I intentionally avoid discussions about Calvinism on this blog. There are times the subject has come up in comment strings, but I have not written articles about it. The reason is simple: it always becomes futile and a waste of time, because I’ve yet to come across a Calvinist who will consider changing his position, and I’m certainly not changing mine. If the fact that I am against Calvinism causes me to loose followers, so be it; I would hope you’d find the information on my blog to be of value in and of itself (after all, I follow many Calvinist blogs!). This article has come about because of discussions on other blogs which lead to hostility because I don’t want to get in a debate about Calvinism; they want me to prove Calvinism is wrong or else label me a coward, etc.
“Calvinism” is a misnomer, actually, because all he did was regurgitate the false teachings of Augustine, which completely diverged from the New Testament church teachings. In my opinion, it is the worst theology to enter the Christian faith since Roman Catholicism, and it carries way too much Romanism with it. Calvinists claim what they teach is the “Doctrines of Grace,” implying that any other belief has no doctrine of grace. They also claim to be “Reformed Theology,” as if Calvin was the author of the Reformation.
Another major problem with proponents of Calvinism is that if you are a non-Calvinist, then according to them you are de facto an Arminian, or a “semi-Pelagian.” Apparently they can’t conceive of anyone reading the Bible on their own and coming up with a biblical theology which contradicts Calvinism. With them, it’s either/or. And of course if you believe God gave man the free-will to choose God or to not choose God, then somehow you have infringed upon God’s sovereignty - as if God can’t sovereignly give man free-will! Of course there are also some Calvinists who will actually call a non-Calvinist a heretic!
Now, don’t get me wrong; I don’t have anything against people who are Calvinists any more than I have anything against people who are Mormons. It is the teaching I am against. Some of my favorite authors are Calvinist (as I “tiptoe through the TULIPs”), and I think some of the best apologists are Calvinists - even though they never apply their discernment to their own belief system! Instead, they hold tenaciously to tradition and cite all the Calvinist teachers about how correct Calvinism is and expect you to accept the belief system just because many teachers over the years have said it is correct. That’s like accepting what Mormon teachers say about Mormonism! NO - one must examine what Scripture says and not what man says.
So here is my problem with Calvinism: it preaches a God who is capricious, arbitrary, unjust, and unloving. If you use the acronym TULIP, you discover that God has chosen from the very beginning who would or would not be saved, and the individuals have nothing to say about it. In other words, it isn’t a matter of faith in Christ - it is a matter of God pre-selecting the individual and then forcing him to believe in Christ. And God created people specifically to send to Hell. Of course the Calvinist will tell you this is not true, rather everyone is destined to Hell and God just chooses arbitrarily who to save. Well, if a person chooses to save someone, they by extension choose those to not save. The problem with this is that no Calvinist can ever be sure of their salvation because they will never, ever know whether or not God elected them.
Well, enough of my prologue, now let’s examine TULIP against the Bible. And this is not to be considered an in-depth study or examination, because I don’t want to spend the time. You can read more from recommended resources at the end of this article. (Yes, I have read John Piper, R.C. Sproul, James White, Ron Rhodes, Duane Edward Spencer, Luther’s Bondage of the Will, et al.)
T = “Total Depravity.” The claim here is that man is so totally depraved, so totally fallen, that he is “completely unable to cope with his sinful state in order to gain, or contribute to, his own salvation” (Duane Edward Spencer, TULIP). To reformers such as Luther, Calvin, and Knox, it “meant that man was as bad off as man could be. It meant that man was beyond all self-help because...he is born into this world ‘dead in trespasses and sins’ and, therefore, fully loyal to Satan, the god of the dead. ... [it] means that man in his natural state is incapable of doing anything or desiring anything pleasing to God.” (Duane Edward Spencer, TULIP) This litany goes on with the claim that “natural man is completely incapable of discerning Truth.” Total depravity “insists that man does not have a ‘free will’ in the sense that he is free to trust Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior.”
I think you get the gist. The point is, I DO know what the teaching is, and I read all the passages which supposedly support their theology. There’s just one problem - the Bible never says anywhere what “Total Depravity” claims. Nowhere does it say man is UNABLE to do anything, rather it says man is unwilling. That is a humongous difference. Also, “spiritually dead” is an analogy, and analogies can never be taken beyond their intent. In fact, one of Calvinist’s typical cliches is about how a dead man can’t trust in God, which is why he must be regenerated first. Well, a dead man can NOT trust in God either. A dead man can’t do anything. A spiritually-dead person can, in that he can hear the Word and respond to it.
If God knows that man is unable to choose, they why does He command people to repent (Acts 17:30) if He knows man is unable to do so? Doesn’t this make God to be a liar by saying man can do it all the while knowing he can’t? Or is this some sort of trickery on God’s part? Without free choice, man could not be morally responsible, nor could he love God, nor receive the gift of salvation, nor worship God, etc.
Does man have the ability to make free-will moral choices for God? The Bible makes it plain that man does indeed have this ability:
Josh. 24:15: Choose to serve God or not to serve God
2 Chron. 15:2 – “If you seek him…but if you forsake him” indicates choice
Ezra 8:22 – “everyone who looks to him” vs “all who forsake him” indicates choice
Ps. 10:4 – “does not” indicates choice not to seek God.
Ps. 86:5 – one chooses whether to call on God
Jeremiah 29:13 – choice of seeking God
Mark 16:16 – “whoever believes” and “whoever will not believe” indicates choice between the two
Luke 8:12 - The devil must prevent them from believing
John 1:12 – choice to receive or not
John 3:16-18 – “whoever believes” vs “whoever does not believe” indicates choice
John 3:36 – “whoever believes” vs “whoever rejects” indicates choice
John 5:24 – “whoever…believes” is a choice
John 5:40 – “you refuse to come to me”; refusal is a choice
John 20:31 – “by believing” indicates choice
Acts 16:31 – “Believe…” is choice
Acts 17:30 – choice of repenting
Rom. 1:16 – “to everyone who believes” makes it a matter of choice
1 Cor. 15:1-2 – the Gospel was received and taken a stand for, i.e. choice
2 Cor. 4:4 – Unbelievers must be blinded so they can’t choose
1 Tim. 1:16 – “those who would believe” vs those who wouldn’t is choice
Heb. 11:6 – must believe God exists, which means he must have the ability to believe or not
1 Pet. 3:1 – the husband has a choice to become a believer
Rev. 22:17 – “whoever wishes” indicates choice
Can man seek God on his own? The Bible says he can:
Deut. 4:29 - "But if from thence thou shalt seek the LORD thy God, thou shalt find him,
if thou seek him with all thy heart and with all thy soul."
1 Chron. 16:11 – “seek his face”
1 Chron. 28:9 - “If you seek Him, He will be found by you”
2 Chron. 15:2 – “If you seek him…” Many more in 2 Chron.
Ps. 9:10 – “those who seek you”
Ps. 22:26 – “they who seek the Lord”
Ps. 34:10 – “those who seek the Lord”
Ps. 40:16 – “all who seek you”
Ps. 69:6 – “may those who seek you”
Ps. 119:10 – “I seek you with all my heart”
Is. 55:6 - “Seek the Lord while He may be found”
Jer. 29:13 - "And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me
with all your heart."
Hos. 10:12 – “it is time to seek the Lord”
Zeph. 2:3 - “Seek the Lord”
Acts 17:27 - “so that they should seek the Lord”
2 Cor. 3:12-18 - “Whoever turns to the Lord”
Heb. 11:6 - “He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him”
The doctrine of Total Depravity relies on the false idea that man has no ability to seek God or make moral choices about God. Scripture demonstrates over and over again that this is not true. Man is able, but he isn’t always willing. If man is unable, then all the commands by God that man seek Him are trickery by God; after all, how can God tell man to seek Him if He knows man is unable to do so? That is lying to the man. That’s like telling a man with no legs to get up and walk, knowing all the while that without legs he cannot do so, and then punishing him for his refusal! This is capriciousness at its worst.
U = Unconditional Election. This teaches that God chose in the “secret counsel and good pleasure of HIs will, hath chosen in Christ to everlasting glory, out of His mere free grace and love, without any other thing in the creature as a condition or cause moving Him thereunto.” (Duane Spencer citing the Canons of Dort).
If there is no condition, then why throughout the entire Old and New testaments are we told there is one condition for salvation - faith! Abraham was saved through his faith, and all Christians are saved through their faith. Bible verse after Bible verse says that one must “believe” to be saved. Belief - i.e. faith - is a condition! God in His grace offers salvation to “everyone who believes.” In this, Jacob Arminius was certainly correct (although he was in error in other aspects of his theology). Too often Calvinists confuse God’s selection for service (as Rom. 9 tells us) with selection for salvation. This Calvinist God has love only for those he arbitrarily selected to regenerate without their will so as to force them to come to God in faith, while at the same time refusing to provide the same consideration for those He sends to Hell; in other words, God created people for the sole purpose of sending to Hell! Is He loving and merciful to those he predestined to Hell? This is an unjust God, which is not a God of the Bible. The God of the Bible gives everyone the opportunity to choose Him or reject Him. “For God so loved the world” is changed by Calvinists to “the world of the elect.” When Jesus says he draws “all men” to Himself, the Calvinist says “all kinds of men.” Notice how they have to ADD words to Scripture to get their interpretation.
If there is no condition of believing or of faith, then how does anyone know they are saved? What is the point of evangelizing if God has already chosen who is saved - if they are saved already, what is the point of evangelizing them!?! How can I tell someone that God loves them if I don’t know if they are the elect? Even Jay Adams has said that is wrong to tell an unbeliever that God loves him! And how can the Scripture say that we can “know” we are saved if we don’t know whether we are one of the elect? Salvation is available to ALL - not to just some, as Calvinists would say. It is available to ALL who believe; those who choose to believe and have faith. The Bible even says God wants all men to be saved, but that would be a lie if He only picked certain people without their say-so and sent the rest to Hell. God wants all to be saved, but He leaves it to them to choose to believe or not.
Ezra 8:22 – “everyone who looks to him”
Ps. 86:5 – “all who call to you”
Isa. 53:6 – “We all…have gone astray…laid on him the iniquity of us all”
Joel 2:32 - “Whoever calls on the name of the Lord”
Mark 16:15-16 – “all creation” and “whoever believes”
John 1:12 – “all who received him”
John 3:16-17 – “whoever believes” and “to save the world”
John 3:36 – “whoever believes”
John 5:24 – “whoever believes”
John 6:40 - "that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him"
John 6:47 – “he who believes”
John 7:37-38 – “If anyone is thirsty…Whoever believes”
John 11:26 - “and whoever lives and believes in me”
John 12:26 - “whoever serves me…My Father will honor the one who serves me”
John 20:31 – “by believing you may have life”
Acts 2:38 – “every one of you”
Acts 10:34-35 - “God does not show favoritism, but accepts men from every nation who fear Him”
Acts 10:43 – “everyone who believes”
Acts 13:38-39 - “I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. Through him everyone who believes is justified”
Acts 16:31 – “Believe…and you will be saved.”
Acts 17:30 – “all people everywhere”
Rom. 1:16 – “salvation of everyone who believes”
Rom. 3:22 - “This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.”
Rom. 5:18 - “the free gift came to all men”
Rom. 10:4 - “Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.”
Rom. 10:9 – “If you confess…and believe”
Rom. 10:13 – “Everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord”
1 Cor. 1:21 – “those who believe”
1 Tim. 1:15 – Christ came to save “sinners” (re. Rom. 3:23 all have sinned)
1 Tim. 1:16 – “those who would believe”
1 Tim. 2:4-6 – “who wants all men to be saved”… “a ransom for all men”
Titus 2:11 - “For the grace of God has appeared bringing salvation to all men”
Heb. 2:9 - “might taste the death for everyone”
2 Pet. 3:9 – “not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance”
1 John 2:2 - “propitiation for…the whole world”
1 John 4:14 – “Savior of the world”
1 John 4:15 - "Whosoever shall confess"
1 John 5:1 – “Everyone who believes”
Rev. 22:17 – “whoever is thirsty” “whoever wishes”
Notice over and over again how the Bible says that salvation is available to everyone. This would be a lie if God already arbitrarily picked out who He was saving individually rather than having picked out to save those who accepted the gift.
Calvinists often say that by exercising one’s faith, one is thereby saving himself. That is foolishness. If I am drowning and someone throws me a life preserver, and I accepted it ,did I save myself? No, I just accept the gift thrown to me! If someone hands me a birthday gift and I accept it, did I give the gift to myself? No, I just accepted the gift which was offered. The Calvinist claim is that salvation is by the will of God and not the will of man, but the Bible shows it is BOTH; it is God’s will that salvation be offered, and it is man’s will to accept or reject it.
My old Lutheran pastor used to say that exercising one’s faith was a work, and therefore it became works-salvation; I have had Calvinists say the same thing. Well, if faith is a work, then how can the Bible contrast faith with works (Luk. 17:7-10; Rom. 3:28-4:5, 9:32, 11:6; Eph. 2:8-9, Gal. 2:16)?
L = Limited Atonement. This particular part of Calvinism has absolutely no hint in the Bible of agreeing with the claim. Everywhere in Scripture it says Jesus died for “the world,” for “whoever believes,” “everyone who believes,” “everyone,” “all men,” “all people everywhere,” etc. Yet in order for Calvinists to deny that Christ died for all, they say they must use “logic” and add words to the passages so that they read “world of the elect,” or “all kinds of men,” etc. They claim if Christ died for all men and yet all men aren’t saved, then Christ waisted his blood! God’s foreknowledge tells Him who would accept the gift, but in justice it was offered for all; Christ’s blood paid for the sin of the world - all sin! It is only effectual for those who accept the gift, but the gift has been given to all. I may refuse a birthday gift offered to me, but that doesn’t mean the price of the gift wasn’t paid for me! If it is limited to only a few, then why offer it to all through preaching the gospel and making disciples of “all men”? If offered to all, knowing it is not available to all, isn’t that a lie?
I = Irresistible Grace. Is it grace to force a gift on someone? This is not grace, but programming. Love is not required, only doing what one is programmed to do.
Can God’s will be foiled by refusing his grace? Can we foil God’s will at all? What if we don’t “give thanks in all circumstances,” do we foil God’s will (1 Thes. 5:18)? That is the problem with Calvinist logic; they claim if we reject God’s offer then we have power enough to obstruct God’s work. But if we are allowed to reject God’s offer, isn’t God powerful enough to override our choices if He desires? Of course He is. But again, forcing someone to love really isn’t love. The Calvinist says God only extends His grace to those he already chose for salvation, yet the Bible says the gift has been offered to all.
P = Perseverance of the Saints. Here the Calvinists sort of teach what the Bible says; the person who is truly saved will indeed persevere in that faith until the end. The one who is saved will not later turn his back on Christ, because once the person is saved - once the person accepts the gift of salvation - the Holy Spirit indwells him and guides his life. The person is certainly saved eternally.
Here is the summation of what the Bible teaches: God has given everyone on earth the knowledge about Him (Ps. 19:1; Rom. 1:19-20; Job 12:7-8; Acts 14:17; Acts 17:24-28), and the individual is expected to have the ability to understand God (Jer. 9:24). God knew man would sin and therefore predestined a way of salvation through Christ. He predestined that those who would accept Christ by faith would be the elect. He predestined through His foreknowledge, not fore-ordination. And that is where Calvinists go astray - confusing foreknowledge and fore-ordination. They claim that God cannot foreknow what He didn’t fore-ordain, which actually limits God. God is outside of time and sees the end from the beginning, so he KNOWS who will choose to believe rather than forcing people of His choice to believe. God sovereignly gave man the free will to accept or reject Him - and that is what the Bible shows.
Finally, one of the questions which has been asked of me when I reject Calvinism, is “who is the first cause of salvation?” I think it should be plain from the Bible and from what I said above that God is the first cause of salvation. God provided the way of salvation through His Son. That salvation is acquired by faith in His Son.
What Love Is This? by Dave Hunt
T.U.L.I.P. and the Bible, by Dave Hunt
Against Calvinism, by Roger E. Olson
Chosen But Free, by Norman Geisler
Grace, Faith, Free Will, by Robert E. Picirilli
Why I'm Not A Calvinist, by Jerry L. Walls & Joseph R. Dongell
Brief Comparison of Calvinism with Scripture, by Michael Bell