth, then you must be consistent to say that God will be unjust for taking away our “freedom” in heaven. (The Scriptures allude to the fact that there will be no more sin in heaven.)

    Further, was Jesus free when he was tempted. If you don’t accept the reformed definition of free will, then you would have to be consistent and say, “No. Jesus was not free.” The reason why is because Jesus was God and God cannot sin. Therefore, under your system, he was not free. Under the reformed system, however, we can say he was free even though he could not do anything but not sin.

    I hope you get my whole argument. This is a tough subject. “Calvinism,” when it gets right down to it, offends our fleshy pride. For it makes God supreme and not us.

    It seems “not fair” on the surface; yet, we must remind ourself that what is fair is that we all go to hell. It’s wonder he should even save one.

    To God alone be the glory!

  6. steve240 Says:


    Thanks for your comment.

    I think you are missing my point. I am not implying that “that human responsibility and the sovereignty of God are incompatible.”

    I am questioning why Reformed parents are so overprotective of their children in light of their supposed views on election. I see a disconnect between what they say they believe and their actions.

    As I understand it, the Reformed/Calvinist/”sovereign grace” view of election believes that God elects some to salvation and if God has elected them to salvation there is no question that they will become saved. On the other hand according to Calvinism, if God doesn’t choose to save someone then there is no hope of this person saved. The belief is that a person’s salvation is all dependent on God and human effort has no effect.

    Thus with this view what a parent does and how they raise a child will have no impact on whether their child will be saved or not. In other words, even if the parents do all that is possible to insure their child is saved, all that matters according to this belief is God’s choice. The only exception that I know of is that some reformed groups believe that infant baptism guarantees that the person baptized is one of God’s elect. Sovereign Grace Ministries doesn’t believe in infant baptism to that exception wouldn’t apply to them.

    Thus I question why this (over)protection is being done to such an extreme when what they say they believe is that God ultimately controls which of their children will be saved. Their beliefs say that no matter what they do as parents God will elect some of their children and reprobate others while their actions seem to show they believe something else.

    Hopefully I have clarified my meaning.

    I do see your point about no one seeking God as it is written in part of Romans. Let me share you one story that someone shared on http://www.sguncensored.wordpress.com (now sgmsurvivors.com).

    This person posting using the name “SGM Casualty” indicated that she read her bible and started listing in two separate columns passages that supported the Arminian view and those that supported the Calvinist view. She came up with pretty much an equal number of scriptures supporting each side. When she presented this to leadership in the Sovereign Grace Church she attended it wasn’t well received.

    On that note if all I read was the passage in Romans about no one seeking God, I would agree with you on that point but I see other passages in the bible that seem to contradict your assertion that man doesn’t seek God at all. Here are some Scriptures that give this other side:

    Acts 17:27 talks about God doing certain things so that “man would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him.” This certainly shows some involvement that man in his seeking God and indicates that God expects man to seek God.

    Ephesians 4:18 indicates that some men are “separated from God because of the hardening of their hearts.” One version of the bible says “ignorance” is in them due to this hardness. One commentary that I read a while ago but can’t remember the name indicates that it isn’t as if God wouldn’t reveal himself to them. It is because some men won’t open their heart and listen to Him and get God reveal himself. Thus they are separated from God because they don’t want God to reveal himself according to this passage.

    Romans 2:4 talks about God’s kindness the leads someone to repentance and the next verse warns about certain people’s “stubborness” and “unrepentant heart.” This balances God’s drawing someone to repentance and man’s response.

    Romans 2:8 talks about those “who reject the truth and follow evil.” This again implies that man has a decision here.

    II Thes 2:10 indicates that those who are perishing are perishing because they “refused to love the truth and so be saved.”

    If God sovereignly decides who he will save and that all others have no chance at salvation I wonder why God would call all men to repent(Acts 17:30)? Why would he do this if he knows that only some can repent. If God is truly doing this He seems to be an unloving God that is “taunting” those He knows can’t repent with a call to repent.

  7. csoldier4 Says:


    I don’t think I misunderstood you at all. You believe that human responsibility and the sovereignty of God (as reformed theologians define it) to be incompatible. How can man be responsible for going to hell if God decides his “fate”?

    First, let me just say that I don’t know alot about IKDG. I read part of it and didn’t really like it. To be honest, I don’t know what I think about it now. That aside, I still stick up for their views on election and grace. Not because I particularly like those doctrines. I just happen to believe that that is what the Scriptures teach. I used to be vehemently against any doctrine of election or predestination; however, I just can’t get past the Scripture. To me, the doctrine of election has become a unifying tool in that it brings unity to the seemingly contradictions that Scripture poses to us.

    So the question remains. Why should Calvinists “overprotect” their kids, teach them the gospel, etc., if God decides their eternal fate from the beginning of time? The answer is simple. Calvinists have never denied that man has a choice to make. We MUST choose Christ in order to be saved. We must believe in his work on the cross. That belief is an act of the will. We just happen to believe that the Father chose us first. In fact, he had to; otherwise, no one would ever be saved. Of course, people have a will. The problem is that they will always use their free will to reject the offer of salvation.

    Calvinists don’t think that God controls everything in our lives. In fact, I know one prominent Reformed apologist that told me that he believes we have libertarian free will in that we can choose what socks to wear or where to go to college, etc. So, we should protect our kids because they have choices to make.

    Secondly, you have agreed with me that no one seeks God. Then my question to you is how are people saved, then? If no one chooses God on their own, then doesn’t that mean that God must enable them, giving them the desire to choose Christ? After all, you wouldn’t want to say that there is something good and righteous in man that would cause him to seek God, would you?

    You asked the question, “If God sovereignly decides who he will save and that all others have no chance at salvation I wonder why God would call all men to repent(Acts 17:30)?”

    My response is this: Given the testimony of Scripture, I must believe in two different types of callings. (1) A general call and (2) an effectual calling.

    The general call goes out to all (many called, few are chosen). The effectual call goes to only the elect. Read the follwing from Romans:

    Romans 8:29–For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified

    Notice in verse 30 that all the called get justified. “Those whom he called, he ALSO justified.” This is why we have to believe in both a general call and an effectual call. After all, you wouldn’t want to say that EVERYONE who is called gets justified, would you? That’s universalism. If we only believed in one calling, then we would, according to verse 30, have to admit that everyone gets saved.

    Pelagius, a contemporary of Augustine, argued the same thing you are arguing. How could God hold people responsible for not obeying His commands if they never had the ability to obey in the first place? Well, the truth is He can. When God chooses to not elect someone to salvation, he has done them NO wrong. The reason is because that person, with his depraved will, WANTS to sin. So, by God passing over him (that is, not electing him), he is merely giving the sinner what he wants, namely, nothing to do with God. In fact, that’s what we all want. The Scripture calls us “enemies” of God. We are all morally depraved, wanting nothing to do with God at all. So, God revives us, giving us a new heart (don’t you pray for God to change people’s hearts from time to time?), so that we will use our free will to choose him. That grace is irresistible (John 6:37). “All that the Father gives me, WILL come to me.”

    I know that this is a hard subject, and I appreciate the fact that you are at least willing to debate it. Most are not, however, willing to take the heart work needed to pillage through the Scriptures.

    Most, not all, but most reject reformed theology because it offends their flesh. So, they quickly reject it as false without ever giving it any consideration whatsoever. This shouldn’t be the case. There should be a healthy dialogue between Reformed and non-Reformed Christians so that we can sharpen each other with the love of Christ.

    Steve, let me just say this. I could be wrong. Now, I don’t think I am, but I could be. So since I could be wrong, I want to argue my points as humbly as I possibly can, knowing that I am infallible.

    The last thing I want to ask you is this. Why are you a Christian? I mean, is it because you were smart enough to choose Christ? If so, then does that mean that you have something to boast about? I think it would. For the reformed Christian, however, we cannot boast about anything. For, we were NOT smart enough to choose Christ. We were NOT good enough to Christ. Therefore, we are overflowing with gratitude towards God and His Son, Jesus Christ, the only God, for choosing us out from among our depraved ways. Christians everywhere have no room for boasting.

    Let Christ, and Him alone, be our only boast.

    To God be the glory.

  8. steve240 Says:


    My point was more about why at least this group that says they are Reformed/Calvinists seem to overprotect their children when they say they believe God decides who will and won’t be saved.

    I would say about the IKDG book that there is wisdom and foolishness (hence my blog title) in the approach Harris pushes. Unfortunately he didn’t share and still hasn’t shared (like on his website) the problems with his system. He has almost done the equivalent of saying he found the “perfect church.”

    It is interesting how you say man must make a choice when with predestination God has already made the choice for man about salvation. I thought that the heart of Calvinism theology is the “irresistible grace” and that according to this theology the “elect” will make the choice to accept Christ (they have no choice).

    I didn’t agree with you that no one seeks God. I agreed that you could reach that conclusion if you just read the one passage in Romans you refer to. I then gave a passage in Acts that specifically indicated that God was expecting man to “perhaps reach out” to Him (Acts 17:27). That passage gives another perspective than what you indicated as being an absolute.

    As I indicated before there are a number of scriptures that seem to almost contradict each other. You have shared a few that support that Calvinist view. I have shared some that support more of a Calminian and/or Arminian view.

    I do admire your humility to indicate you may be wrong on this. I was appalled when SG first started moving towards Reformed and their view was that what they were teaching was the only possible view. I would say that since the Reformation this issue has been debated in the church and probably will continue to be debated until Christ returns. Only then will we absolutely know what the correct interpretation of this is.

    You mention the offensiveness of some of Calvinism. One book calls this the dark side of Calvnism. I would just hope that those who teach and promote Calvinism are willing to accept and teach the dark side. For example, a Calvinist should be willing to accept that God may reprobate his own children.

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