“Christians are truth people – we bend over backward to be accurate, fair, and honest. State opinions by all means but remember you aren’t commanded to have an opinion. You’re commanded to love the truth.”- Kofi Adu-Boahen
On December 2nd, 2021, I moderated a debate between Pastor Andrew Rappaport and Mr. RA Fuentes, dealing with Mr. Fuentes’s assertion that Calvinism is Useless and Dangerous. Mr. Fuentes has been trying to make a name for himself by challenging public debate scholars. He even tried to challenge Dr. James White, who responded by exposing that Mr. Fuentes is not a skilled debater and does not understand the material.
The Pre-Game Show
When Pastor Andrew announced that he would accept the debate, we were warned many times that RA was only trying to use this as an opportunity to expand his platform. Many Christians asked, why in the world are you debating him?
While Pastor Andrew agreed to this debate to help the Christians and church leaders in the Philippines see the error of Mr. Fuentes. He also wanted to explain what Calvinism is and show Mr. Fuentes’s misunderstand of what Calvinists teach. The primary focus of this debate was to glorify and exalt Jesus Christ, share the gospel, and demonstrate that God’s Word is the infallible and final authority. We care about our Philippino brothers and sisters, and we want them to know the truth according to Scripture, then we began to receive a flood of information about Mr. Fuentes. We found out that he has caused much division in the Philippines. According to many pastors in the Philippines, Mr. Fuentes is not a member of any church, he is not a pastor at all, and his former church has raised issues about his character and honesty.
Our reason for this debate is found in Scripture. God calls all believers to be ready to answer and defend the hope we have in the gospel. 1 Peter 3:15 says, “But sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence” (1Pe 3:15 NASB).
Several people have tried to ask Mr. RA Fuentes where he was ordained and what church he pastor’s, and he has refused to answer them. We expected Mr. RA Fuentes to provide some information so we could introduce him for the debate. Questions such as where was ordained, commissioned, what seminary he attended and what church he pastors. Does he have a ministry website? But, Mr. RA Fuentes became angry and lashed out because they and we dared to ask him. Pastor Andrew tried to talk with Mr. Fuentes on social media, but instead, he blocked Pastor Andrew. This caused many Christians in the Philippines to pressure Mr. Fuentes to debate Pastor Andrew. Pastor Andrew tried to establish a format for the debate, and he asked Mr. Fuentes to define his terms and explain what he means by Calvinism and TULIP. That discussion turned into the expected argument from Mr. Fuentes, as he refused to explain his position and ended up attacking pastor Andrew with repeated ad hominem’s (the screenshots show several examples of how Mr. RA Fuentes operates).
Pastor Andrew tried to persuade Mr. Fuentes to explain his position and define his terms, but that turned out to be fruitless. Mr. RA Fuentes ended the conversation admitting that he used ad hominem attacks throughout the discussion, then he decided to take one more jab against Dr. James White.
On With The Show
During the pre-debate discussion, Mr. RA Fuentes repeatedly told Pastor Andrew that he could teach Calvinism. However, Mr. Fuentes demonstrated that he does not understand what Calvinism is and what it teaches during the debate. Mr. Fuentes said that Calvinism is useless and dangerous while acknowledging that his position was offensive in the opening statement. He explained that he was talking about the soteriology (doctrine of salvation) to which Calvinism holds.
Beginning on the useless side, Calvinism is useless in evangelism because non-Calvinist’s do not have to know the TULIP to evangelize. He claimed that Calvinist evangelists don’t want to go out and present the TULIP to unbelievers, so in that sense, it is useless. He then began to discuss the functions of sanctification, which include baptism, church membership, discipleship, giving, service, and evangelism. Here is where Mr. RA Fuentes began to show his misunderstanding of the distinctions between Soteriology and Sanctification. He explained that we were not doing anything on our own. Rather our work is by the power of the Holy Spirit (quoting Phil 2:13). He continued to assert that you don’t have to know Calvinism to serve the Lord and disciple others, give, do missions, sing in a choir, etc. Therefore, Calvinism is still useless.
On to the danger of Calvinism, Mr. RA Fuentes asserted that it makes Christians liars in evangelism because of articles 5 and 8 of the Canons of Dort. He quotes the article then displays that he has no clue what it means. Mr. Fuentes sees a discontinuity between the proclamation of the gospel to all people (according to Mt 28:18-20 and article 5) and the teaching of God’s sovereign work of salvation for the elect (according to Rom 8:39-30 and article 8). Since evangelism is for all, salvation must also be without discrimination. Mr. RA Fuentes justifying faith is for the elect only, which makes Christians liars in evangelism, because you will use John 3:16 and Romans 5:8.
Pastor Andrew then explained that the debate would be over if he could find one instance of usefulness in Calvinistic Soteriology. Andrew said that in pre-debate, he wanted Mr. Fuentes to explain what he means by Calvinism, and he only sent copies of the Synod of Dort instead of explaining his position and understanding. Pastor Andrew said that Calvinism understands that God has saved us; God did all the work by His choosing, and God receives all the credit (Monergism). Andrew said, “I would much rather stand before God and claim that He is greater than He is than to stand before God and say that man is greater than he is” (34:45 mark).
Pastor Andrew explained that “many people try to explain what cannot be fully comprehended by man. God works through us in such a way that the choices we make are exactly as God intended them to be.” For example, we know that when we ask who wrote the book of Romans. At first, someone might say Paul, but then they should realize that God superintended every Word so that Paul’s writings are God’s Words, so God gets 100% of the credit. Pastor Andrew then related this to sanctification, who does good works as a believer? He explained that we could not take credit for the good works. Even though we choose to do good works, they are exactly as God intended them to be, and He gets 100% of the credit.
Pastor Andrew made a powerful statement, saying that the teachings of Calvinism, that man is sinful and cannot save themselves and that man needs God to do the work in salvation—that is the gospel. Calvinism, according to Pastor Andrew, is the belief that God works through us and He gets 100% of the credit. Since humans are sinful and cannot choose God in and of themselves, God must do the first to convict the unbeliever. This, according to Pastor Andrew, is the problem some have, as they want to understand the infinite mind of God. While the lost do not need to understand TULIP or Calvinism to be saved, they must believe they are dead in trespass and sin. They must believe that they are fallen sinners who deserve the wrath of God. They must believe that God alone is their only hope. Those who are regenerate understand what Calvinism is trying to teach, even if they don’t believe in the TULIP arguments.
Pastor Andrew appealed to one verse, asking, who is the one who believes? Did God choose us, or did we choose God? “For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake” (Phil 1:29 NASB). Pastor Andrew argued if Scripture says that God chose us first, in salvation (soteriology), then the teachings of Calvinism are true and necessary, even if you don’t understand Calvinism itself. Philippians says that God grants us our belief and our walk with Him. So, if God grants our salvation (Soteriology), we cannot say we don’t need it. Andrew then explains human experience, did I believe in Christ? Yes, I experienced that. “Theologically, though, as we saw in Phil 1:29, God granted me that belief. God worked through me so that my choice to believe was exactly as God intended it to be. God gets 100% of the glory” (39−41:00).
Mr. Fuentes continued with his introduction in the rebuttal and said, we affirm we are saved by grace through faith. God has given all of us the chance to be saved through Jesus, the only Savior. He said it is useless because we believe God is sovereign without Calvinism. We cannot save ourselves by the righteousness of the Law. Yet when arguing with pastor Nilo del Mundo about the nature of faith, Mr. Fuentes said, “if we are saved because of FAITH, then people will go Hell because they didn’t believe. The problem, that’s actually really wrong in your studies because you’re going to heaven because you were chosen.” The point he made is that salvation is not of faith. In a later video, Mr. RA Fuentes tried to explain Phil 1:29. His position is that God grants faith, and we can use it for God or against God. Mr. RA Fuentes believes that God grants faith to both believers and non-believers and that faith can equally be used for belief in creation or evolution (He fails to realize that this would make God directly responsible for man’s sin and evil).
Next, Mr. Fuentes used a prevalent tactic to thank his opponent for agreeing with him on a point. He said, “everything you believe now, we believe also, so that’s [Calvinism] useless.” Then he said, “so, I thank you for admitting that it’s [Calvinism] useless to the unbelievers because you don’t go out there presenting Calvinism or TULIP to unbelievers… Calvinism is useless, and you already agree on that, so thank you” (46:15−36). He then shifted to the outworking of salvation and again thanked pastor Andrew for agreeing that Calvinism was unnecessary to do good works. No one who knows Mr. RA Fuentes was surprised that he used that dishonest tactic, and many warned that he would try to twist Pastor Andrew’s words. But it was evident that Pastor Andrew was not in agreement with Mr. RA Fuentes.
Mr. RA Fuentes went back to arguing that Christ must have died for all people, not just the elect. He appealed to several atheists who hate and blame God, saying that Calvinism would make God inconsistent. God does not keep His own commandments, love His enemies, or the non-elect because He respects persons. If Calvinism were true, Mr. Fuentes added, it would strengthen the atheist’s argument that God is an evil monster because of their false impressions about God (52−55:10).
In the rebuttal, Pastor Andrew went through several logical fallacies in the statements of Mr. Fuentes. Beginning with strawman arguments– defined by Matt Slick of CARM as “producing an argument about a weaker representation of the truth and attacking it.” Pastor Andrew explained that the teachings of Calvinism come from the Bible and must be true. It does not matter what Mr. Fuentes’s friends think of Calvinism.” He again laid out the crux of the Calvinist position in Soteriology, saying, “we proclaim the gospel to everyone because we do not know who the elect are. However, GOD DOES” (1:03:15). Pastor Andrew then demonstrated how Mr. Fuentes had committed the equivocations fallacies when he said that pastor Andrew agreed with him. Equivocation according to CARM, is “using the same term in an argument in different places, but the word has different meanings.”
Mr. RA Fuentes argued that 1Cor 15:1-4 was the only clear passage for the complete gospel in the cross-examination and asked Pastor Andrew if this passage was the gospel. Pastor Andrew said, “yes, we could say that is the gospel, but there is a lot more we would have to explain than just that because man is dead in trespass and sin. We would have to explain why Christ was buried. We would have to explain that we rightly deserve Hell because we have broken the Law, and that we don’t deserve heaven, and that God Himself came to earth and died for our sin. Is this [1Cor 15:1-4] the gospel? Yes. Is it the complete gospel? No” (1:17:18). Pastor Andrew said a better verse for the gospel would be found in 2 Cor 5:21. Later, Mr. RA Fuentes made another false statement, saying that Pastor Andrew claimed that TULIP was the gospel (Pastor Andrew said Calvinism was the gospel as noted above). Fuentes also claimed that Pastor Andrew denied 1 Cor 15 and proclaimed a false gospel.
Mr. RA Fuentes raised a question over regeneration preceding faith, and Pastor Andrew correctly said that this was not in the scope of the debate. Still, he answered that regeneration precedes faith logically, not chronologically. He explained that both come simultaneously. Mr. Fuentes posted a statement on his media page that says, “Now I know that not all Calvinists believe regeneration precedes faith and that 1 CORINTHIANS 15:1-4 is not a complete gospel presentation or declaration by Paul.” demonstrating his misunderstanding and dishonesty.
Pastor Andrew went through the five points of Calvinism without using the titles, and Mr. RA Fuentes said that he believed all five points were valid, thus proving that he does not understand Calvinism (1:24:30−1:33:25). Mr. RA Fuentes again said Pastor Andrew admitted that Calvinism is useless and dangerous in the closing argument. He then argued for stand-alone verses such as Genesis 6:4, John 3:16, or Romans 5:8, rejecting the idea of context, even claiming that Pastor Andrew would have to use entire chapters in witnessing. Mr. RA Fuentes made the statement, “the danger is that you are a liar if you say that God loves them…those who teach that TULIP is the gospel are accursed (anathema) according to Galatians chapter 1.” Fuentes continued, “you are accursed for perverting the gospel of Jesus Christ” (2:02:25−2:12:20).
After the debate, we went through some audience questions (all three of us discussing). I asked Mr. Fuentes, “Do you believe that Calvinists are Christians?” Mr. Fuentes said, “I believe that some Calvinists are Christians, but not all. There’s so many Calvinists out there that they are not saved. That is my own perspective, they cannot understand the simple Scriptures, and they are rejecting the Bible.” He continued, “I say there in Eph 1:4 God the Father chose us in him, there’s an in him there, that’s a very important phrase. You are not chosen to be saved, but it’s chose in him to walk holy and that’s sanctification right there. So, I believe that most of them if not all, most of them are not Christians, they are not saved, they still need the gospel” (2:28:15−2:29:10). I wanted to give both parties time to present the gospel (found at the 3:11:42 mark). I asked, “what is the gospel? What must I do to be saved.” Mr. Fuentes responded to “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ is the simple answer, but if you are going to ask me to explain it to the unbelievers, maybe there are unbelievers out there, Calvinists, who are unbelievers right here who are listening, I would like to explain to them the gospel….” It was clear that the unsaved people in his mind were the Calvinists and were anathema.
We have been getting messages from all over the Philippines showing how Mr. RA Fuentes lied about the debate claiming victory and making false statements. Pastor Andrew Rappaport did a fantastic job in this debate exposing the error and pride of RA Fuentes. Andrew told everyone that Mr. Fuentes would try to puff himself up and claim victory, and he was right. He promised to post the entire discussion without chopping it up, yet he has not held to that promise.
Dr. James White was correct in asking, “why should anyone waste their time” debating Mr. RA Fuentes. And our brother Kofi is also right when he says, “Christians are truth people,” “we love the truth.” Truth is our only resource of credibility in the world and within the body of Christ. Even if the world hates us for our stance on the truth, we must be people who bend over backward to present the truth. Unfortunately, Mr. Fuentes does not appear to want to live by that standard, and no one should ever waste their time giving this man a platform to spread his error and hate.
See our other articles about the debate and RA Fuentes Apologetics: