We who preach the gospel must not think of ourselves as public relations agents sent to establish good will between Christ and the world. We must not imagine ourselves commissioned to make Christ acceptable to big business, the press, the world of sports or modern education. We are not diplomats but prophets, and our message is not a compromise but an ultimatum. A.W. Tozer

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

I Am Not A Calvinist

About comments on this article:  I am unable with blogspot to disable comments on a single article - it must be done for the entire blog.  However, I will NOT engage in any discussion about this article, nor will I post argumentative comments for this article.  If you think you will be able to badger me, it won’t work because I will delete any comments un-opened.  I have studied the issue for decades and there is nothing more a Calvinist can tell me about that system - I’ve heard it all and I do not want to take the time to engage discussions.  I have already spent too much time writing this article.

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, itmeant 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 believeindicates 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 believesmakes 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.


Recommended reading:
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

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thank you Glenn for this excellent article on Calvinism. It makes this crazy belief system understandable. I will print this for future reference and to pass along to others who struggle with this. Thanks again for all your hard work. Laura

Joe said...

If I read it correctly, I Corinthians 3:4-9 makes it pretty clear that we are not supposed to follow one person or another. That, in my mind, would include Calvin.

"...they can’t conceive of anyone reading the Bible on their own and coming up with a biblical theology which contradicts Calvinism."

Therein lies the heart of the issue.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your posting this article. We are studying Romans in Sunday school and the Calvinism vs. Arminianism debate has come up. I appreciate a concise clear review of TULIP. I agree with Joe's comment about not following a person but I do think examining both systems in light of the bible helps us to build a strong biblical theology. All things measured by the word of God instead of Calvin or Arminius. Thanks again for the post!

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Anonymous 3/4,

Romans is one of the Calvinist's favorite "proofs," and yet all it demonstrates is God's election for service - not election for salvation. Big difference

Drew said...

You're too soft on them. The 'P' is wrong, too. Solomon did not persevere. Or Saul.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Drew,

I was not "too soft," rather I was being brief and hitting the main points.

I think both Solomon and Saul did persevere in their faith as far as their personal beliefs. Just because they were disobedient and sinned, that doesn't mean they no longer believed in the true God. The Bible really doesn't go into detail there.

Richrock said...

Hi,

I've commented in the past on your articles, found your blog insightful on many occasions and agreed on many points too.

My position (if we're going to use labels) is more Calvinist that anything else. It does not mean I totally subscribe to it, but for the sake of convenience use the label so people know roughly where I stand.

However...

I will look with great depth at the scriptures you use to support your view - I'm open to that. I'm not theologically closed off to any other viewpoint. Personally I think it incredibly useful to have a resource like this. To be challenged on your theological view not only makes you teachable, but makes you sure of your faith too.

So, I'm not one of those either/or people. Like I said, much of what you write I'm in agreement with. There's a lot of scripture here to chew over, so thanks for giving us something to study in more depth!

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Richrock,

The books I listed at the end of the article can do far more than I did as far as examining the Scripture. If I had to pick the best ones, they would be "Against Calvinism," "Why I Am Not A Calvinist," and "Grace, Faith, Free Will." While all of them have some things I disagree with, I think they are the more concise ones.

Anonymous said...

Hi Glenn,

Thank you for this post. I am trying to make sense of all this. The first church my husband and I ever attended after we both were saved was calvinist. My mind early on learned that system. But over time I've been trying to process as much as I can Biblically. Like that Romans 9 is about national Israel, not individual salvation. And 2 Peter 2:1 says the false teachers deny the master who bought them, bought being the same word in the greek as in 1 Cor 6:20 where it refers to believers being bought. Or when Stephen told the people who were stoning him that they were stiff-necked and always resisting the Holy Spirit (in Acts 7). But I still struggle. So this post is a helpful piece for me to reexamine the scriptures.

Thanks again,
carolyn

Anonymous said...

Hi Glenn,

If you don't mind, I need to ask why is it that those of the persuasion of Calvin cannot read 2 Peter 2:1 as it is written. The verse clearly, plainly says the Lord bought the false teachers, but THEY deny Him. I don't have a problem reading it as written.

However, the calvinist will say Christ did not die for the false teachers. Yet this verse says that He did.

I think you are right, this issue is futile to discuss with some believers.

I can't wait until we're all with the Lord and this foolishness is gone.

-carolyn

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Hi Carolyn,

I saw your posts at Elizabeth Prata's site. Why can't they take it at face value? Because Augustine said differently, and Augustine's teachings became the foundation of the Romanist church, as well as those who broke off the Romanist church. He has been put ahead of Scripture, and Calvinists are so brainwashed as to not see the problem.

Anonymous said...

Hi Glenn,

I was hoping another non-calvinist was following that post... It was actually my prayer this morning, when I posted my comment about the 2 Peter verse.

I have been learning about Augustine's influence on the church - he brought in many doctrinal errors that have been propagated. Calvin picking up on Augustine's errors. AW Pink as well.

It is my prayer that since God used that verse from 2 Peter 2 to help me see more clearly, I hope it will help others too.

It makes me very sad that this division exists within the body.

Thanks Glenn, for letting me air my frustration, and for your response.

-carolyn

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Well, you see now why I usually don't bother with the debate. IT takes time, and I've never met a Calvinist who changed his mind. It is much easier to teach non-Calvinism to one who is being led to Calvinism than it is to teach a full-blown Calvinist.

Anonymous said...

Glenn,

I have been doing further digging on this topic and have come across the following information. I would like your feedback on this. The question is, have you found evidence that Augustine was influenced by pagan Plato?

The reason I ask, in the link below, I read that Augustine, who is considered a very important church father, was actually influenced by pagan Plato, and hence that is one way many errors entered Augustine's beliefs, including but not limited to spiritualizing/allegorizing scripture (which lead to amillennial teaching and replacement theology, both unbiblical).

http://www.carylmatrisciana.com/site/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=377:the-error-of-a-millennialism&catid=82:replacement-theology&Itemid=54

(I also found a rather long article about Plato, Augustine, and Calvin on another blog. I'm not sure about the historical accuracy of it, but I didn't want to link to it. Some of their other materials made me hesitant. So I didn't want to post their link here.)

Anyhow I'd appreciate feedback on this.

I also wanted to briefly apologize - I shouldn't have come here in mid July and complained about another blogger.

Thanks
-carolyn

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Hi Carolyn,

I have never studied the background of Augustine's theology. Caryl is usually reliable in what she reports, so I would accept her research.

All I know is when I compare what Augustine says to what the Bible says, he comes up short. He brought in way too many false teachings to the Romanist Church, which helped them to be the false organization they are. And of course, the Calvinists, as well as the Lutherans, just kept the Augustine teachings.