What’s Wrong with Calvinism?

I’ve never been a fan of Jean Calvin’s theology.

Even before I learned who Calvin was or what his five points were all about, I was in disagreement with him by way of his theological descendants on such things as “once saved, always saved”. As a young adult, I took an interest in Reformed Theology when a friend of mine became active in a Presbyterian church. I made a point of understanding the debate between Arminism and Calvinism and what I found was that Calvinism is a biblical doctrine. No, seriously. I had not realized that Reformed folks held a high-view of Scripture and that the “Doctrines of Grace” where thoroughly rooted in the Biblical text. That being said, I believe that a doctrine can be biblical and still be wrong. How? Flawed hermeneutics.

Calvin and company viewed Scripture through a flawed hermeneutical lens which resulted in seeing such things as ‘predestination’ and ‘perseverance of the saints’ when a different lens would have revealed something else. Thanks to a sermon by Mark Driscoll, I realized one evening not long ago that my problem with Calvinism is this metaphorical lens through which it views and interprets the Bible.

Mark was teaching about the doctrine of Predestination in his series “Religion Saves + 9 Other Misconceptions” when I had my epiphany. After a reference that he made in his lesson to two ancient church fathers; Origen and Augustine, I found myself thinking, “What about Jewish theologians?”. I realized that Mark was citing two people from Gentile backgrounds who read the Scriptures with Greco-Roman eyes. (See this and this.) As I thought about it some more, I understood that this is my problem with the doctrine of Predestination as well as Calvinism as a whole: it is the product of a Western/Gentile worldview and not an Eastern/Jewish worldview. Consequently, I went in search of Judaism’s take on predestination aka “determinism”(For an interesting discussion on God’s sovereignty and philosophical determinism, see this. For one rabbi’s attempt to answer questions on determinism, see this.) . Here’s what I found.

Josephus, the Jewish historian who lived comfortably in the lap of the Roman Empire wrote for his Roman patron(s) that there were three main sects of Judaism in his day and that one of the ways to distinguish them was by their deterministic views. According to Josephus, the Sadducees were the least deterministic, believing that God had given man free will and left him to get on with life. The Essenes were the most deterministic, holding that all is mapped out. No choices. No freedom. All is decided. Between these two poles were the Pharisees who held that while God sovereignly rules his creation, he permits humans the moral freedom and responsibility to choose between right and wrong.1

The Bible is clear: Saul of Tarsus was a Pharisee. In fact he was a rather “successful” Pharisee, meaning that he was very good at doing and being whatever it was that made one a Pharisee. Why not then assume that Saul held typical Pharisaical views of theology? Furthermore, when Saul of Tarsus became the Apostle Paul, why believe that his Pharisaical education evaporated and was replaced with Calvin’s systematic theology? It seems to me that when we read Paul’s statements about God’s “foreknowledge”, “predestination” and “election”, we should strive to understand them from the perspective of a first century Pharisee and not St. Augustine via Calvin and other Reformers.

I believe that Calvin’s systematic theology goes wrong because it interprets the Scripture from a Western/Greek perspective. Fate is a Greek concept; not a Jewish one. (Note: fatalism is not a feature of Calvinist theology, however it seems to me that it is a common error among Calvinists.) That isn’t to say that there weren’t Jews who held ideas which were similar to “fate”. However, there is not much reason to believe that the Apostle Paul was one of them. In fact, there is reason to believe that as a Pharisee, Paul held a sort of middle position which acknowledged the sovereignty of God without relinquishing the ability of men to make genuine moral choices (as opposed to predetermined moral choices). Consequently, any interpretation of Paul which sounds more like hard-determinism is, in my opinion, suspect. That would include Calvin’s doctrine of predestination.

NB: In the interest of transparency and honesty, readers should know that everything in green was added following comments by Kyle. They were not present in the original post which his comments address.

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48 Comments

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48 responses to “What’s Wrong with Calvinism?

  1. Hi, i like the comment in the Enchiridian (handbook on christian doctrine) by St. Augusine, after a long “calvinistic” discussion of predestinaiton he said, “so let us pray that we might be among the elect.”

    I think often the problem is what a history professor I once had called, “hardening of the categories.” St Augustine alllow for a bit of mystery.

    I’ve not read much Calvin, but I think he allowd for some as well. Can’t say so much for hard core 5 pointers. Anyway, the 5 points, while found in Calvin, really were from a later debate by others against others. The tulip is the bumpersticker of that debate – not the treatise.

  2. Thanks for that Dave.

    I believe that I once read that Calvin, during his lifetime, found that folks were getting too worried about whether or not they were “elect” and so he had to warn them not to worry themselves into the sin of doubt.

  3. Pingback: Dun, Dun, Dun….CALVINISM! « Upwrite

  4. Sorry to say but I think that this post is flawed in multiple ways. First, you say we should look through “Jewish” eyes, you cite Josephus. Funny, Josephus wasn’t a Christian, should we then interpret Scripture through a non-Christian hermenuetic? I mean if we are going to look through things in “Jewish” eyes we might as well throw out the hypostatic union, cause in “Jewish” eyes Christ wasn’t the Messiah. Further, who was the main audience of Paul’s epistles? Not Jews (Acts 9:15). It was the Gentile nations. Are you assuming, and can you raise proof, that Paul wouldn’t put aside his Pharisaical views and relate to his audience via the culture they were used to; Biblical evidence seems to point otherwise (c.f. Acts 17:22-24; 1 Corinthians 9:19-22). I mean really, there is Biblical evidence that Paul gave up his Pharisaical theology (c.f. Colossians 2:8-15; Galatians 1:14). Secondly, you say, “I believe that Calvin’s systematic theology goes wrong because it interprets the Scripture from a Western/Greek perspective.” This demonstrates a clear lack of understanding in Reformed hermenuetics, or even of Calvin’s Institutes. Calvin did not interpret Scripture through a Western/Greek perspective. The governing hermenuetical principle for the Reformed is “Scripture interpreting Scripture.” Does Sola Scriptura ring a bell? You can’t be serious when you say, “I made a point of understanding the debate between Arminism and Calvinism,” and still make comments like the one above. Thirdly, you wrongly equate predestination with determinism, they aren’t the same “head for head.” Go read some philosophy, strict determinism leads to fatalism, and Biblical philosophy and Biblical predestination are not fatalistic. Further, you seem to be of the impression that if predestination is true then there can’t be personal moral responsibility, once again, if you maintain this you have shown your lack of any education within the Reformed world.
    I’m not saying I agree with Calvinism. What I am saying is that if you are going to “answer” for Calvinistic doctrine you are going to have to do a much better job then simply asserting they aren’t viewing things through “Jewish” eyes. You are going to have to prove that their principle of Scripture interpreting Scripture is fundamentally wrong and that they failed to do this themselves, you are going to have to answer for Covenant Theology, the larger schema that the soteriological TULIP is grounded in (seriously, go ahead and breather fire against TULIP, but with Covenant Theology in the background that’s like threatening to beat up a five year old when his 20 year old kick boxing brother is right behind him. Don’t have a narrow view of TULIP just because most neo-Calvinists do…two words: Covenant Theology). To do this you need to answer to the great minds of Covenant Theology, like Herman Witsius (read him and tell me if he didn’t use “Jewish” theology), Meredith Kline (once again a top-rated OT scholar), Casper Olevinus, etc. It might also help you a lot to deal honestly with their exegesis of “predestination” texts (i.e. Romans 9, Ephesians 1, Romans 8), simply asserting “they have it wrong” hardly answers for the amount of sound Biblical exegesis produced. Then you must prove your own heremenuetical principle that we should read Scripture through “Jewish” eyes, and prove that no Reformed theologian has done this (I suggest reading Geerhardus Vos’ Biblical Theology, and then see if you can still write this post).
    So all in all your “critique” well…it wasn’t much of a critique. However, if you do the above, successfully, I am sure you will come the Arminian champion of the 21st century! No offense is meant through this post. You took the liberty to critique Calvinism in an open forum, and I am just returning the favor by critiquing your critique of Calvinism. He who does not want to be scrutinized hasn’t a right to blog (right?).
    Grace.

  5. Hi Kyle,

    Thanks for the comment.
    You’re absolutely right: a person who blogs (particularly on such heavy subjects as theology) invites scrutiny and criticism. I can take it.

    Additionally, I make no pretense about being well-read or widely educated. I did make an effort to understand the tension between Arminianism and Calvinism at a point long ago and to be honesty, I’m not at all surprised to learn that years later without constantly revisiting what I read at that time, I’ve lost quite a bit of what I learned. This is not the only post flawed in “multiple ways” at this blog.

    Anyway, I’m giving careful consideration to your comments and I’m thinking about some rhetorical questions that you asked (as opposed to the snarky comments) and I’ll probably get around to posting some thoughts later.

    Feel free to criticique those too.

  6. Snarky? None of the above comments were snarky.

  7. Pingback: What’s Wrong with Kyle? « ArMchair TheolOGian

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  9. Carl

    I have been a Methodist all my life and raised my children in the Methodist church. My son even goes to a Methodist college. Now, in the middle of his junior year, he tells me that he wants to go to seminary school and study Reformed theology. I am really having a difficult time dealing with the concept of the “elect”. I believe in the concept of the prevenient grace of God which beckons people toward faith in God. Don’t we have the free will to either accept that gift from God or to deny it? The concept that God creates humanity with some predestined for damnation and the “elect” predestined for salvation just does not make sense.

    • amtog

      Hi Carl,
      As you’ve probably guessed, I haven’t been blogging much here lately but I do check from time to time and I want to say that I appreciate you commenting.

      I hope your son studies Reformed Theology with an understanding that it is not THE THEOLOGY. Personally, I would like to study Reformed Theology so that I might have a clearer understanding of it, reserving the right to disagree with it of course.

      God give you peace on this family issue.

  10. Scooter@PJ

    After reading this I think that I will go listen to Driscoll’s sermon, I’ve read that book and didn’t really notice anything significant in that chapter. I need to re-read it when I get home.

    I say that to note that I HAVE NOT listened to the sermon yet so my view may change, probably not, but may.

    I say humbly, this is probably the worst argument I’ve ever herd against Calvinism. To say that someone who is a western christian cannot have correct biblical interpretation simply because of their pagan background (before they became believers) is preposterous. To say that ignores the guidance of the Holy Spirit to ALL believers. Origen and Augustine were not perfect and had their many flaws, but they were not 100% flawed in their thinking because they were from the West.

    I’m sorry but that is just a very weak argument.

    But I do agree that paul was in the middle ground. The bible is silent on supporting either extreme of this debate. But a few things must be remembered when we think about it.

    1) God is sovereign, including that he knows everything that was, that is, and that will be, he is not surprised by any of our decisions.

    2) God chose to glorify himself in the most excellent way, through the atonement of man through Jesus.

    3) we CANNOT make the argument that “it isn’t fair” when we consider election (which I think when this whole debate boils down, this is left in the pot). perfect morality is synonymous with God’s character, and if we say that we know what is moral more-so than he does, we make ourselves out to be God and sin.

    • amtog

      Thanks for commenting Scooter.

      It seems to me that you may have over-generalized my position in this post. I didn’t state that a “Western Christian cannot have correct biblical interpretation.” I agree with you that such a position is “weak”…if not simply absurd. My opinion in this post is “I believe that Calvin’s systematic theology”, as it pertains to predestination, “goes astry” because it is adversly influenced by Greek thought rather than Hebrew thought.

      We agree that “Origen and Augustine were not perfect” and “they were not 100% flawed in their thinking because they were from the West”. My position is simply that a) Calvin was greatly influenced by these men and b) that influence lead to an erroneous doctrine of election/predestination. I think that Calvin might have come up with a different articulation of the doctrine had he been more influenced by Hebrew thought than Greek thought. Admittedly, this is speculation on my part.

      As for your three reminders:

      1) agreed

      2) agreed that Jesus was chosen by God to atone for man’s sins which results in God’s glory

      3)…uh…agreed that God is perfectly moral. It seems that you assume that Calvin’s doctrine of election/predestination is correct. Obviously, I disagree. It also seems that you equate disagreeing with Calvin’s doctrine with disagreeing with God, ergo making “ourselves out to be God”. Definitely don’t agree.

      Thanks for coming by.

  11. Calvin gives himself and his almost total misunderstanding of Jesus away, when he says of the excellent question of the trained disciples in Acts 1:6: “there are more errors than words in this question.” Jesus did not think so. He had already promised the disciples positions of rulership in a restored Israel (Matt. 19:28), and thus the intelligent question of the disciples in Acts 1:6. It was the right question. The timing was the issue needing comment from Jesus, not the fact itself of the coming restoration of Israel in the Kingdom. Calvin did not understand the Gospel of the Kingdom.

    • amtog

      Thanks for your comment Anthony, especially considering the age of the post and the infrequency that I blog these days.

      I appreciate NT Wright’s assessment of Reformation doctrine; it tended to answer 16th century questions as opposed to first century questions. (I believe I’ve paraphrased him correctly.)

  12. Since John Calvin was a co conspirator in servetus death of his free will without compulsion-and therefore it would seen logical to him but horrifying to us to infer from his actions ,directly, that- he- calvin himself thought he was doing the will of God for since he believed in the providence of God.-although erroneously so..but and however a tree is known by his fruit – ergo….

  13. amtog

    Thanks for the comment Timothy…

    Yes, trees and fruit. Agreed, but sometimes it’s not so clear. Think of the many people who find Calvin’s articulation of the Christian faith to be edifying and encouraging in their pursuit of God.

  14. Scott

    I find the comment from Kyle above typical of reformed thinkers today. His point concerning Covenant Theology as the foundation of Calvinism is right. In fact the most comprehensive rebuttal to Calvinism and Covenantal Theology is the alternative: “Dispensational Theology”. Informed, intelligent biblical responses to the world market place of ideas, is our responsibility as Christians. There is an overwhelming disparity of theological books on this subject in favor of reformed verses dispensational. But, this does not in itself give any more weight to one over the other, any more than the idea that a democracy is superior to any other form of government, because it may represent a majority. The Christian movement was started by One individual and a minority group of followers totally outnumbered by it’s opponents, who conspired and killed all of them but one. In spite of the overwhelming odds, the gospel / church survived because of God’s purposes. History is His story. I think we must be careful when we align with one group of men who claim they have the truth. I said “be careful”, not that we have the freedom to decide what the truth is. Absolute truth can only be embraced by the Christian in the bible alone. Not the interpretations of men. Calvinism, Dispensationalism, are both systematic theologies developed by men. Let’s keep that in mind. Attending seminary today will not guarantee a correct biblical world view or a “renewed mind”. In fact it may guarantee the absence of it! Does the bible specifically mention advanced theological institutions of higher learning? Or, does He mention that against His church, the gates of hell will not stand against… I thank God that He is the gentleman, in Revelation “Christ stands outside the door and knocks”. Paul in 1 Corinthians 13: “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love”. I have found in my years as a Christian the reformed thinkers and many of them are friends, that their “charity” is lacking. In addition, the time wasted on theological wrestling has not equipped us for service, in fact has lead many to abandon their faith. We will all benefit from focusing on the major points, but will be reduced to meaningless bickering if we do not.

  15. amtog

    Thanks for your comment Scott.

    I’ve wittnessed a lot of “meaningless bickering” and I’ve (sadly) participated in a lot of it. A warning to avoid it is rarely (if ever) unneeded.

    It’s hard to say for sure, but from my far vantage point, it seems that the tide of “hyper-Calvinism” that was probably at its peak in the US when I wrote that post (or possibly just past it) has receded a bit.

  16. Jason

    Amtog, In my neck of the woods the “hyper-Calvinism” is spreading like a wildfire, and the pressures of it seem overwhelming at times. When I was younger in my faith it was easy for me to fall prey to various doctrines that simply weren’t true, but through struggling in prayer God has delivered me from such things and graciously given me clarity, but recently I’ve been seeing many people close to me falling victim to this Calvinsim. It’s a strange teaching! What’s more, the fruit of it is arrogance and arguments. I haven’t put my finger on it yet but it seems they are redefining the word “grace”. They talk about grace alot but it’s a different grace. Pray for Christians to recognize these false teachings. Pray for my friends and relatives who are getting caught in this web of lies. Let’s preach the truth. It’s not the responsibility of the clergy. If you are a Christian then it’s your responsibility!

    • Fred Mitchell

      And Division. And a lack of Joy. I had never heard of reformed theology until several months ago. I have been looking into it and speaking with some reformed theology advocates. I am truly amazed at the level of arrogance, lack of joy, desire to argue for the sake of arguing. For example, even in this post. Kyle’s comments were obviously “snarky” to any objective third party. But he does not see it. His idol is his theology. Grace has been redefined. The reformed theology people I know observe the Sabbath because God commanded it. Back to law. Back to works. Back to death.

      • amtog

        Thanks for visiting Fred.

        I agree that there seems to be quite a bit of arrogant “Neo-Reformed” Christians out there. That said, the merits of RT can’t be assessed (entirely) on the character of its adherents. I’m prone to arrogance myself and I don’t want people evaluating the merits of the Christian faith on my moral defects…the same defects which puts me in need of Jesus.

        Of course, the other side of the argument is that it is the transformation from arrogant to humble that gives credence to our faith in Jesus.

  17. amtog

    Thanks for coming by Jason.

    While I understand feeling disappointed or frustrated with people who adopt the “hyper-Calvinist” point of view, I’m rather conservative when it comes to labeling “false teaching”. In fact, my understanding of the Bible leads me to reserve the designation “false teaching/er” for those who deny that Jesus came in the flesh, that he was crucified and resurrected on the third day according to the Scriptures and that he is the Annoited One who is to come and rule God’s creation.

    Hyper-Calvinists do not deny any of this and so I’m not inclined to take them on in the same spirit that Paul took on the Gnostics and those who were trying to mislead the early church.

    I disagree with them. I’ve found them arrogant and lacking in grace at times. (I’ve been arrogant and lacking in grace myself.) But I’m not ready to call them “false teachers”.

  18. John

    Thanks for the comments on Reformed Theology, Calvinism, the “Elect”, etc. I have listened to STeve Brown for years and am now attending a PCA church in Arizona (not because of Brown, but because I like the pastor’s teaching and their commitment to mission work). I and my family haven’t joined the church yet, but have been attending since August 09. I would like to be a part of a church community as a member, but still not sure I’m fully buying into Calvinism. I was raised a Lutheran, and my wife was Catholic, and we have been attending generic Bible churches for years. We are looking for a little more theological structure, which is what the PCA has over a Bible church. It’s tough because I don’t want to label myself a “Presbyterian” or anything else except a follower of Christ. Sometimes I think the most profound theological statement ever made was “Jesus loves me, this I know.” When I dig too much deeper than that, my brain starts to hurt.

  19. Scott

    This is a good source of reputable clarity on the subject:

    http://www.middletownbiblechurch.org/doctrine/danger01.htm

  20. amtog

    @John- thanks for leaving a comment. I strongly believe in the need for community and will pray that God will give you a safe one where you can grow in the likeness of Jesus.

    @Scott-thanks for sharing the link

    @ other folks- I’m leaving Scott’s link available with the disclaimer that it may or may not reflect my own opinion. I don’t know and even if it didn’t, I feel like it’s your responsibility to deal with whatever you find there.

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  22. Neda

    I want to agree with Jason that Hyper Calvinism is spreading like wild fire. Among my friends as well . These were children of God that once held fast to the Good News. The Gospel of love that the good Lord commanded to be preached among all tongues and tribes. The message that He died for the sins of the world and that all who accepts Him He shall save. I was once in a Reformed Church but even then I did not believe in the five points of Calvinism. I thank the Good Lord that He opened my eyes when I got saved ,at an early age, and showed me the truth out of the Bible. Regardless of this it stays an alarming fact that people are falling pray to this specific line of theology.

  23. mknghbrs010

    the calvinist only gets a glimpse of the meaning to the words of that song AMAZING GRACE. the arminian doesnt even get that, he will just get confused. I recently fell victim to reformed calvinistic theology after 38years of arminian thinking lol and im loving every minute of it.

  24. amtog

    thanks for visiting mknghbrs010.

    while it’s great that you’re experiencing a profound joy as a result of an increased appreciation of God’s grace, it saddens me that your comment lacks a certain amount of grace for your former arminian self and by extension others of that theological disposition. after all, it’s ungracious to assert that those folks (like Wesley) simply didn’t/don’t have an appreciation for God’s grace.

    may you grow in God’s grace to such a degree that you’re able to extend it to your brothers and sisters in Christ, whether Reformed Calvinists or not.

  25. Patrick Torres

    QUANDARY: I was raised a Wesleyan / Armenian and experienced great conflict with their lack of clarity on atonement, justification and the person of Grace. I don’t remember the book of Hebrews ever taught, nor passages dealing with the New Covenant of Grace. I lived my life in great fear that I can, at any point. loose my salvation if I make a mistake…which mistake? Can never tell what it may be. The focus was always on paranoia of the fallen human condition more than the keeping Grace of the Lord. Condemnation, fear, insecurity and a disquieted soul were my daily food. I have finally, after 30+ years of struggling with all this, found great freedom, liberation, comfort, GRACE and identity in my relationship with the Lord as I have read Calvinist teachers like Charles Spurgeon, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, John Macaurthur, Alistair Begg and others. I say all of this as a premise, and a quandary, to my statement next: I just cannot understand how TULIP can be accepted by anyone who seeks after truth. Especially concerning Limited atonement, Irresistible grace and Predestination. I actually once considered looking for a Calvinist church to attend, but after studying TULIP, I am convinced that this is certainly not the direction I am being led by the Lord. But how can these writers offer so much hope that the Armenians cannot? Arrogance and argument exists in both Calvinist and Wesleyan circles…and it all just gives me a headache. I cannot wrap my head around this conflict. Any advice?

    • Patrick Torres

      oops, I think I got my acronym wrong…the P in TULIP does not stand for Predestination….I meant U – Unconditional Election…anyway. I thought I would clear that up in case a Calvinist reads this and jumps all over me for it…

  26. amtog

    First I want to say thanks Patrick for subscribing to my blog. Especially since I don’t post on a regular basis any longer. (Now, I pretty much post when the urge strikes.)

    If I understand you correctly, you’re having trouble receiving the comforting teachings of certain Calvinists theologians while feeling certain that they’re wrong in their theology. While I’m hesitant to offer advice, I guess I would suggest that you don’t dwell on the apparent conflict. After all, theological inconsistencies (whether real or merely apparent) can’t keep God from achieving His purposes. No theological perspective is without errors, yet God in his mercy still allows us to know SOMETHING about him and receive the blessings that come with that knowledge. He doesn’t require us to get our theology exactly right in every respect before he blesses us. Like Paul said, test everything and hold on to what is good…regardless of which side of the Armenian/Calvinist divide it comes from.

    Also, you might find it interesting to see my post
    https://amtog.wordpress.com/2010/05/24/my-own-personal-tulip/

  27. Before I was saved, I heard the gospel preached and backed up with quotes from the Scripture. The preaching of the gospel that I heard was in a style of communication that implied to me that I had the inherent ability to accept or reject God’s call to believe in Christ as my savior in order to be saved. The scriptures that were used to support the gospel also implied to me that I, of my own will, needed to make a decision to accept Christ as my savior in order to be saved. When I actually looked up the scriptures that were used in the sermons, again, the Bible text implied to me that I, of my own will, needed to make a decision to accept Christ as my savior in order to be saved. I had no idea whether the preacher believed man had the inherent ability to accept of reject God’s call or not. For several months God was convicting me of my sin and that I was headed to hell, if I did not obey the Scripture and have my sins forgiven by faith in Christ. I was saved believing that I had the inherent ability to accept or reject God’s call to accept Christ as my savior.

    As a new believer, I began to study the word of God from that perspective. As I came across the very few verses (approximately much less than 0.5%) that syllogisticly could be used to build a theology of “no inherent ability of man to accept or reject God’s call (which is through the Scripture and drawing of the Holy Spirit) to trust His word, to follow His commands and to believe in Christ as our savior”, I only temporarily mentally noted that those few verses by themselves could be used to build the “no inherent ability of man to accept or reject Christ as our savior” theology if a person ignored the implication of the majority of the Scripture and the implication of the style of communication used by God in the Scripture. However, I proceeded to interpret those few scriptures from an “inherent ability of man to accept or reject God’s call”, the precedence set by the majority of scriptures in the Bible; and I did not have any problems understanding and interpreting them from a that perspective or precedence. During those early years of my Christian life I had not even heard of Calvinism.

    Years later I begin to come across Calvinists and heard their teaching and read of their theology of “no inherent ability of man to accept or reject God’s call”. This teaching of theirs seemed very strange to me; however their teaching and teaching method of just using those very few verses (much less than 0.5%) in the Bible appeared to me to be very intellectually appealing and very scholarly to me because they did a very good job of academic and scholarly syllogistic development using those few verses. I began to search myself as to why I had trouble accepting their very academic and scholarly syllogistic development of their “no inherent ability of man to accept or reject God’s call” theology. The first thing I realized about myself, was that my inherent common sense logic intuitively realized that the Calvinistic interpretation of those very few scriptures contradicted the obvious implication of the majority of the Bible.

    When a Calvinist would give their interpretation to me of those few scriptures in their syllogistic logic loop chain, the thought that repeatedly came to my mind was “What about the rest of the Scripture, the majority of Scripture!” I would ask a question like “But, what about this verse over here in the Bible?”, then they would jump back to repeating their academic and scholarly syllogistic logic loop chain. I would again ask them the same question “But, what about this OTHER verse over here in the Bible?”. And again they would jump right back on to their academic and scholarly syllogistic logic loop chain. Obviously the verses I brought up were verses that implied the “inherent ability of man to accept or reject God’s call (which is through the Scripture and drawing of the Holy Spirit) to trust His word, to follow His commands and to believe in Christ as our savior”. After I had asked them about many more verses in the Bible that implied “the inherent ability of man to accept or reject God’s call”, they would start accusing me of having a proof-texting mentality. At first, I was baffled, because I had never heard of the idea of proof-texting before, and did not know how to proceed in the discussions with them, except to just ask them to give me more details about their theology of “man not having the inherent ability to accept or reject God’s call”.

    It seemed strange to me that Calvinists would let approximately less than 0.5% of the Scripture set the precedence when approximately 99.5% of the Scripture contradicted their conclusion. I often wonder if it is the scholarly aura created by the academic syllogistic logic sequencing of 0.5% of the Scripture by Calvinists that prevents Calvinists from seeing or paying attention to the obvious implication of the majority of Scripture, the “inherent ability of man to accept or reject God’s call”? Also, there seemed to be something wrong with my method of discussing my conclusions with them. For a number of years, I pondered those two questions. Finally, I realized that they were experts at getting folk like me to get started on a verse hurdling contest, and then they would start accusing folk like me of being guilty of proof-texting. I asked myself why I was throwing the verses that I used at them? I intuitively/logically realized that the “majority (great than 99.5%) of the Bible”, and the style of communication in all the Bible, was communications from God to man in a style that reeked with an implication of an understood presupposition that those being communicated to (mankind) have the inherent ability to believe or reject what was being communicated to them from God and the Holy Spirit. From that point on, I very early in discussions with Calvinists point out to them this majority implication of the Bible, instead of getting caught up in a verse hurdling contest. I now also point out to them that the volume of scriptures that they use makes up only approximately 0.5%, or less, of the Scripture. I also realized that the majority of people that get saved, intuitively/logically see this implied understood “inherent ability of man to believe or reject” presupposition in the majority of the Bible without even being fully cognizant of it; and therefore, like I was at first, are unable to rationally explain it at first. Since the majority of Scripture reeks with an implication of an understood presupposition that those being communicated to (mankind) have an inherent ability to believe or reject what was being communicated to them from God (which is through the Scripture and drawing of the Holy Spirit), I believe most folk, like myself, intuitively/logically let that set the precedence and will automatically interpret Calvinism’s 0.5%, or less, supporting scripture verses from that perspective. Also those Calvinist 0.5%, or less, Scripture verses are easily understood from the “inherent ability of man to believe or reject” perspective. Now days, when I ask Calvinists to interpret the 99.5%, or greater, of the Scripture, that reek with the implication “that man has the inherent ability to believe or reject what is being communicated to them from God (which is through the Scripture and drawing of the Holy Spirit)”, from their “no inherent ability of man to believe or reject” perspective, the majority of the time the answer I get is along this line “Yes, God communicates with man in a style that implies that man has the inherent ability to believe or reject what was being communicated to them from God (which is through the Scripture and drawing of the Holy Spirit), but God knows that man does not have that inherent ability to believe or reject.” To me, that response seems to imply that God has been deceiving mankind on this theological issue for millennia, implying that God is a deceiver. When I tell them that implies that God is a deceiver, they usually respond by saying that “— My (God’s) ways (are) higher than your ways — from Isa. 55:9”. This type of response is what I get from the majority of strict TULIP type Calvinists (5 point Cal.), strict TUIP Calvinists (4 point Cal.), strict TIP Calvinists (3 point Cal.).

    Also, when I ask strict TULIP, TUIP and TIP type Calvinists why 99%, or the majority, of the time they preach in a communication style that also implies “that man has the inherent ability to believe or reject what is being communicated to them”, they usually reply by “saying that is the way God does it in the Bible”. To me, that answer seems to be saying “If God is deceiving man on this issue in the Bible, then so can I”.

    There is a significant number of TULIP, TUIP and TIP type Calvinists, that I mentally like to think of as baffled-Calvinists. These baffled-Calvinists are mentally confounded between the highly intellectual, scholarly, and academic syllogistic chain reasoning argument presented by strict TULIP, TUIP and TIP Calvinists and their own common sense logical reasoning ability that sees that the “majority (great than 99.5%) of the Bible”, as well as the communication style of all the Bible, is communications from God to man in a style that reeks with an obvious implication of an understood presupposition that those being communicated to (mankind) have the inherent ability to believe or reject what is being communicated to them from God by the Scripture and by the drawing of the Holy Spirit, such as the Gospel message. These Baffled-Calvinists see the obvious contradiction between the implication of the strict TULIP, TUIP and TIP Calvinist interpretation of the less than 0.5% of the Scripture and the obvious implication of greater than 99.5% of Scripture that implies that man has the ability to accept/believe or reject what God is communicating to them by the Scriptures and by the drawing of the Holy Spirit, such as the Gospel. In an effort to resolve this contradiction, these Baffled-Calvinists will say that both are true and that we can not understand it because “— My (God’s) ways (are) higher than your ways — from Isa. 55:9”. To me, their answer seems to implying that God is justifying their contradictory theology? I do not believe it is logically proper to use Isa. 55:9 to justify contradiction in theology. Isa. 55:9 can be used to explain some hard to understand theology (such as the Trinity), but not contradictory theology.

    I refer to myself as an “inherent free-willer” which means I believe in the inherent ability of mankind to accept or reject God’s call (which is through the Scripture and drawing of the Holy Spirit) to accept Christ as savior, and I believe that no one can come to Christ unless the Father who sent Christ draws him ( John 6:44), and I believe in the eternal security of the believer, and I do not believe in the Calvinistic concept of unconditional election, limited atonement and irresistible grace, and I believe that God has elected before the beginning of the world those in the new testament era whom he foreknew He could convince to believe/trust in Christ as their sacrifice for the forgiveness of their sins, and I believe that God has elected before the beginning of the world those before new testament era whom he foreknew He could convince to believe/trust in Him and his plan for the forgiveness of their sins.

    The churches that I have regularly attended, so far, in my Christian life are churches that were/are inhabited by a mixture of “inherent free-willers”, “TULIP type baffled-Calvinists”, “TUIP type baffled-Calvinists”, “TIP type baffled-Calvinists”, “modified Arminians, that believe in eternal security” and some “Molinists”. I have found that these types of Christians worship, minister and fellowship together without fighting over their differences in the area of free will of man. I believe the peaceful fellowship occurs because all these types have one thing in common in the area of free will of man: in the practical everyday world, they all witness, teach and preach in a communication style that assumes/implies the free will of man.

    David C. Geminden

  28. amtog

    Wow David…

    Thanks for sharing…I’m having a hard time thinking that you composed that just for my obscure blog. Did you post that originally at a blog of your own?

    I appreciate you stopping by.

    • Hi amtog,

      Yes, I have a version of it on my blog. I am new to blogging and just not too long ago set up my blog.

      I have been working on a shorter version of this post because some blogs will not accept such long comments. Many WordPress sites do not seem to be bothered by my long comment; but many Blogspot sites do not like its length. So far, I have not been able to reduce its length to an acceptable length for Blogspot sites.

      Obviously, my writing ability and vocabulary is somewhat limited causing my work to be rather wordy. Thanks for not being to upset with me. I have not placed a shorter limit on comments made on my blog because I have not yet figured out how to do that with WordPress, anyway. As far as I know, right now, WordPress may have set a limit, and not let users have any control over that. I do not want to severely limit the length of comments on my blog if I have control of it by WordPress.

      In your Christian life, have you observed any of the same things that I mention in my long comment?

      David Geminden

  29. amtog

    You know David, it never occurred to me to set a limit on the length of comments so I’ve never gone looking for a way to do so. I’ve been with WordPress for a while and have no idea if the functionality is there at all.

    Somewhere else in this blog I commented that over the years I’ve found that I’m drawn to Calvinist/Reformed preachers because that scholarly thing appeals to me. But then when I experience the dissonance between what many teach and the way that I understand the Bible (as opposed to what the Bible actually says) I tend to move on.

    I’ve found “Hyper-Calvinists” to be a bit of a bother at times, but I don’t tend to hold it against them…unless they’re actually causing division in a community/church.

    So, yeah I guess I’ve had some similar experiences as you have.

  30. Alexander Smith

    The most important aspect of this dialogue is that diversity of views do not cause division in the church. It has been encouraged among Calvinist pastors to infiltrate the doctrine of Calvinism discreetly. It is noted in one publication that they take their time in promoting the doctrine. Southern Baptist Churches are being infiltrated with pastor who support the doctrine of Calvinism and the congregation is unaware. This has caused numbers of churches to split over their differences. This is so unfortunate!! The ungodly observe “the elect” as divisive. So goes the church that is demonstrate “love one another as I have loved you.” What a shame!!

    • amtog

      Thanks for commenting Alexander…especially considering how light the traffic to this blog is. I am pretty sure that there would be even fewer visits had I not put the words “wrong” and “Calvinism” in the title.

      I don’t know how to respond to your comment. On one hand, I hate to think that there are people acting as deviously as you suggest. On the other hand, I know people can be pretty devious. It would probably be beneficial to cite your sources if for no other reason than to thwart the accusation of slander and/or gossip.

      As for division in the church…it’s bad but I believe that there are times when a parting of the ways (or from The Way) has to be acknowledged and addressed. May God spare your church from division.

    • I have noticed not only in this thread, but in many others on this topic, there seems to be a common theme. If there is division, it is the Calvinist’s fault. I am a “Calvinist” (I really hate such a general term.) who is a member of an “Arminian” church. I have not divided and neither have my church family that disagree with me.

      • amtog

        Thanks for commenting Whalevox, especially in light of how old this post is.

        I don’t really have a response to your observation. I am glad to hear that you are not a divisive force in your church. I’m sure we agree that division can be bad and we probably both know what the NT says about folks who are divisive in the church.

  31. No one seems to mention this verse (someone may have but my reading of these threads is not exhastive). John 6:37 All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. To me this seems very much indeed Christ saying himself that there are “elect” chosen by the Father.

    • amtog

      I think you are right that no one has brought that verse up in relation to this post and the related comments. It has been a while since I have revisited the post.

      Thanks again for commenting.

  32. Ed B.

    My wife and I had dinner with several couples after church today and someone cracked a joke slamming predestination. This only showed the person ignorance on the subject or their arrogance. There are good Christians on both sides of this issue and each side should treat the other with respect. It has been years since I studied Calvinism, but I believe it has merit though my natural tendency is to believe I used free will to except Christ. And I suppose from God’s point of view He chose me while to me it felt like free will. The point I think the Calvinist would make is that God choosing me means that I had nothing to do with my salvation, that God’s grace was not dependent on anything within me. If it is free will then why would I accept Christ and my friends not? I was as spiritually bankrupt as them. To this I agree with the Calvinist and God must have singled me out.

    Thanks for your blog and all the responses. I read every word.

  33. amtog

    Thanks for commenting Ed.

    I agree that Christians should be respectful of each other, especially when we disagree.

    I’m intrigued by your statement “…I suppose from God’s point of view He chose me while to me it felt like free will”. I could not satisfy myself with such a point of view because it seems to imply that my relationship with God is not what it appears to be. God chose me (reality) and I chose to respond (illusion). If that is in fact the case, how can I be the kind of worshipper God requires? Jesus says that God wants worship to be “in spirit and in truth”. If my worship is the product of a divine manipulation, is it true worship?

    As to the question, “why would I accept Christ and my friends not” when “I was as spiritually bankrupt as them”: Why do you say that you and your friends were equally “spiritually bankrupt”? Is that something that you can actually know?

    I’m impressed that you managed to get through all the comments. Thanks again for coming by.

    • Ed B.

      Thanks for getting back so soon.

      Regarding your first comment, I wouldn’t use the word illusion, but misconception. To me, illusion implies that God created an illusion that I am living under. Misconception implies that I have limited understanding of God’s ways. If I am living under a misconception then learning the truth will strengthen my faith.

      By “divine manipulation” are you referring back to the idea of illusion or do you think Calvinists reduce God to the role of master puppeteer?

      I empathize with your sense of divine manipulation if being chosen is reality. I struggled with that when I first started reading about Calvinism. I now see being chosen as an honor. To be included in God’s family is special. I don’t see my life or worship as orchestrated by a master puppeteer. Worship is something I do willingly from the heart. How do I know? Let’s face it. If I did not use free will for salvation, then why should I think I’m using free will to worship? This leads into your last comment.

      When you asked how did I actually know that I was as spiritually bankrupt as my friends my first reaction was, wow, good question. When I wrote it I was only thinking of our similar backgrounds and interests which did not honor God. Then a scripture came to mind. I found the scripture, Romans 3: 10-18 which pretty much describes the depravity of man. So you are right I cannot know this on my own, but we are told in scripture. Verse 11, states “no one seeks for God.” And this is where I believe that without God’s intervention I would never have repented. It was not in me to do so, not even close.

      How did God choose me? I believe he did so by placing a desire in me, a seed of faith. When the time was right, the Holy Spirit convicted me of my sin and I responded with that faith. I believe that same seed inspires me to worship.

      Could I have employed free will and resisted the Holy Spirit? No. I struggled for eight months. I was in open rebellion to God before I finally accepted the truth that I was a sinner and needed Jesus. The tenacity of the Holy Spirit would not let me go until I repented. Is it possible to resist a life time? The Calvinist would say no and the Arminian would say yes. We may never know the answer until we reach heaven.

      I want to emphasize that I have only a basic understanding of Calvinism and Arminianism. My comments in this post and the previous may drive students and scholars in both camps to distraction. If I have misrepresented either side or have offended you or anyone, I apologize, it was not intentional.

      • amtog

        Misconception…hmm…I’m okay with that. I think we would disagree as to which perspective is misconceived. You apparently think your initial perspective was misconceived while I think your current perspective is misconceived. I’m okay with disagreement.

        That said, rather than dissect your recent comment and point out all of my (predictable?) disagreements, I think I’ll just answer the one question that you put to me directly. Do I “think Calvinists reduce God to the role of master puppeteer?”

        I think that Calvin’s position, as I understand it, is at best a pious error, and at worst a slander against the character of God as revealed in Scripture. I’m not sure that the term “master puppeteer” accurately captures everything that I think, but I don’t reject it immediately.

        As for offense, none taken. Your comments come across as gracious to me. Mine are meant gracioiusly even if they come across as a bit aloof. It’s a problem I have when I get all analytical and speak from my head.

  34. Ed B.

    Thanks for the opportunity to discuss this topic. You have never come across as aloof with me or anyone else that has responded.

    I may have come across as deeply rooted in my beliefs. Sure I lean toward Calvinism, but I recognize I may be wrong. That is why I searched and found your blog. I wanted to find a view point different than mine. I don’t see the value in constantly reinforcing my beliefs with a one sided approach. I am analytical as well, though on this subject I have not done due diligence as you have. Are there any books you recommend?

  35. amtog

    I don’t really have any books to recommend. many years ago, I got a book that informed my understanding of Calvinism. it was something like “the five points of Calvinism defined and defended”. I read it and made my own notes in it about my disagreements. I do think that NT Wrights Justification is an important book to read. It really doesn’t address Calvinism at all, but his perspective is a big challenge to Reformed theologians’ traditional understanding of the subject which tends to be informed by Calvin as far as I can tell. One more book that doesn’t deal exclusively with Calvinism but touches on predestination is “The Doors of the Sea.” It’s a great book.

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