Friday, June 20, 2014

W. A. Criswell on Calvinism, Predestination

Recently it has been claimed, numerous times, that W. A. Criswell was a five-point Calvinist. This is not true. 

W. A. Criswell (AD 1909-2002) was a leading preacher and pastor for many years.  He was a great preacher of the Gospel, and a conservative leader. A graduate of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, he was influential in the Conservative Resurgence of the Southern Baptist Convention. He pastored First Baptist Church, Dallas, Texas. He was published in the Baptist Standard, Southern Baptist Texan, and the Sword of the Lord. He authored numerous books and served as president of the SBC. His many sermons can be found at

Was W. A. Criswell a Calvinist? Yes, and no. Criswell claimed to be a Calvinist. But he was not the strict, five-point Calvinist some claim him to have been. As one who knew him well said, “He said he was a Calvinist, but he sure didn’t act like one.” Another consideration is that the term Calvinist meant something a little different back in Criswell’s day, than it means to many today. Some old time Calvinists are seeking to separate themselves from some of the New Calvinists.

Dr. Criswell proudly proclaimed himself a Calvinist. But he did not buy into Limited Atonement. He also believed in what some would consider a non-Calvinist view of Free Will. He praised Charles G. Finney, a pariah to the New Calvinists.

Note some of Criswell’s comments below.

God is Sovereign, Man is Free
“Now that, I think, is an ultimate answer for our hearts and our lives about the sovereign, foreordaining, predestinating decrees of Almighty God. He does it, and He runs it, and He chooses, and He elects, and He guides, and He says certain things, and they inevitably come to pass just like it’s written here in the Book. And yet, and yet, with us down here in this world, there's no violation of our moral integrity, or our free choice, or the sovereignty of our own lives. The two go together. The great decree of Almighty God leaves me absolutely and perfectly free. I am not bound; I am at liberty. The decree of God has in it my own free choice, and the two are not antagonistic. They go together in the will of God.”
-W. A. Criswell, Predestination, Acts 27:22-31; 5-23-1954

“God made us morally free. I can curse God to His face. Now isn't that an unusual thing? And a lot of men do it! I can rebel against every edict, every decree, every commandment, every law of God. I can do it! And a lot of men do…
When a man turns down the proper grace of Jesus, I don't understand it. I don't see it. But he has the liberty to do it, the freedom to choose…”
-W. A. Criswell, The Knowledge of the Truth, 1 Timothy 2:1-7; 6-29-1958

God’s Will is that all Come to the Knowledge of the Truth
“As Ezekiel 33:11 describes, "As I live, saith the Lord, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked would turn from his evil way and live: oh, turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die?" That is God; the longsuffering, merciful kindness of our heavenly Father, rejoicing not in condemnation and damnation and the agony of those who are lost, but praying, pleading, waiting, hoping that the lost man will turn and be saved. Oh the longsuffering of God!”
-W. A. Criswell, Lest Any Perish, 2 Peter 3:9; 7-14-1974. 

Used “Into My Heart” and Revelation 3:20 in Evangelism
“I want the Lord Jesus to come into my heart. I want to take Him as my Savior.”
-W. A. Criswell in appealing to the lost during the invitation, John 1:29-37; 4-5-1970,

“And it’s for you for the having and for the taking. All God asks is that we come and receive it. He can’t give it to us with our hands closed. And He can’t come into our hearts when they’re barred against Him. All that He asks is just the invitation. ‘Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if anyone open the door, I will come in’ [Revelation 3:20]. And He will, and brings with Him all of the rich gifts that only heaven could afford, and they’re for you. They’re for you. They’re for you.”
-W. A. Criswell, If a Man Sin, 1 John 2; 11-13-1960. 

The Great Evangelist Charles G. Finney
“One of the tremendous affirmations of the great evangelist and preacher Charles G. Finney is this; that it is the truth of God that convicts and that saves.”
-W. A. Criswell, The Knowledge of the Truth, 1 Timothy 2:1-7; 6-29-1958

Rejected Limited Atonement
“I’ve never been able to understand how the Calvinists, some of them, believe in a "limited atonement." That is, the sacrifice of Christ applied only to those who are the elect, but there is no sacrifice of Christ for the whole world—when John expressly says He is the sacrifice, the atoning, dedicated gift of God in our lives for the whole world [1 John 2:2]. And it is just according to whether we accept it or not as to whether the life of our Lord is efficacious for us in His atoning death.”
-W. A. Criswell, If Anyone Sin, 1 John 2:1-2; 4-8-1973

-David R. Brumbelow, Gulf Coast Pastor, June 20, AD 2014.

More Articles:

Brief History of SBC Conservative Resurgence
Unlimited Atonement, Jesus Died For All
Adrian Rogers on "Wit & Wisdom of Pastor Joe Brumbelow"
Adrian Rogers on Predestination, Calvinism
Paige Patterson on Calvinism
Books on Calvinism, Predestination
Judges 9:13 and Alcohol
More articles in lower right margin.


  1. While I feel it is godly and spiritual for a person to look up to and admire those in the Lord who are over them and by extension, those who are elder, it it not wise to accept everything they have to say on a matter as authoritative.

    By experience, what I have discovered is that during the course of a professing believer's life, their understanding of Scripture will change...if that person is truly saved, it will become more and more Scripturally correct and insightful, more doctrinally complete rather than doctrinally skewed and worldly-wise.

    Potential problem: If someone who was a voluminous writer held to a certain position about something at one time in their life, and then their belief about it later changed, but they forgot to go back and retract or correct what they wrote earlier...if it is continued to be used as a reference, it gives a skewed and inaccurate view of what they really believed.

    This is the trouble with relying on a man's writings and wisdom versus God's word. As believers, it really shouldn't ultimately matter what W.A. Criswell said about anything, much as he may have been loved and respected...we have God's word as our authority. If God's word says that Christ willingly gave His life for the elect, then it means just that...if on the other hand it says that Christ was made the propitiation ( sin-bearer ) for the sins of the nation of Israel and also the sins of whole world INCLUDING the elect, then it means just that.

    "Limited Atonement" as put forth in the systematic theology of "Calvinism" is untrue in its entirety, and that's my opinion...but not all of it is untrue. The Lord really did die for us as believers and lovingly, from what I've come to understand. Did He *lovingly* die for those who would never come to believe? That's another subject, and one that treads outside the bounds of what is strictly written, once again, from what I can see.

    God's love is definitely different for those who believe than it is for those who do not...and anyone who reads Scripture with an eye for detail will probably come to the same or similar conclusion. But we as believers should not be quick to inject our own sentiment into God's word...

    One must carefully read Scripture and weight it equally as carefully. There is a reason for every word, because the audience is God's children, and God's words are precious and to be trembled word is put down in Scripture in an idle fashion...for they are all of God and God does not make mistakes.

    I submit that the atonement is more complicated Scripturally than either Calvinism or Arminianism make it out to be...for what is the purpose of any systematic theology? To simplify the complicated and to give short answers to those who want them. But when everything comes out in the wash, the best question to ask is, do I believe that Christ died for ME? Yes.

    Does God's word say who he both died for and was made the propitiation for? Yes.

    Is it easy to reason, based on conclusions arrived at
    "logically" with a majority of Scriptures that Christ's suffering was only for the elect ( those who would later become believers )...yes...and deceptively so, from what I can see. For one must then "condition" 1 Timothy 4:10 and others with what the "majority" says.'s too "pat", and anyone who falls for "Limited Atonement" as the "Calvinists" put forth is not doing their homework with regard to Scriptural study, IMO.

    Let us continue to read and study God's word to the exclusion of what men say, and thank God for those He has chosen to oversee the flock. He has given us modes of addressing both heresies among us and elders who may be in error...let us use them and obey Him in these matters.


    1. All five points logically fall in line with each other to orient our minds to the fact that God is truly sovereign over all things. Some bible verses address the pragmatic conditions we experience in our lives in the world setting--our responsibilities toward the faith, but it is ultimately the power of the Spirit that must rule in our salvation. Only God can know who is truly saved and He ordained it before the world began. However,we are to recon ourselves to be saved by grace and faith in Christ--then from that perspective we work out the salvation we have already been assured of according to the Gospel. Calvinistic theology provides a higher view of the faith and in that mindset I believe we grow closer to Christ, because we more so consider ourselves to be a part of him, with a humble spirit of knowing that we are a chosen people set apart to God. I have been on both sides and argued against "Calvinism" for a long time, but when I came to truly understand it, I grew much in my faith, and I can never go back. Make sure you really understand it before you cast it off. Read the old Reformers well, then think on it as you read the bible.

    2. I’m sorry for my calvinist brother not understanding the whole of scripture.Calvinist ideology cannot stand unless you ADD to scripture,. We are warned to not add or take away to the WORD. If you study Gen-Rev one theme flows and calvinism is not the theme. Study without doctrinal bias , you will see the misinterpretation of scripture.The cults add and subtract from the WORD, be careful, so does Calvinism. It’s destroys the very character of GOD by making HIM unstable in decision, double minded , a god that created specifically to destroy, a god that lacks justice , and to say the least a liar. This is not the GOD of the canon, this is a cruel fork tongue god


What do you think?