My goal is to be on God’s side, not in any camp. From this perspective, I can say that this teaching is not an issue of “Calvin vs. Arminius,” or of “Sovereignty vs. Free-will,” it is an issue of “Truth vs. error,” and an issue of “God’s Word vs. man’s opinion.” As in every post I write, it’s not a matter of my opinion, but of God’s written Word.
Before I continue, there are those who make a big issue of Calvinism, and there are those who don’t care too much about it. There are those who focus on this one idiosyncrasy and those who focus on the Gospel. There are those who don’t focus on Calvinism, and those who blow it out of proportion. I can usually minister alongside men that have an idiosyncrasy, but don’t focus on it. Such were men like some of my college soul-winning buddies. Charles Spurgeon was a Calvinist who did not major on it, as were many well-known writers and preachers from which we tend to quote. Others people take this one theological error too far, and allow it to color their world! I, and many other people, have noticed that people who major on Calvinism tend to be arrogant, pious, and divisive. I am not trying to attack anyone, but to warn against the divisive mindset, as well as warn against the implications of believing God to be as reformed theology portrays Him to be.
I would like to briefly summarize Calvinism/Reformed Theology for those who aren’t familiar with it. Many people have their nuanced versions; but His is the general panoramic overview of the doctrine. Calvinism teaches that God, being sovereign, chose certain people to save and certain people to condemn. Calvinism (in it’s most logical form) teaches that those God chooses shall be saved, and all others have no hope. Put another way, God chooses some to send to Hell, and others to allow into Heaven. This belief colors (even defines) the interpretation of Scripture with a very unhealthy fatalism, and misrepresents the Word of God. If someone holds to this teaching, it follows that God is the Author of sin (Adam had no choice), so God also is the cause of every bad outcome of sin (death, disease, social ills, famine, etc.) This teaching is not just academically wrong, but it degrades the character of God. It makes God into a glory-hound, eternally torturing billions of souls for what purpose? The “good pleasure of His will?”
Let me be very clear: I cannot worship the god of Calvinism. The god of Calvinism is not the God of Heaven, because my God takes “No pleasure in the death of the wicked” (Ezekiel 33:11). In fact, He goes above and beyond to pursue sinners; winning them to Himself, and providing eternal life for all who will believe. God has given us the freedom to choose life or to reject. He has never forced His love on anyone, but He offers it freely.
Calvinism has traditionally been articulated with an acronym: TULIP. I think after you read this, you will agree with me that none of the tenets of Calvinism are Biblical. Calvinism is a caustic doctrine that has the potential to ruin a Christian’s view of God. Let’s do a systematic critique of the Five Points of Calvinism, with the hope that those who read this will accept the Bible rather than the teachings of men.
“T” – Total Depravity. Calvinism suggests that Total Depravity eliminates any ability that a person has to exercise free will in choosing Christ. Calvinism propounds that a sinner is dead in sin, but with the erroneous application that God must regenerate him before he can exercise faith and accept Christ.
- Critique – Total Depravity is a true biblical doctrine, but it is not defined as the Calvinist would. There is nowhere in Scripture to defend an inability to respond, only the inability to please God in yourself. In John 5:40, Jesus expresses the fact that sinners “will not” come to Him. He does not say, “Cannot.” Also, when Christ weeps over Jerusalem, he declares “how often would I have… and ye would not” (Matthew 23:37). To become regenerate (most Calvinists believe) God must revive an individual; thereby making his regeneration a prerequisite to his regeneration. This doesn’t even make sense. Total depravity is misconstrued by Calvinist doctrine.
“U” – Unconditional Election. According to Calvinism, In order to regenerate someone who is totally unable to respond; God must take a proactive, sovereign action based upon His absolute wisdom. He chooses who He will revive from the dead, and gives that person the faith to respond correctly. God chooses unconditionally who will be the elect.
- Critique – Biblically speaking, election is never unto eternal life. Election is only to service or position, and is never unconditional. Consider this example. Ephesians 1:4 says that He chose us who are in Him that we might be holy and unblamable before Him in love. In other words, He knew who would accept Christ, so he decided before time that they would be sanctified (made more like Jesus). God elected believers unto sanctification, not unbelievers unto salvation. All other passages in Scripture which deal with election are qualified by faith, and limited to sanctification and service.
- The prominent verse which some might say proves “Unconditional Election” is John 6:44, which says that none can come unto God unless God draws him. Amen! This is a blessed truth! Now add John 12:32, Jesus said he “Will draw all men unto” Himself. God is drawing every man; some refuse to respond. Unconditional Election is fundamentally flawed.
“L” – Limited Atonement. The Calvinist believes that Christ only died for those He intended to save. His blood atones only for the elect.
- Critique – 2 Peter 2:1 recounts that there are false teachers who are unregenerate, but they are “denying the Lord that bought them.” The Lord “bought” even those who reject Him. And when they do reject Him, they are condemned. Note also that “God so loved the World” (John 3:16). A quick word study will show that the World hates Christ, (John 15:18) and that his disciples are not of the World (John 15:19). Thus God loves those who reject Him, and provided a way that “whosoever will” may trust Christ. The Atonement is universal, not limited.
- Limited Atonement is more a logical result of the previous two points than a Scriptural one. A Calvinist who is intellectually honest will normally admit this.
“I” – Irresistible Grace. According to Calvinism, when God chooses to be good to someone, they have no choice in the matter. They are compelled by God’s grace to do God’s will.
- Critique – The Bible says that God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). If God is willing, then why would He not choose all men? Titus 2:11 says: “The grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men.” Thus, all men have found that grace, but only some have taken it. Not to mention the fact that God’s commands have been rebelled against all through the Bible! If God commands, but does not enable one to fulfill, does that not make God the Author of sin? God forbid. Grace has always been resistible.
“P” – Perseverance of the Saints. According to Calvinism, If one were truly elect, then he will continue in good works until the end of life. If he does not continue in good works, he was not elect in the first place.
- Critique — The Bible teaches “the Perseverance of Christ,” That Jesus will be faithful to those to whom He has pledged Himself. 2 Timothy 2:13 says “If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself.” Once we are in Christ, He keeps us by His power and His faithfulness; the ball is officially in His court.
Romans 4:5 says “But to him that worketh not, but believeth on Him who justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” Thus, works do not factor into salvation, and to bring them up as a key point in determining one’s destiny is to deny that the shed blood of Christ is for the propitiation for sin. It is not seemly or expedient for a Christian to sin, it causes problems in life, ruins one’s testimony, and stresses his relationship with his Father. However, our perseverance is not going to determine salvation. The perseverance of Christ determines our salvation. Even to use it as evidence of ones election is pious and arrogant. The evidence one needs is this: “Do they claim the blood of Jesus to pay for their sins?” If yes, they are saved. Simple.
- Consider the “saints” in Corinth (I Cor. 1:2). These were saved people; yet they were sinning so badly that God was killing them off. They had not persevered; yet they were saved, “so as by fire” (I Cor. 3:15).
In conclusion, none of the tenets of Calvinism are Biblical. Calvinism is a caustic doctrine that has the potential to ruin a Christian’s view of God.
The ramifications are immense, consider some of them below.
- If God chooses who will be saved and who will not be saved, then God has created billions of souls for the purpose of torturing them eternally. The motive for this? “The good pleasure of His will?” God is not cruel, He died for the world, and the world rejected Him. But Calvinism suggests that God is cruel, and that He does delight in death.
- If God exercises His sovereign will over the choices of man, then He forced Adam to eat the fruit, and is the author of sin; therefore God is unholy.
- If God exercises his sovereignty over the choices of man, then He is insincere when He commands all men, everywhere to repent (Acts 17:30). If God sovereignly forces mankind to accept Him, or refuses to enable that which He has commanded for all; then He is double-minded, and unstable. This is not the God of the Bible, but it is the god of Calvinism.
These few thoughts are enough for anyone to reconsider Calvinism.
Once again, I intend to identify with God and His Word, not to fall into any man’s doctrinal “camp.” I hope those reading this will have the same mind.
How do we respond to this error? In love, speak the truth. I write this as a help to Christians who may struggle with this problem, and as a brotherly rebuke to those who teach it to others. Let’s keep the first things first, the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ as our purpose for life, and not some pious eisegesis invented by those who do not understand the character and motives of God.
What do you think about this article? Do you disagree? Agree? Comment below! I would love to hear your thoughts.