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PREDESTINATION

The issue of predestination: God's determination of who will get to Heaven and who will
go to Hell, is another divisive issue in the Church. It is a tough debatable issue, but some
people claim their position is the whole truth and denounce other views as tantamount to
heresy.
Many Christians see the various passages telling people to choose for or against God, and
commissioning those already following God to go and lead people to Christ (and
salvation), as teaching that man has free will to choose God and Heaven or reject God,
which will condemn them to Hell. One often quoted scripture says that it is not God's will
that any should perish, but that all should come to everlasting life (2 Peter 3:9, See also 1
Tim.2:4 ). But another camp, naming themselves after reformer John Calvin, emphasizes
God's sovereignty in saving people. The generic term for this view is monergism, as
God alone ("mon-", one) does the work ("-erg-") in saving, without any act of the will on
the part of the one being saved. The generic term for the other view is synergism, as man
essentially cooperates with ("syn-") in being saved.
In other words, to the one view, if people could just choose or reject Him, then they must
have some sort of power over God; power to save themselves by the "work" of turning to
Him. (And salvation by works is universally rejected in Protestant (and Biblical)
theology). Since it is obvious that many are not choosing God, then it looks like God,
who desires none to perish, is losing out to man's free will and the devil. So to maintain
God's sovereignty, they teach that God selects those who shall be saved. They point out
that we are so "totally depraved" that no one is able to even choose God on their own,
and a couple of scriptures clearly say that God chooses us ("unconditional election")
rather than us choosing Him (John 6:37, 15:16, Acts 2:47). There are many scriptures
mentioning people being "predestined" or "long ago" marked for salvation or
condemnation; sometimes even specifying "before the world (age) began"! So in their
theology, it seems people are actually born just to die and go to Hell. Christ did not even
die for these people, but only for the elect ("limited atonement"), and that for them,
grace was irresistible. They insist that God commands all to repent, but many He did not
grant the ability to repent, but still "holds them responsible" for sinning and not
repenting, and thus will "justly condemn them" for all eternity. Why? Because they are
"vessels of wrath fitted for destruction", and God has the "sovereign right" to create these
people for this purpose. Then they argue that it doesn't seem fair, but God owes no one
salvation anyway, he only gives it by grace, and therefore can withhold it to some if He
so chooses (we all deserve Hell, and those who aren't elected to Heaven aren't being
deprived of anything; they're getting what they deserve; and those elected to Heaven are
getting what they don't deserve). This even though you may wonder how anyone who 1)
had no choice in being born a sinner, and 2) now has no choice even in repenting from his
sin and receiving God's forgiveness, can even be morally accountable. God is punishing
people for something they couldn't help. Isn't punishment something earned from making
a willful wrong choice? Isn't that what the whole concept of guilt is based on? But all
such reasoning aside, the Calvinists still figure "they broke God's Law, that is enough for
them to be held accountable." How they love to glibly remind us that it is only our sinful
nature that makes us want to 'usurp God's right to be sovereign' and to 'be the masters of
our own destiny'. (Isn't it understandable to desire a choice to escape Hell?) Indeed,
people seem to get some pleasure in the idea, musing at how "hard" that is, and how it
"confounds our limited human minds". (as if just the fact that the teaching is so "hard"
alone proves it's right, and that free will makes sense to our notions of justice proves it's
wrong—even though our basic notions of justice come from God—His image, also
general revelation (our minds are corrupted by sin, but, we still know what justice is) and
also scripture, such as Proverbs 2:6-9; so you can't just dismiss our ideas of justice and
then appeal to "above your comprehension" to justify questionable theories).
The free-will advocates, named after Jacob Arminius, a later contemporary of Calvin,
are then accused of Pelagianism, an ancient heresy named after a man who taught, that
the Fall had no real effect on man, and that man could thus be sinless if he chose and thus
not need redemption. While the logical conclusion of the message of some Arminians
may lead to this, it is not what they officially believe. So Arminianism is often called
"semi-Pelagianism". So this is another issue that divides evangelical Protestants, with
some virtually anathemizing others. A few, such as groups like Outside the Camp, and
some Baptist "Briders" even claim non-Calvinists aren't even saved, nor Calvinists who
accept non-Calvinists as brothers, or do not hold all the points of Calvinism. Most
Calvinists reject this, but alot of the rhetoric they use ("Arminianism is a 'false gospel' in
which we 'save ourselves'"; "its god is helpless over man", etc) would lead to this as a
natural conclusion. Battles rage on in churches such as the Southern Baptists, with
Calvinists trying to gain power, and even in other churches, Calvinists often come into
Bible classes and other meetings, much like cultists or "Full Gospel" teachers insisting
that the church's "gospel" is not complete without this other teaching they are bringing.
Many Calvinists still believe in evangelizing, even though their belief seems to render it
unnecessary. They just do it out of "obedience" and don't question why God wants to use
us to bring people to Him, who He foreordained to come to Him without our help. There
is also what is known as supralapsarianism: the belief that God caused the Fall to justify
"reprobating" the non-elect (basically, to give them sin to punish them for, since they had
already been predestined for damnation). Obviously, this raises many questions, such as
making God the author of sin, but the Calvinists maintain that the only alternative is that
sin came up against His will, "taking Him by surprise", which further erodes His
sovereignty, and they even cite Isaiah 45:7 to show that God is in fact the author of
"evil"! But sin is the falling short of God's standard (a negative), not some [positive]
"thing" that He must have created along with everything else. "Evil" in that passage
(Strong #7452) has several different meanings, such as "adversity", "affliction",
"calamity", "displeasure", "distress", "trouble", plus some morally "evil" meanings such
as "bad", "hurt", "wicked". So with God, it is obviously the non-moral meanings. It is
Satan and fallen man who create sin, and then God punishes them in calamity or
adversity, thus "creating evil", but not the same as creating "wickedness".
A softer version of this is infralapsarianism, which at least places the decree of
reprobation after the Fall. The two sides argue even amongst each other, with endless
philosophy, and the supra adherents claiming the infra position is still half way to
Arminianism or semi-Pelagianism.
Many even believe that this election and "reprobation" extends to babies, including those
who were stillborn or aborted! To the idea that babies are not held accountable, they
argue "Does a child at 'some point' become a sinner? If so, that would mean that at some
point in time he fell from innocence. The only problem is that he, like David, was a
sinner in the womb. If they did not become a sinner, they were born a sinner. Sin must be
punished otherwise God is unjust." and "They are sinners volitionally, or else they are
less than human". But "volition" means "choice". Isn't the corollary of this doctrine that
man has no choice? How does a child consciously know what "choice" they are making?
The question is does God hold them responsible when they could not even understand
what right and wrong are? This is supported by Jesus Himself, who while not denying
that they are by nature sinners, holds up little children as possessing a sort of innocence
that He associates with the Kingdom. (Matt. 19:14). The Bible defines sin as: "to him
who knows to do good but does it not; to him it is sin" (James 4:17). This is where the
concept of the "age of accountability" comes from.
They continue: "Consequently, babies are sinners by their union with Adam" They refer
to Romans 5's teaching about sin and death coming through Adam. In other words, sin is
not just actions, but a condition, a point I have used that Calvinists rightly emphasize. But
is it being used right in this case? There isn't enough in this text to support this. This leads
to what they call "federal headship": "We all chose to sin in Adam ... and therefore we
are responsible for that sin." This now seemingly gets us around the problem of God
sending people to Hell for something they could not help, including even the unborn.
Then it is repeated how everyone is doing what they want, and running from God, so
rather than being unfairly consigned to an eternity in Hell, they are actually quite "free".
Their whole argument (regarding man's real guilt) hinges on this point, because if we all
"chose sin", then as they repeatedly say "The question is not why He does not save all,
but why He saved any" or "...me"! This is actually the heart of the whole issue, because it
is why non-Calvinists think unconditional election and preterition are so unfair, and why
Calvinists think it is not unfair, but quite "just". (An important note: the reason many
think it is unfair has more to do with the "inability" of those who are still condemned
because of it, moreso than some being offered salvation but not all, which Calvinists
often assume is the main objection).
But this is almost like God sees it as if our minds/souls were consciously present in Adam
and made the choice for/with him. But does anyone remember consciously making this
choice? No, but we shall be consciously punished for it! (While Adam himself may go to
Heaven as most believe) This would make sense in an Origenic framework which held
that all men preexisted in union with God, and that all fell from this state except for
Christ. (In fact, Origen's teachings may have helped influence this doctrine). In that case,
there would be no problem. Everybody had their chance and like Lucifer and his angels
(who are offered no chance of redemption), made their conscious willful choice to leave
the perfection and bliss of union with the Father (Christ was the only such soul who
didn't, and this is what lead to him becoming the Son of God[!!]), so God will give the
"grace" of [another] chance to "whomever He will". Calvinism makes perfect sense, then.
But "in Adam" was simply an analogy based on lineage. The only proof-text for this idea
is Hebrews 7: 9, 10: "And if I may say so, Levi, also, who receives tithes, paid tithes in
Abraham. For he was still in the loins of his father when Melchizedek met him". The
point here was that the line of Levi was supposed to receive tithes, but in that case, Levi's
line (represented by Abraham) paid tithes instead. It is not saying Levi's soul was
actually, personally present in Abraham. Since the seed does come from the ancestor, then
a part of a person was seen as being there "in" the ancestor, but not the whole conscious
entity in the sense that is being implied in Calvinism, where people are actually "guilty"
of Adam's individual sin. (Perhaps this misinterpretation is where Origen got his
"preexistence of souls" theory from). But we can begin to see that this is basically putting
man on God's level (as much as Arminianism is accused of that)! In other words, man is
more than a frail creature born into time. Man transcends our world of time just as God
does, so he can be judged on His level. (In fact, one even said "To be responsible is to be
held to a higher standard. Because all have sinned in Adam as well as individually, all are
responsible.") So this "federal headship" with its "legal imputation of sin" is the means
God uses to damn the whole race (apart from actual acts of sin) and then only elects to
save some out of this and pass over the rest. Many Calvinists deny that God actually
damns the reprobates (they do it to themselves), but if this was because sin was imputed
to them, and a chance of pardon denied to them, who did all of this to them? There is no
escaping God's intentional condemnation of the helpless in this theory. And as we'll see
more, it makes condemnation some sort of good goal in itself rather than an undesired
reaction to sin. But notice how non-Calvinists never pity the fallen angels whose fates are
sealed. Why? Because "to whom much is given, much is expected" as Luke 12:48 tells
us. The whole problem with this position is it actually has God being harder on men
than on these angels who actually were consciously present at their own fall. Romans 9
will supposedly prove this is God's "prerogative", but as we will see, the chapter is not
talking about any such thing. Others interpret federal headship as "Adam was our 'perfect
representative', meaning he represented all of us in the garden, and meaning he only did
the same thing we would have done if we were there. It would be highly "arrogant" to
think otherwise (i.e. "I wouldn't have done that"), we are told. But then if all of us would
have done the same thing, then what principle guided unfallen man to make all and any
one of him make the choice to sin? Of course, we would do it in our condition now after
being affected by the fall, but we're talking about before the fall and the resulting sin
nature. This "sin in Adam" is said to be "imputed to us" [i.e. without any action on our
own] just like our "righteousness in Christ". But this is contradictory, because they just
told us that we "chose" to sin "in Adam", and "responsibility" assumes the person could
have done differently, but didn't, out of free will. Also, Calvinists will later claim that
God does not "respond to man's choice" in saving or damning, yet here they are trying to
say that it is by "man's choice" after all.
What Romans 5 tells us we get from Adam is "sin" and "death", not somebody else's
"choice" of sin pinned on us. We can't do anything about this, but what we do with this
knowledge is where we are responsible. many try to say that just the fact of physical
death is the legal "guilt" imputed to us. But this is just the effect of the original
punishment, and punishments do affect those who did not commit the sin being punished,
all the time in the Bible and life in general. There is nothing in the passage about
"CHOICE" or "RESPONSIBILITY". To say "chose sin in Adam" or "held responsible for
Adam's sin" is to blatantly add to the text of scripture! It also doesn't distinguish "original
sin" from sin as individual acts. For one thing, look again at v.12: "Therefore, just as sin
entered the world through one man, and death through sin, in this way death spread to all
men, because all sinned. It's not "all sinned because they were charged with the sin of the
first man". It's not some abstract "legal imputation" to otherwise neutral individuals. We
received from "one man", Adam our sin nature. This causes us to break God's law. The
breaking of God's law then brings us death, but "one man", Christ brings us life. I don't
see two sets of penalties: 1)one for "Adam's sin" apart from 2) our own sins. One leads to
the other, so it is one penalty. Original sin is what causes actual sin. The Law we are
condemned for violating condemns us for actual sins, (killing, lying, etc.). It does not
say "Thou shalt not have a nature that makes you sin", it just says don't sin, but
since we do have that nature, and can do nothing about it, He saves us by grace. Eph. 5:5-
6 and Col.3:5-6 are clear, mentioning "your members which are on earth fornication:
uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.
Because of THESE things the wrath of God comes upon the children of
disobedience". Not simply because they were from Adam, or charged with his sin.
Another important scripture is Rev. 20:12,13, a picture of the actual judgement to Hell.
Here, we clearly see that people are judged by their WORKS, not their 'condition' or
the sin of Adam. The condition causes us to commit those "works", but it is clearly
those works that violate the Law, which forbids what else, but certain works. I think
a lot of the problem is overgeneralization. We know we are not saved by works, but rather
the condition of Righteousness imputed to us from Christ, so we also think people must
not really be condemned by works either, but rather the imputation of a condition of sin
from Adam. But it is not that symmetrical. The Bible clearly says condemned by works;
saved by grace. Acts are what God condemns people for, and in no case can a miscarried
or aborted fetus, for instance, be "judged according to their works".
Calvinists have rightly criticized making sin acts only, but they too actually have done it
without realizing. Since sin is a condition, as well as the acts, it was "sin" [in both senses]
that Christ died for. Limited Atonement would assume that it was only acts of certain
individuals that were paid for. But if all have a condition of sin, and Christ died for a
condition of sin, then Christ died for all. This is made more clear in v.18: "Therefore as
through one man's offense, judgement came to all, resulting in condemnation; even so
through one man's righteous act, the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification to
life". The following verse reiterates this in terms of "many", in which "all" is a type of
"many", though many is not necessarily "all"; and that "many will be made righteous, so
here we have the distinction which Calvinists deny, that all (or "many") are sinners, the
gift extends to all ("many"), and "many" (but not all) receive the gift (justification).
(Calvinists, once again taking a symmetrical approach, insist that "if 'all' and 'many' are
the same, then 'all' would be justified". Yet they believe both "many" and "all" means
"all" when talking about judgement coming to all. But the difference between "many" and
"all" in v.19 is qualified by "will be", showing that this is not a one time selection of who
will be justified, like all were condemned at one time. Justification is on a person by
person basis). Likewise, regarding "federal heads", nowhere is it insinuated that Christ is
made the head only of a group of predetermined individuals. As "the second Adam" (1
Cor.15:45-47) he has become the new representative of the human race, as Adam was.
But if people reject Him, it is they who choose to remain in Adam (And just think of all
the unsaved's appeals to "I'm just human" to justify their sin. Without knowing it, they are
directly appealing to the headship of Adam). Not because God appoints only some to
Christ's headship.
Can you imagine such a person (the unborn), in Hell, possibly never having seen a day on
earth (as someone aborted, stillborn, etc), charged with some sin that they never even
lived to commit, wondering what they are really there for? What were they supposed to
do? (a better question since "why does He find fault" is applied to this and shot down—
which will be discussed later) This is then just dismissed as an "emotive" argument. Just
the thought of things like this would naturally make one angry. But they charge this is just
an "affront" on "God's prerogative" to "Have mercy on whomever He will". Your anger
seems to be the ultimate proof that you are wrong, and some will even "rebuke" you for
your "stubbornness". "Your problem is not with us but with God" they will tell you. How
can you argue with that? God could do whatever He wants, right? Suppose He really did
decide to create people for Hell? How dare you get angry at the idea! But it is highly
unfair to work up people's emotions with such a "hard" hypothetical premise like this
(knowing how offensive it would be in people's minds), and then use it against them and
try to silence them with God's prerogatives. Suppositions about God's prerogatives mean
nothing if they don't square with the entire scriptural revelation. His "sovereignty" is
defined as Him "doing as He pleases" (Psalms 115:3, 135:6), but if He has already said in
His Word that it is or is not His will to do something, then we can expect Him to do or
not do it. Sovereignty dictates this, not overrides it. Rather than some wild unfounded
fantasy people believe in just to be stubborn or think they saved themselves, as Calvinists
often protray it, there are strong evidences of free will in salvation, or at least contradict
unconditional reprobation or "passing over" in the scriptures.
They continue, telling you what your position is, and posing supposed dilemmas with it:
"Consequently, infants dying in infancy do not need the imputation of the righteousness
of Christ since they are not yet culpable as infants. Will the Bible support this? If you
were to argue that infants do need the righteousness of Christ, then you must also agree
that they are hell-bound without it. You can't have it both ways. You can't say that infants
need the grace of God in Christ, but are not worthy of damnation."
But no one is saying any of these things. —that they don't manifest fallen nature, or that
they do not need the righteousness of Christ). The sins of the "elect" are still worthy of
being punished, but aren't they "unpunished"? (other than being borne by Christ). How
are they pardoned? By total unmerited GRACE. Why would not God extend His grace to
people who don't even know what sin or righteousness is? (I know what you're thinking.
Remember, even though grace is not earned by works, "not living long enough to be
accountable" is NOT a "work". It is something totally out of control of the person.).
Many people point to Christ's appraisal of children in Mark 10:14,15 as evidence that
they are innocent in His sight, despite their possession of the sin nature, and it is His
sovereign right not to hold them responsible, just as he no longer holds us responsible for
our sins.
Still, they argue "One's sin condition when laid upon Christ is grace. This, however,
suggests that the sin condition of the infant must be laid upon Christ, which is no longer
grace but necessary-justice. In other words— they get this righteousness not by grace but
by necessity, OR ELSE God is being unjust! When one puts obligations upon grace he is
no longer speaking of grace - by definition."
But once again, the answer to these questions is that the acts of sin are what God judges
people for, not the condition that causes them. Individual acts we can help, the condition
we cannot. As God is the one who established that acts would be punished, He is the one
who of His own will does not hold responsible those who can not understand sin and
righteousness despite this charge of "necessary justice". This is why we believe infants
who die below an age of accountability will be saved. The problem in all of this, is that
there are two biblical definitions of "sin"; one building upon the other, that are being
confused. The basic legal definition is "transgression of the Law" (1 John 3:4). This is
what the Calvinists focus on. So looking at it that way, one says "that baby covets
something that is not his. He has tantrums. He cries deceptively, often. So he has 'broken
the Law', and is condemned as a sinner!" To them, since they were born with the nature,
they do things that are considered "sin" for adults, and they have the condition; they do
the acts; therefore they are judged/charged as sinners (and therefore elected and
reprobated like sinners), and if you don't say God holds them "responsible" like adults,
you have denied sin, as we see with the people I dealt with above. But the other
definition, which goes beneath the first, is "to him who knows to do good but does it not;
to him it is sin" (James 4:17). Related to that is "whatever is not of faith is sin"
(Rom.14:23-- e.g. if you are not sure it is right). Then there is Paul's discussions in
Romans about how "by the Law is the knowledge of sin" (4:20), "where there is no law,
there is no transgression" (5:15). People are looking at legal guilt only, but the Gospel
teaches that God is not operating on Law (in which no one could ever be saved). He
judges by conscientious guilt. Legally they are sinners, so that the universality of sin is
not denied. Conscientiously, they are not charged with sin yet, and where there is no
charged sin, there is no reason for God to condemn them. Babies cannot understand "sin",
"repentance", or "faith" (even the adult person who has never heard the Gospel has a
conscience and knows right and wrong), and of course, for the unborn this is altogether
moot. If elect & nonelect extends to the infants and unborn, then you have the issue of
salvation without faith. But that is actually a debate among the different types Calvinists
themselves; both accusing each other of being unscriptural, as we shall see. So yes, they
are sinners, whose sins need to be paid for and covered, legally, but in an infant or unborn
state, they do not have the knowledge that brings judgment. They do not "know to do
right". They cannot have "faith".
Remember, He and only He knows when a person knows enough to be held accountable
for sin. He is not looking to send as many people to Hell as He can. Calvinists will here
claim then that it would be safer for everyone if they died as an infant. Why fight
abortion then? Why not kill babies? Of course, God does not give anybody that authority
(effectively making the decision for the person), so that is completely ridiculous!
In all of this talk of God "doing as He pleases", we forget that God doesn't do everything
just because He can, or not do everything because He doesn't have to (the whole basis of
the "whom He will" interpretation of Romans 9— discussed below) If He did, Christ
wouldn't have died at all, and we would all be in Hell. Yes, God hypothetically could go
on and create people in Hell (the virtual corollary of this teaching regarding the stillborn),
and still be "right" (since He is the one who determines "right" in the first place), but the
question we've missed is, is this "His good pleasure", or apart of "the character of
His being" as revealed in the Bible"? Does He get pleasure sending people to Hell just
because He can? Their position seems to assume that He does.
One one hand, one site says "How can we be responsible for sin when we can't resist
God's will? [to decree sin] Man is responsible because God calls him to account; man is
responsible because God can punish him for his disobedience. God, on the contrary,
cannot be responsible for the simple reason that there is no power superior to Him, no
greater being can hold Him accountable, no one can punish him. There is no one to whom
God is responsible; there are no laws which he could disobey. So what that sounds like is
"yes, it may be wrong, but God can get away with it because He's God". But on the other
hand, others will even admit: "There are many things that are right (and wrong) not
because God says they are, but because of His very character. To lie is not wrong because
God says so, as if he could make a world where lying was not wrong. Simply put, God
cannot do many things such as deny Himself. Accordingly, God cannot make certain
things right simply by saying so. In a word, he cannot (and I do not mean may not) do
certain things. Consequently, certain things are right not because of God's law but
because of who he is."
So we see here a conflict as to whether God is even subject to His own will or not. But
our argument is that God's character is what determines to us that infants will be in
Heaven, (as well as Him giving the rest of the unregenerate a choice). The idea of
predestinating people to Hell, and especially infants, would seem to be in the same
category as God lying or denying Himself. People who disagree with limited
atonement/reprobation are accused of going by "their own" sense of justice or "fairness",
"emotive arguments" etc. but it is based on the idea, presented in scripture of God's
justice. Scriptural principle shows that punishing someone eternally because of nothing
they themselves did, but only because of who they are, is just not the way God will judge,
and it is not accepted in civil human societies (such as racism). And the same argument
used to show God could do this because of His "rights" could also be extended to say that
He could lie if He decided to, and still be just. (e.g. "You're saying that He CANNOT do
things? That destroys His 'sovereignty'!"). I don't know how Calvinists can so boldly
claim He cannot lie, then turn around and use "He does as He pleases" to justify another
act which is just as much contrary to His revealed will as lying. It's an endless round of
conjectural assertions. If we insist on God doing whatever He will, just because He can,
because He owes nobody anything, then how do we know that God hasn't been telling us
all this time that we are going to Heaven, and then send us to Hell anyway? Remember,
He doesn't OWE us anything. He would still be right and just because of who He is. "But
He promised us...". So? He isn't bound by any promise. Remember, He's sovereign. "But,
He said He wouldn't lie...". Oh, who are you O man, to charge God with "lying"? Your
limited mind is judging by your fallible notion of "truth". I repeat, God owes you
nothing!
So you see here, that this hypothetical logic's natural conclusion completely erodes away
not only "our limited sense of justice", but also our eternal security, God's
trustworthiness, and the entire Gospel message. There are scriptures that seem to lead to
one teaching, and there are others that seem to lead the other way. To resolve this, we
must take the scriptures as a whole, and God gives us our rationality to comprehend
scriptures, so just snatching up one or two chapters and then doing away with all human
reason is setting us up for any heresy to charge into our midst and reign unchallengeable.
One argument even suggests this whole opposition to hell and reprobation stems from
"contemporary cultural representations of human pain as the ultimate evil to be avoided,
when sin against God is a more heinous thing". But where does the Bible ever lay man's
pain and the offense of God side by side and compare them, like competing interests?
The same thing to an assertion that "God loves Himself first and foremost, more than He
loves us". But where in scripture is God's love for us and Himself contrasted as such?
They are complimentary, not conflicting. Calvinists maintain that everything doesn't have
to be laid out clearly; that "inferential" doctrine is just as authoritative as clear doctrine,
but what happens is that we wind up reading way too much into the scripture. So many
arguments and hypotheses people come up with were not even thought of by biblical
writers and the rest of the Church or Israel from those times. People forget that God
"knows our frame; that we are dust" (Psalms 103:14) Why do they think He must judge
us on His level, beyond time and frail flesh? So it does not do any good to be arguing on
about His prerogative, which is seems to be apart of "The secret things belong unto the
LORD our God" (Deuteronomy 29:29). This is just causing unnecessary conflict and even
grief.
The Different "Wills" of God
Look at its effect on one person who came to a Calvinistic Internet message board. He
had accepted Calvinism as the "Biblical teaching", but then rejected God:
I ask you to really see what I'm saying: I cannot get happy about a God who creates many humans
ultimately so He can hurt them, so that He can torment them in the most horrible fashion (so horrible that
no-one can really grasp it right now).

I look at the beauty of Nature and the complexity of the human body as well as other joys of life, such as
romance and family, and think that there must be a GOOD Creator who actually desires goodwill toward
His creatures. Then I look at the Bible and Reformed theology and realize that is not really the case.

I look at the suffering and pain and injustice in this life, as well as the brevity of life itself, and think that
there must be more to life than just this existence; there has to be a remedy where things work out and true
meaning is found. But then I realize that this Creator decided before the world began that He would shut
many, many people out from it.

Calvinists reject this as human reasoning. To this person, one person responded that his
questions were "way out of line" and selected statements from Deuteronomy 29:29, along
with Job 38 and 42 to suggest that this is "knowledge too wonderful" for us. (But when I
suggested this, but simply took it back a step, I was told I am neglecting a most important
doctrine). But this touches on an important point. If all the other points are not proof
enough against double predestination, then the biggest strike is the fact that God and
Jesus show sadness for man's stubbornness, as in Matt. 23:37, Luke 19:41, and
especially note Ezekiel 18:30-32 and 33:11! If God does not delight (gets no pleasure)
in the death of the wicked, and pleads with them to repent, why would he create
them to choose the way of death and not be able to repent, "for His good pleasure"
as the Romans 9 argument goes? This would make God not only contradict Himself,
but also add masochism to the sadism this doctrine is often charged with. He predestines
people to condemnation as His own sovereign prerogative, and then laments it. It's almost
like some sort of split personality. In fact, on another board, one person even says "This
would be consistent with his moral makeup. Thus it is not referencing his decrees. They
are altogether separated". This would explain a lot. God's moral makeup (as evidenced by
the passages mentioned above) is the reason people believe He would not send people to
Hell without any chance for salvation. But that means nothing, because His "decree"
overrides that. So His decrees are separate from (do not stem from) His moral character!
One even warned us not to have God's decrees be "forced" by His character. (That makes
the "Potter" bound, while the "clay" is "free" to choose Him "contrary to their [fallen]
nature"). So once again, God has some sort of split personality with a conflicting
character and mind (that passes decrees contrary to His character). Then His "justice" is
added to the formula. It is supposed to be apart of His character, but here it is seen as
being "satisfied" by the contrary decrees, upon punishment. This is creating more
problems than it purportedly solves. If you say something like this sorrow is from His
"offended holiness", this brings Him down to the level of a child crying because someone
hurt his feelings. Once again the final resort is to try to chalk it up to His infinitude and
accuse the opponents of "impugning" God, but this conflict between God's character and
decrees cannot be reconciled with Scripture. People point out that God says in Isaiah 46:
My counsel shall stand
I will do all My pleasure
I have spoken and will bring it to pass
I have purposed it and will do it
So if God's counsel was to save everyone, why aren't all saved? If God will do all of His
pleasure, why aren't all saved? If God has spoken and will bring it to pass, why aren't all
saved? If God has purposed it and will do it, why aren't all saved?
So what this would mean, is that God said that He was not willing for any to perish, (and
gets no pleasure in the death of the wicked) but didn't mean it. One person tried to
suggest that "Apparently at times His nature and decrees do conflict. He decreed to allow
Job to undergo tremendous suffering. He decreed that his Son should be brutally
murdered and killed. He decreed that Paul should have a thorn in the flesh. The problem
here again is our inability to comprehend the infinite perfection of God." But He never
said it was not apart of His nature for people (including His Son) to suffer here on earth,
because that leads to a much better end. (Romans 8:28; 2 Cor.12:9, 10, etc.) The problem
once again is a failure to distinguish earthly pain from eternal Hell. Calvinism assumes
Hell is some sort of desired goal of God, just like Heaven. But like here on earth, jail and
other forms of punishment aren't desired by anyone. They are necessary accommodations
for people who will not obey the law, not ends in themselves. Likewise, Hell was not a
desired end in itself, but was first created for rebellious angels. Then when man fell, those
who refused to repent would also end up there. The Calvinist will argue that if He didn't
decree all of this, then He was "helpless" as sin crept in and "took Him by surprise". But
this is when we confess "our inability to comprehend the infinite perfection of God".
Scriptural observations like this are the reason why people believe in free will, despite all
the logic the Calvinist tries to use.
Calvinist writer John Piper stated:
There are two possibilities as far as I can see. One is that there is a power in the
universe greater than God's which is frustrating him by overruling what he wills.
Neither Calvinist nor Arminian affirms this.
The other possibility is that God wills not to save all, even though he is willing
to save all, because there is something else that he wills more, which would be
lost if he exerted his sovereign power to save all. This is the solution that I as a
Calvinist affirm along with Arminians. In other words both Calvinists and
Arminians affirm two wills in God when they ponder deeply over 1 Timothy
2:4. Both can say that God wills for all to be saved. But then when queried why
all are not saved both Calvinist and Arminian answer that God is committed to
something even more valuable than saving all.
The difference between Calvinists and Arminians lies not in whether there are
two wills in God, but in what they say this higher commitment is. What does
God will more than saving all? The answer given by Arminians is that human
self-determination and the possible resulting love relationship with God are
more valuable than saving all people by sovereign, efficacious grace. The
answer given by Calvinists is that the greater value is the manifestation of the
full range of God's glory in wrath and mercy (Romans 9:22-23) and the
humbling of man so that he enjoys giving all credit to God for his salvation (1
Corinthians 1:29).
First of all, it's not "human self determination" that is said to be more important than
saving all, but that is the way God chose to work with man. Whoever does not believe is
condemned already because he has not believed on the name of the Son of God, (John
3:18) not because he was decreed to be "passed over" from believing. His answer of what
the overriding principle really is uses the old standby of Romans 9, which is not
describing individual reprobation to eternal hell, but rather another example of an earthly
event with a then future fulfillment. How God actually gets "glory" from people being in
Hell is not explained, although he does seem to suggest that it is for us to witness all the
people in Hell, so we could be more thankful for what we were saved from (i.e. His
"mercy")— (i.e. he does go on to mention this "full range of His glory through the
sovereign demonstration of His wrath and mercy" as being " for the enjoyment of His
elect..."! "Are There Two Wills In God?" in Still Sovereign, Baker Books, 2000). Others
do boldly declare this. Johnathan Edwards in his famous sermon "Sinners in the Hands of
an Angry God" is even more explicit in affirming this: "You shall be tormented in the
presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb; and when you shall be in
this state of suffering, the glorious inhabitants of heaven shall go forth and look on the
awful spectacle, that they may see what the wrath and fierceness of the Almighty is; and
when they have seen it, they will fall down and adore that great power and majesty". (He
then quotes Isaiah 66:23,24, and note the reference to Rev.14:10, which is referring to the
seven last plagues on earth, not Hell (see context). Hell is separation from God, not
torment in His presence. Sin shall be "remembered no more" in the eternal Kingdom).
The Bible speaks to both Israelites and Christians who endured generations of
persecution and mockery of their God by the godless people in the world. God promises
that He will bring ruin to these people's kingdoms, and to their souls in Hell if they still
do not repent. It's the act of God righting their wrongs (against Himself and His people,
and His creation) that is connected with the praise there given, not the act of the actual
tormenting of the individuals, (let alone "decreeing" them to that end with no chance of
salvation) just for the "spectacle" of it! You can even see this in the seven last plagues
(Rev. 16:4-7), where the focus is the particular punishment matching the sin, not
punishment just for the sake of punishment. Once again, this makes Hell and wrath
desired ends in themselves, just as much as Heaven. In other words, we can't really
appreciate how great God is unless we see Him condemning people to Hell (and sparing
us). One website even says
God prepares the non-elect for destruction in order to demonstrate His wrath and
make His power known in destroying them. If God did not prepare vessels of
wrath, God could not fully display His wrath. But if God did not fully display
His wrath, then the vessels of mercy—those who are saved—would not fully
appreciate, see, or understand the riches of God's glory. It seems that in order for
the elect to fully appreciate the greatness of God's mercy, they need to see and
understand the wrath that God's mercy had saved them from. Therefore God
prepares vessels of wrath to endure His wrath in order to highlight to the elect
the riches of His mercy that couldn't otherwise be highlighted. As a result of
there being "vessels of wrath fitted for destruction," Christians will have a
greater appreciation of God's mercy, thank Him more deeply for their salvation,
and have a wonderful and more complete delight in the riches of His glory
forever.

This is apparently what Calvinists are looking forward to. It's a great event, not a horrible
one. (You wonder if people are sick in order to be anticipating this as a good thing, or if
they have really thought about this doctrine they parrot). Yet this is all purely speculative
philosophy, that is nowhere elaborated in scripture. On the other hand, in Luke 9, when
the apostles asked Christ to rain down fire on a city that rejected Him ("just like Elijah",
as many preachers today want to copy Elijah!), that was the perfect time for Him to
"show them His glory". Instead, he scolds them You do not know what manner of spirit
you are. For The Son of Man did not come to destroy men's lives; but to save them"
And this was temporal fire we are talking about here! Perhaps the pinnacle of this
treatise; Calvinism completely contradicts this principle given by Jesus by having Him
actually create men just for destruction, and coming NOT to save them, but rather "leave"
them for the destruction they were created for, for the "sake" of the "elect"! Not only
denying this clear scripture, it demeans God's glory by saying that all of the wonders of
the good things He has created, plus salvation in itself are not enough to make us fully
appreciate Him. It's like He is no god at all without someone to hate and destroy. The
Bible reveals that God is primarily love, and hatred and wrath are reactive to people's
spurning of His love. Calvinism (attempting to prevent God from ever being reactive
instead of always being causative) seems to be making/assuming God to be primarily
hatred and wrath, with love being little more than some exception He bestows on a select
few (or "all" only in some very loose general sense among those who are not hyper-
Calvinists). But is this really compatible with all the scriptures declaring God's
lovingkindness and tender mercies to man; that He is "Father of the fatherless, defender
of widows..." (Ps.68:5), etc.? Do such passages make it appear that many are
unconditionally 'left out' of this or "hated" by God, other than those who reject His love,
but could have accepted it? Some will protest how the world or "contemporary
Christianity" (the scapegoat of all who have some unbiblical radical "traditional"
position) focuses only on God's love and not on His wrath. Perhaps this was a reaction
toward the old Christianity's focusing only on God's wrath, which only scared people, and
may have created some sort of "revival" for a while, but in the end, scaring people doesn't
lead to true regeneration, but fearful pretense, rebellion, and softening down of the
doctrine. (God wants people to serve Him out of love, not be terrified into submission)
Regardless, one extreme does not justify the other.
One Calvinist said "God's most important definition is not love, but 'Holy Holy Holy'"
(i.e. thrice emphasized). Holiness, of course, is connected with hatred of sin. But you
cannot take this to contradict love by saying God creates these people who He does not
even intend on loving and saving because He made us all guilty of Adam's sin and holds
all responsible, and leaves some in that state just to have someone to hate; for that is
making Him primarily hate in opposition to love. He is not then reacting to sin, but
scripting sin in a predetermined plan to destroy creatures for some supposedly hidden
purpose. "God is love" means that God's primary moves are of benevolence, in creating,
and to Creation. He created a beautiful realm for us to enjoy, and I've always said that He
could have created a colorless stick figure world, and we would have had to appreciate
that and try to make the best use of it we could, and still praise Him for creating it. But
instead, it seems He went if it were possible, "out of His way" to provide a magnificent
universe for us. (This is one of the things that the disoriented bulletin board poster I
quoted above was trying to get at). Yet Calvinists consistently fail to see where their
opponents get their idea that "God wouldn't do that" [i.e. trap people with preterition]
from; as if we just made it all up off the top of our heads out of pure "emotional
sentiment", based on "the way we think God should be", in total contrast to scripture!
Even though most of these Calvinists insist God only punishes sin, the corollary of this is
that God condemns people for some other reason besides sin. Sin is just a part of a bigger
cause by which God damns people unconditionally, simply because of His "sovereign
pleasure". This changes the whole picture of how God reveals Himself in scripture-- as
primarily love, with wrath or hatred being reactive to sin. Even though God "has the right
to do whatever He wants", He is still revealed as one who does not do harm to anyone
unless they are sinning against Him. That is the only thing that ever brings His wrath, and
He does not conceive of a person from eternity and charge him with sin just so the person
could "condemn himself", which is basically sheer entrapment. This is what people
oppose, and it becomes more a defensive argument about what scripture does not teach,
than about what it does teach. This is then interpreted as simply a human objection of
"that is not fair".
Furthermore, just think about how relatively safe we have been kept from all of the
dangers in the universe. How more than half of His Laws protect us from the sin of other
humans so we can live together with some semblance of peace. When someone steals
from another, or hurts another, God is just as offended as we are, or as He is of someone
worshipping other gods. When the Israelites worshipped other gods such as Molech, God
was just as upset that they were making their children pass through the fire as He was at
the fact that it was another god. He forbade copying the practice even if they were using
it to worship Him. (Deut 12:30-31), which He probably wouldn't have done if receiving
undivided worship was all He cared about. He is not selfish like we are, but it appears
that this is what Calvinists are projecting onto Him under the premise of "sovereignty".
Imagine if He only gave the first four commandments, because our worship of Him was
all He was concerned about! The whole point of the Christian life is for us to "become
like Christ"; to "develop God's character", etc.; and what are we always commanded?
Goodness, peaceableness to others, etc. No one is encouraged to raise children badly, so
they can bring wrath on themselves and thus "deserve" it. God may exercise the right to
do things He has commands us not to (such as taking a life), because of His supreme
wisdom, but still, in general, the principles we see Him working in us are a far cry from
what Calvinism attributes to Him. Calvinists point out, "no all of this goodness to man is
only for His glory", but His glory obviously is beneficial to us. Once again, His glory, or
"love for Himself" is not in opposition to our well-being or pleasure. You could say, He
has tuned our senses to perceive the wonders of His creation pleasurably. He most
certainly did not have to do this. Yet because of sin, it's man (and certain angels) who
have set themselves in opposition to God. Calvinists try to argue that "if God allowed sin
and the Fall, and foreknew that people would end up in Hell, then you are in the same
predicament you say we are in". But not really. The difference is in the orientation. That
is not the same thing as Him unconditionally hating people, and then fixing life so that
they would be born in sin, die in sin, and go to Hell for that sin. The reason sin was
allowed to exist will be covered later, in the discussion of scriptures pertaining to this.
Suffice to say now, God deemed it more of a pleasure to be redeemed from a fallen state
than to have been created in a perfect world with no sin or fall. (This is perhaps why man
will ultimately be higher than angels). Yes, God "knew there would be a chance that
people would reject Him and end up in Hell", but He has fixed it so that it is entirely their
own decision.(Calvinists claim this, but in the end, people were totally helpless). So in
this sense what the quote above on God's wills was saying had some truth. But it is still
quite a different orientation than the way that statement makes condemnation almost a
central goal or starting point in God's plan to show us His glory.
Also this should be a note to infralapsarians and "single predestinarians" that Calvinism
is at its root supralapsarian double-predestination. If people's purpose to be in Hell is for
God's glory (just as much as His saving people from it), and everything that happens is
ultimately for His glory, then it follows then that the Fall must also have been simply a
means to accomplish this. This is by definition, supralapsarianism, and infralapsarianism,
while vehemently claiming to deny some of the harder aspects of supralapsarianism (such
as "double predestination") still leads right back to that premise. This problem arises,
because these Calvinists, like the others, want to focus on what God has decreed in
eternity, but many do not like the resulting supralapsarianism, and then try to focus on the
people's own sin in time making them "deserve" that judgment. But if God simply used
time as a means to "establish" his people in righteousness, AND establish the reprobates
in wickedness, as some put it, then ultimately, the reprobates are not really being
condemned for their own sin, but rather their sin was merely part of a script (as I call it)
that God wrote (in eternity; before the Fall), with the main objective being their
condemnation (for some supposedly unrevealed other, higher purpose). In other words,
God "knew" two groups of people from eternity. Both would be born as sinners, because
of Adam, but as God conceives of each individual soul, one He declares will be saved,
and the other passed over and remain lost. Then, He creates the world, Adam, the Fall
occurs, and all of this "plays out" in time exactly as God first decreed it. The lost people
weren't there shaping this decision (as Origen essentially taught), so why did they "sin" in
the first place? Because it was God's plan. So supralapsarianism is unavoidable, and yes,
God did basically make the person sin to fulfill His plan; some will even add to provide
an example of the wrath God was saving the others from so they can praise Him more.
This is supralapsarianism pure and simple.
As for the "two wills", where many people will contrast God's eternal will (in which he
desires good and for all to be saved) with His permissive will (which allows evil and
people to reject Him and perish), the Calvinist replaces that "eternal" will with what they
call a decretive will. The difference is that while the non-Calvinist places the destruction
of people in Hell in God's permissive will (in contrast to His eternal will for all to be
saved), the Calvinist places people's consignment to Hell in His decretive will (The realm
of His decrees, which overrides His other desires). Where does this place His desire that
none should perish or not taking pleasure in the death of the wicked? In His permissive
will? That wouldn't make sense. Of course, most Calvinists don't speak of a "permissive
will" (generally seen as an Arminian invention), but have dubbed the other will, the
preceptive will. But it seems that in practice it is not much different from the decretive
will. This is where the irreconcilable and unjustifiable contradiction of their position lies.
I have also seen mention of a desirative will, and I guess this is where they place all men
being saved. But all they have done is shuffle around the concepts so that people's
damnation moves from a passive "permissive" will to an active "decretive" will. This
once again makes damnation a positive goal rather than terrible consequence. They think
in addition to "eternal" and "permissive", we would need a third will which cannot be
"thwarted". But no such special "will" is needed. God is free to allow His wills to be
thwarted in particular instances. That is what grace is all about, and in the end, it will
always serve a greater purpose which cannot be thwarted. This seems to better reconcile
God's sovereignty/man's responsibility than to have, essentially two non-permissive wills
that will opposite things.
Philosophical Questions
Much of the arguments the Calvinists use are based on philosophy and not clear scriptural
teaching (except as interpreted in light of the philosophy and confessions that support it).
In debates you see all of these earthly words and concepts, and we try to answer the other
position's philosophy with more philosophy to show that that position cannot be true (If
you say this, then this happens, and if God allowed sin then He determined it, etc). I
began debating with one of them on the board (beginning with the infants issue, above),
and he kept throwing a whole bunch of hypothetical questions, such as "what is redemption?
Does it occur before the Cross, after the Cross?" Please tell us when someone is redeemed; is it when they
believe, or before or after?"; "Were men that perish also 'redeemed,' but just didn't cash in on their
redemption?"; "You have not explained from the scriptures why spiritually dead people believe"; "Did the
cross redeem everybody, the elect, or nobody?"; "Did the work of the Savior on the cross actually
accomplish redemption, or did it simply make men redeemable? Are certain men who Christ died for not
going to receive their salvation, which was purchased for them? Did God pay for all their sins, accept their
sin of unbelief? In a word, what is the gospel? What does it mean that Christ died for sinners? Does God
hold men accountable for their sin even if the Savior paid for their sins? Does God go along with double-
jeopardy — i.e., two payments for the same sin? (i.e by Christ, and then again by themselves because they
didn't receive Him). When were you redeemed and were all men redeemed then? What DID the Savior do
on the cross for you? Was Jesus' life vicarious and on your behalf, or only potentially so". "Do infants sin or
do they not sin?" etc) to try and trap me and prove that Calvinism must be true. The
questions would always lead to some other question or "dilemma" for non-Calvinism,
and I began sweeping them aside, as Jesus did the Pharisees, to stick to the main point.
But then I was accused of being "evasive" in "dodging" these "exegetical questions". But
that was precisely the point. In other debates, the Calvinist would pose their hypothetical
question (such as those who never heard), the non-Calvinist would try to answer it from
the Bible as best as he can, and the non-Calvinist is then accused of "using human
reasoning". In such case, the Calvinist brings unscriptural reasoning into the debate, and
if you "bite", the "human reasoning" accusation is somehow transferred to you!
Questions like these are part of a technique of argumentation, which includes bogging
your opponent down with hard to readily answer questions and "dilemmas" that would
require much thought and research that you do not have time for in the heat of the
argument. (especially since they are not under Biblical authority). None of these
questions are posed by the Bible, so how could one even answer them "from the
scriptures"? Not that scripture leaves it open as to whether the atonement "actually"
accomplished anything for instance, but the comparisons between "accomplished" versus
"made possible" as well as "redeemed" versus "redeemable", "when" and "why" people
actually believe, what made one thief on the cross ask for forgiveness and not the other,
were the sins of the damned paid for twice, whether they were redeemed and didn't "cash
in", etc. were unheard/not thought of in the Bible.
That any could believe and be saved, and our responsibility to give them the Good News
was the point. Calvinism is supposed to have been articulated by Paul, but where does he
or any other biblical writer pose these questions? These are arguments conjured up for the
sole porpose to try to logically/philosophically prove Calvinism, and it may make for a
good debate, but we cannot claim to have debunked the other view biblically with such
logic. This is the trick in these questions: you put forth the opponent's view in a way that
sounds "unbiblical", because the Bible doesn't speak in terms of "possibility" or
"redeemability", for instance. But this doesn't mean that that might not be [technically]
the way it is. Salvation is "possible" and man "potentially redeemable" in the Calvinist
scheme. God only chooses some, though. When we witness to any given person, he is at
best "potentially" "savable", and loved by God in our frame of reference. Meanwhile, if a
person does receive Christ, then he is "actually" saved. So what's with the all the word
games? Rather than exegetical questions, what we have is eisegetical semantics.
A person can actually win an argument like this, but still be dead wrong, as I have had
similar arguments with agnostics, Muslims, Oneness Pentecostals (modalism) and others.
Paul cautions us about getting caught up in philosophy and endless arguments that have
no real merit (Col.2:8, 1 Tim.1:4), and just distracts from the simplicity of the Gospel and
draws us away from the inspired Word of God and causes unnecessary issues.
Both the Jews and Greeks were doing this to the Christians, and it's funny, because
Calvinists are often the quickest to "rebuke" others for posing such questions to their
ideas of God's "sovereign rights". It's not that such issues are not important or merit
discussion. But we can't allow ourselves to get lost in endless debates and dogmatize
certain positions in issues that will not be fully understood this side of eternity. Calvinist
often make much of these and other "unanswerable questions" (such as "why did you
believe and not others, if you were not saved by some merit within you?") as being a
"stumper" for the other side thus proving that their view must be true, because "only we
can answer these questions". But no Biblical doctrine is proven by "unanswerable
questions". That is not how we exegete the scriptures and build our doctrine! The
problem results from a lack of understanding when to be use logic or to conclude
something is above our understanding. And a lot of this debate is based on a total
misunderstanding of non-Calvinist beliefs, or generalizations based on the unfortunate
words of certain non-Calvinist leaders in the past. This was my issue, as I shall elaborate
soon.
The Paradoxes of God's Eternity vs. our World of Time
Suffice it to say, that we all know that God knows the "end from the beginning" (Isaiah
46:10). Even Augustine in his "Confessions" (p.286-7) acknowledged that since God
invented time along with the created world, the question of what God was doing before
Creation is nonsense and merely betrays the time-bound perspective of the questioner.
'Before' time, there is only eternity, and eternity for God is a never ending present. The
problem comes from the wide difference between God's realm, and our realm of space
and time. The Bible spans this gap by portraying spiritual realities both from God's point
of view, and ours. This is where apparent paradoxes may seem to come up. On one hand,
God knows how everything shall turn out, and even if man does have free will, He would
therefore know who will be saved in the end already. Augustine, as the originator of
much of Calvinistic doctrine, would still try to build a theology that explained salvation
from both perspectives, but unfortunately, his theology often confused both realms,
effectively treating God as if He were in time, (A Calvinist would argue then that those
He knew would be saved are simply the ones He elected) and man as if he were in
eternity. (All individual men "made the choice to sin" "in Adam"). But as Augustine said
and should have realized himself better, it is our time bound perspective that limits us.
God knows the end, but we, the people choosing or rejecting God, are in a world of time.
We cannot even look at it from God's point of view, so we have to deal with the issue
from our point of view: as mortals who have to make a choice. Somehow, God knew his
elect, yet, those who are not elect will be in Hell by their own choice. (Many Calvinists
will affirm this, but at the same time still insist in some way, shape or form God initially
decreed them there for His own "sovereign pleasure"). It is contrary to the nature of a
loving God to send people to the torments of Hell who had no other choice. Remember,
Hell was made for willfully rebellious angels (Matt.25:41), which rules out a past
eternal "decree" of individual men being sentenced there because it would be "made for"
them too.
Even this explanation brings up the questions "does God know this will happen because
he looked down the corridors of time and saw that it would come to pass? Does God
know this will happen because he is in the future and observing it?" which would
supposedly destroy God's omniscience by saying He "learns" things He didn't already
know. But as inadequate as these phrases may be, the point we are trying to bring across
is that God sees things very differently than we do. We are looking at eternal things like
this through our time bound minds, and then confounding the two realms. (These
questions reflect this). That is why Calvinists can say: "YES people do die in Adam
because they choose to resist the Spirit." "Yes, men 'choose Christ freely', but only
because God has given them a new spirit and made dead bones live!" "Calvinism teaches
that men exercise faith and repentance willfully".
Even more striking is when they do try to "witness" to somebody: "My plea to you is to
cry out to Him who is able to save your body and soul from sin's destruction." "Hear His
Word, repent of your wickedness, submit to His yoke, lest you perish." This is one of the
major contradictions. These two statements make it appear that the person's destiny is not
yet decided (as is many other examples, such as Calvin himself being lead into the
ministry "with threats of hellfire" by Farel). Yes, you can say "if he repents, it is because
he was chosen, and of he doesn't repent, it was because he was not chosen". But the very
fact that you're putting the ball in his corner— you're going to perish/your soul will be
destroyed, but if YOU [in contrast to God] do something, this won't happen— i.e. you
will prevent this if you believe; rather than putting it in terms of God's predetermined
action all along. Calvinists somehow see no contradiction, but it seems their own words
even give evidence of some amount of free will. Better yet, on the issue of evangelizing,
one said: "We do not affirm free will but human responsibility (John 1:12-13). God has
ordained us as instruments to proclaim his Gospel. There are even warnings that if we fail
to witness that their blood is on our hands (Acts 20:26-27,31). Calvin warned that those
who refuse to evangelize in his commentary on Acts 20:26 that 'if anything perish
through their negligence, an account may be required at their hands; yea, that unless
they show the way of salvation without guile and crooks, the destruction of those who go
astray may be imputed unto them.'" This almost completely affirms that salvation is
affected now, by our actions! The same with prayer. It is an obvious criticism that
Calvinism seems to render prayer futile since everything is predetermined by God, but
they actually claim that it is only in their system that prayer has meaning, and is futile if
God does not override a person's free will. In Calvinism, supposedly, God is "free" to
answer a person's prayer to save someone, which involves changing his will, (which is
only inclined to unbelief). But the only way to harmonize all of this with Calvinistic
"decrees" is to have a world where God has scripted people to fulfil or neglect their
responsibility, and be "responsible" for people being saved or lost in the "story". Else, we
must admit that the true harmonization is above our world of time. In our time frame,
people choose freely (which presupposes everyone has that choice if it can be called
"free" in any real sense). But in God's realm He is in control of everything. But still, they
can't admit that the full knowledge of how the two realms fits together is beyond our
comprehension, (I was told this assertion was the "height of arrogance", being this issue
is so "basic"), and not set up a purely time-bound scenario confused with an eternal frame
of reference and call it "freedom", when it in reality turns into nothing more than pre-
programming any way you look at it. (I know they are tired of such "caricatures", but
what else is one to make of it, unless they admit the full knowledge of this is above us).
Calvinists frequently claim "Oh, if God knew who would be lost, and still went and
created that person anyway, then there's still nothing that person could do to go against
God's foreknowledge, so you're still in the same bind as us; —only God is not in 'control'
of it in your case." But this still puts God in our time frame. It still assumes a timelike
sequence of A: God foreknows something. B. It comes to pass in time. This does not fully
appreciate the idea of God existing completely outside of time; that His "foreknowledge"
is "past" in our frame of time, but not in His realm. You're just placing Him in another
time line. We can only think in terms of "past, present and future", so the scripture uses
such language. But the way God sees it is above our comprehension.
In another debate between two others, the Calvinist states: "THAT God determines the
free actions of men [and hold them responsible for it] is not a mystery. Precisely HOW
He is able to direct the consciences of men and women to carry out His purposes, even
when they include freely chosen sin, is something of a mystery to us. Not entirely, but we
certainly don't have comprehensive understanding of it." So they do concede that this is
ultimately above our knowledge, but only AFTER stating their highly scandalous
premise, which is said not to be a mystery. But any issue of how an eternal God saves
people in a world of time is a mystery to us. As with the idea of God weeping for sinners
he decreed to be condemned, Calvinists should not try to appeal to God's infinitude when
it is convenient for them just to get around the problems in their theories, when the
Calvinist has been relying on having logical answers for the whole issue all along (and
insisting that this is so "clear", and so important that it shouldn't be considered
unknowable). If you're going to insist now that we can't completely understand God, then
you must admit that perhaps reprobation or preterition or whatever else you call it may
have been a mistaken speculation caused by our limited understanding of certain
scriptural statements pointing to God's eternal frame of reference. When we start talking
about God's "foreknowledge" and how it pertains to salvation, THAT is where we say
"OK, this is getting above our comprehension. Let's just do what He says" (the Great
Commission). That is all that is entrusted to us. Not try to reason "well, if He knows it,
He must have decreed it", and then try to read this into scripture. What is the purpose of
that?
It's obvious that we have paradoxes in scripture. Just like Christ being God and man,
there are opposing polarities whose resolutions are beyond our full comprehension.
Scripture shows that God is sovereign and elects people, but there are evidences that
anyone can be saved, such as the passages discussing Christ dying for "the World" (It is a
stretch to make "the world" mean "only the elect in the world"), and His telling us to win
souls (which would be unnecessary since man could in no way affect the decree of
election), and that He weeps for the lost (why would He do this if He predestined their
eternal fate?) The Calvinists push back the mystery by taking one side of this polarity,
reinterpreting the other, and then building this "hard truth" and then claiming it is
ultimately a mystery, using Romans 9 to silence everyone (see below). What we are
saying is that you have already crossed the line into the unsearchable in positing this idea.
Why can't we just leave it at we don't know how exactly it fits together? Why is there so
much stock being put in the one point of God not wanting to save certain people from
Hell? It's almost like people get some kind of kick out of that ("just as long as it wasn't
me").
Basically, the two paradoxes we have here are:
Non-Calvinists say:
"Yes, The Bible speaks of election of the saints"
+ "But God does not desire death of the 'non-elect' and did not leave them without chance
to get saved"
_______________________________________________________
= above our comprehension due to God's incomprehendable perspective
Calvinists say:
"Yes, God does not desire death of the non-elect, and does not elect them to Hell; they go
only by 'their own choice'"
+ "But they are 'vessels of wrath' God deliberately 'fitted for destruction' [i.e. as
individuals], and God is responsible for their going to Hell"
_______________________________________________
= above our understanding due to "God's unsearchable plan".
First of all, while "election" and "God not desiring the death of the wicked" are direct
Biblical statements, "God is responsible for them going to Hell" is not, but is a deduction
made from assumptions about the full implications of election. "Vessels of wrath fitted
for destruction" is a biblical statement, but as will be shown later, does not apply to
individual "reprobation" or "preterition" in the context. So the latter is not a biblical
paradox at all, because only one of its polarities is biblical! As Dave Hunt says, "There is
no paradox except that which has been created by a distortion of sovereignty" (What
Love Is This, p. 134). Also, the latter has nothing to do really with anything unsearchable
about God. What you have is two sets of plain, but entirely contradictory statements. The
former deals with God's perspective, which is one of His unsearchable characteristics, so
this must be the true paradox. The former statements are not even mutually exclusive, but
the latter are. You cannot substitute total illogic for scriptural paradoxes. We cannot try to
squeeze "she's pregnant, but she's not pregnant" into the Bible, even if we try to credit
God with it. Calvinists have actually tried to accuse non-calvinists of "trying to have it all
figured out", but their answer boils down to "God leaves people dead in their sins, but
still holds them accountable", and this "God's sovereignty" and "man's accountability" are
supposed to be the "mystery" or "tensions" that are apart of the "Secret counsel of God".
But if you really look at it, there is nothing mysterious at all. God leaves men helpless,
but condemns them for their sin they couldn't repent of. This seems unfair to us, but our
minds are corrupted, and God "does as He pleases", so they are responsible and He is
righteous to judge them simply because He is God and He has declared it so. (Ultimately,
He needed people to damn to show His glory, some will add, and this is how He does it)
But all of this is logically possible! What is mysterious about that? It is all
understandable, even if our 'fallen minds' think it is unfair. They are the ones who "have it
all figured out", and suggesting that the true mystery is that man can choose or reject God
and God is still sovereign and in control, (as Arminius and the Remonstrants confessed to
"not having all the answers" regarding) is simply dismissed as a contradictory
impossibility. But this precisely identifies it as the true mystery.
I have noticed on one hand, the Calvinist telling us to throw out all our ideas, logic,
(never mind whether some of them might be the conscience God gave us, plus by
principle we read about in the scripture), on the premise that we cannot "comprehend"
God's ways, but then often cite as proof of this "Passages that were once impossible to
comprehend become amazingly clear". Maybe it's by your "logic" that you have made
them easier to comprehend. This works two ways, so it is tiring seeing Arminianism
always accused of being driven by logic, when the Calvinist is the one talking the most
about how he has God's methods all figured out. (except for the scandalous "why's" of
course)
As one has said to me: "You are saying that unless you can reconcile God's sovereignty in
salvation with man's responsibility, you must reject that sovereignty. I say you must
submit to God's greater wisdom, power and holiness, and be like Job." But it is really
they, who cannot understand how man can have a free will in choosing, and God still be
sovereign, so they deny that we believe God is sovereign. They pose that He MUST
choose some and pass over the rest, in order to be "sovereign", and that is IT! That then,
becomes all "sovereignty" is about. Then, unfortunately, other free will believers speak in
terms that make it seem God is limiting Himself. The problem is, no one can completely
understand it, so both sides speculate on how it fits together, and then we spend all the
time arguing on which theory fits best.
Instead, you should submit to God's greater perspective (not trapped in time like we are)
and not try to neatly package it and intellectually master it and then present it in the "God
plans it and it works out" fashion. That is from our limited frame of reference, not God's.
Plus, we have never said "EITHER sovereignty OR "responsibility"! It is the Calvinists
who deny that we have God as sovereign, because of their preconceived DEFINITION of
"sovereignty" as "God chooses this one unconditionally, and therefore passes over that
one". To support that, you must overgeneralize the effects of sin to a "total inability" to
repent. Then, to try to make it fit the scriptural teaching that God only condemns people
for sin, you have to go into this whole teaching of man "freely" rejecting, but it's not
really free. He somehow imposed it on himself, but he has absolutely no sayso/control
over it. Now, you turn around and try to tell us "Ok, THIS is all we can know, that is the
mystery, just accept it..." and accuse US of "reasoning" when we scrutinize it in light of
all the scriptures. I'm sorry, but you cannot pin the "reason" on us. It is the Calvinist side
that started that, trying to figure out HOW God is "sovereign" in light of man's
"responsibility". This side thought it was more exalting God's glory by teaching that, but
all it has done is create confusion. God's eternal realm of decrees, foreknowledge,
predestination, etc, (the "how's") is what is beyond our realm, not just the "why's".
It's human logic that says that if God doesn't decree everything, He is weak and not in
control; or that if He paid for all, and some are still lost, He "mocks atonement by
forgiving their sins at Calvary and them condemning the sinners anyway." (Some even
call this "unfair") That is not scriptural reasoning. And in answer to that question about
sins being paid for twice, those who did not receive Him, their sins will not have been
paid twice, but Christ's payment will not have been applied to them, because they were
not covered by the blood. In the original Passover, God had warned that the blood of a
lamb must be applied to the doorpost in order for the death angel to pass over them. The
blood was not effective if it was not applied. Many non-Calvinists fall into a trap of
trying to argue that no one will be condemned for their sin, but only for rejecting Christ.
But the Bible is clear that those who reject Christ are still "in their sins" (John 8:24),
(condemned for the acts, not just the condition). Christ's blood (like the original Passover
blood) must be applied for those sins to be forgiven. Calvinists can go into their argument
that this blood then did not "actually" save anyone. But this was the very shadow of
Christ's work, from which the whole concept of Him as "the Lamb" who sheds His
blood for sin comes from, and the principle is the same. (In the Calvinist scheme, God
would only provide lambs for certain people, yet still hold the others "responsible"). Now
instead of a physical work (applying blood), the blood is spiritually applied when one
simply believes. And instead of every person sacrificing their own lamb, one Lamb was
sacrificed once for all. But each person's application of that blood is still in their own
time. And this argument that if Christ had died for the unsaved's sins, it would be
"double-payment", and thus "unjust" (So Christ must not have paid for his sins at all)
betrays Calvinism's belief (whether an individual Calvinist acknowledges it) that God
"gets something" (i.e. positively) out of people's suffering in Hell. One person insisted a
person in Hell is actually "paying" God back! But the one owed the "debt" (the victim,
survivors or "society") does not "receive" anything in cases like murder. Like the warning
"you'll pay" if one does something wrong; payment in that case simply indicates a
negative consequence for the violator, not a positive reward for the victim. I guess in such
cases the abstract ideal of "justice" is what "receives" the payment. Like with God, we
say it is His justice that is paid by either Christ's death or the sinner's punishment; not that
He personally "receives" anything Himself. (Of course, Calvinism does often justify its
doctrine of reprobation on God "receiving glory" by preordaining individuals to wrath
(perhaps this is the whole problem in this question), but then is God really exacting
justice for being "violated" in that scenario, or is it all His script anyway?)
The purpose of Hell is not for God to get enjoyment out of it, but because the person has
rejected Him all his life, so where is he going to go for eternity? Not in God's presence.
So out from God's presence, away from all that is good, he suffers eternally. He is
separated (the "outer darkness") from God, the source of all things good. So what is there
but misery? Some argue that since God is the source of life, He must be the one "keeping
them alive to suffer His wrath", thus supposedly proving their points that He does "get
something" out of it, His goal for them is "wrath", and that it must be "in His presence".
But the main purpose and proof of consciousness is the purpose of Justice for different
measures of sin. (Luke 12:47,8) The different levels of suffering are measured out to
match the gravity of his sins and refused opportunities to yield to whatever light he was
shown. That is the justice part of it. So he "pays" for both his sins, and rejecting the only
way of escape. (Others will reason that the purpose of keeping them alive is because
annihilating them would "deny their freedom" or something like that. In any case, all of
this is getting more and more speculatory, and cannot be used to argue Calvinism). The
suffering actually isn't payment TO God, because one of the things all sides agree is that
the reason he is there is because he can't "pay" God back. Else, you have a contradiction:
The eternity (infinity) of the duration would then equal the debt, and it would be paid.
But if it's paid, he shouldn't be in hell, then. His holiness is vindcated just by the removal
of sin from His presence. What people owe God is eternal service and worship, not that
OR "suffering". He is not getting that in those punished, but they are removed from His
presence, thus vindicating God's justice and holiness.
We are in a world of time, not in God's timeless realm. Some Calvinists will go into a
discussion of "primary and secondary causes", meaning that yes, we have free will, and
we go and win souls for God. But this is only a secondary cause. The first cause must be
God's eternal decrees, which play out in our "free" movements (which would only be to
evil, unless God overcomes our nature and regenerates us first so we can believe). While
this is logically possible; and shows that our beliefs ultimately are not that different, still
the problem is their insistance on holding onto reprobation or preterition as a necessary
part of these decrees, and using the same proof-texts as the double predestinarians, which
lead to double predestination if interpreted that way; yet they deny double predestination,
once again insisting on the primary and secondary causes. Thus it still makes the world of
time a script, the way they try to put these first and second causes together. ("Script" is
actually a more accurate analogy than the commonly charged "puppet show" or
"robotics"). To get a better idea of the world of "God's sovereignty and man's
responsibility" as the Calvinists seem to be pointing to, just think of a TV show or play.
One person kills another, and the killer "really" is "guilty" and "responsible" for a "free
choice", even though the fictional character could not have done other than what was
written. For "guilt", "responsibility" and "choice" are determined by the rules of the
outside world, where the writers and directors dwell, and everybody watching will say
"yes, that 'person'[character] really is guilty"! The only difference is that this "script" is
now "real life", and the characters, real souls. So picking up the scenario I earlier alluded
to, basically, God has written a story of a world where the future is open, and in the story
people have choice and if they believe the Gospel they are saved. But God is really the
one who wrote everything that happens, as well as the means for it happening. So one
Christian prays for God to save some people he knew of who he couldn't reach. God
listened to him and then sends two other Christians their way. The first obeyed and shared
the Gospel with two of the people, saying "...IF you receive Christ, you will be saved; if
not, you will be lost...". It appears either has a choice, but that is only in the story. So one
accepts Christ, the other doesn't. Another Christian doesn't obey, and passes another
person without sharing the Gospel. That person dies without Christ. In reality, God had
decreed from eternity that the first person was elect, and He scripted him into the world
as the first person witnessed to, while the others were the "vessels of wrath fitted for
destruction", who are punished for their "free choice" of rejecting God. That was all they
could do, given their inability, but in the story, it was "freely" made, so they are now
punished eternally for it. Also in the story, God had effectively responded "yes" to the
prayer for the first person. But in reality, this was simply the "means" He used to
accomplish in time what He had decreed from eternity (the others were an automatic "no"
since they were not "elect"). The obedient Christians were thus "used by God" to bring
one of His "sheep" "into the fold". God could have done it without them, but in this story,
He wants people to be saved after responding to the Gospel, even though it is by his
election rather than their response. The disobedient Christian was not used of God to win
anyone, and will answer to God for that, but the person he neglected to witness to was not
decreed to be elect anyway.
Once again, the Calvinist seems to have it all put together, and this is supposedly the only
way the "Potter" could be "free" and the "clay" be under His control. But obviously, this
world is presented in scripture as more than a script, and these are real living souls, not
actors playing a role who are involved; or literal lifeless matter. We must admit that the
way the primary causes of a God in a timeless realm and the "secondary causes" of a real,
living realm of time fit together are above our understanding. You cannot read salvation
history like it is completely outside of time, because in dealing with us, God interacts
with the world of time, even though He is not confined in it. He has not asked any of us
to try to tell it from His viewpoint where everything has been said and done. Now I can't
completely explain this, but that is the only way to square with all the scriptures and not
wind up with a god who creates reasons to damn people or looks to trap them in sin and
death by sending people to Hell He withheld an opportunity to repent (while giving them
a "call" for them to damn themselves by "refusing"), yet still holds them accountable for
not repenting, (and takes pleasure in this, yet pretends to weep for them); and then try to
force this theory into scriptures like Romans 9. That seems a lot worse than the things
Calvinists accuse the "Arminian god" of, and contradicts many scriptures.
Statements like "deserve" and "ought" are human words that we use for certain meanings.
What you are doing is taking tham and giving them new meanings for God. In other
words, basically, God is just pronouncing people as "deserving" (user defined word) hell,
and to justify this, declaring that they "ought" to repent, though He witholds an "ability"
from them. The rest of the script of "means" is just another roundabout way of
accomplishing this single goal of just damning people. Then it is sealed off with "It is
God's right to do that", and scriptures bent to fit it.
All of this leads us to the question of what exactly "deserve" means in the first place.
They take one definition from the Webster's dictionary: "to be worthy, fit, or suitable for
some reward or requital", then adds:
"If you build something fit for the trash heap, then it deserves to be tossed in the trash
heap. If you do anything else with it, you are granting it undeserved mercy (grace). If you
give half your objects grace and don't give the other half grace, that is not unfair, because
ALL of them deserve the trash heap. If anything is unfair, it would be to give ANY of
them anything but the trash heap - hence the need for a redeemer.
Likewise, if -- hypothetically -- God purposefully creates a wicked people, then those
wicked people deserve what wicked people deserve. God tells us what they/we deserve -
we don't have to make it up or imagine it."
But this ignores the other definitions (from Random House Unabridged); "to merit, be
worthy of, be qualified for, or have a claim to reward, assistance, punishment,
recompence etc. because of actions, qualities, or situations. I think this clarifies it more
than what was said above. Looking at it legally only, the Calvinists focus on "actions"
(our sins), and "qualities", (our sin nature), but ignore "situation" (depravity, inherited
from a parent, not consciously chosen by the individual). And this is basically where the
whole "fairness" debates revolve.
It should be quite clear that there are no simple answers to this, unless one is biased
towards a particular view. The fact that the argument goes on like this is the ultimate
proof that this issue is not as cut and dry as they make it out to be. (But of course, the
Calvinists just accuse non-Calvinists of stubbornly "rejecting clear scriptures" after being
"shown time and time again"!) Any issue we must prove by crafty questioning and
philosophy is theory at best, not a sound biblical teaching. But suffice it to say, both sides
are talking past each other with assumptions of what the other really believes or their
supposed logical conclusions, especially the Calvinist side.
Faith, Works, and Responsibility
For example, where does one get the idea that choosing God or accepting an offer of
salvation from Him is tantamount to a "work" by which we "save ourselves", and that
man's depravity must be "overcome" in order to be able to do such a thing? The Bible
says no such thing! In the Bible, faith is never pictured as some "work man must add to
make salvation effectual". It is treated as the very opposite of works instead, and to insist
that faith is really a work is only for the purpose of arguing for Calvinism. We must stick
with biblical defnitions, not interpret the Bible in light of our own logical ones. Primitive
Baptists make a point that Gal.2:16 says that it is the "faith OF Christ", rather than "in"
Christ (as rendered in modern translations) that saves, meaning Christ's own faith,
imparted to us by unconditional election. But the verse still mentions our believing in
Him, so "Faith of Christ" is just another way of saying faith in Christ. Just as His
righteousness is imparted to us, so then our saving faith comes from Him, but this does
not assume unconditional election, and total inability to ask to receive this faith. One
argument goes: "how can dead men while still dead in their sin and trespasses incline
themselves toward God? You would say that they are brought under conviction and then
they IN THE FLESH desire Christ. Man in his enmity must choose to follow the King.
This has unregenerate men choosing to pick up their cross and follow Christ - in the
flesh. Man's faith and desire to trust in Christ is supposedly generated from his fallen
nature"; He "causes himself to 'differ from' the reprobate"; "A dead man who hates God
cannot change his desires any more than the Ethiopian can change his color or a leopard
can change his spots - no matter how much the Spirit convicts him. The Spirit must
quicken the man (make him alive) and give him new affections - sovereignly" (this is
called the "holy rape" of the soul), and (from Christianity Today article "Free to Be
Creatures Again", 10-23-00 p.41): "how prideful for the human being to think he can step
away from his sins for a minute and make a good choice about God? As John says in
8:34, 'Everyone who sins is a slave to sin'". But one, who ever said that in choosing God,
man was "stepping away from his sin"? (Calvinists consistently plug in their own
definitions like this and then knock them down). The whole point of the necessity of
choosing God, is the realization that you are hopelessly dead in sin, not that you yourself
are "stepping away from it" just in realizing that. Another person states: "If EVERYONE
has a equal opportunity to 'choose' God but some do and some don't, what is the
difference? Why do some say yes and others no? Do the ones that say yes do so because
they are better, because they have contributed to their own salvation, and if so can they
boast. 'Wow, look at me!!! We both had an equal chance to choose God and you didn't
and I did. Ha, Ha, Ha, aren't I something, you pagan you.'"; "I have learned, through
years of experience, that it is almost impossible for man to give up CONTROL of his
own salvation, even if that control is to God. ONLY Christianity humbles man and says,
sorry people, you depraved, lost people can't do A THING to earn your salvation. Now,
that is humbling and awesome and truly wonderful, and I thank God for it."
It seems one of the biggest misunderstandings of the Calvinists regarding free will is the
assumption that those who believe in it and reject Calvinism do so because they have
some wish to think they earned their way into Heaven, or "controlled their destiny" in
order to pride themselves, as these statements imply. Some even blame some "American
spirit of independence", as if the doctrine were invented in this country within the last
three centuries. Some even joke "The Four Spiritual Laws principally teach, that God's
entire plan for history and the universe centers on me, and that I am powerful enough to
thwart His divine purpose if I refuse to let Him pursue His Wonderful Plan for my life".
Others say that we "are trying to control God/fashion Him into what we think He should
be", or that we see faith as "positive thinking"; "...a 'faith' which is worked up by 'free-
will' from within an unregenerate person...sort of like a kind of burp, or indigestion", and
"'believe' earnestly in a 'Jesus' which is not real, like a sort of 'Super Tooth-fairy'. The
childish notion that if I only believe hard enough, I can lift myself by my own boot
straps". I know of none who think that way, and I certainly don't. All of this is just a straw
man conceived for this argument. The reason we oppose Calvinism is the implications
this has regarding God's character and purpose for man.
And two, where does it say that man cannot do something right? Luther is cited as saying
that in regard to earthly things we can, but in regard to God, we are 'captive' either to the
will of God or Satan. But where really is the biblical basis for these applications of the
scriptural statement that we are slaves to sin? (remember, Scripture interprets Scripture!).
What a dead man can't do is keep God's Law perfectly and thus save himself by "works"
of the Law. Let's not read anything else into this. No scripture ever says he can't choose to
follow God, and choosing is not the "law". Even the concept of "choosing" may be
overrated. People forget that Jesus said all one has to do is cry "God be merciful to
me a sinner!"(Luke 18:13) and be justified. This is certainly not doing anything to
contribute to our salvation, "working up" faith or "in the flesh desiring Christ" or
"choosing to pick up one's cross and follow Him", etc. It assumes an elemental form
of "faith" or "believing", but this is in no way something "worked up". (Christ then gives
more faith). Why would there be so many scriptures in which man is commanded to
choose or follow God, if they had no choice and God only made them choose? Even with
scriptures like John 5:40 which says, "But you are not willing to come to Me that you
may have life." it is claimed "There is no conflict or contradiction to Calvinism in this
verse. Jesus is right they are not willing for they are always unwilling. (Rom 3:11 There
is no one who seeks God) No one is ever willing to come to Jesus, unless: '...But I said to
you that you have seen Me and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives ME will come
to Me'". So then the main question is, why is He bothering to tell them they would not
hear, if He (Jesus/Father —God) was the one who caused them not to be able to hear, by
"reprobating" or passing over them? Since these people are so "dead" and "unable to
repent", "Why flog a dead horse" as the saying goes? It looks like He really is expecting
them to repent. This is one of the biggest evidences of free will. Some even go on to say
that the preaching of repentance to the lost is not to save but only to condemn (i.e.
"harden". Those already elect are the ones who will respond. Even Calvin said such
preaching was just "imprecation" —Institutes III; xxiii, 14). So not only does God get
pleasure out of punishing them in Hell for eternity, but He (and His followers)
supposedly are to enjoy tormenting them with the pronouncement of their inescapable
condemnation now. Premise is stacked upon premise to support the whole system, yet we
are now moving further and further from biblical revelation into pure speculation. (This
would definitely contradict John 3:17 that Jesus did not come into the world to condemn
the world, but to save the world, and despite the argument as to whether "world" means
all people, still, His purpose was not to "condemn" the supposed "reprobates"!) We have
created a completely different gospel message from reading certain interpretations into
handful of texts.
I was also told "The problem is that in the flesh no man can please God! Yet, picking up
one's cross is pleasing indeed to God." Right here is a prime example of an unfounded
definition. What do we mean by "pleasing God"? Doing one single act that by itself
might be "pleasing" to Him? Or is it pleasing Him totally, as in someone who ALWAYS
does His will (i.e. is sinless). The Greek word (Strong #2100) means "please entirely"
which in our case speaks of propitiation. Of course, it's only through "faith" in Christ
(who paid to propitiate our sins) that we can be "pleasing" to God in this way. Us
choosing to have this faith is, according to tbe Bible, not such a "work", but is contrasted
with it as I shall shortly show. (And no one is saying it begins with picking up one's cross.
That comes after you've accepted him). So the answer as to why one person believes and
not another would be the same as why one person murders and not another. "What made
one thief on the cross ask for forgiveness and not the other?"(a common example) Well,
what made them wind up on the cross as thieves in the first place and not others? It is not
the point in the scripture. 1 Cor.4:7 "Who makes you to differ from another? And what do
you have that you did not receive?" is sometimes used to pose this question, but this is
talking about believers within the church, not believers vs. unbelievers. (Yes, the
principle that we have nothing we didn't "receive" would extend to salvation, but nobody
is denying salvation is received from God). The parable of the seed and sower (Matthew
13) does attribute different people's rejection to various causes, within the hearts of the
people themselves, however. Not due to reprobation or "passing over" (in which case the
different states of the ground mentioned would be irrelevant). It is not a better heart of the
one who becomes saved, but rather the worse heart of the one who doesn't that makes the
difference. And no, you can't say "that still makes the other one 'better' in comparison",
because the standard we are judged by is not each other, but rather God's infinite holiness,
and from there man gets bad and worse, not some better than others.
Whatever goodness man has did come from God, but man can squelch what wasn't
already marred by the fall. The others cannot say they are "better", because they are to
look up to God, not down to the others, so that whole issue is moot. This does not make
the one who does not murder or steal good or righteous when he has committed a host of
other sins in his life, as the scriptures show. But the whole point in having faith once
again is realizing you have no righteousness in yourself, rather than faith being an act of
righteousness in itself.
Many Calvinists insist that their position of "total depravity" does not mean man "is as
bad as he can be", yet when it comes to choosing God, it seem he is as "bad" as he can
be! They have overgeneralized sin and depravity to an inability to simply believe
something. (Ultimately, if God chooses one and rejects another, even though Calvinists
say it is not because of anything in the person; the fact that one is chosen and not another
IS creating a difference. When they say the reason is is only known to God, they are
affirming that there must be something about the chosen that made God choose him, only
we can't know what it is!). Another commonly used scripture is "And God saw that the
wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of
his heart was only evil continually" (Genesis 6:5), which is then used to deny that man
could even call out to God without being regenerated first. But it doesn't seem that this
account of the period right before the flood is a universal description of man for all time.
That period, man had gotten particularly wicked. It was so bad that God decided to
destroy the whole world. Man's nature is always wicked, but as many scriptures show, it
does get worse, and man is often given over to sins, as Rom. 1 shows. So you can't use
that to say that man cannot even see his sin and repent, especially given passages saying
that God is drawing all men. This is taking one statement from one instance in the Bible,
and using it to build a case for total inability to an extent that the Bible does not really
support. Once again, most Calvinists deny that man can't ever do anything good ("is
always as bas as he can be"), but that is what that reading of that passage would suggest.
Why wouldn't man be as bad as he can be, if you take that verse that way? (He almost
was that way in the time that passage was recording). Sin is sin, and there is no such
dichotomy of man's relationship to man and man's relationship with God, with man being
able to do some good to one, but not the other. Once again, the only thing man cannot do
before God is save Himself, by keeping the Law perfectly. That was the purpose of Christ
and the promise of salvation by faith.
At one point in the debates, I had compared salvation to a person drowning. (which is a
common illustration that comes up from both sides) They are doomed, at their own hands
(playing too close to the water, etc.) Someone tosses them a rope. Some take it and some
refuse for whatever reason. I don't see how this compromises grace alone, because they in
no way "saved themselves" just by taking the rope. If no one was there to toss the rope,
they would have been doomed, totally unable to save themselves. The Calvinist position
is that the rescuer lassoes some people, but just decides not to lasso others for whatever
reason. This is hypothetically possible, but this just does not seem to square with the
scriptures (taken as a WHOLE, even though there may be some passages taken to suggest
it). I was then told that "this is a classic Arminian analogy. The Reformed/Calvinistic
response to this kind of thing would be: the image of a drowning man suggests that apart
from God's grace there is life. Well, there isn't. You have your drowning man, we have
the dead man at the bottom of the sea because THAT'S man in his natural state. This
DOES compromise grace quite thoroughly. Taking the rope teaches that 'God does His
part, now you do yours', thus the reinvention of Romanistic notions of the sacrament
wherein Christ is sacrificed all over again in 'altar calls, decisions'. And now they have
saved themselves, yes? They grabbed hold, threw open the gates of heaven for
themselves."
They see it that way, but once again, where do these definitions come from? This all
hinges upon "Do your part". Is just accepting His call "doing our part" like observing a
sacrament? Is this "throwing open the gates of Heaven themselves?" That sounds like a
far stretch to me, and here lies the problem— we have different definitions of what
constitutes "works" or "saving ourselves". The Calvinist includes anything that we will,
while others think of physical WORKS (rituals, moral acts, etc.) How do we know which
view is right? It's not the Bible supporting these definitions, it's the Calvinist trying to
explain and philosophize. Even in the example of people drowning, or the classic "beggar
telling others where to find food", those who accept the offer and live are by no means
ever seen as having more merit than those who don't, especially if they all had gotten
themselves into those dangers by their own fault. Those who refuse may be seen as
"foolish", but then so does the Bible portray those who refuse the offer of salvation (Matt.
25, Luke 12:20, Tit. 3:3, etc.), so it's the added sin (stubbornness) of those rejecting, not
the goodness of those who believe that "causes them to differ". As the Calvinist admits
that people do sin more than others, there should be no problem in acknowledging that
this can include rejecting a free offer of salvation made to all. But the Calvinist insists
that this makes the one who does not persist in rejecting good or less "[totally] depraved".
Passages like Romans 4 (especially v.5 "But to him who worketh not but believeth,
his faith is counted as rightesousness", and Gal.2:15, 3:2, 5 clearly set "believing"
and "faith" as the diametric opposite of "work"! Regarding the "will" which Luther
and the Calvinists claim is completely in "bondage", in Romans 7:18, Paul is even more
clear: For to will is present with me, but how to perform that which is good I find not.
Here the will and work are clearly contrasted regarding 'ability'. For the Calvinist to
claim faith is a "work" that we would be "saving ourselves" by if we could do it on our
own, he is directly contradicting scripture's own definitions! So basically, we see that this
reasoning DOES suggest that we ARE saved by "works", only God gives us the ability to
do the works! We then forget that "Whosover calls on the name of the Lord shall be
saved" (Joel 2:32/Acts 2:21). Because Calvinism didn't want that to be in reach of man, it
came up with this total inability of man. God must cause man to do that one thing which
saves. So they point to passages like Isaiah 64:7 and Hosea 7:7 "No one calls on Your
Name". But these are talking about the national hardening of Israel, which will be
discussed in light of Romans 9, which draws partly on the Isaiah passage! Some even cite
John 6:28, 29: "Then they said to Him, 'What shall we do that we might work the works
of God?' Jesus answered and said to them, 'This is the work of God, that you believe on
Him whom He has sent.'" But what He is saying is that in order to do the works of God,
one must first believe in His Son, who they saw doing those works. And as a "work" it is
still credited to God, rather than the man doing a "work" in order to "save himself" or
otherwise contradict grace alone. First of all, nobody denies that salvation is initiated by
God, and without any type of call on His part, man would be unable to find life, let alone
do God's works. Plus, in Mark 9:24, a man asks "Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief",
showing that God does give people "faith", and this is a "work" of His, but this does not
mean that the person could not have asked for it first. Plus, in Christ's parable of the
Prodigal Son (Luke 15), the son who was "lost" or "dead"(v.24) yet he "came to himself"
and returned to the father, without the father coming to drag him back(v.18-20). This is a
good time to address what is definition of "election" in the first place. Election does mean
choosing, but choosing does not mean total inactivity on the person being chosen. In
election to political office, the person must be in the race in order to have any chance to
be elected. In the political or corporate practice, people can be selected to run for office
by others, but this is nomination, not election. They still must accept the nomination to be
elected. Many non-Calvinists try to explain election purely in terms of foreknowledge,
but this is taking the Calvinistic concept of election and trying to remove the
unconditional timelike element from it. The Calvinists then just point out how either it is
the same thing as their doctrine, (God knows who will be saved, and the rest can't choose
contrary to God's foreknowledge and are still without hope) or that God is choosing
based on "something He saw within the person that would make them accept". But it's
nomination that is unconditional and totally out of control of man, yet God has nominated
all for salvation, and those who accept are then elected. "God resists the proud, but gives
grace to the humble" (1 Pet.5:5/James 4:6) is obviously telling us that we should choose
to be humble, but what we would then receive from God is still considered to be
"unmerited favor" rather than a 'reward' that is 'deserved'.
The various straw man clichés Calvinists pose ("This is 50% God, 50% man", "God's
part/your part", etc) may be technically accurate, but the Bible does not speak technically;
this is what the Bible defines as what saves, so Biblically, it is NOT "our work". (John
6:29) The person responded "Well, according to your analogy, the drowning man will not
be saved UNTIL HE TAKES THE ROPE, with nothing given by God in order to do so
except the command, yes?" But God gave the rope! Man could not have gotten the rope
by himself. So God is totally responsible for that person's rescue. Perhaps a better
analogy is that God does lasso people, but some resist and throw off the lasso, while
others "accept" it. That gives the person saved a more passive role. Plus, the "dead man"
analogy can only be taken to a certain point, because in my analogy, physical death at the
bottom of the sea represented what happens from not being "saved" (i.e. corresponded to
Hell), and we are spiritually "dead", but not already in Hell. Now for someone in Hell,
nobody is arguing that He can get out, so their concept of "dead" can fit better that
situation. This shows there are at least different levels of "spiritual death", which are
being confused. (Others point out that if you're going to push spiritual "death" to the point
of having the propeties of physical death (a state of total inaction), then the "dead" person
can't sin and reject God either!) Also, by saying this, the Calvinist is admitting that in his
scheme man is just a lifeless "puppet" who is just pulled along on a string.
Someone else then gave me another scenario: "There is a mother in her kitchen. Her
infant needs food. The Pelagian mother expects her baby to get up, walk over and the
food from the pantry himself. The Arminian (semi-Pelagian) mother says that's too rough.
So she gets the food herself and puts it in front of him, telling him to grab it, prepare it
and eat it. The Calvinistic mother says that's the most ridiculous thing she's ever heard.
An infant can't do any of this, it's utterly and completely helpless! Any good mother
knows that she must take the food, prepare it, take the child in her arms and make him
eat. It's all her."
BUT, the rest of the Calvinistic view. She has other children, and decides as her
"prerogative" not to feed the others. She would be considered unfit and cruel, or perhaps
she only had enough for one child. But this is a limitation. This is where the other camps
have a problem. Of course, they'll say "but this is really God; that's His sovereign right".
That means then, that the analogy is no good. The person then told me that this particular
analogy was not meant to explain reprobation/election, but that's the center of the whole
debate. All of these questions and arguments about God saving people without any action
of their own is to support the idea of people being left to reprobation (judged for what
they cannot help). You cannot separate it, as they themselves keep making that the
defining definition of true redemption.
Later on, someone stated: "Every man is responsible to repent and love God. The totally
depraved sinner cannot. Man is addicted to sin. A cocaine addict is unable to choose to
move out of his addiction, and choose clean, healthy living. Yet he is responsible before
man and law to do so, and if he doesn’t he will pay the penalty of the law. Yet he cannot
sober up without intervention. SO it is with the depraved sinner. Sinful man is much
worse than the drug addict. He is not only addicted to his sin, he is dead in it. The dead
sinner cannot keep the law of God nor does he want to. He cannot please God."
This is where the whole error is. The addict CAN "choose" to move out of his addiction,
but will fail on his own. This is where he needs intervention. He may not even want to
follow the path necessary to overcome the problem, but still can cry out for help. Addicts
are not healed because someone came and "healed" them or made them want to be healed
while passing over others. The lawmakers did not program anyone to be addicted and
never want help, and then penalize him for it. (Well, it is highly suspected that the Govt. did help
bring in drugs to destroy certain groups of people and justify punishing them among other things, but that is
a different discussion —more fitting for rightwing.html, and it is vile wickedness if it's true). To take
man's "deadness in sin" to mean he cannot even want to do what's right is adding an
interpretation to the scripture, with the sole purpose of justifying Calvinistic doctrine, as
is including this act as "pleasing God".
We are even told that "Faith" is a "gift", based on Eph 2:8 "For by grace are you saved
through faith...it is the gift of God". This is the logical extension of faith being a "work"
that could save, being that we can't save ourselves. But grace ("by [what]...) is the subject
and salvation (...are ye saved") is the predicate. How is salvation achieved? If through
faith, then IT (the grace that leads to salvation) is a gift, but if by works, then the same IT
is not, but rather an earning one could "boast" of. Faith and works are simply the means,
not the subjects. It is "grace" that is defined as "unmerited favor, not "faith". Some
acknowledge that it is the whole process— Salvation by grace through faith, that is the
gift. As Dave Hunt says, it is not saving faith, but being saved that is God's gift. Not faith
by itself. This thinking would make faith like some sort of ticket to Heaven that God
gives; basically an end in itself. (Why would such a ticket even be needed if salvation is
the issue?) Christ would be the real "ticket to Heaven", and is of course the end in
Himself. Faith is only our due acknowledgement of Him and His power to save. If saving
"faith" is granted only to the "elect" who were foreordained to salvation from eternity
anyway, then it becomes questionable whether they were ever "lost" and needed
"salvation" to begin with! (what really is that "faith-gift" for, then?) The whole plan of
salvation becomes a farce.
All of this insistance on man's inability forces Calvinists to say that regeneration or the
new birth precedes faith and the actual salvation that accompanies it. That has a person
for a certain period of time being born again, but not saved!! (i.e. from the time he begins
"seeking God" which was the beginning of his "regeneration" to the time he actually
"finds" Him through hearing the Gospel and "accepting" him) Once again, the "faith-gift"
then just becomes a ticket to the state of "saved"; just an uneeded formality. Not only
that, but Old Testament saints, up until Christ also must have been "regenerated". But
while the prophets were given the Holy Spirit for inspiration, it was not until Pentecost
that the Holy Spirit (the agent of the new birth) began to regenerate all true saints (the
Church). Some even try to prove this by Christ's telling Nicodemus that as a "ruler of
Israel" he should have known about the new birth. They even take verse 8: "The Spirit
breathes where He desires, and you hear His voice, but you do not know from where He
comes, and where He goes; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit" to teach
unconditional election, (and one person implied to me that this was [just another instance
of] Christ telling someone "the reason you do not believe is because I have not called
you"). All of this is to get "world" in verses 16 and 17 to be referring to the "elect". But
the new birth was prophesied in the Old Testament (Is.54:13, Jer.31:34, Micah 4:2), and
this was what Nicodemus should have known. What Christ was telling him and the rest of
them was that while they were trusting in the Law and inheritance, (all concerned with
the "flesh"), "That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit
is spirit" (v.6), yet, one must be born of the Spirit (as the prophecies foretold) to see the
Kingdom (v.5). As in so many other places, there is nothing here about unconditional
election or preterition. Also another ridiculous argument is "You had no choice in your
first birth, so how could you have one in your second birth?" But this is another case of
overgeneralization. Who said that one had to be exactly like the other? In fact, Romans
5:15 (part of the passage used to teach "legal imputation of guilt") says "The free gift is
NOT like the offense". The whole point here was that the second birth is different from
the first, because while no one could help being born into this state of sin, one could
choose God's offer of a new birth that would do away with the condemnation of the first
birth.
At the bottom of it all, Calvinists also operate on a totally different definition of God's
sovereignty. They seem to make "fitting" people for "destruction" the defining mark of
"sovereignty"; and assume He MUST do it in order to exercise His "prerogative" and not
to waste any of His Son's blood (on those who will reject Him). But we forget that He
lays aside His sovereign rights to save us, otherwise He would never come down as a
flesh and blood man, and let alone die for our sins, taking them upon Himself. (Muslims
would say that this denied His sovereignty, but unlike their and others' concepts, God can
accomplish His will through weakness— 1 Cor. 1:25). The idea of Christ's blood being
"wasted" is ridiculous, because of it saved just one person, it would mean everything to
that person. Because a person rejeccts the blood, has no bearing on its effectiveness for
everyone else. Calvinists' favorite expression is "God is sovereign over men's choices".
But the true meaning of this is that they cannot thwart His eternal plan. No matter what
happens, all things will be worked out to His glory. Sovereignty over choices does not
mean He makes those choices for them, or fix it so they would not be able to help but
make those choices (that's not really sovereignty over something, as much as it is doing it
yourself). One person says "I do not believe in a disappointed saviour, a defeated Holy
Spirit. EVERY SINGLE PERSON WITHOUT EXCEPTION THAT JESUS DIED TO
REDEEM, IS REDEEMED. I believe in an atonement that atones, a redeemer that
redeems, a savior that saves. I DO NOT believe in a Sovereign God of the universe that
can be thwarted in His plans by the "choice" of a fallen, depraved, God-hating, rebellious,
utterly spiritually dead sinner. Do you?" Only Calvinists claim this. It's like "either God
saves and atones the way we says He should (with people left out) or he does not save at
all." The Bible does say that God is disappointed, by Israel's rebellion, they "limited"
Him (Ps. 78:41), the Holy Spirit, while not "defeated" can be grieved and quenched, and
and Christ weeps and God delights not in man's destruction, rather than taking "good
pleasure" in it as the Rom.9 mis-citation goes. People are making up their own mind what
a "sovereign God" is, thinking that just because the concept is "tough" it is true.
Others I debated with claimed "you will not defend the attributes of the God who you
claim has saved you! For some reason, you have fashioned the Sovereign God of
Scripture into your own making. Calvinism does not make men out to be puppets; it is
non-Calvinism that makes God out to be one." So either He predestines some to
destruction, or He is a puppet. That's the "basic rudiment" of His "sovereignty", and
without it, He is not sovereign at all. SAYS WHO? They set up such "dilemmas" that are
not in scripture. That is their own straw man. They should question themselves for
dictating how God and His attributes must work, based on their limited understanding.
This is why I am saying there is too much conjectural philosophy. Many people see no
such conflict, but of course, they're all wrong, they just don't see. What Calvinists need to
recognize, is that a certain amount of free will does not compromise God's sovereignty.
God made us in His image, with choice and reason, one of the main features that sets us
apart from the animal kingdom. He does want people to freely love Him, not to have
robots He programmed to love Him (a common charge against Calvinist theory, even
though they deny this). So he can set before us life and death and tell us to choose life
(Deut. 30:15, 19), knowing that we may decide not to. Notice, He is not just setting
before us a good choice over a bad choice, but rather life itself. If man were unable to
choose life because of his nature, then to the non-elect, this would in no way, shape or
form be an offer of "life". Life is just not being set forth before them. But this is contrary
to what passages like this say. As God is the one who set it up like this (not man), you can
in no way say that He is not sovereign under such a scheme. If He in His sovereign will
decided to give people a choice, can't Calvinists see that their position is what actually
degrades that sovereignty.
To show that free-will, as I understand it is not the works-salvation the Calvinists label it,
I can give my own testimony. In my late teens I was one who "ran" from God, associating
Him with racist right-wingers and control freaks who used Hell to scare people into
submission and financial manipulation; who try to limit everybody's sexual freedom due
to their own hangups (while some of them themselves indulge themselves on the sneak).
Some God (almost always drawn as some old white man) sitting in a literal "throne"
judging everyone, and recent Creation story (with this manlike God, patting together
Adam like a clay figure) seemed stupid compared to the complex evolutionary
hypothesis. All fundamentalists did was attack others' beliefs, it seemed, and I had heard
the horror stories from my parents and others about the so-called "Christian morality" and
racism of the past.
This prefectly fits with the scripture that "Noone seeks God".
But then through a series of circumstances, God gradually began showing me the follies
of the world. Being a quiet and highly intellectual loner, I didn't even have all the friends,
women, parties, etc., and I believe God used this as well. He even used some false stuff to
finally bring me in— the Plain Truth, in Armstrong's final years, where he was
excerpting both Mystery of the Ages and his writings on Revelation. The fulfilled and
unfolding endtime prophecy made me start to see the validity of the Bible, and then it all
fell into place— man's sin, including my own; why the world is the way it is; why the
Church is that way it is, and that my loathing of Christian morality and doctrine before
was my old nature's hostility towards God, and the discomfort I felt when God was
mentioned was the conviction of the Spirit. Reading the Bible on my own, I saw that
Armstrongism was full of false doctrines on other issues, and I avoided them. I sat on the
fence for a while, but finally was convicted into making a decision, and prayed to God for
Him to show Himself to me, and "I believe; help my unbelief".
It's obvious that God was the one doing all the work. I, in the resistant state before, did
not just one day wake up and say "Oh, I must now will myself to believe in order to be
saved". I felt like that at times, but then came to learn to rest in God's finished work.
Sometimes I wish I could have gotten saved earlier, but it would have been impossible. In
the mindset I was in, I was "blinded" and could not simply change my mind. God was
drawing, but I still had a way to go before finally being led to Him. I did not go down to
any altar, at the prompting of some evangelist. I did not fill out a tract or card that said I
was now saved if I did this. (All the type of evangelical stuff Calvinists criticize). I just
came to believe after years of God gradually drawing. At no point did I say "OK, so now
I am believing, so now I am saved." In fact I always feared something was wrong
because I didn't express my conversion as a definite event, like so many others did. I
learned that it is not about an event of my doing, because anyone can do that and still not
even be saved. I never felt "God did His part, now it's time for me to do mine", or that I
"closed some deal" with God. Never did I "boast" of anything. I have probably not done
1% of anything, let alone the "50%" I keep seeing thrown around. Even today I struggle
with many internal problems, and sometimes feel I shouldn't even be writing or arguing
this stuff. Sometimes I wonder if I really believe. But then I remember that salvation is all
of God, and none of my striving (including trying to "believe" when I feel
doubt)(Romans 4:5). I've been told several times by the Calvinists that I only believe
things based on whether I like it, but there are many "hard teachings" (the fact that any
people, including those I love go to an eternal Hell, period) and rules the Bible tells me to
obey, that I wish I didn't have to. But it is God who has given me the ability to believe
and obey. Despite all of my shortcomings, there has been a great change in my life, not of
my own doing. So I testify that my conversion was all of God, but the difference between
me and some is that I do not assume that because it was God who led me like that, then
everyone who was not so led is "passed over" or "reprobated". (Yet, I'm told if I don't
believe this, then I'm ultimately "boasting" of "saving myself" by the "work" of
"conjuring up faith from my old nature". But that does not match what I experienced.)
They resisted; the cares of this life were more important, etc. It is a choice just like any
other, as people can either choose to do a particular sin, but even with their depravity, can
refrain from it for some reason, even though their "nature" may be leading them that way.
We cannot see into another person's heart, so making a comparison of why one person
believes and another resists, is above our scope of knowledge. The resistance is an active
"work" that "earns" something (death). My acceptance was passive, so was not a work
that saved me or made me "better" than anyone else. So man's choice is not simply that
he's walking around wallowing in sin and then one day just suddenly snaps out of it on
his own willing. If this was what we were arguing, then perhaps the Calvinist objections
regarding man's "inability" would be warranted. God does all the drawing, but man at one
point must decide to follow or continue in rebellion.
Several Calvinist sites (such as gty.org, opc.org and trinity-baptist-church.com articles on
"hyper-Calvinism") and other statements are even trying to lump Arminianism and
"Hyper-Calvinism" together now, and accusing both of using "reason". Isn't it possible
that the moderate Calvinists took an unbiblical position and modified it to make it more
biblical, and then called the contradictions that remained "quiet tensions"? (as the first
site's "Presupposition #1: God's Decree — God's Desire, and concl." mentions)
From "Presupposition #2: The Love of God":
Arminians and Hyper-Calvinists both believe God's love is restricted by his intent to save. Arminians
believe God loves the whole world, therefore he is prepared to save the whole world. Hyper-Calvinists
believe that since God only saves the elect he only loves the elect. But, Calvinists believe that in some way
God loves even those he does not intend to save.

What difference does this make when God is laughing at their torment in Hell, as "true"
(moderate) Calvinist Edwards and others taught? Since eternity is what ultimately
matters, why not say He only hates them?
"Presupposition #3: Ability and Responsibility":
Arminians suppose that since all are responsible to exercise saving faith, all must be able. Hyper-Calvinists
believe that since only the elect are able only the elect are responsible. But, true Calvinists believe that even
though many are not able to exercise saving faith, all are responsible to exercise saving faith.

Hyper Calvinists still agree with moderate Calvinists God did not want to save many
people, so what difference does "responsibility" make? It is only a means of condemning
helpless souls.
Presupposition #4: The Extent of the Atonement and the Free-Offer of the Gospel
Arminians and Hyper-Calvinists both believe that knowledge of the extent of the atonement is necessary
for the proclamation of the gospel. Arminians say that since the gospel must be proclaimed to all the
atonement must be extended to all. Hyper-Calvinists believe that since the saving benefit of the atonement
only extends to the elect, the gospel offer is really only for the elect. Yet, Calvinists believe that though we
know the benefits of the atonement will not extend to all in a saving way, the benefits are to be offered to
all in the preaching of the gospel.

the second site adds: It is sometimes expressed this way, that the Hyper-Calvinist does not believe in
"duty faith" and "duty repentance"; he does not believe that all men should be invited to come to Christ. In
contrast to this, the historic Calvinist does most certainly believe that it is the duty and responsibility of all
men to repent and believe even though they have, through sin, lost the ability to do so; and the Calvinist
does not hesitate to bid all men everywhere to repent, and to invite every man to trust the Saviour.

But this "call to repentance" also only serves to "leave them without excuse" and thus
appear to make it look just. What's the difference between this and God just creating them
for Hell, not offering the Gospel to them, and not holding them "responsible" for
anything? All of Calvinism uses these passages, yet now this moderate Calvinist position
is trying to distance itself from other Calvinists and not only that, but even lump them in
with the dreaded Arminians. But you too are using just as much reasoning as you accuse
everyone else in your trying to modify the position a bit to answer some scriptures it
ignored. (such as the call to all, responsibility, etc)
Hyper-Calvinism is also characterised by the view that God's decree of election is viewed without reference
to the Fall of man, that is, the Hyper-Calvinist believes that God created some men with the express
purpose of damning them simply as creatures, not as sinful, fallen creatures.

Historic Calvinism, on the other hand, has always presented God's decree of election as a most gracious
decree against the background of the Fall of man. Out of a race already on the way to hell because of its
own sin. God graciously wills to choose a great multitude out of sheer mercy and grace. God does not damn
men for nothing says Calvinism. He damns them because of their sin.

But if "grace" and "wrath" are "for His glory" as all Calvinists explain, then the Fall must
have been a means to that end, and still there is no essential difference from the "hyper"
position. This is also why the The hypers, supras and Primitives will claim that this "true"
Calvinist position is the same as Arminianism. Just like you are accusing them of using
"reason" like us, it seems you are trying to remove the offense of the doctrine, also just
like us supposedly, only not going as far.
From Tom Ascol, "From the Protestant Reformation to the Southern Baptist Convention:
What Hath Geneva to Do with Nashville?" (Calvinism, Hyper-Calvinism, &
Arminianism: Issues Shaping Our Identity as Southern Baptists)

The irony is that both Arminianism and hyper-Calvinism start from the same,
erroneous rationalistic presupposition: Man's ability and responsibility are
coextensive. That is, they must match up exactly or else it is irrational. If a man
is to be held responsible for something, then he must have the ability to do it. On
the other hand, if a man does not have the ability to perform it, he cannot be
obligated to do it.
In contrast to both of these, the Calvinist looks at the premise and says, "Wrong!
While it looks reasonable, it is not biblical. The Bible teaches both that fallen
man is without spiritual ability and that he is obligated to repent and believe.
Only by the powerful, regenerating work of the Holy Spirit is man given the
ability to fulfuill his duty to repent and believe." And though this may seem
unreasonable to rationalistic minds, there is no contradiction, and it is precisely
the position the Bible teaches.

This completely ignores God's principle of "To whom much is given, much is
expected" (Luke 12:48) . In the Calvinist scheme, to whom NOTHING is given,
EVERYTHING is expected (i.e. "nothing" being in the sense that they are not even given
the ability to repent.) This is ultimately where non-calvinists' opposition comes from
(even if we don't think of referring to this verse), not any "rationalistic presuppositions"
of "rationalistic minds". (And one could call 1+1=2 "rationalistic presupposition" if
someone tries to defy this rational reality, as well). It's the Calvinists who are using
rationalistic presuppositions in assuming that if one is "called" by God, then others must
have been "passed by". But with God, this does not necessarily follow. Another writes
"Sin itself is a moral issue, and since sin is the cause of our inability, it is, as Jonathan
Edwards said, a moral inability, not a natural one. The defect in man is his own fault, not
God's. Therefore man's own inability is something he is guilty for, and that inability
cannot therefore be seen as something that relieves the sinner of responsibility." This
would apply to an individual told to stay away from a pit. If he disobeys and falls in, he is
then unable to save himself, but it's his fault for winding up in that position. But this so-
called "moral inability" is a very different matter as it involves individuals who did not
make the initial choice in the first place. Think of the person falling into the pit spawning
a whole race of people, who are now trapped, and someone comes and saved only a few
of them. The rest would just be "out of luck", but still, no one would say they were "at
fault" or "morally responsible". Of course, "fault" in this case has nothing to do with an
actual causing of a situation, but is rather something charged to individuals regardless of
their actions.
So they think God holds [individual] people responsible who don't have the ability (even
though the individuals did not individuallty choose to wind up in this state of inability).
"God's sovereignty; man's responsibility" is the chant; some even put it as "God ordains
sin, man is to blame", being the "awesome asymmetry" (Edwin Palmer) that Calvinists
seem to delight in, though some will shrink from putting it exactly like that.
Responsibility means precisely the ability to respond. It has no meaning without ability.
If there's no ability, what is the "responsibility" for? Just a reason for God to trap some
helpless person on a path to Hell and make it look like their fault and not His? Perhaps, as
Luther claimed that God calls us to do what we cannot do is "trying us, that by His Law
He may bring to us a knowledge of our impotence...and deservedly taunting and
mocking...His proud enemies" (Bondage of the Will)(The first part is basically true, but
where does God ever say His Law is to taunt sinners?) Words are to communicate
meaning, and we can't just apply new meanings to them to support an assertion. This
dismissal as "rationalistic" is just to justify a speculative interpretation of scripture.
Likewise, many will even try to justify this "responsibility without ability" on the fact
that God commanded the Law knowing people couldn't keep it, and punished them for
not keeping it. But this is taking instances where God commanded something to a group,
(Israel or humanity in general,) and the punishment was on earth, and using this to
support an argument that God must also leave individuals indebted with no chance to
escape eternal punishment (i.e. —limited atonement) by holding them "responsible" for
something they couldn't possibly help, and decidedly not wanting to save them. But those
are two very different sets of circumstances. But just think: the command to repent and
believe was part of the New Covenent, and the Law, which man could not keep was the
Old Covenant. Calvinists making this argument seem to think one works the same as the
other. But what was really the purpose of the Law in the first place? The only reason it
was given was because of sin (Gal.3:19). It was never even really expected to be kept,
since its whole purpose was to point out where we fall short (Romans 7:7)
Precisely since it could not be kept, and therefore couldn't save, but only condemn,
Paul calls it "the Law of sin and death" (Rom.7; 8:2 cf. 1 Cor.15:56), "the Law
works out wrath" (Rom.4:15), "the Letter [of the Law] Kills" (2.Cor.3:6) and "The
ministration of death (7,8) as opposed to "the ministration of the Spirit", "which
gives life" (ibid. ff). Of course, in Gal. 2 & 3 we have the classic passage contrasting the
Law with Christ, who can be received by simple faith. The period of time when man was
under the Law He couldn't keep, "...God winked at, but now commands all men,
everywhere to repent" (Acts 17:30) The difference between Law and grace was faith,
which anyone could have. This is what Paul is pointing out when he says that he can will,
but not perform (Rom.7:18) Man could not be saved by performing, so he needed
something in reach of his will, and that is to believe. So God gives people a way around
this "inability" caused by sin. The Calvinist is saying He is "withholding" the way around
itself, by including it as one of the things man could not do in the first place. (i.e. it's apart
of the "Law" that man rebelled against). That defeats the whole purpose, unless once
again, you conclude that the purpose is just trapping people in condemnation.
To equate faith with the Law as people are doing, and make it just another command
God gives that man cannot keep, is to reduce the New Testament Gospel to just another
"Law of sin and Death"! That is why so many men are still left without hope in that
system, and that is why we oppose it, not simply because something else seems "nicer" to
us, or whatever Calvinists charge! To the non-elect, it is as if Christ had not come at all
(except as something else from God for them to reject and wind up even deeper in
condemnation) What "good news" is this, except to a relative few in the world? The
Gospel had been proclaimed as "tidings of joy to ALL men" (Luke 2:10, 11), not only a
limited elect class, ultimately known only to God. (It creates the same dillemma for man
as the Law, except that now God gets only some around it. If God was working by
unconditional election, He could have just 'enabled' the OT "elect" to keep the Law, and
Christ would not have even been necessary). Some will claim "The Gospel is not good
news to the unregenerate, but rather death (2 Cor.2:16, 1 Pet.2:7)". But it's death because
of "disobedience"; rather than because of some preordained state they are put into. These
passages, like Rom. 9, "the offense of the Cross", and others, originally referred to those
who were rejecting Christ in favor of "their own righteousness, which is of the Law". The
Gospel of Christ swept all of that away and left them naked as condemned sinners
(without Christ) like everyone else, so to them, it was certainly "death". The way of
escape is by nature good news to all, but to someone who doesn't want to escape, because
they would have to leave something valuable to them, then they are rejecting the good
news, rather than the danger they are in being apart of the "good news" because others are
rescued from it. The "death" is the warning of danger (which they refuse to accept),
which is apart of the message, not the message (pointing to a way of escape) itself. Now,
if part of the message was that certain people have been appointed to be left behind and
perish; then it would not really be good news to all, and the message itself would include
the death, not just the person's refusal to accept it and leave.
To try to explain God's "call" to all men, Calvinists have divided it into a "general" and
"effectual" call. It's only the effectual call that saves (has the effect); rendering the general
call to all, once again, to be just a means to leave the non-elect "without excuse". It seems
the most reprehensible aspect of this doctrine; even more than the simple "reprobation" of
[individual] "vessels of wrath fitted for destruction", is the way this is accomplished—
through pretense. God pretends to expect these people to repent and follow Him, even
though He has decreed that they can't, and this only as a means of ultimately damning
them through "their own" guilt rather than seemingly for no reason at all. In other words,
He comes across as the victim of these "wicked sinners" He "endures", when in reality
they are just helpless clay He has "fitted" to this end. Basically, He isn't just ordaining
them to Hell, but scripting life to look like they condemn themselves to that state. He
basically traps them in a state of eternal condemnation, and treats them as if they had the
very ability that He was withholding them. This goes way beyond simple "sovereignty"
and "divine prerogatives". It is deceptive, and this is why people say it is contrary to His
nature. He would not charge all with Adam's sin, rescue some out of this, and then leave
the rest to condemnation claiming "they did it to themslves", and even make their
consciences condemn them as if they did it to themselves when He knows good and well
that it was ultimately His determination, (as "the Potter") whether or not they would be
saved or spend eternity in Hell, and they couldn't have done otherwise. He would just say
that He "created them to [fill a role of sin on earth and] go to Hell", rather than "But I
really gave them a chance, and they could have accepted me". Because while
hypothetically, He "had the right" to do things like this, He has already described how He
exercizes His sovereign rights, and He tells us that He is truth, light and love, and desires
salvation for people, not damnation. Even in Luke 12, with people not knowing His
whole will still receiving stripes, still, they are held responsible for doing things worthy
of stripes, which people know is wrong (and therefore it would have been possible for
them to repent from it and ask forgiveness, even if from the "unknown God" who they
could ask to reveal Himself); not because God withheld something from them (when
people who were "given" still were able to reject it). Calvinists respond "whatever God
does is right simply because He does it". This may make hypothetical sense, but if you
take that without His definitions of what He WILL or will NOT do, than you could have
Him "lying" or "sinning", and this made right simply because He does it. They even cite
"Shall not the God of all the earth do right" (Genesis 18:25). We can conclude that saying
such would not be right is just "fallible human reasoning", driven by "emotion", but then
in that case, God is speaking to us in terms we (including the regenerated) cannot
understand (i.e we apparently have no clue what "right" is). Remember, that verse was
spoken by Abraham, reasoning, guess what; why God should not condemn certain
people —according to his own prior understanding of "good" (didn't they all really
"deserve" it anyway?), so I think our objection is valid as well . He is straightforward,
and in Him is "no variableness nor shadow of turning" (James 1:17, in the context of God
not tempting anyone with evil, v.13) God does not do things that way!. One of the points
of God's coming into the world as a man is to experience our existence as one of us with
all our pains and temptations (e.g. Heb.4:15). The whole idea of a God who decides to
pass over people in the way that the Calvinists insist (pass over in eternity, and have it
play out that they reject Him in time, but are helpess to do otherwise because of the
eternal side of reality) may be compatible with "sovereignty", but not with the way God
has revealed Himself in scripture. Remember, in His sovereignty, He can choose not to do
things that way as well.
The whole thrust of wickedness and the just condemnation of it is that the person could
have repented of it and didn't. If the wicked who die in their sins are just helpless drones
scripted to that end, the entire concept of wickedness loses its meaning. Wickedness was
then just a role ultimately written by God, even though He also wrote that He wasn't "to
blame" for it. Judgment of sin seems to lose it's meaning if people hadn't spurned an offer
of salvation they really could have accepted on their own, and are simply characters
playing a script where it only appears that they are punished for "willful sin" of their "free
choice", but they were purely helpless. Remember, even if you insist that God is judging
them for sin, and that they are "responsible" for it, and God "owes nobody salvation",
still, if you attribute this "sin" to a decree of God before people were even born, then the
condemnation is ultimately not because of sin.
Does God's Glory rest on this?
Calvinists seem to think the Glory of God rests on one thing— His "sovereign right" to
condemn people for sins they couldn't repent of (and as long as it's not me, praise Him).
It's like their whole view of Him as worthy of their love and honor (i.e. for His
"sovereignty" and "mercy") rests on this. This they need to examine in themselves.
(What's striking is that they don't even show any pity for these predetermined "lost"
souls. They just glibly "tell it like it is", as if it were no skin off anybody's nose; almost
like Hell isn't really so bad; if one is decreed to go there, so what; it is almost good. They
object "but we love the lost, and make great effort to preach the Gospel to them so they
can be saved". But still it's only a predetermined elect you believe this "love" and mercy
is really being extended to, and insist that everyone else, God did not want to save.)
One person, commenting on Pharaoh and the Egyptians comments "God stomped them
like the ants they were". Of course, this is in light of Romans 9, where supposedly
Pharaoh (among other "wicked") are singled out and chosen to do evil and be destroyed
just for show. But what glory is it for God to stomp ants (as if His power to do so was
ever in question). When someone on earth shows off by doing something like that, the
first thing that comes to mind is "pick on someone your own size!", not any true "glory"
to the person doing that. So we must look at why people would like to believe in this, and
later when we examine Romans 9, we will see how God was glorified in Pharaoh.
Where they may attribute belief in a God who loves everybody and gives them a choice
to "human sentimentality" (while they are supposedly so objective), there is also an
element of man that looks up to "tough", sometimes ruthless authority figures. When man
finds he cannot be number one, he does the next best thing and looks up to what he sees
as number one. This comes from a God-shaped void created in us, that has been distorted
by the fall like everything else. So some people apparently like the idea of a God who's
so "bad" (as in the slang sense, which carries a positive connotation) He creates people he
sends to Hell with no choice of their own just to show that He can do as He pleases. Of
course, they, the believers in this, were not apart of this class, but were shown "mercy"
and spared this fate. This is the type of figure many people in the world (Christian and
non-Christian) see as worthy of their love and admiration. (Certainly good to be on his
side!) People with certain deep internal problems may also feel the need to be "chosen"
over others. Especially if they are angry at people who have done evil, either to them, or
otherwise. It is tempting for us to think "HA, well, I'm elect; you're not" (in contrast to
the charge cited above that free will advocates think "HA, I chose Christ and you didn't").
I have seen some of the proverbial "frozen chosen", and you wonder why people who
believe they were so fortunate to be saved by the "sovereign grace" of a limited
atonement wouldn't have more joy and not be so cold and even mean spirited. Just
accepting such a "hard" position can be a source of pride. How strong one must feel to
swallow something like this (even if he does credit God for "opening up his heart" to it),
while others follow the "natural" course and reject it out of "offended emotion". Also,
some frustated over how difficult it can be to convince people of Christ may find some
relief in this position. Many use as an argument "This takes all the pressure off of us in
winning souls. It must be terrible thinking you did not witness right and the person is still
lost". Talk about a pragmatic man-centered reason to believe something! Some seem to
be jealous of people who have slid back into sin, and thus didn't "persevere until the end",
and must not be elect then. (Laurence Vance The Other Side of Calvinism provides an
example of a Calvinist writer who seemed to have this attitude). Of course, none of this
proves whether or not the people in question will ultimately die in their sins, as the
person who is in sin now may repent later, and the person responding now may not
"persevere to the end", which is actually a big loophole in the theory I will discuss later.
Calvin, Luther and the other Reformers themselves found in the doctrine relief from the
bondage they felt under the Roman Catholic system of works, which could not even grant
you the certainty that you would "make it" in the end. All of these are equally human
emotional reasons one may believe in Calvinism. This is not to try to reduce every
Calvinist's faith to some psychological quirk, but they should be aware that these are
human tendencies, affected by the Fall, that could be coloring their picture of God's
sovereignty just as much as sentimentality may color other peoples' views of His love.
"I have no problem looking at it from the free-will side. I've done that many times. I find
it so depressing, once I go beyond the initial feel-good of everyone starting with a 'real'
chance to to be saved. It's when it comes to face the Biblical picture of man and the actual
reality of man around me that confirms that dark picture, that I despair of free-willism. It
is evident that most go through this life without any real knowledge of the gospel, many
imprisoned by their sins and ignorance. Where is the love of God in this, if man is the
free-will creature you depict? No, only the love of God for His elect, a love that reaches
them wherever they are and however they are, that breaks their evil will and changes it to
love Him and have eternal life - that is the sovereign God I love and see declared in the
Scriptures. Once you truly come to terms with this truth and respect it instead of treating
it with disdain, you'll start to see that the Bible really does teach election, and that
election is liberating and an insurpassable source of comfort and security to us, the elect.
Most of all, it is infinitely humbling, because we have to face the fact that we had
absolutely NOTHING whatsoever to do with becoming the elect. We are what we are due
entirely to God's mercy, having nothing whatsoever to do with our environment,
character, works, desires or will (free or otherwise). If I could tell the elect from the non-
elect, I could truly say of a non-elect person, 'there but for the grace of God go I'."
So all of this is still basically the Calvinistic counterpart to the "Fairness" and other
"human reasons and emotion" Arminians are accused of. It seem to make more sense, it
gives you a bigger sense of security, and makes you more grateful, because: Wow! God
leaves others in this moral trap, but rescued me.
Yet all of this can be turned right back on Calvinism. Face it, whichever side is true, there
are a definite number of people getting saved, and not getting saved. Neither view
changes that, despite this supposed "dark picture" you get from free-will where
irresistable grace is not assumed. The difference is whether God intentionally shuts
people out, and then says that they did it to themselves; or whether they really did do it to
themselves.
God is exalted, sovereign, majestic and worthy of everyone's worship without such acts
attributed to Him. We must not make up our own concepts to try to exalt Him, only to
have Him ask us at His judgment seat "Did I ever ask you to deduce that?"(see
Prov.30:6); "You have not spoken of me what is right"(Job 42:7), and then we confess in
shame "I have uttered what I did not understand; things too wonderful for me which I did
not know"(v.3). Think about which position is more impugning to God's character if it is
wrong: reprobation/preterition to Hell and decrees of evil, or not believing He does that.

Proof Texts Examined


Romans chapter 9 is the number one proof-text for the doctrine, since it discusses
"vessels of wrath" (people made for "destruction"), and that God "has mercy on whom
He will have mercy, and hardens whom He will harden". Then, anyone who questions
why God would even create such a person, for instance, are blasted away with a quote of
verse 20: "O man, who are you that replies against God?" In other words, this is the
"truth" of God's sovereignty, so nobody has the right to question it, not even the poor
"vessel of wrath" himself! James White, in the typical "rub it in" type of emphasis states
"The Potter's Freedom pulses through these verses, flowing inexorably into the sea of
sovereignty, rushing any would be proponent of free-will out of its path. God has has the
perfect right to do with His creation (including men) as He wishes... [These 'vessels of
wrath'] are said to have been specifically 'prepared for destruction'. That is their purpose."
(The Potter's Freedom, p.213,4) But people don't even bother to check the CONTEXT.
This passage is discussing Israel, a nation of people God was judging as opposed to
Gentiles whom He was spreading His grace to, not individual people or everyone in a
particular group being predestined for wrath as opposed to other individual people being
elected for grace. (Obviously, many Israelites have gotten saved, so this can't be treating
individuals as vessels of wrath). The passage also mentions God's hardening of Pharaoh,
but this is still not talking about salvation or ETERNAL punishment. Paul uses the example
of Isaac, Jacob, Esau and Pharaoh to show how the people were chosen ("elected") by
God for His purpose and not by their own will in the first place, and how God raised
them up to show his power, and then hardens, all according to His will, and chooses
others (and once again, individual salvation is not even mentioned. The very context of
Jacob and Esau from Malachi 1:1-4, 3:6, and even the original Genesis 25:12 account is
discussing nations!). With both the Jews, as well as in later racism, people thought that
their group was "chosen" by God over others because of some type of "superiority" they
had within themselves, whether moral, intellectual, genetic, or otherwise. This is
precisely what Paul is debunking, as the Gospel tells us there is no such superiority; for
all have sinned and are under the same condemnation. Therefore, salvation must be
purely by God's grace. The Jews, of course, would be offended by this, and one of them
might ask "why does He find fault" [i.e., with the people], and then Paul says "Who are
you O man, to reply against God"? The Jews had been opposing the Gospel and the
apostles all along, for among other things, criticizing the Jews for their hardness in
rejecting Christ, as well as opening up to the gentiles; yet, possessing the Law (v.4), they
should have known better, so this is why Jesus and the apostles were often harsh to them,
criticizing their "stubbornness".
They had no right to question why God would find fault with the people as a whole, but
as an individual, that person could still forsake his part of the national sin and repent.
Think about it: who would ask Paul such a question in the first place? One of the "non-
elect"? But who could know now that they are ultimately non-elect? Or is it just any
arbitrary listener who happens not to like God's election process? Do you think the Jews
would really care if all unbelieving Gentiles and apostate Jews were preordained to
destruction? They probably already believed that. Would Gentiles care whether individual
Jews were "vessels of wrath"? If anything, some may have hastily presumed something
like that, but then Paul corrects them, as we will see shortly. But otherwise; what would
that have to do with them? People back then were concerned primarily about themselves
and their own group. No one thought about such questions like this as we do. The whole
notion of the "dignity and worth of human beings" that makes people so offended at this
doctrine now is more a modern Western mindset. A first century reader who just grasped
the context regarding Israel and inheritance versus faith would get the point and have no
reason to be so offended. But an Israelite in the Church who still had not fully submitted
to the Gospel (as we see in the Gospels, Galatians and elsewhere), was another story. The
Jews saw their national identity (physical inheritance) as an extension of themselves. It
was everything to them, including their salvation. So to suggest they were no longer
"chosen" in the sense they were used to was a great affront to them. But the entire Gospel
is showing that "chosen" groups one had no choice belonging to did not solve the
problem of sin, and thus could not save. Many such people did not even really love God.
He was just their mascot and the doorman to Heaven (or national supremacy on earth) if
they paid Him with their works, done purely in "the letter" in order to get themselves
over. It was their stubborness that prevented them from admitting this (which meant that
they too were sinners as much as they tried to keep the Law), so then they were hardened
along with the rest of them, just like Romans 1:24 and 2 Thess.2:10-12. (not because God
"decreed" the individuals to be initially stubborn in the first place).
Calvinists argue that the entire book of Romans is a "long argument on [individual]
salvation, so why would he now be discussing groups?" Let's review the context by
further examining the "why does He yet find fault; for who has resisted His will?"
question. WHAT is really being asked here? "Yet" find "fault" for what? "Why would God
unconditionally choose someone else and not me/[others], and save them by 'enabling'
them to repent, yet leave me/[others] in this helpless state, dead in sin, unable to repent,
yet still hold me/[them] responsible [i.e. 'find fault'] for my sin, and send me/[them] to
Hell when I/[they] couldn't even 'resist His will' to place me/[them] in this state (before
I[/they] were born, even) in the first place?". This is what people are asking Calvinists
today, who then in turn simply project this into the text. But is it in the context of what
the hypothetical person was asking Paul? It looks like it at first glance, and Calvinists
assume so, so everytime someone questions or challenges "God holding helpless, 'totally
unable' sinners responsible for their sin they couldn't repent of", the Calvinists just throw
up the next verse as the quick magical answer. But "ability to repent" is not being
discussed here. Neither is any inescapable state or fate. Paul had just mentioned Jacob,
Esau and Pharaoh, These may be individuals, but what were they being used to illustrate?
Step back another few verses: "not the children of the flesh are children of God; but the
children of the promise are counted for a seed." (v.8) Paul argues that simply being
"Abraham's children" does not make one a child of promise, because for one thing,
Abraham had other children beside just the Jews. But God had declared that "In Isaac
shall your Seed be called." (v.7) Being from Isaac also wasn't enough, because Esau also
was his child. But God had still unconditionally chosen Jacob (v.12, 13), not because of
any righteousness of his (Jews thought that their forefathers must have been chosen
because of being more righteous, thus "works" rather than "Him that calleth"), for they
were not even yet born when God made this decision.(v.11) So the whole point here is
that it must be more than physical lineage from Abraham. The next step is that even being
of Jacob's physical lineage is not enough.
To further demonstrate God's choice of men for these purposes was not "unjust" (v.14)
Paul goes into the whole story of Pharaoh. No Jew thought of what God did to Pharaoh as
being "unjust" (after all, it was for their sake, and that's what mattered to them!) So then
what Paul is getting to nobody also should think is unjust. The whole context is two
groups "the Children of the flesh", and "the children of promise". It says nothing about
the individuals in either group being unconditionally elected or preteritioned into those
groups. It just assumes two groups, and emphasizes that what many thought was the class
that mattered (Jew as opposed to Gentile) was actually not the right one.
Before one jumps to the clay "vessels", let's for once look more at the second part of v.20
(the beginning of Paul's answer to this question): "Shall the thing formed say to Him who
formed it, 'Why have you made me this way'?". Made them what way? Predestined to
Hell? Sinners who "chose to sin in Adam" (legally charged with the choice of a 'federal
head') and are "allowed to go the way their 'totally depraved' nature takes them"?
Helplessly unable to repent, yet "held responsible" to repent and left in that state? Passed
over for "saving grace" and therefore doomed to suffer the eternal "justice" for their sins?
Most Calvinists I argued with deny with a passion that God "makes" anybody that way
(since they, through their federal head, really did it to themselves somehow); and if one
of us even addresses that, they claim we are misrepresenting their position and don't
know a thing about it. Yet the next verse clearly does credit God as "making" these
"vessels" the way they are. And even to those who do confess God "makes" the
reprobates that way, still, once again, none of the above concepts are what was being
discussed! (A reader would have no reason to even assume they were any of those things
in the first place!). So you just can't say "Paul was answering the objection to God's
unconditional election and preterition process"!
The focus is on "children of promise" as opposed to "children of the flesh". Calvinists
also take these two groups of "children" as classes of predetermined individuals. (For
instance, the "seed of Satan" or the "tares" of Matt.13 are assumed to be an
unconditionally reprobated class of "non-elect". Right away, if you are going to take it
this way, then did Satan create them (since he is said to "sow" them)? No, he is the
instigator of sin, and whoever continues to follow him makes themselves "tares")
According to Ephesians 2:3, we all started out as "children of wrath" (which would
be synonymous with "vessels of wrath", "sons of disobedience"(Col.3:6), "seed of
Satan" (Matt.13) and also "children of the flesh" for the Jews), and John clearly
defines "children of the devil" and "children of God" as "he that commits..." or
"...does not commit [practice] sin" (1 John 3:8-10). Thanks to our "depravity" (sin
from Adam), nobody is born in the latter state, and so the former, as an eternal state
of condemnation, is not what God unconditionally "makes" anybody. This should
prove once and for all that the question and Paul's answer have nothing to do with
Calvinistic reprobation or preterition. God has declared that there are two groups:
Physical Israel (which is in the same spiritual status as the rest of humanity) and spiritual
Israel (Romans 2:28, 29). "Why did God make us physical Israel only if that doesn't make
us the true children of promise? As much as we try so hard to keep the Law He gave us,
why is he still finding fault or not accepting us as we are? Didn't He create us as His
people? Could we have resisted His will to create us this way, if this is not what He
counts?" THIS is what is being asked! HERE is where Paul says "who are you to reply
back to God?" He as "the Potter" sovereignly laid out a plan, involving two categories of
people; the first had a purpose, but this purpose is not the salvation of the individuals in
the group, but to pave the way for the second. It's this second group one must be apart of,
and who are we to question this plan? (This still says nothing about a person's inability to
cross from one group to the other. The people were stubborn and refused to give up their
notion of inheritance, which they would have to do to become apart of the children of
promise. This also would be analogous to modern unbelievers saying "Why are you
saying one has to be a born-again Christian to be saved?". "Why does God find fault with
me as I am? I'm a good person! I am a 'child' of his since he created me! He made me this
way (by his own will), so he should understand!" But to them too, it's not "children of the
flesh" who are counted, and neither by our own self-justification!). All of this is apart of
the theme or "long argument" Paul is making throughout the whole book of Romans.
Calvinists claim that this interpretation removes the "sword" or "offense" of the Gospel,
and the fact that Paul "anticipates objection" is the ultimate proof that their position is
true. But their hypothesis is not the only doctrine in the world that is "offensive" to
people. They also claim "If you haven't struggled with this passage, you don't understand
it properly", but this "sword" was not intended for believers, who are the ones opposing
the doctrine. Yet it is truly a sword and offense for those it was intended for. (It is
certainly offensive to unbelievers, as in the above illustration!) And this was the way the
Church had read the passage for the first four centuries before the idea of
unconditional "reprobation" was first posed.
Also, "vessels" is like a plural unity in this case— Israel consists of individual "vessels"
as all creatures can be likened to vessels, but Israel as a whole was the "vessel", as shown
in Isaiah 29:16 & 45:9 and Jer. 18:4-6ff & 25:34 which are the very passages Paul is
drawing upon here. Further proof that even as individual "vessels", one is not
preordained, in 2 Tim.2:20, 21, the 'vessels' of honor and dishonor are mentioned
again, and a person chooses to be a vessel of honor, rather his choice being because he
was preordained as a vessel of honor. And likewise, "mercy" and "wrath" must not be
assumed to have only eternal meanings. People suffer mercy and wrath all the time here
on earth, having nothing to do with whether they wind up saved or damned in the end.
"Mercy" means more along the lines of "beneficience" to one "under someone's power",
whether it is from the penalty of their own sin or not. The passage does NOT say "He
shall have saving mercy on who He shall have saving mercy", but it is made clear
elsewhere that it is offered to all. Furthermore, as one studies the gruesome fall of
Jerusalem in AD 70, and how this fulfilled much of scriptural prophecy regarding the
judgment of Israel; it becomes quite clear that THIS was the immediate "wrath" and
"destruction" the passage is referring to, and which the Israelites were the "vessels" of!.
The "vessels of mercy": the Christian Church composed of people of all nations
(including Jews who crossed out of the former group!), was spared this horrific event,
and continued on with God's grace to the present.
Likewise, with Christ's "The Son quickens whom He will" (John 5:21). That means it's
His choice who to give life to, but doesn't mean that He necessarily doesn't offer it to all.
Ultimately, everyone was stubborn and deserved hardening, but God obviously doesn't
harden everyone who deserves it. Every person who dabbles in perversion doesn't suffer
what Romans 1 describes. But it was their choice to be in that position in the first place.
Still, there was nothing stopping individuals in Israel, plus maybe even Pharaoh himself,
(AFTER God's "purpose" was fulfilled), from eventually coming to faith. So this is the
proper understanding of "vessels" and God "hardening or having mercy on whomever He
will".
So we cannot just lift a statement out of its context like this and just move it over and
apply it to something it was never intended for. Now that we clearly see that Paul is not
answering any objection to reprobation or preterition, the Calvinistic theory of people
being held responsible for sins they couldn't repent of must stand the same scrutiny as
any other idea men come up with. (So the question remains [as it is not addressed here],
why would God do that?) Calvinists I spoke to pointed to the verse "they are not all
Israel, which are of Israel" and "children of the flesh, not children of God" (v.6ff) to try to
prove this is talking about the "elect" and "non-elect" within Israel. But the distinction
between those who obtained salvation and those who didn't was whether they sought it by
faith or works. Verses 6 and 8 are simply supporting this, proving that faith is what makes
one the faithful remnant, not physical inheritance. This is why Isaac is mentioned. All of
the Jews were Isaac's seed also, but where Abraham represented the physical inheritance,
Isaac was the child of promise through whom Christ came. Yes, there were both true
believers as well as non-believers in Israel, and that's all this is saying; once again there is
no assumption of preordained states of individuals. Lest one says "but faith was granted
through 'election'", the passage pictures people having sought salvation. They did have
choice. The whole debate here was "faith" versus "inheritance", NOT "election"
versus "free will"! (The claim that "faith" is the "gift" of "election" was answered
above). So the plan of salvation and its carrying out is not of "blood" (inheritance); or
"him who runs" or "the will of the flesh" (strives to be good through the Law); or of "him
who wills" or "the will of man" (human schemes and ideas of how to be saved;
demanding from God), but of God who shows mercy. (v.10/John 1:13). None of this has
anything to do with ability to believe. Ironically, many more radical Calvinists hold to
what is called "covenant theology" which means something to the effect that the children
of saved people are guaranteed to be saved. But this type of inheritance is precisely one
of the main things this chapter is speaking against, saying clearly that being a child "of
the flesh" does not make one a true spiritual heir. Calvin himself taught this, with infant
baptism regenerating and saving! It is incredulous that he and others are the ones making
such an argument against "works salvation" and accuse others of that, when he taught
something like this! It's amazing these people can take this chapter and read into it
something totally foreign to the context (eternal reprobation), and then turn right around
and blatantly teach the very things it is speaking out against: salvation by inheritance and
works (baptism)!
This whole first part of the chapter is further interpreted by the last part. V.25-33 is
discussing groups that did not pursue righteousness but found it, or who did try to pursue
it through the Law but didn't. Paul is simply supporting his argument that in contrast to
the Israelites thinking they were all automatically saved by inheritance, many if not most
were not saved, because salvation is by faith, not going through the motions of following
the Law. Since every single Israelite was not lost, this must be talking about the group as
a whole. Meanwhile, gentiles who didn't even know God (let alone be trying to earn His
favor) would be the ones who would in large numbers receive the Gospel, having no
inheritance to pride themselves on. Why try to read anything else into this? The message
of the New Covenant is that it is no longer the Law or physical inheritance, but faith, and
neither some luck of the draw you could do nothing about, but in believing. One person
asked "Who are the ones prepared beforehand for glory?" The Church, consisting of
those who did convert from Judaism, such as Paul (v.24), as well as in general, gentile
nations, who would be responsive to the Gospel and make up most of the Church. Once
again, not that every single gentile would be saved, but you have to remember, the Jews
thought of everyone else as dogs and that God loved only them. Paul's whole message is
breaking this down and showing that inheritance (or the Law) was not what saved,
because the people's hearts were still wicked. On a side note, I have also heard "shouldn't
God be able to choose His own Bride", which once again confuses a group concept with
individual salvation. Christ's Bride is the Church, a whole entity comprising all of us who
are saved. No individual is said to be the Bride of Christ by himself; nor a particular
combination of individuals. Now if someone insisted God had to save practicers of other
religions, (as much of the pluralistic secular world now does) then you can talk of God
choosing His Bride (the body He is working through in saving man).
Amazingly, many infralapsarians, while employing the same "individuals fitted for
destruction" interpretation of the "vessels", will insist they do not believe in election to
Hell. "God does not elect people to hell. He simply does nothing to change their course
(preterition). He simply lets them go the way they want to go. Election involves an
active choice to change something." one person describes to me. They insist that this is
really that person's own "free choice". "God does not determine who the reprobates are.
No one is prevented from repenting and believing by God" another says. But that is
precisely what they are reading into this chapter! Think about "vessels of wrath fitted for
destruction" ("election to hell" is but a word for word paraphrase of this, if referring to
individuals), and "hardening" (as well as "blinding" in other commonly used passages);
these ARE deliberate "active choices" ascribed to God, and this is what is thrown at us
everytime someone asks why God would create such people. A few even tried to claim
that the vessel of wrath "fitted himself" for destruction (and God only "endures" them),
and this is ultimately true, but for those who insist that this passage is teaching the
"preterition" of individuals, there is no escaping the active participation of God in the
process described here. Verse 21 says that it is God who made the vessels that way, and I
thought the whole idea was God being the "Potter". So all of this is pure double-talk.
This group of Calvinists is playing both sides of the fence; using the language of free-
will, while repudiating free-will in favor of the ultimate Calvinist theories of inescapable
damnation for certain individuals. But while these "single predestinarians" deny "election
to Hell", the phrase— trapping people on a path to eternal condemnation fits all stripes of
Calvinism, no matter how much they try to water it down, and this is basically their
universal point of agreement.
Some even acknowledge that "Election to hell would assume the neutrality of man,
something Scripture repudiates. Man is not neutral with God electing some to heaven and
some to hell." This actually becomes one of the biggest strikes against Calvinism, for
Romans 9, taken this way does put man in precisely a neutral position! The entire
analogy of "clay vessels" conveys NEUTRALITY! A lump of clay is quite neutral. The
items made from this neutral material are then assigned for "good" or "bad" purposes
("honor"/"mercy" or "wrath"/"destruction"), for reasons totally outside themselves (the
oft cited v.16: "not of him who wills [the vessel]...but of God who shows mercy" which
determines whether they receive "mercy" or "destruction"). In fact, v.11 clearly tells us
that Jacob and Esau's callings had nothing to do with any good or evil on their part,
and this is precisely what the predestinarians keep emphasizing! Here, the parties did
start out neutral! That's what the passage says. To take this and then claim "they were
chosen to suffer eternally for their evil while others are saved" is surely wrenching the
scripture. YOU CAN'T HAVE IT BOTH WAYS!!! One or the other!
It's precisely the use of this passage that naturally raises the sentiment of the "poor
neutral vessel" in the mind of the unlearned questioner in the first place! To take "before
they were yet born and neither having done any good or evil" to refer to a decree of
reprobation, God is ultimately not punishing people for what they do (sin), but for what
they are (since what they do only stems from what they are); and what they "are" is what
He made them (for His "purposes"). So these would be essentially neutral creatures who
really did not of themselves do anything worthy of condemnation! But if man is not
neutral then this passage cannot be describing [individual] man in the sense that he is a
fallen sinner. It is describing a neutral aspect of humanity, namely a particular group that
was "raised" by God (chosen) at first (and then a couple of individuals are used as
examples), but now punished while another is now "chosen" to fulfil the plan of God.
[i.e. "vessels of honor"] A group is a neutral entity, no better or worse than any other,
while it is individuals who are not neutral, but are sinners and deserve punishment. You
can't claim "they only receive the just punishment their sins deserve", and then turn
around and rub everyone's face in "It was not because of any wrongdoing; it was just
God's 'sovereign pleasure'". Israel is the focus of the whole passage, why would they be
representing anything else (let alone, the non-elect)? So v. 11-23 is NOT describing
people being "allowed to go the way they want"! It is describing neutral entities (v. 11,
16, 21) being assigned to "wrath"/"destruction" or "honor"/"glory". Just think; If
individuals are already incapable of repenting, and only continuing on the path they want
to go in, why would it be necessary to "harden" or "blind" them ? One Calvinist on one of
the boards kept pointing out "Most have this view of Calvinism where there are all kinds
of people out there dying to choose God but because they are not elect, they can't. The
truth is that the people who reject God do so because they want to do so. They do not
want to do anything else. They hate God, they are turned away from God, they ignore
God, etc. Do they have a choice? Absolutely. They can choose anything consistent with
their nature and they make that choice joyfully and without remorse. They can see the
demands of God and they make the choice to reject them. They are doing what they want
to do. God is not forcing them to disobey him". He and others will sometimes even go as
far as saying "They can come/are free to come if they want to"! One of Hunt's manuscript
critics (quoted, p.112) even says the same thing, adding that it has nothing to do with God
witholding anything; nor does he prevent man from coming to Him. The catch of course,
they will not want to come because of their "nature", (oh, and then He does withhold one
thing after all: "His mercy", as the writer qualified), but then this is more double talk.
Why try to say they really can come, then? Another said "God does not stand in their way
and say, 'This is not for you'. It is their wicked nature that refuses - and always will
refuse, unless God grants them repentance, gives them a new heart." Much of this debate
is because this view is trying to butter up what is really a trap people are put into, and
make it look like they did it to themselves just because they happen to be blind enough
now to like their state and reject the alternative. But that's apart of the supposed
"inability", not any active "choice" in itself. Yes, we are born enemies of God, and are
responsible for this in that God has given everyone the ability to repent. The implication
here is "He does not give the reprobates the ability because they didn't want it". But then
they didn't want it because they were unable to want it. God's purpose for leaving them in
that position is not simply because they wanted to be there. They could NOT repent "if
they wanted to", because "wanted to" is MOOT in this case; not a real viable
"choice". In fact, the first person I mentioned, when responding to someone else in a
later discussion said "Nothing 'makes' a sinner believe. When the Holy Spirit opens his
mind, he realizes the futility of his own way and responds in faith. A sinner may resist
grace to be sure. We all admit that. But that is a sign that his mind has not been
illuminated and that Satan is still blinding him (2 Cor. 4). Until God opens the mind, he
will continue in that path". On one hand, he earlier denied that people are naturally
willing to come to God, but God prevents them; because they naturally gravitated away
from God, and God has to change their course. Yet now, he's saying that God does not
actually "make" them do anything. He just "opens their mind", and then, they seem to
suddenly, naturally come by themselves. That does make it sound like people tend to
gravitate toward Him, but are "prevented" from coming by something. Then, you take
into consideration, the interpretation of Rom.9 and others, that it was God who so
"blinded" or "hardened" them (even indirectly by "giving them to/leaving them under
satan"), then we see the objection from Arminians that God is the one shutting people out
who could otherwise come is quite valid. So you should admit that predestination is
double, and God just chose certain people for Heaven, and others for Hell, and fixed it so
they would have a sin nature to justify it. But that seems too "unfair" even for this brand
of Calvinists. Yet another said: "They cannot blame the decree of God
(election/preterition) because this decree did not make them sinners", yet it was clearly
another of His decrees (federal imputation of sin) that did! I'm sorry, but there's no
escaping this. Even the phrase that the "non-elect" had "no chance to be saved", some
reject because we are to preach the Gospel to all indiscriminately (i.e. God's "offer" is to
all), and He does not "bar" any, but they "of their own" choose sin. So in this world of
time, God offers salvation to all, but many reject it of their own free will. But in the grand
scheme of things, as Calvinists will admit, it is God who deliberately passed over those
who therefore "chose" to remain in sin, and then judges them for what they could not
repent of. From eternity, when God first conceived of the person as a living entity, it was
decided whether he would be saved or not, as is constantly mentioned when citing verse
11's discussion of Jacob and Esau. So, in that realm, the non-elect actually "had no
chance to be saved", even though to us looking at them in time, they are just as
potentially elect or "savable" as we are, but simply reject of their own will. (Also, then,
their being saved or not saved had nothing to do with sin or Christ's righteousness, which
were just later scripts added into the story). A great example of this is a person who lives
in a land where he never hears the Gospel. His being born in such a circumstance,
according to this teaching, would jut be another means of ordaining another vessel to
"wrath". But then how could you then say the Gospel is really "offered" to him then? If a
person MUST 1)be in a place where he can hear the Gospel, and 2) be enabled to accept
it, and God withholds one of those steps, then it IS "not for you"! Remember; as
Calvinists insist; none of this was by chance, and that includes the Fall of man into sin
and a "wicked nature". If this was done with the purpose of only saving some, then it is
simply not for the others; no matter how much you say it is "offered" to them. The
frequent citing of "God does as He pleases" and "it's apart of His secret knowledge, and
above our comprehension" then seems like an admission of all they are denying; that yes,
He did condemn these people for no reason, and left them without any hope, but it is His
right to do that. Yes He does ultimately condemn for other reasons beside their own sin,
but it is His right to do that. So which is it? Also, what is the meaning of Him being
"sovereign over or in control of salvation" then? (as opposed to Arminianism not having
Him "sovereign" or "in control") Calvinists seem to be spanning both realms, initially
emphasizing God's realm of eternal drecrees, but then when people question it, then they
fall back on our realm of "free choice". When it still doesn't add up, they they shift back
to God's realm with His "unsearchable counsel". But man did not sin in eternity, but
rather in time, so why keep emphasizing an eternal perspective? One person on the board
speaks of a "moral inability" which means that man is to blame for his own inability to
repent. Once again, when did anybody decide to make themselves unable, then? From
what I have seen, it is basically man's guilt from Adam that God has imputed to each
individual, making him "just plain guilty because God said so" apart from any choice of
his own (or the bad choice itself is "imputed" to him as well). So this "guilt" is "moral"
and causes the "free" will to only reject God. But since this is "imputed" to him, it is that
person's own fault and not God's, once again, simply because God said so, even though
the person could not have done anything to not wind up in that position, and now can't do
anything to get out of it. Being that there are many different Calvinists who put things
many different ways, I hope this covers the basic idea I have gathered.
But still, since man is bound by time, and is ultimately powerless over all of this, it seems
more consistent and simpler to me just to say that God has written a script, with the non-
elect as preordained to destruction, rather than "they can choose if they want to", which in
all practical matters [i.e. how it actually works out in "practice"] is not the case. But that
this jargon does seem to have been constructed so that moderate Calvinists can maintain
particular election and the preterition of the non-elect, while deflecting criticism
for/disclaiming the harder implications of God essentially damning helpless people for
nothing they could have helped. But people see though this and are attacking the
underlying implications, and that is why it seems they are being "obstinate" as Calvinists
like this complain.
But despite all of this, the Calvinist's use of the passages describing "blinding/hardening"
and "vessels of wrath" suggests precisely what is being denied here, and when you ask
them why those people are decreed to "go the way they want", then here comes the "And
yet you say 'why does He still find fault?'"/"Potter has the right over the clay" quote
again. For instance, Calvinists, referring to Pharaoh keep insisting "God hardened him
first before he hardened his own heart", and quote the scriptures on how God blinded
Israel "...so they may not see". But did Pharaoh start out good or neutral, and then God
made him evil to show His purpose? No; even though Pharaoh's whole life is not
recorded in scripture, it's obvious he had already been evil and thus was useful for the
role God assigned to him. He then hardened him into oppressing Israel to fulfil His
purpose. (It is pointed out that "harden" in this case means to give the strength or courage
to persist in one's evil, despite the fear from the judgment). Were the Israelites good or
neutral and would have "seen" if God hadn't blinded them? No, the individuals were
already stubborn and God hardened the group as a whole for His future purpose. (If they
take "that they may not see" as "yes", they've blatantly denied their own concept of "total
depravity"). Once again, nothing here about eternal reprobation or preterition.
In connection with this then, is this passage teaching that God "raises" each non-elect
person for the specific purpose of sending him to Hell "in order to make known the riches
of his glory" to the saved and "proclaim His name throughout the earth"? NO, we don't
even know who will finally end up in Hell here on earth, so that wouldn't "show" anybody
anything. Or better yet; what about the tribesmen way off in the bush who have never
even been seen by Christians. If they never hear and are lost, then did God "raise" them
too, like Pharaoh, for our sake? We do not even know they (as individuals) exist! How
are they "raised" up, then? ("raise" meaning brought into a believer's path for a specific
purpose). So clearly, this passage is not suggesting any such thing. As for the idea that the
"riches of His glory" in reprobation is to be made known to the redeemed in Heaven, the
context is clearly a display of God's power in the present world, so this passage must be a
specific earthly example of God's purpose. Israel is the whole focus of the chapter, not
"all the people who will be in Hell". Since nobody knows who will ultimately die in
their sins, there is no such "group" designated, as there would be no point in discussing it.
Israel is who Paul says he wished he could be accursed for in v.3, not some new
"hardened" group. (And contrast this attitude to "he hardened them but saved me, and
that's what's important.")
Still, when you point all this out, all they can do is reiterate verses 19-21, (even after it
has been proved that this is not it's proper context, and this interpretation of those verses
assumes that God did force them to disobey!) This scheme, in the eternal context
assumed here, cannot be justified as simple "withholding of mercy". It is a purposeful act
of hatred. Many Calvinists go on to insist that God does "hate" certain people. In the case
of Jacob and Esau, for instance, "hate" means to "love less", just as in Christ's statement
about us "hating" our parents. Other scriptures mention God's "hatred" of the "wicked",
but once again, this does not necessarily mean each individual eternally, but rather the
"wicked" in general, which individuals can cross out of.
Infralapsarians who affirm "God's perfect eternal hatred" of certain people (along with
"vessels of wrath") yet deny "election to Hell" (double predestination) are in a double
bind. Supralapsarians who affirm both are just consistently (doubly) mistaken. Chapter
11 also appears at first to support the idea that all but the "remnant according to election"
are individually "hardened" unto reprobation, but as verse 11 and on shows, once again,
this is speaking of God's earthly plan of reaching out to the Gentiles, and also, the
"hardening" would be undone, as Israel is restored!. Also, (v31), even so these also have
now not believed, that through the mercy shown to you they may be shown mercy
Here we're clearly shown that those now being "hardened" will also be shown mercy, so
the contrast of 9:15 is not an irreversible decree of eternal abodes (perhaps this is why
this passage is not cited as much, even though verses 5 and 7 might really look like they
support the reprobation interpretation of chapter 9!). Verse 19 seems to be directed at
those who think that their redemption rested on others being cut off. (Proving once and
for all that they were not "offended" at Paul "teaching" preterition in ch.9!) Just like he
anticipated a certain response from Jews in 9:19, he now counters to the gentiles: "You
will say then, 'the branches were broken off that I might be grafted in'. Well, because of
unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith. Do not be high-minded, but fear.
For if God did not spare the natural branches, fear lest He also may not spare you either!
Behold then the kindness, and the severity of God; on those having fallen, severity; but
on you, kindness, if you continue in the kindness. Otherwise you also will be cut off. And
those also, if they do not continue in unbelief, will be grafted in. For God is able to graft
them in again. For if you were cut out of the natural wild olive tree, and were grafted
contrary to nature into a good olive tree; how much more these being according to nature
will be grafted into their own olive-tree?" Even if you could argue that God grafts them in
by unconditional election/irresistable grace, still this conclusively shows that those who
are "hardened" or "cut off" are not necessarily eternally reprobated/preteritioned. It's a
general category regarding the group. Verse 32 then explains both chapters by saying that
the very reason He concluded all in unbelief in the first place was so he can have mercy
on all, (give all a chance to come to Him) not have mercy only on some and leave the rest
trapped. THIS is why sin was allowed to exist, not for the purpose of the punishing as
an end in itself!
Another strong scriptural principle is James 1:13-14 and 1 Cor.10:13-- God does not
tempt man, and when a man is tempted, God always "makes a way of escape". Now, one
may argue that this is for the "elect" only, but it is in reference to what is "common to
man". So yes, God may have ordained for sin to have occurred, but He provided every
man a way to escape, and this means actually provided; not held something out to them
that they cannot reach (remember, the Law was teaching them about sin and need for a
sacrifice; and they still were provided a way to be saved back then).
If "hardening" is taken to mean the God-decreed reprobation of all non-elect, why would
Hebrews 4:7/Psalms 95:7,8 tell individuals "Today, IF you will hear His voice, do not
harden your hearts..."? Calvinists claim this is just to "give the non-elect no excuse" when
He condemns them to Hell for their inability to repent! But where in scripture is this?
Another hint is in verse 22: God, though willing to show His wrath and power, "endures"
with "much longsuffering" the "vessels of wrath". Once again, the group as a whole is
hardened, yet God is actually showing mercy— to the individuals in that group, which
suggests each one does have a chance to repent, apart from the direction of the group.
To recap this part of Paul's "long argument of salvation" in the book of Romans, chapter 7
is showing how we have natures that can only break the Law, even though we may will
differently. Chapter 8 shows how Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit free us from the
condemnation of the Law. Chapters 9 and 10 discuss this from the viewpoint of Israel,
who is largely still trusting in the Law. Chapter 11 shows how they too rather than being
cast off for good, can be grafted back in by faith. Nowhere is there any hint of anything
like unconditional preterition. So yes, God "does as He pleases", but let's not distort or
misunderstand what it is He actually "pleases"!
Isaiah 6:9, 10, Deuteronomy 29:4, Romans 11:8, and others regarding "blinding"are
also similarly misused, but once again, are describing a groupwide "hardening". "But a
group consists of individuals, so your reasoning is contradictory" they will say. But still, a
group in general can be blinded, and individuals still have the choice to either go along
with the group or repent. Just look at how this modern society has been portrayed as
"blinded" and coming under God's judgment (including by Calvinist preachers). Does
that mean none of us can repent? Truly, Western society is much like the Israel of Bible
times, taking pride in a heritage of the religion of God. But like in the Bible, man had
corrupted it, and people rebelled, and now people have made up their own minds about
God and the way to live, and want to hear nothing about the truth of the Bible, as
morality plunges ever further and further. So we are truly "hardened" and "blinded" and it
can once again be said that the truth is not "given" people, but this is not from God not
wanting to save people and witholding any chance or ability to believe to each individual,
(based on a decree from "before they were born") but just the general state of the society
at large, and people do have a choice to follow it or turn to God. The blinding and its
conditional nature for the individual is shown at work in 2 Cor. 3:13-16: "And we are not
like Moses, who put a veil over his face so that the sons of Israel could not steadfastly
look to the end of what was passing away. But their minds were hardened [blinded]; for
until the present the same veil remains on the reading of the Old Testament, not taken
away, because this veil is taken away in Christ. But even to this day, when Moses is
read, a veil lies on their heart. Nevertheless, whenever one turns to the Lord, the veil is
taken away". Jews, reading the scriptures, in which they thought they had eternal life,
but testified of Jesus (John 5:39); by rejecting Jesus, were defying God's revelation in the
scriptures, so God gave them over to their blindness, and as long as they kept rejecting
Him and reading the scriptures (of course, interpreting them to justify their rejection of
Him), they would not get it. This was most of the religious establishment leading Israel;
the "blind leading the blind". But if one of them recognized their sin and turned to Him,
then the veil would be removed.
Remember, the two groups God through his prophets and Paul is addressing are "the
children of the flesh" and "the children of promise". One is the group God has given His
truth, so what is the other? Blinded! (2 Cor.4:3,4) Matt.13:11-15 where Jesus quotes from
Isaiah, note v.12 "whoever has, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance,
but whoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that which he has", and the
second part of the quote in v.15 where "lest at anytime they should see...and should be
converted, and I should heal them" is explained by "for this people's heart is waxed
gross...and their eyes they have closed"; not God's initial action. They reject Him, and He
finalizes that rejection; not He blinds them unconditionally for some "hidden purpose". In
none of these scriptures where God is chastising them is He saying "the reason you are
doing the things I am condeming is because I have blinded you, yet I hold you
responsible anyway, and all of you are eternally lost". Look at the contexts. So where
Romans 9 looks at the hardening of Israel from the "unconditional" (according to a
foreordained purpose) viewpoint, there is also the element, seen here where this is simply
because of the fact that they [as individuals] had ample opportunity to repent, but went
beyond the time God had given them, and were "given over". It's the principle Jesus
earlier gave in Matt. 7:6— "Do not give that which is holy to the dogs; nor cast your
pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet and turn again and tear you".
Once again, this is regarding a person's state at that given time, not necessarily for
eternity. Still, not all were like this, and some did repent. In Matt.13, right after quoting
Isaiah, Jesus points out that the "prophets" and "righteous men" also weren't granted
seeing and hearing what was granted to the disciples (v.17) but they were by no means
"reprobates". If these passages were referring to the unconditional reprobation of a group
as the sum of all of its individuals, it would preclude any righteous people in Israel. So
even if some are "elected" out of this, it must be the group in general that is hardened,
and only certain individuals specifically. And the clear intent of these passages to prevent
people from seeing clearly contradicts Calvinistic "Total Depravity" if the "blinding" is
the cause of eternal reprobation, because that would assume once again, that the people
were possibly coming to God on their own, but God had to move to stop them. Where
individuals are already sinners and wouldn't need to be "hardened" or "blinded" in order
to be condemned, still, groups can hold a lot of truth and righteousness (even if every
member doesn't obey it), or God can allow them to be completely darkened. Of course,
God's "purpose" in blinding and hardening Israel is to show that having a nation under
His Law did not make people righteous. This was for preparing the way for the Gospel
of Christ, not reprobating individuals to Hell (which is not even the point).
John 6:37, 44/65 and 15:16 (none can come unless "drawn"/"chosen"/"given" to
come, or "given" to Jesus by the Father) are also big proof texts for Calvinism. In the
context, this was before the crucifixion and outpouring of the Spirit. 6:45 gives us the
reference to several Old Testament passages prophesying God's outpouring of His Spirit
on "all flesh" (Is.54:13, Jer.31:34, Micah 4:2). Before, God had only called Israel, and
only the prophets had the Spirit. But now, Israel was "hardened" as Romans 9 teaches, so
that's why they (who should have been first in heralding the Messiah) were not being
called then. (It seems once you understand Romans 9 properly, the rest of these scriptures
fall into place). Christ was beginning His following with the disciples, and no one could
become apart of this group unless called, but this doesn't say that only certain (and
relatively few at that) people would ever be called when salvation was opened up after
His death and resurrection. All would be drawn then (ch.12:32), as His convicting Spirit
would be poured out on all. (This does not mean that all would come, as we will see).
Calvinists will then make an argument "what about those who weren't called before or
during Christ's ministry", but just as God accepted gentiles who joined Israel and kept the
Law, everyone has some sense of God's Law as Romans 2 shows, people had a chance to
follow God by faith and would be saved the same way faithful Israelites were saved by
Christ's death reaching back to them. And even though the Jews He was speaking to were
apart of the "hardened" Israel, as individuals they could could still come to Him, and in
this same chapter (6), He is still reasoning with them to believe. God is not playing some
game with men by telling individuals to believe when He knows they can't; just to have a
reason to condemn them (trap them in sin). Verse 37 goes on to say that "all that are given
by the Father will come to me, and the one who comes will by no means be cast out", and
v. 45 continues "Therefore, everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to
me". The Calvinists take this to mean "whoever is called WILL come!". "Are all saved?
No, so it's only the elect who are called". But one thing that has been missed, (by both
sides, as I have seen Arminians interpret this as a special class who are "guaranteed to
come") is that the first "come" in 6:37 is a different word from the others, including
even the second one in that verse!. Rather than "erchomai" (come) it is actually "heko",
meaning "to be present". So "all who are given of the Father" in this case will "come"
(physically, that is) to be "present" before Him, but not all will "come" spiritually and be
saved. Those who do, are the ones who will "in no wise be cast out". And notice, "THE
ONE who comes to me..." Clearly, that is not the same as (is CONTRASTED WITH) the "all
that are given", being someone OUT OF that whole! Judas is the prime example of one
who was "chosen" in that former sense, but still ended up lost! (v.70, 17:12) And in verse
45, it says "heard AND learned". It's not those who are "taught" or just hear who are
justified. (James 1:22-25). Even in v.64, 65 "But there are some of you who do not
believe...Because of this I said to you that no one can come to Me unless it was given to
him from My Father" it still doesn't mean that God reprobated or preteritioned those
individuals. God did "harden" Israel in general, and these particular people chose to go
along with the group, so God did not call them. Just because the Bible says that God
initiated both salvation and Christ's following, and hardened Israel to it "based on His
sovereign will", doesn't mean that God never determined to choose someone based on his
prior choices. Once again, nomination is unconditional, but God has nominated all.
Many Calvinists even sink to the level of reading the supposed "offense" of the doctrine
into verse 60: "many of His disciples said, 'This is a hard saying, who can hear it?'",
Christ's reponse in v.61: "Does this offend you?" and 66: "From this time many of His
disciples went back, and walked no more with Him" and applying them to "no one can
come unless the Father draws him", to prove "the hard truth of unconditional election".
But obviously from the context, it was Christ's statements about "eating His flesh" and
"drinking His blood" that were totally scandalous to the Jews. It's in that context that He
refers again to no one coming to Him unless "given him" of the Father (v.65). This refers
to the blinding that would prevent the Jews from understanding Christ's parabolic
language (Mt.13:11-15), and instead, only take such things as this literally and thus get
offended.
Further showing the fact that all "called" do not come, is the familiar passage "For many
are called, and few are chosen" (Matt.20:16, 22:14). Calvinists have "called" and
"chosen" being the same thing, and both unconditional. But while "called" is an
unconditional invitation (to all), being "chosen" is based on the person's choice (having
the "wedding garment", symbolizing becoming apart of the Bride of Christ, which is by
faith). Then there's "God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through
sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth:" (2 Thess 2:13), but this too shows that
people who are saved were "chosen", but does not specify unconditionally, or all else
being "passed over". In the context, this is contrasted with "those who perish, because
they did not receive the love of the truth that they might be saved", (who are then
hardened in this state!) (v.10-12).
Similarly, Romans 8:30 "whom He predestined, those He also called; and whom He
called, those He also justified; and whom He justified, those He also glorified" is
taken to prove "all called are "justified and glorified" (saved), so only those who are
saved were ever ofered salvation (i.e. "called" as used in that sense) to begin with. As
with "election", we should also examine what exactly "called" means. In this case,
"called" is "kaleo", which is "used in a variety of applications" (Strong), including "bid",
"call (forth), and even "name", as it is used many other places. So this is not the initial,
general "calling" as we have been using it (i.e. the universal "nomination"), but rather is
describing someone already being "named" as among the saved. Now, the form "kletos"
is the word translated in v.28 "...called according to His purpose", and this means
"invited" or "appointed", as well as "(spec.) a saint". Once again, this may be comparable
to "election" as discussed above. It still does not say this "invitation" or "appointing" is
unconditional.
In Acts 13:48, "Those 'ordained to eternal life' were the Jews and gentile proselytes
whom Paul and Barnabas persuaded to "continue in grace"(v.43), as contrasted with Jews
who were "filled with envy" (v.45) and note v.46: "It was necessary for the word of God
to be spoken to you first. But since you put it far from you, you judge yourselves
unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles". It does not say that God
decreed or preteritioned them to reject the Word, while giving only some a chance to
repent. It does not say He wanted to not save them. It is also pointed out how "ordained"
was a mistranslation ("praeordainati") by the Latin Vulgate and the Greek word ("tasso")
was closer in meaning to "disposed". This is important in helping to understand concepts
such as "sheep and goats", and "wheat and tares", and various other passages describing
the "blind", "them that perish", etc. as a person's "disposition" can be from their own
choices. People can either remain open to truth (even when they don't know what it
is), or harden themselves through stubborness, so the Calvinist assumption that
these are eternal states predetermined by God is misguided. The man Christ told was
"not far from the Kingdom of God" (Mark 12:34) is a great example of one of these
people "disposed" towards eternal life. He wasn't in the Kingdom yet, but was open to it.
In the calvinist theory, he would have had to have been already regenerated (basically
"in" the Kingdom)! Not realizing that "hardening" and "blinding" had different degrees
(God hardens the group for a temporal purpose; or individuals harden themselves; or God
hardens individuals further after they harden themselves), is what causes this assumption
of unconditional, eternal reprobation whenever passages like this are encountered. A
person's disposition can be changed (and this in itself is not changing their "sin nature"!).
It is then responded that the perfect participle in Acts 13:48 is passive, and that is
something that was done to those who believed. But this doesn't specify who did it or
how, so it cannot be assumed to be a divine decree, beyond the fact that these were
people who were already beginning the process of regeneration; responding to God's
calling to all men, rather than those who were still completely rejecting it. New birth, like
the physical birth has its "begettal" by a "seed", as is shown by the parable of the sower.
This process is also instrumental in understanding disposition, and how the person really
is more passive in this scenario than the Calvinists charge (i.e. he's no "better" than
anyone else, and not "saving himself").
In ch. 2:47, "such as should be saved" was "those who were being saved".
God had prophecied the hardening of Israel (which included making them envious of the
gentiles!), and those who kept on trusting in their inheritance judged themselves
unworthy, rather than God judging them unworthy.
The same with Jesus' "sheep" that always hear His voice. (John 10) Since the "elect"
do receive Christ at some given time, did they hear His voice all the years before they
received Him? No. So then were they really His sheep at that time? Only in the sense of
foreknowledge. The Calvinists turn the world into a script again at this point, arguing
about "God's decrees playing out in time". (i.e. God, before they were yet born, chose
these persons as "sheep", and though they were born into sin, and lived like everyone
else, not hearing His voice, etc. for a while, at the right time, God "enabled" them, then
they lived like sheep). But then still, they did not fit Jesus' description of "sheep" before
then. He did not say "My sheep begin to hear My voice when I enable them", but the very
definition of the "sheep" was the act of following. So you at least have to admit that
nobody is born a sheep; even if unconditional election is true, all sheep must at some
point in our realm of time become sheep. (It is futile to then try to appeal to God's
timeless realm to maintain an eternal decree, because that approach simply fixes that
realm to ours as if they are continous—God writes, and then it plays out; and we could
understand it just as easily as any other sequence in our own time). So sheep too is a
group (of a certain disposition) that one can become apart of who was formerly not apart
of it. (The "other sheep not of this fold"(v.16) were other believers in Christ who had not
yet joined His following (as in Luke 9:49,50), and perhaps also those Jews who believed
from the reports that Christ had come but had not yet seen that Jesus was that Christ. It
does not seem to be describing "all who will ever become saved in the future" as a
Calvinist might argue.) The ultimate proof is that many of the people Jesus was speaking
to would repent later on, most probably after His death and resurrection, such as at the
preaching of Peter in Acts. Many of those people (as in "...whom ye crucified...") had
been some of the ones who were told they were not sheep. But they changed.
On the flipside are the scriptures mentioning people ordained to wrath. The biggest such
proof-text is Proverbs 16:4: "The LORD hath made all things for himself: yea, even
the wicked for the day of evil (doom)". "Make" in this passage (strong #6466) can
mean "commit" or "ordain". This suggests that it is not necessarily each individual
evildoer that is "made" to be condemned, but just the category of evildoers in itself. The
proof of this is that all of us were evildoers, and thus "ordained" for destruction, but the
point was to warn us to get out of that group! So this, like Romans 9, is not talking about
individuals being inescapably foreordained to destruction, because then that would be all
of us.
Regarding 1 Pet.2:8, leading Calvinist writer Arthur Pink gave the classic response "Here
God expressly affirms that there aresome who have been 'appointed' unto
disobedience'." "Our business is not to reason about it, but to bow to Holy Scripture. Our
first duty is not to understand but to believe what God has said" (Sovereignty, p.98,9).
But if we just "bow" and "believe" without even understanding, we would never see the
proper context of Holy Scripture; which is once again, "you who then were not a people,
but now the people of God, those not pitied then, but now pitied." (v.10), meaning Israel
as compared to the church, once again. Also, v. 6 & 7 identifies "unbelief", contrasted
with belief, as the disobedience. People who do not believe are still in their sins and thus
appointed to stumble; not appointed to be disobedient (or unbeliveing) in the first place!
Also, 2 Pet. 2:12, 17 and Jude 4 as well. Once again, this isn't saying that it was the
specific individuals who were ordained or "appointed". God decreed that those who did
certain things would face a certain judgement, whoever may do it. Jesus had said that "It
is impossible but that offenses will come. But woe to him through whom they come!"
(Luke 17:1) The evil may have been set, but not the particular evildoers. The Calvinists,
citing Acts 4:27-8 respond "Well, what if no one decided to participate in the
crucifixion?" (for instance). But with enough wicked in the world, including people being
hardened for persistant sin and refusal to repent, God would not have to preordain
individuals to engage in the crucifixion or any other prophetic wicked act. And like
Pharaoh, their blinding that Christ spoke of beforehand was in part to give them the
courage to carry it out.) This is when we should confess that we don't completely know
exactly how this can be certain; not conclude from this that so many people are withheld
salvation, and only then claim that that is what's above our understanding.
Some Calvinists will point to passages like Matthew 7:22,23 where Jesus tells people in
the end I never knew you!, as proof it is not the person not "knowing" (accepting) Jesus,
but rather unconditional election that saves. But "knowing" goes both ways; referring to
an intimate relationship. If a person does not know Jesus as Lord and Savior, then it's
not that Jesus doesn't know who he is; it's that He doesn't "know" them in a saving
relationship. In the context, the reason He doesn't know them is because they are
"workers of iniquity"; not they are workers of iniquity because He didn't know them.
Rom 3:11, where Paul quotes from Psalms 53:2,3— "None seek after God" has been
cited many times, but "seek" in the Hebrew and Greek word translated here means to
"frequent" or "follow" ("for pursuit or search"), or "search out", "investigate", "crave",
"demand", and ultimately "worship". God giving an offer of salvation to man, and man
accepting (of his own will) does not violate this, as that does not constitute things like
"craving", "demanding", or even "pursuit", "search" and "investigate" in a sense that man
initiates it. Man certainly doesn't on his own worship God (which these senses are really
pointing to, for one "craving" Him would worship Him [properly]), and that is the point
of the Psalm Paul quoted from. Paul's own context was the sinfulness of all men in
general, Jew as well as gentile, not an individual's inability to repent. (Because the Jews
thought only gentiles were "sinners", yet the Psalm is pointing out their sin as well). It
has nothing to do with man responding to a call.
Another passage commonly cited is "Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard
its spots? Then may you also do good who are accustomed to do evil." (Jer.13:23) In
the context, God is declaring the condition of Israel, and this is not talking about the
nature of every individual. It was speaking specifically of Israel, who as a whole refused
to repent. And remember, it's not "doing good" that we are saying man is capable of. We
know that man can't do good enough to please God, but believing in Christ is sharply
contrasted with any "work" that one may try to save himself with. (Rom 4:5)
In Romans 2:4, "God leadeth thee to repentance" is being spoken to someone Paul is
warning about "treasur[ing] up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath..." (v.5), so
this right here is someone who could still wind up lost, even though he is being "led"
(drawn) and has to choose to accept the repentance God is offering. In Timothy 2:25, this
is not just 'any unsaved', whom "perhaps God will give them repentance", but rather,
"those who oppose themselves" means "those who set themselves against", or are
"disputatious" (Strong; and this we see in the context regarding "strifes"). So this seems
to be people who argue against the truth so much that they are hardened, and thus "in the
snare of the devil" (v.26). This is not saying that they were never given any choice to
repent before.
Even Matthew 11:20-26 "But woe unto you Chorazin...Bethsaida! For if the mighty
works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have
repented in sackcloth and ashes", it is posed "Why did God not wrought saving faith in
the hearts of the Sodomites? The only palpable answer lying in the sovereignty of God".
But the qualification for them repenting is them seeing His mighty works, not electing
them, because the people who were seeing those works were not repenting, and His point
was that they were more hard hearted then those heathens (whom they liked to despise a
lot), not "God could have elected them, but passed them over instead". Once again, I do
not argue that everyone has received equal chance or that some could not have repented if
God had done more to reach out to them. But that is quite different from saying that He
completely refused any opportunity for repentance because He didn't want to save them
at all. They had enough light that they could be judged, and plenty would "believe" if
"they could only see", but God guarantees nobody any such special revelation.
So we see that a lot of unbiblical assumption is involved regarding the meaning of
various scriptures. Nearly all of the proof texts for individual reprobation are discussing
the hardening of Israel and the grace opened up to the rest of the nations. Once again, the
teaching, while appearing to explain some scriptures, contradicts the revelation of God
taken as a whole regarding the meaning and purpose of human life. The people elected to
Hell would then have virtually no worth as creatures or reason to exist. This is what the
confused writer I cited before was alluding to. It's depressing enough to look at a world of
sin with man in this condemned state, and to realize that beautiful creatures that God
made in love are lost. But to think that many of them are "hated" by him eternally and
have no purpose but to live, die and go to Hell, calls into question the beauty of creation
altogether. (What else that God created is "evil" in itself? God says He created everything
"good", and that it was corrupted by sin. But, He, as the "Potter" can create it "evil", and
then script "sin" as a means to fulfil its evil designation). It makes it seem more useless
than saying they were just an accident of random chance. This once again is because of
the scriptural and conscientious revelation God has given us of Himself, not just "our
fallible human emotion". In fact, the CT article goes on to suggest that "salvation all too
often becomes an idol [that is] all about us", and quotes the Shorter Westminster
Catechism's reminder that "Man's chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever". But
this further disproves the Calvinist position, because now most men's sole purpose for
existence is not to "glorify and enjoy God forever", but to reject God and suffer Hell
forever. In light of the rest of the scriptural evidence of God's love for all (including those
who will perish), using Romans 9 and the rest of these passages to teach individual souls
as "vessels of [eternal] wrath" created "just to show His glory" and then be discarded
when finished being used would be a bit more palatable if eternal annihilation were true.
It would make even more sense if we just concluded the non-elect didn't even have souls.
(They could have been zombies or demons in human flesh or something). Then there, you
have your visible "objects" God can use for His plan and dispose of, and it would be no
loss to the "good news". This would certainly be more compatible with the "neutral
vessels of clay" analogy. And keeping in mind that those who will be saved are the few,
not the many, this doesn't seem like a Gospel ("good news") at all. It sounds like God is
unable to save most anyway, or He gets pleasure in damning most. Either way, we have
serious problems, so we should admit that we cannot completely understand why
individual people will be saved or not saved in the end. We should just follow our
commission to win who we can. (Some Calvinists respond that it's not really the few who
shall be saved; many stillborn people may be elect, etc. But this too is speculation, and
Christ seems to be clear that not many find the "narrow path".)
So in these passages on Israel, one cannot say "they were simply chosen to receive the
eternal destruction they deserved for their sins", but rather "they were chosen by God out
of sinful man as an earthly example for God's glory". The whole focus in these passages
is to teach us "the riches of His glory"— that salvation is not in the keeping of the Law, in
which Israel failed. Pharaoh was an individual example— a sort of prototype of God's act
of "raising" and "hardening" Israel in this age.
Even if you may think these answers may seem "weak", and you may have other
passages like this that seem to prove your point, it still creates more problems with the
revealed character of God and purpose of man than it solves. This shows as I have said
that we have crossed a bound regarding God's realm where all of this stuff fits together.
Once again, we have to take scriptures as a whole, not grab dozens of isolated passages
(particularly hard to understand ones we were cautioned about) and say "see, I don't know
how you people can deny this; it’s so clear" when what you're proposing contradicts the
message of the rest of the scripture, and clear statements. (Every cult does the same thing,
and so do the Muslims even). In fact, many Calvinist "testimonies" I have seen go
something like "I was raised in an Arminian church...but then one day, I was reading the
Bible and came across these passages clearly teaching election" (primarily the ones
discussed above). Then they usually continue "I struggled with the idea...but God
eventually helped me bow to His sovereignty". This makes it look like they are totally
objective, further proving that this is just the "hard truth of scripture" that is only
spiritually discerned (1 Cor. 2:14). But as we see, taking a verse; even a bunch of them;
and at what they appear to say, without checking the contexts, and the rest of the message
of the scriptures, can still lead to erroneous conclusions. One key to understanding
scripture that is frequently cited by apologists is to interpret less clear scriptures in light
of clearer ones. By focusing on passages discussing foreknowledge/predestination, or
blinding and calling as the ultimate proof and then redefining the scriptures on God's will
to save all in light of the former, Calvinists are reversing that order. Because as I show
above, those interpretations are at best debatable, and lead to a conclusion that has God
deliberately leaving people condemned for some hidden purpose that (of course!) is not
discussed anywhere. Why not accept the clearer teaching that He did will for all to be
saved, and view the hard to understand concepts of predestination, foreknowledge and
calling in light of that?
More Scriptural Points
Non-Calvinists point out that God is "no respecter of persons" (Acts 10:34). Calvinists
also claim this as proof for their position, on the basis that if man could choose to believe,
God would be "showing partiality" to certain people for their belief ("something in
themselves"). But the context is once again that God does not choose people based on
national inheritance "...but in every nation he that fears him...shall be accepted by Him"
(next verse). Simple "belief" is what is made the criteria, and cannot be put in the same
category as inheritance as showing "partiality" towards someone. Calvinists also claim
partiality would be shown towards those in Christian cultures where they can hear the
Gospel. But being in a Christian culture a person may also be more likely to rebel against
it (especially since he sees the imperfections of it which he sees as "hypocrisy"), or
instead, take pride in it as if heritage alone saves him. As I said before, the modern
"Christianized" world is very much like the Israel Jesus, Paul and the others dealt with in
the Bible. (I look around at people, especially kids around the city today, and say "and
these people have 'more chance to be saved' than others in the world? Just tell them about
God and repentance and they'll spit at you, because they've heard it all before, and don't
want anyone "telling them what to do"!) Those in other cultures hearing it for the first
time may be more responsive, because it is new and different; rather than an old
established system distorted and watered down by centuries of prominence; which they
have long ago already rejected. This is precisely what happened with the Israelites as
opposed to the Gentiles, and this was the whole point of Romans 9. God had raised them
before others, but now they are hardened, while the others are opened up to. A big proof
of this and also a big proof of disposition is Matthew 21:31 "the publicans and harlots go
into the Kingdom before you", "not many wise men, not many mighty, not many noble,
according to the flesh are called"(1Cor.1:26; cf Matt.11:25), and "It is easier for a camel
to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of
Heaven"(Matt.19:23,4). Calvinists cite v.26: "With men this is impossible, but with God
all things are possible" to suggest election. But if they are unconditionally "elected", then
how does it work out this way?
Wouldn't God randomly elect more people from both the religious leaders, and the
"sinners"; or from both the wise and the unwise, or from the rich and poor; or is God
deliberately favoring the "sinners", "unwise" and "poor" over the leaders, wise, and rich?
This would definitely be "showing partiality"!. In fact, Calvinists I see frequently use I
Corinthians 1: 26-29: "For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise
according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish
things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world
to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised
God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that
no man may boast before God" to prove "unconditional" election. But this is not saying
that God particularly goes after non-wise people, because for one thing, that would
contradict their own point of God's choice not being of something within the man! All
that passage means is that people who are wise tend to think they are too smart for the
things of God. As other scriptures say, "the things of God are foolishness to them that
perish". People who are rich don't want to give up all they have, as we see elsewhere, and
neither do most of the talented in the world. Someone who does not have all of this may
be more likely to see his need and come to God. That is the point of this passage. You
may be "foolish", but then you are what God uses more, and He will use you to confound
the wise.
So this shows us, once again, the point that so-called "sinners", "unwise" and non-rich
may be in more of a disposition to receive Christ than the religious leaders, (hence
Christ's statements about coming to Him "as a child"— Matt. 18 & Luke 18) because
they in all of their sin and ignorance and need will be more likely to see their need of a
savior and have no pretense of righteousness or worldly power to falsely trust in. Of
course, "with God" it is possible for a person to turn in faith despite his disposition. Just
not necessarily in the way Calvinists insist.
In the vein of "no partiality", some Calvinists have even toyed with the idea that God's
election saves independently of faith in Christ and repentance. Many Calvinists reject
this, but it is consistent, as, if election is what saves before faith takes place (it is what
makes faith possible), then in reality faith is not needed and God can (and in fact does)
save without it. From here, the different brands of Calvinists will fiercely debate among
themselves as to whether the Gospel is even needed for salvation or whether "gospel
regeneration" or "Gospel-assisted regeneration" or "duty faith" and "duty repentance" is
valid. The latter group sees the necessity of the Gospel and duty of man to believe and
repent mentioned throughout scripture, and insists that the Gospel is necessary. The
former actually is consistant with unconditional election, by God's work alone without
human effort, as both groups profess. (They argue that it is not one's "faith in Christ", but
rather the "faith OF Christ" imputed to them that justifies, even though Romans 4:5
clearly says that a person's faith "is counted to him for righteousness". The latter tries to
harmonize this with scripture. Both then accuse each other of being "unscriptural", and
even "using the logic of the Arminians"! In other words, the Primitive Baptist will accuse
the "true Calvinist" as they call themselves (who accept the "Gospel call to all") of still
maintining that "1% man's work" (preaching or accepting the Gospel), rather than 100%
God, just like the Arminians, (the Gospel is only to "feed the sheep", not bring them in)
and the "true [moderate] Calvinist" will respond that the Primitive Baptist is ignoring
scripture that "conflict with his system" just as much as the Arminian. (Then the
supralapsarian, double-predestinarian Reformed will come and accuse both of denying
God's sovereignty just as much as the Arminian, for not confessing that God is
responsible for evil, and the former will accuse the latter of "hyper-calvinism" and
making the same type of "rationalistic" errors as the Arminians!) For anything any given
Calvinist says about non-calvinism, another type of Calvinist can say the same thing
about him! This is all quite hilarious, and shows that the only thing they agree on is the
damnation of individuals whom God did not wish to be saved, and beating up on the non-
Calvinists for rejecting this! Who's right? None, as their point of agreement is precisely
where they're the most wrong.
While non-Calvinists are accused of rejecting doctrines because they don't like them, I
would really like to believe in such hope for those who've never heard. There is a theory
called "Comprehensive Grace" which picks up on the "faith of Christ" idea and takes it to
its consistent conclusion of a near-universal salvation. But this will rely on a radically
"preterist" view of eschatology. Calvinists are trying to say that in the free will scheme, it
would seem just as unfair to those who die without hearing the Gospel being damned
because they could never hear, or because they were not elect; but with election (either
God specifically sending the Gospel to that person, or just saving him without the
Gospel), there is no such "partiality", and God is at least 'in control' of it. This provides an
easy answer regarding those who never hear. They were all simply of the "non-elect" (or
to the Primitives, God might save them without [duty] faith and repentance). It also
disproves Calvinism'c alaim that "all" means "all kinds of people", because there are still
several "kinds" (tribes, etc) who have not been "drawn". But once again, this is a difficult
teaching, regarding those who seemingly have no chance (most non-Calvinists would say
if they pray sincerely for the true God to show Himself, He will make sure the Gospel
gets to him so he can believe. Some point to Romans 1 and John 1:9, and suggest that
every person has enough light by which they can repent and ask God to be saved.
Everyone religion had somewhere in it's pantheon or at least history, an "unknown God"
(Acts 17:23) who was believed to be the Most High, and they could ask Him to reveal
Himself. Supporting this is the fact that people like Abraham and Job were found
"righteous through faith" even though there was no evidence of any special prior
revelation to them by God, or even knowledge of God in their lands. The same with the
Persians, including the Kings mentioned in Daniel, and the Wise Men who came to see
Jesus. They had a monotheistic faith, and these people acknowledged the true God AND
(the latter) even His plan of salvation when they came in contact with the Israelites, but
they did not get this from ISrael. By this all men could be held "responsible". And don't
forget, the mitigating factor in the difference in opportunity to hear the Gospel is that
people will still be judged according to "to whom much (or little) is given..."(Luke
12:48), which Calvinism doesn't seem to take into account), So I am not arguing
completely "equal chances", as some other non-Calvinists do. The Luke verse shows not
all are given the same amount. But God does take that into consideration when judging.
This also answers the common Calvinist claim about prayer for the lost (friends,
neighbors, loved ones or the unevangelized around the world). While rebuffing the
natural criticism of their unconditional election as rendering prayer futile (the person is
already predestined to salvation or damnation no matter what anyone does), they fire
back that it's really "free will" that renders prayer futile ("You're asking God to violate
that person's free will, when you claim that He doesn't!"). But it is possible for prayer to
move God to reach or touch a person even more than He may have been doing. The same
for the many in the world that have had opportunity to repent, and are hardened. God is
free to leave them hardened, or perhaps grant them repentance upon the prayers of others.
So in this way it does work out somewhat like the total depravity/unconditional election
scheme, when God undoes this hardening for people. This may not seem like an "equal
chance for all", but this is quite different than God deliberately completely passing over
others and not even wanting to save them. Others in the opposite extreme have proposed
"Openness theology", where God does not even know the final outcome of who will be
saved (or at least chooses to ignore it). Calvinists claim this is the "consistent" free-will
position, and of course, it denies that God is really in control. All of this stems once again
from our inability to piece together our world of time with God's eternal realm, and it's all
still speculation. We are called to get the Gospel out to the world, not argue what will
happen if we don't. And it is funny to see Calvinists making an argument of "fairness"
(i.e. God not showing 'partiality' to a group and some "not having an 'equal chance'"),
when they've criticized non-Calvinists for their "human notions of fairness" all along.
In a similar vein as those who've never heard; people, trying to build a principle of God
not always reaching out to everyone (and therefore not offering salvation to everyone),
will even appeal to Luke 4:25-27, where Jesus says "many widows were in Israel in the
days of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when great
famine was throughout all the land. But Elijah was not sent to any of them, except to
Zarephath, a city of Sidon, to a woman, a widow. And many lepers were in Israel in the
time of Elisha the prophet, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian."
(and they could add the people's being filled with wrath and trying to kill Him after that).
But the context was "a prophet not being accepted in his own country" (v.24) So those
two prophets were sent to single individuals, rather than healing the whole land.
Another big point is the fact that the Bible speaks of an unpardonable sin, and also
statements like whoever betrays Jesus, it would have been better for him if he wasn't
born. There are different interpretations of what unpardonable sin is. Based on the
contexts, it is generally accepted as a resisting the Spirit's conviction to the point that
one's conscience becomes totally "seared with a hot iron", and one can no longer be led to
salvation; or attributing the works of the Holy Spirit to the Devil. (Both ways of
"blaspheming" Him) Many claim anyone can do this; some claim it was only those who
observed Jesus and His miracles that faced the danger. But in the context of the
election/free-will debate, to the "non-elect", all of their sins are technically
"unpardonable", because Christ did not die for them. It would have been better for ALL
of them if they hadn't been born (that's the whole point in the opposition to
reprobation/preterition). So then why this specification then? Is He just proclaiming to
those Pharisees in a roundabout way their non-election? (Since it has been said by some
that the preaching to the non-elect is only to pronounce their judgement)? Is the
unpardonable sin ultimately simply being of the non-elect? (Blasphemy of the Spirit is
said to stem from hardening (of the heart), and in the Romans 9 debate, "hardening" is
associated with the reprobation process ascribed to all "non-elect").
Once in Hell, it won't make a difference that the person's sins were unpardonable, or were
pardonable, but the pardon wasn't "cashed in" (just like the charge leveled at unlimited
atonement). These are more points that make it look like everyone who will be in Hell
does not fit in the category of simply "passed over". Actually, Christ's warning to the
Pharisees about unpardonable sin shows that though they (as part of Israel) were
"blinded", they (as individuals) were still not at a point where it was impossible for them
to be saved (as in unconditional reprobation).
At least one Reformed clarified the issue in an interesting way. Shirley C. Guthrie, in
Christian Doctrine(Westminster/John Knox Press, 1968) lays out the points for and
against double predestination, along with universalism and Pelagianism/Arminianism.
While using the typical argument against Pelagianism, he also shows that a consequence
of double predestination is that history becomes the predetermined, unalterable,
unwinding of a long film, that God Himself has retired from after setting it in motion, and
therefore is not even really involved in it now! Of course, many other Calvinists are
disclaiming double predestination now, but as we have seen, this "script" model fits their
position just as much, and thus actually degrades the sovereignty of God just as much as
Pelagianism! Someone else on the boards pointed out by asking "do you believe that it
God is UNABLE and POWERLESS to allow humans genuine choice, over which God
does not exert causal determination? Is it impossible for God to give a certain, very
limited, and precisely bounded sphere of control to beings other than himself, the
boundaries set and determined by God Himself? Or are you saying He is impotent in that
regard? It seems like your notion of sovereignty actually LIMITS God's abilities and
power, because you FORCE Him to be the causal agent of everything, including a
person's belief, instead of allowing Him the ability to delegate limited authority to
others." As Guthrie continues, we also cannot bring a completely good message to the
world. Ultimately, our message to the world can be no more than "God loves you—
maybe. Christ died and lives for you—maybe...". The good news (Gospel) is a positive
message, not negative (i.e. some are to be left out or rejected). This doctrine is not "Good
News", except in a very selfish sense— "many people have no choice to escape Hell, but
thank you Lord I am not one of them". This "I'm happy so long as I got mine" attitude I
see in this teaching is not compatible with the attitude Christians are supposed to have to
the world. Doesn't it even sound a bit like Luke 18:11? On one hand we say we're no
better than anyone else because of a choice for God, but since God determines reality, if
He has chosen us OVER others, doesn't that in the long run make us "better", even if after
the fact, rather than before? To the helpless people in the world, who gets into Heaven
basically boils down to luck. One may say their "total depravity" keeps them from even
caring, but in Hell, their saved relative will sure seem to have been "lucky" they were
"chosen".
Guthrie also points out that it is ultimately a mystery. Both sides, but especially the
Calvinists (who tend more to think that their position has claim to all the truth), need to
take into consideration the fact that we are spanning two totally different realms (one of
time, and one not marked by time) when we think of God, predestination and eternity.
Hugh Ross also gives a good treatment on the timelessness of God, in relation to
predestination and other doctrines in Beyond the Cosmos, (Navpress, 1996). The
lapsarian schemes may appear to better explain why some people just can't seem to be
converted, or how sin can exist in a world over which God is in control, but in light of the
problems cited above and the biblical evidence otherwise there must be a missing
dimension to our knowledge and comprehension of these things. So we need to not divide
or criticize one another over this issue. If we want to dismiss human reasoning, then we
must remember, as I've said, that ultimately, the whole picture is above our total
comprehension, as it involves God's timelessness. We can't just take one little side of the
issue, build this questionable "hard" doctrine upon it and assert it dogmatically, and then
say "it's above your reasoning", just to win the argument. We need to question whether
the doctrine, as stated has already crossed the line into the realm of the unsearchable.
Deut. 29:29: "The secret things belong unto the LORD our God, but those things which
are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of
this law."
Calvinism is a lot of tough talk, (about God's will; about the other side and its beliefs and
motives, etc.) but this still cannot make up for the same limitations all human theories
face. Many people, from the boards I was on, to a letter writer in the Christian Research
Journal (vol.24 # 2) make much of the Calvinists' abundance of "scripture", and the non-
Calvinists' supposed "lack" of it in favor of emotion or our own reasoning. The reason it
seems like this, is because, unfortunately in many cases, those who tend to use scripture
the most are eisegeting things into it, rather than exegeting its true meanings (the cults are
like this as well, furnishing much "scripture" to support their views, and claiming
orthodox Christians only go by "tradition"). The Calvinists are the ones who aggressively
approach the debate, telling us what the Bible says about election and reprobation and
how our views neglect all these "scriptures". (and they are the ones who actually
emotionally charge the debate with their emphasis on how "tough" it is). This leaves the
non-Calvinists, in defense, essentially emphasizing what is not in the Bible. Contrary to
what Calvinists often charge, the scripture we agree with, so of course we will not try to
"disprove" the scriptures they post. It is the philosophy of man that has been extrapolated
from them that we have to spend most of our time dealing with. Calvinism started as an
idea: God must be "sovereign in salvation", else He is not really saving at all. That
means, if He chose me without ANY part of my own in it, then others who are not saved
equally must have been "sovereignly" passed over hy Him, yet still "held responsible"
and punished for the sin they couldn't repent of. Scriptures had to be found to support this
as well as answering any objections, and sure enough there were some that mentioned
people being "hardened" and "blinded", "appointed to wrath" and "vessels of wrath";
complete with even, "who are you to reply back to God", "He hardeneth who He will" to
silence those who say it's unfair, along with others mentioning people only coming when
"called". Perfect! So the whole span of existence from eternity to eternity with the
logistics of salvation, could now be neatly laid out and explained A-B-C. Of course, we
don't understand "why", and our "fallen understanding" thinks it's unfair, so here and only
here do we admit that the full knowledge is above us. But we sure can understand how
events in God's realm carry over ito ours! An excellent example of how the Calvinist is
the one who ties to have it all figured out, is one person's statement on a board
"Calvinism...just answered questions I had never seriously thought about. When I did
think about those questions, it was free-willism that failed to fit with Scripture. It was the
system that took great maneuvering to fit the pieces together.
But all of this ignored that commonly cited scriptures like Romans 9, Eph.2:8 and the rest
have been clearly shown to have been misused as such, and other scriptures and scriptural
principles are completely contradicted; so this "scripture" argument also does not ensure
that one's views are the truth. Also remember that much of Calvinism is driven by
emotion and human reason as well, as was shown earlier.
The Hunt-White Controversy, and other cries of "misreprsentation"
A lot of these issues come up in the recent controversy between James White and Dave
Hunt, over Hunt's book What Love Is This (Sisters, OR, Loyal Publishing). Hunt is being
accused of being "unqualified" and totally ignorant of the Reformed position, but this is
way overblown. I found the book to be largely truthful, making a lot of great points,
though I don't agree with everything he says. For instance, he does uses hyperbole such
as "Calvinism is just warmed over Catholicism", "Calvin never once spoke of God's
love", etc. But I think all of this is being overgeneralized into him not knowing anything
he's talking about, and so "misrepresenting" the other side. When a debate gets as heated
as this, people tend to throw back at each other all sorts of cutting statements, such as
"heresy", which as one Calvinist site correctly shows, would lead us to totally break
fellowship if we were consistent with it. You can see this in Hunt's book (p.52) where he
answers White's claim that he was teaching "Rome's gospel", and then proceeds to throw
this claim back on Calvinists (one of the things they all are criticizing him for). Why
condemn Hunt for this, and not White; and then how can White himself cry
"misrepresentation" when he's playing the same game? Most of us in the heat of debate at
times bend the truth or hastily make assumptions about people, so while you can criticize
or correct that, I think ad-hominem remarks about his "honesty", etc. are sinking to the
same level as Hunt is on in his statements against Calvinism! As for being "unresearched"
or "poor scholarship", White says on his site "do you not think [all the great historical
Calvinist leaders to the present] have heard these objections?", but on the same token,
Hunt and the rest of us have heard the Calvinist position over and over, often rubbed in
our face, so this whole issue of being researched in Reformed doctrine is a smokescreen.
He is responding to what its advocates are saying today, and he has read at least enough
to be able to quote Calvin and many other leaders. (Problem is, many today have actually
shied away from some of the harder aspects of their own position as historically posited!
More on this below)
All of these "reputable" authorities who told him not to publish the book and then
"refuted" it happen to be Calvinists, and they obviously don't like his straightforward
approach to the ramifications of Reformed theology, true or not. All the "friends" and
"supporters" who were against it were obviously also Calvinists, who liked his teaching
on other subjects, but were shocked when he turned to the Calvinism debate. It's like if I,
who loved James White's treatment of the KJVO controversy became a supporter of his,
not knowing his position of Calvinism, and then was shown a manuscript of The Potter's
Freedom and objected to it. It doesn't mean his scholarship is bad; just that I disgree with
the position of the new book coming out, even if I do [wrongly] attack his scholarship
because of my disagreement, or even some legitimate misrepresentations such as
Arminians teaching Rome's gospel. Unfortunately, the Calvinist side seems to have the
most scholars, and the more Arminian contemporary evangelical church is, as White,
Hanegraaf and others have rightly pointed out, suffering from a state of doctrinal apathy,
ignorance and indifference. So even if they might be greater in number, as one writer on a
whatloveisthis.com (a critical page) points out [i.e. Calvinists often claim to be a
"persecuted minority"], a smaller but more zealous group can have a lot of influence.
Like I mentioned above, the proponents of some "offensive" doctrine ("limited
atonement" Calvinists, just like the "traditional hymns only" CCM critics in that debate)
often take advantage of this, and heap up all the "scriptures", arguments and
"documentation"/research to back up their interpretations, (But remember, this does not
guarantee truth, as as all the cults use this method too, and it can be misinterpreted) and
the other side remains largely silent, or uses weak cliché arguments (i.e. "God limits His
sovereignty", "election" is based on foreknowing who would believe, etc). Then this is
the ultimate proof that the "hard" position is "just right"; "this is just what the Bible
teaches, and you people have no answers, but simply resist it because you don't like it".
So many seem to have the attitude that non-Calvinism is totally bankrupt, and the
Calvinists now are leading this "new Reformation", which as Hunt points out (p.20)
means a revival of Calvinism as the dominant view of Christendom, and are expecting to
just sweep the opposing view out of the way as totally false, worthless and discredited,
without any substantial opposition. (after all, once again, we only made it up because we
don't like God's sovereignty). You can see this attitude in many of their writings. Some in
debates have even criticized the other side for not just "learning something" instead of
arguing!
So when someone finally comes out with a strong answer, the other side (caught by
surprise) is aghast, and lashes back defensively. The first thing they do is try to dismiss
their "credibility"; after all, 'everyone knows' that all the scripture and
historical/hermeneutical, etc. evidence always favors our side. If you come to a different
conclusion, you have really misrepresented something. It just can't be! (What if Hunt had
been more documented and researched? What about someone else who is? Oh, But such a
person couldn't possibly become a non-Calvinist, right?) That is the attitude I am sensing
here. White and the others' responses focused more on these side issues than on the right
interpretation of the various Scriptures involved! It's like that's all they can really "refute"
him with.
Do they challenge Calvinists who have not researched the issue and say inaccurate things
but agree with them? Would they tell them not to publish their writings? No, they would
be assumed to be on the side of the "truth" and automatically "right", "qualified" and
"informed".
And I don't know how White and others can even challenge his tone, or unfortunate
statements Hunt made implying Calvinists have a different "God" for instance, or cry
"misrepresentation" when all of that is precisely what Calvinists do to Arminianism all
the time, usually to much worse extents; often calling it "another gospel" with a "weak
god", "sovereign man", "works-salvation", "doesn't actually save anyone", etc. Plus
things White himself has said to Hunt. (See Hunt's Response, which is included on the
site). They have certainly linked free-will to Catholicism more than we have linked
Calvinism to it (Since the Roman Catholic Church had since rejected that point of
Augustine's theology in favor of the Pelagianism it once condemned. This is what the
Reformers were forming their theology in reaction to. Hunt is probably just throwing
back at them what they (including White, as was mentioned above) have been doing,
especially given Calvin and Luther's positions on infant baptism, the validity of their
baptism by Catholic priests, the state Church; on top of the direct link of Calvinistic
doctrine to Augustine. I do agree that this "guilt by association" tactic was overdone,
however). It's amazing that people who can make the most cutting remarks about their
opponents' position can become the most sensitive when the other side finally responds!
Once again, the attitude seems to be that this position is infallible, and the other side so
false, so how DARE anyone think they can truthfully answer us back, even in the same
fashion we responded to them! One of the people who critiqued Hunt's manuscript has a
few pages on the site, (with one response from Hunt), and he finishes his last response
with 18 logical questions (similar to the ones thrown my way as discussed earlier)
construed to prove that God must have caused everything and therefore be responsible for
the circumstances that led to or necessitated sin. But then he was criticizing Hunt for
accusing them of making God the author of sin! Even if you think this is a legitimate
"paradox", one should at least understand why one would insist this made God the author
of sin. But they use this logic to try to prove their view, but when the other side tries to
attack the given point head on, "you're misrepresenting our position", thus deflecting
refutation. This is so ironic, especially when these same Calvinists then throw up "God
does as He pleases", "it's right because He does it", Romans 9, "it's His secret counsel,
your fallible mind can't understand it", etc.,as if to justify the fact that God really is
damning helpless souls for some fundamental reason besides sin (even if they insist is
was "because of sin"; because sin itself had to be created in order to fulfill that secret will
as these arguments imply). Which is it; is God the author of everything, and therefore sin
and the foreordained damnation of all individuals who will be lost, or is it really their
own choice, or is it just a script where God writes them into the story as guilty and
responsible for their own condemnation just because He wrote it? (which is then the first
choice) It's ironic how this writer started out on the defensive as another unfairly
represented Calvinist, but then took the offensive to claim to disprove Hunt by logic.
Then he added common reverse objection that God would be just as unfair if He
foreknew who would be lost and still created them. He then uses philosophy to prove the
"will" cannot be free, because it is "always determined by something else", comparing it
to a steering wheel. I'll say that Hunt focused too much on the will being "forced" in
conversion (If God did force the elect's will, and they are saved and avoid Hell, are they
really to be pitied?), and reiterating the idea of God as the cause of sin in light of most
Calvinists' denial of this. But Hunt did address in His book the fact that these issues are
ultimately above our full comprehension, quoting Scofield and others (p.125-6) to show
that the true "tensions" or paradoxical polarities that must be accepted are "God's
Sovereignty and man's free agency", not "...man's responsibility" with him being totally
helpless to respond. (How can Calvinists chastize others for not accepting "quiet
tensions" when they can't accept this one, and instead distort it into something that their
own minds have deduced?) And as I had earlier discussed, no doctrine is proven because
of some "unanswerable questions". What that shows if anything else is that the promoters
of the doctrine have overspeculated. Another page is called "A Non-Calvinist Replies to
Dave Hunt" (actually a post from a message board on the site), but this person
confessedly is a Lutheran, and thus a fellow monergist who agrees with the first two
points of Calvinism; and his arguments are defending "Calvinism"! But these are the
main points criticized by Hunt and others, so what good is it to insinuate, "see, even 'non-
Calvinists' reject Hunt's book"? And that message board is just a place for Hunt's
opponents to call him a fool and liar against "the truth" and constantly assasinate his
whole character just because of the things he said about Calvinists that they didn't agree
with. When someone opposes that, they tell that person he is not acting like a Christian!
How can they question Hunt's credibility with such a vitriolic ranting board like that? It
does not make their cause look good, for such an approach is often a sign of an
unobjective view and a weak position, as they should know from the KJV-Only leaders
they also oppose. The Calvinists have gone out of their way to make Hunt's book appear
universally bad or rejected by everyone (including those not even on their side) when it is
really just disgruntled Calvinists who have been knocked for a loop that are reacting this
way. Let's keep this on the issues and not get into ad-hominem arguments. Tell him to
correct the inaccurate statements; not to withdraw the whole book! (as if the whole non-
Calvinist position is worthless and automatically disproven by that, and not just the
hyperbole).
Once again, as for the "misrepresentation", there is nothing Hunt said that does not
accurately reflect at least SOME Calvinists' position. The problem is, there are so many
variants of Calvinism, just as when I and others spoke on the Baptist Board of people
being "elected to Hell", right away everyone jumped in disclaiming "Hypercalvinism"
and accused us of "misrepresenting" them or "not knowing their position". (And BTW,
White affirms that position in his comment on Rom.9, above). The prime example they
focus on is some things Hunt cited Spurgeon as teaching (namely a denial of Limited
Atonement). Spurgeon held the hybrid view, and some things are contradictory (even
though they don't see it that way). So when Hunt quotes one thing he stated, White and
others could go find something else he said, and say "see, he doesn't teach that; Hunt
doesn't know what he is saying; he is lying through his teeth"! (Still, Hunt should not
have made such a big emphasis of that claim, as it is another tangent and source of
unnecessary conflict we are being diverted to, and Spurgeon clearly advocated the other
points of Calvinism)
Also they complain that Hunt and others seem to omit the "all important matter that God
indicts men as sinners", and then pins their invention on Calvinists, while Calvinists
simply maintain the position that God owes no man anything and that those who perish
do so because of sin.
But the reason why they do that is because they do not buy the idea that God is indicting
them as sinners, because they see Calvinism as having God preordain people to Heaven
or Hell, and then have them born as sinners and pass them over just to fulfill that
pretdetermined decree. It's "the big picture" of the eternal decrees they are looking at, not
what "plays out in time". The non-Calvinists have heard White and others' explanation of
it. Remember, nearly all Calvinists use Romans 9, and some other passages such as 1
Pet.2:8 to try to explain that big picture: that God's decision of who goes to Heaven or
Hell ultimately comes from His eternal decree "before they were born and did good or
evil". This REMOVES their condemnation from the context of "their sin" (which they
committed in time, after they were born), into a decree that has nothing to do with,
as they cite them "doing any good or evil". You can not have it both ways. Either it is
from their sin, or it is not from their sin, but from God's sovereign decree, with the timely
"sin" as something added later to seemingly justify this decree! Ask them why, then it's
"God's sovereignty"; He "does as He pleases", He, as the "Potter" has the "right" to make
"vessels of wrath", etc. Accuse them of having God damn people apart from sin, then
"that is not what we believe; God justly leaves people in the condemnation for their
'freely chosen sin'", but ask them further, the "sin" or "choice" is something charged to
them through Adam; not something they actually did. Ask them why He would do this to
people and "hold them responsible" and withold salvation from many, then once again, it
is "God's sovereignty"; He "does as He pleases", He, as the "Potter" has the "right" to
make "vessels of wrath"! And around and around it goes. And even though people may
disclaim that, still, that is what they feel Calvinism leads to, plus once again, they are
answering Calvinists of all stripes, including hypers, supras, double predestinarians, etc. I
too feel that Calvinism ultimately leads to those conclusions, but unfortunately, Hunt and
others' tactic cuts to the chase of what the position ultimately leads to without making it
more clear that "yes, I know you say you believe this, but I'm showing you it really leads
to this". But once again, the Calvinists, including White, certainly argue the same way
towards Free Will, and often to a worse extent.
But everyone claims their variation is the "true" Calvinism, and if you're going to deal
with Calvinism, you must answer our exact representation of it, else the whole person's
teaching is dismissed as "dishonest", "misrepresenting", "not knowing anything about our
position" and "unqualified to say anything about it". (A quick way to "win" the argument
by default!). The shapeshifting nature of their position sometimes makes responding to it
like trying to grab ahold of smoke. The site:
http://www.geocities.com/cfpchurch/cloudcalvinism.html addresses this point and says
"If these things be so -and they are - then the effort needs to be made to avoid
generalisations. There seems to be a riding of two horses at one time here. On one hand,
we are all lumped together and yet on the other, we are divided when it suits. This is not
being consistent", and then likens this to the different types of dispensationalism. I don't
know much about that debate, but in the Calvinism debate, these differences and their
"generalizations" are being USED to their advantage; to brush off and discredit people's
criticism of their doctrine. As all will agree, this issue is a bit more crucial than
dispensationalism and others as it involves the very definition of the Gospel. The
differences are so great in some areas that Calvinists practically call each other
"Arminians" as we have seen. (I don't see non-Calvinists calling each other Calvinists, or
dispensationalists calling each other non-dispensationalists). So there is much
"misrepresentation" going on even within their own ranks. It is very hard to address each
and every little variations, so general agreements, such as the fate of the non-elect, the
misinterpretation of "sovereignty", etc. are the focus. Hunt's book is addressing all of
Calvinism, from Hyper on down, and didn't feel necessary to differentiate between them
but so much. (Vance's book deals with the different variations a bit more, and still shows
they ultimately lead back to the same thing).
Just remember, when Calvinists begin making their sweeping statements beating up on
non-Calvinism and its "man centeredness", and how it has "eroded the truth", is
"heretical", etc.; they don't then disclaim the lesser distinctions between the different
branches of Calvinism, —which all agree on "sovereignty" (however they express it) and
therefore are treated as being on the same side (the side of "truth") in the ultimate issue of
"sovereignty versus human autonomy"; so they should not then get mad and cry
"misrepresentation" when the other side responds and lumps their positions all together
in one rebuttal.
If you all agree on "total depravity" and "unconditional election" in which God did not
want to save a certain class of people, whether God actively reprobated them or passively
preteritioned them ("according to" their will), and that this is one of the distinctives of
"sovereignty", then that is what Hunt and the rest of us are refuting, and I think Hunt was
basically on the mark in that objective, even if everything he said was not completely
right.
We must also remember Peter's significant warning (2 Pet. 3:15,16) about Paul's writing,
upon which most of these concepts have been drawn. Many of these scriptures are simply
being twisted, and we are cautioned here that it is easy to misuse Paul's writings because
of the deep, hard to understand topics he addresses. The real author of this whole doctrine
is Augustine, whom Calvin drew heavily on. Nobody in the church argued about this
until him, despite the frequent correlations of "Calvin vs. Arminius"—"Reformers vs.
Rome"—"Augustine vs. Pelagius"—"Paul vs. the Galatians" (some even add "Christ vs.
the Pharisees"). The truth is, Paul and the rest of scripture is being read in light of
Augustine. I have seen a claim the earlier church's lean toward free will was just a
reaction to gnostic fatalism, and that there was a great "ignorance" of Paul until
Augustine. But that is totally unrealistic. There was great emphasis on Paul, in shaping
the doctrine of the Church, defining "law vs. grace", etc., including his teachings that are
in the center of this controversy. It was Augustine who came behind and simply put his
peculiar new interpretation on them. His doctrine was formulated purely in response to
Pelagius, rather than being a continuance of established apostolic church teaching. While
he is regarded as a great father by many, both Catholic and Protestant, his teachings were
far from pure. (Just look at his teachings on sex and the influence it had on the dark ages
church). The Reformers have been described as trading his doctrines of the church (the
Roman system) for his doctrines of salvation. (and some of his doctrines of the Church
they retained!) Even the other fathers saw him as too rationalistic, as I show on another
page in regards to the Trinity. He and the Western Church after him would not leave these
things as mysteries, but rather tried to rationalize them all. But this only caused more
confusion. Notice how the West is what produced all of these doctrinal controversies, not
the Eastern church, who had never accepted his theology in regards to salvation.
Augustine's main influences were among other things, Platonism and Origen, whose
teachings, as was mentioned, fit in well with these ideas. He was certainly right in
opposing the errors of Pelagius, but he went beyond the bounds of scriptural teaching in
speculating on God's decrees. Those five disputes all centered around the all important
issue of faith versus works as a means to salvation. The problem is, Augustine and Calvin
and some of the other Reformers went beyond that issue into deduction about God
leaving people hopelessly condemned. Romans 9, John 6 and other scriptures were
readily taken to support this as "God's prerogative". Yet the scriptures do not elaborate on
a class of people defined as "all who will be in Hell" and how they could not escape it. It
simply tells us how to steer clear of Hell, and to warn others. And then many Calvinists
take an agressive almost gloating "rub-it-in-your-face" approach, that almost says "Ha,
Ha, You don't like it, but that's too tough! This is the way it is!" They themselves may not
be aware of this, but this is sure how it comes across. This is where the heart of the issue
lies. If it weren't for all of this, then maybe we wouldn't have this debate today.
The root errors
Meanwhile, one can emphasize all of the "logical philosophical" problems of the
Calvinist views. In short, it basically confounds God's eternal and permissive wills, as
well as the confusion of the two realms, and the meanings of God's grace, mercy,
sovereignty and justice. They insist they have the proper interpretation of scripture, yet
many actually criticize people for claiming to be "biblicists" and even approaching the
scriptures in ignorance of "the great historic creeds and confessions" (Which ones they
are referring to happen to be Calvinistic). It seems these are really the final authority in
interpreting the scriptures. (This follows the historic Catholic condemnation of "exploring
the mysteries of the Bible" apart from Church authority! On the first board I mentioned in
the beginning, whenever the Arminians would focus on the Bible in a discussion,
someone would change the name of the thread to "Man on A Hill With a Bible". —And
this was on a Reformed site that emphasized "the Solas", including "Sola Scriptura"!
Shows what they really thought of that doctrine!)
The Calvinists, in another sly putdown of free-will as "immature", sometimes
acknowledge that when a person comes to Christ, based on experience and their reading
of the Bible, are led to believe they came of their own free will, but as they mature, then
become Calvinists. This is revealing, and looking back over my own walk, it becomes
more clear. Just reading the Bible on its own, you do get the impression that salvation is
open to all, and "one chooses to believe...and is saved". Passages like Romans 9 also are
understood according to their contexts (God's dealings with Israel compared to salvation
today), as which other way will you understand them? Something like unconditional
election or reprobation are unthought of. Other scriptures on predestination and
foreknowledge appear to point to realities from God's perspective that we can't fully
understand, and therefore do not change the method of salvation. But then you run across
Calvinistic teaching (in my case, in a catechism book containing the Westminster
Confession of Faith, in the back of the pews of a Reformed church, which ironically, had
gone charismatic and didn't use the books anymore anyway). Now you see Romans 9 and
the scriptures on predestination (to life or to destruction) interpreted to prove the
Calvinisic concept of unconditional election to salvation and reprobation to damnation.
These scriptures look like they fit this teaching, and as a new Christian, you are very
gullible (Eph.4:14). Some just reject it, and plead ignorance, while others "swallow their
pride" and accept it, becoming Calvinists. This to them is the ultimate proof that
Calvinism is just God's "hard teaching" or "offense of the Gospel", which He has
sovereignly opened their eyes to. I fell into the first camp, but then when I saw how much
of an issue this has become, I sat down, put feelings aside, and reread Romans 9 in its
context, and then the holes in the theory started to show. The other proof texts as well
turned out to be misread, or at least had other viable options that fit in better with the rest
of scriptural revelation. What this really shows is that the doctrine is not extracted from
scripture alone, but is a system of teaching that must be read into scripture, or scripture
read in light of it (whether it is Calvin's teaching directly, or any of its points as laid out in
confessions, creeds, or individual teachers), for it to seem true.
The contradiction of "perseverance", works and Lordship Salvation
Vance and Hunt even point out from the writings of Calvinist scholars that the fifth point
of Calvinism, perseverance/preservation of the saints, ultimately contradicts election,
as even though on the surface it speaks of God's securing (keeping) the elect, the way is
described in practice, it is the individual who himself must "persevere" in order to prove
himself being "elect" after all; regardless of whether he once "professed" Christ. And it is
not so much even perseverance in faith, but rather in "holiness" (works)! (This is one
reason many Calvinist groups could be just as legalistic and intolerant as any Arminian
fundamentalist, and even moreso. The Arminian will condemn many things people,
including Christians do, and "preach hellfire" at the unsaved, but at least they are less
likely to assume a professing Christian is unsaved!). Once again, the ball is placed in the
individual's corner, so after all the insistance that we cannot even choose to be saved, let
alone be elected by "works" we end up earning the final realization or "proof" of
salvation by works! Calvinists would probably deny this, but this is how their leaders
have expressed it, and Calvinists on one of the boards said that our belief that we are elect
is "fallible"— any one of us may have "believed in vain", and fall away, proving we were
not elect at all. Calvin himself went on to say that God strings such people along in the
belief that they are saved. Is that what you call "eternal security"? This is connected with
them warning people about Hell when it is supposedly already decided, as was mentioned
earlier. Another glaring hole in the theory, involving man's "inability" is that Calvinists
say only someone regenerated first can be the "whosoever" that will "call on the Name of
the Lord" to be saved, (because the unregenerate only "run away from God", "think
nothing of Him", "don't care", etc). Yet, if they don't "persevere to the end", they were
never elect at all, no matter whether they thought they "believed". But then how was this
"non-elect" person able to stop running, choose "contrary to his nature" and "call on the
Name of the Lord" in the first place (how was he able to get 'so close'?); and now, notice,
whoever does call on the Lord and is not necessarily saved. Something else was required
(a decree of personal "election" and perseverance until the end —whichever one causes
the other). They will claim such a person didn't really call out to the "true" God but to a
false one. But Calvin and others said that a person could really think they believed in the
true Jesus and not be elect. God even helped them in this. And then would these
Calvinists say the Jesus they themselves called on was false if they don't persevere? This
is quite serious. Look at the following quotes from Calvin himself:
I am aware it seems unaccountable to some how faith is attributed to the reprobate, seeing that it
is declared by Paul to be one of the fruits of election; and yet the difficulty is easily solved: for
though none are enlightened into faith...experience shows that the reprobates are sometimes
affected in a way similar to the elect, that even in their judgement there is no difference between
them....Not that they truly perceive the power of of spiritual grace and the sure light of faith; but
the Lord, the better to convict them and leave them without excuse, instill into their minds such
a sense of goodness as can be felt without the Spirit of adoption.
Meanwhile, believers are taught to examine themselves carefully and humbly, lest carnal
security creep in and take the place of assurance of faith. We may add, that the reprobate never
have any other than a confused sense of grace, laying hold of the shadow rather than the
substance, because the Spirit properly seals the forgiveness of sins in the elect only, applying it
by special faith to their use. Still, it is correctly said that the reprobate believe God to be
propitious to them, inasmuch as they accept the gift of reconciliation, though confusedly and
without due discernment...Nor do I even deny that God illumines their minds to this extent, that
they recognize his grace; but...the reprobate never obtain to the full extent or to fruition. When
he shows himself propitious to them, it is not as if he had truly rescued them from death, and
taken them under his protection. He only gives them a manifestation of his present mercy. [?!] In
the elect alone he implants the living root of faith, so that they persevere even to the end. Thus
we dispose of the objection, that if God truly displays his grace, it must endure for ever. There is
nothing inconsistent in this with the fact of his enlightening some with a present sense of grace,
which afterwards proves evanescent.

I therefore deny that they either understand his will considered as immutable, or steadily
embrace his truth, inasmuch as they rest satisfied with an evanescent impression; just as a tree
not planted deep enough may take root, but will in process of time wither away, though it may
for several years not only put forth leaves and flowers, but produce fruit. In short, as by the
revolt of the first man, the image of God could be effaced from his mind and soul, so there is
nothing strange in His shedding some rays of grace on the reprobate, and afterwards allowing
these to be extinguished. There is nothing to prevent him from giving some a slight knowledge
of his Gospel and imbuing others thoroughly. Meanwhile, we must remember that however
feeble and slender the faith of the elect may be, yet as the Spirit of God is to them a sure earnest
and seal of their adoption, the impression once engraven can never be effaced from their hearts,
whereas the light which glimmers in the reprobate is afterwards quenched. Nor can it be said that
the Spirit therefore deceives, because he does not quicken the seed which lies in their hearts so
as to make it ever remain incorruptible as in the elect. I go farther: seeing it is evident, from the
doctrine of Scripture and from daily experience, that the reprobate are occasionally impressed
with a sense of divine grace, some desire of mutual love must necessarily be excited in their
hearts. But as the reprobate have no rooted conviction of the paternal love of God, so they do not
in return yield the love of sons, but are led by a kind of mercenary affection. The Spirit of love
was given to Christ alone, for the express purpose of conferring this Spirit upon his members;
and there can be no doubt that the following words of Paul apply to the elect only: "The love of
God is shed abroad in our hearts, by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us," (Rom. 5: 5;)
namely, the love which begets that confidence in prayer to which I have above adverted. It hence
appears that the faith of some, though not true faith, is not mere pretence. They are borne
along by some sudden impulse of zeal, and erroneously impose upon themselves, sloth
undoubtedly preventing them from examining their hearts with due care. Such probably was the
case of those whom John describes as believing on Christ; but of whom he says, "Jesus did not
commit himself unto them, because he knew all men, and needed not that any should testify of
man: for he knew what was in man," (John 2: 24, 25.) Were it not true that many fall away from
the common faith, (I call it common, because there is a great resemblance between temporary
and living, everduring faith,) Christ would not have said to his disciples, "If ye continue in my
word, then are ye my disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you
free," (John 8: 31, 32.) He is addressing those who had embraced his doctrine, and urging them
to progress in the faith, lest by their sluggishness they extinguish the light which they have
received. Accordingly, Paul claims faith as the peculiar privilege of the elect, intimating that
many, from not being properly rooted, fall away, (Tit. 1: 1.) In the same way, in Matthew, our
Savior says, "Every plant which my heavenly Father has not planted shall be rooted up," (Matth.
16: 13.) (Calvin, Institutes of the Christian ReligionIII:ii, 11-12, Translation by
Henry Beveridge)

Here it all is. Both those whom God gives a totally false faith from the start, plus those
who were more genuine, but due to "sloth" didn't "persevere". You can argue that the
people are rejected[i.e "reprobate"] because they were hypocrites. But it was all because
God didn't elect them! But then they are still "responsible" because God said so! "Who
are you O man" to ask "why does He yet find fault?" This is just His way of damning the
non-elect due to "their own fault", and "the Potter" has every right to create these "vessels
of wrath" for that end (destruction) "for His own sovereign pleasure"! This twisted,
contorted reasoning is precisely why this teaching, with its proof-texting of Romans 9
(torn way out of its context) is so hideous and despicable! Just the words of some
"offended fallible human emotion", right? Just look at it: Any semblance of any type of
"assurance" is totally destroyed by this. Think about it. Who can really say for sure that
they have the faith Calvin says is necessary for salvation? A person who doesn't have it
thinks they do, but if they didn't experience it, how would they know? A person who does
have it could still be mistaken. Is it simply "feeble" and "slender"? Or false, from not
having enough "root". Ultimately, no one can really know, until they've lived their whole
lives, "persevered" and died. Then, it's too late! Or they just have to presume that they
have it. We all have periods where our faith is shaken, if we are honest with ourselves.
This can start a downward spiral, because just the very doubt seems to confirm that you
are not the plant that is properly rooted. And since election is unconditional, there is
nothing you can do. You can try to "persevere", but if it is not from God, it means
nothing; just an attempt to save yourself by your own effort. You can pray and plead, but
then that is just "mercenary affection" (Trying to get something from God— a pardon
from Hell, rather than coming to Him out of love for Him). Anyone who has ever
received Christ after being warned of Hell or told the benefits of Heaven can fit into this
category. Who then can be saved, really? How can any of this be called a gospel, let
alone the Gospel? (The "good news" once again is a message of salvation, not damnation,
or even some combination of both. Once you add "Christ saves, but..." it ceases to be the
good news). This theology has created a no-win situation, that has probably driven many
mad, and instead of magnifying God's glory, instead served to watching persons to
forever insure that Christianity would be seen as some sick mind control tool. I often
wonder whether the whole Enlightenment and the humanistic and atheistic revolutions
that followed may have been because of this doctrine alone. The churches that became
Unitarian Universalists as well as the liberals within the very Lutheran and Calvinist
denominations themselves, may have reacted against the idea that "God would damn any
of His children to Hell", but then if you take into consideration that it wasn't just the idea
of people going to Hell, (for doing evil and refusing to repent) but rather people being
preordained there, it makes much more sense why there would be such a revolt. And
then, a person "falling away" because they didn't "persevere" or "progress in the faith"!
On one hand, God is the one who gives the ability to get and remain saved, yet, it was
they, not God that allowed "sloth undoubtedly preventing them from examining their
hearts with due care", and "sluggishness [by which] they extinguish the light which they
have received". Once again, Are we really saved by grace through faith, or through our
own works (that we are only given an 'ability' to perform)? Does "depraved man" only
run from God, the "elect" seek Him, and therefore the fact that one does seek him serve
as assurance they are elect? Or do non-elect seek Him, but not in a valid way, or do not
persevere, because God has only given them an incomplete faith? "But God's eternal
decrees (of whether you are saved or lost) 'play out in time'". But once again, we are only
in time, so insisting on our own effort in the same breath as pronouncing God's eternal
decrees can only confuse most people. What is the difference between this and just saying
"you will be saved by works, and you must keep on working to the end"? So to look at
Perseverance from the script world, God has four people, two elect, two non-elect. One
elect person accepts Christ and perseveres till the end, and one non-elect never accepts
Christ. Simple, so far. But then the other two accept Christ in a Calvinist church, and are
welcomed as members of the "elect". Both later slack off and fall away. The church then
suspects they may have been "tares" all along, but still warns them that they are not
bearing the fruit, and could still face Hell. They have a choice to make. So one turns back
around, and this time perseveres, and the other never does. They of course turn out to be
the other "elect" and "non-elect" respectively. Once again, you have a seemingly open
time line where people have choice. But God only elected two of these people; one of
whom He allowed to fall away, but then brought back; or perhaps he wasn't really called
the first time [who knows?]; and other person was not elect, but He gave him a false faith
that would not last, so it looked like he got saved, but never did. Even if all of this was
truly "God's eternal decrees playing out in time", why must we focus on eternity so much
and not just say it is one's choice that will determine their eternity? That is the way it is
coming out in practice in time. .
"Tensions", "awesome asymmetry" "The unsearchable counsel of His will" "secret
knowledge"; all of this is being used to cover up contorted, incoherent double-talk. I'm
sorry to say it, but this has all the marks of Satan. Who else would want to get people too
confused to accept the simple plan of salvation, and at the same time plague those who
are already Christians with unnecessary, unnerving doubts? Who else would come
whispering some untestable hypothesis that 'makes logical sense' in one respect; just
enough to get people to buy into it, but otherwise is illogical, and read it into scripture
rather than judging it by scripture. "Hey, He's 'sovereign' isn't He? Wouldn't it be the
'right' of a sovereign to pass people over?" That's just like what he tempted Christ
with, essentially, "you have the right to throw yourself down, and God would send
His angels to catch you"; even quoting a scripture! But the Gospel is not about God
excersizing His full rights in condemnation; but rather the opposite! From this it can
become "Has God said 'just believe'? He knows you can't believe unless He decreed it!"
"Has God said He loves the world? He knows He only loves the elect". All of this stems
from the Calvinist trying to explain completely God's eternal frame of reference and
discern His decrees. Starting with the premise of unconditional election, the scriptures on
"falling away" all had to be interpreted in light of eternal decrees, and since we can't have
a person's faith be from free-will, it stands we would rather have God Himself give
people a partial faith and then take it away. So now, in light of corollary that salvation is
by works with God doing the works, you have God causing man to do all sorts of other
things, and some have gone as far as to have called on the name of the Lord and thought
they were saved. But now there is this OTHER thing they must have (prior
"regeneration"), which God withholds.
We could then always fall back on Romans 9 to explain God's deception of such people
("for His ultimate glory") and silence all objectors. All the scriptures on God's wonderful
bounty of lovingkindness, are superseded by "sovereignty". (In fact, all those scriptures
probably refer to the "elect" alone anyway). As I said, premise had to be stacked on
premise. Why couldn't Augustine, Calvin and Luther just preach the Gospel without
trying to add all of this conjecture, that nobody this side of eternity can possibly discern?
Why couldn't they leave eternity to God? (Like those who question this stuff are told by
its adherants) Is any other doctrine this hard to grasp, even the much argued over Trinity?
Clearly, there has been overspeculation and a crossing the line into the unknowable.
I know many of the Calvinists today sincerely believe in the doctrine because they see
unconditional election as a necessity to prevent them from claiming any merit for their
faith, and they have tried to clean lot of this up, and would once again shy away from
some of it, insisting that one can truly have assurance. But then they already admitted that
it could be "fallible", as was mentioned above. Plus some still question many people's
salvation based on Calvin's line of reasoning, (as we shall see, below).
Still, "true assurance" is said to be based on the "fruits" of our lives, but here is the
biggest problem in this thinking. It is true that fruits are evidence of salvation, but we still
must be careful on judging by fruits, because precisely what every religious legalist and
most nonreligious secular people do is look at the "goodness" in their lives and think this
is evidence they will get to Heaven. Remember, the whole point is that none of us can
ever keep the Law perfectly, so any works we do, even after regeneration, are incomplete
and imperfect. As with any other form of works salvation, where do you draw the line?
How much "fruits" count as proof of salvation? Just like the world, each person thinks his
fruits are good enough, and looks at another person with less fruits and questions his
salvation. So OK, a person openly living in adultery doesn't appear to us to be producing
fruit, but what about all the sins we commit, that nobody sees? What about "minor"
[apparently] ones that people do see? We are right back to the position the Pharisees,
Galatians and Pelagians and others were in, and what the entire New Testament preaches
against. —which Calvinists link Arminians to; but some of whom who are in complete
agreement with! It's amazing that people who reject a simple "choice" to believe on the
grounds that that is a "work" turn around and promote essentially a works salvation—
produce fruits or you won't make it to heaven!
Folks, salvation is by trusting in Jesus. We do good works to show that we love Him
(John 14:15, 1 John 5:3), not to try to "persevere until the end" to secure our salvation.
(Ironic to have to tell Calvinists this! But they're the ones in this case tying to play both
sides of the fence. Isn't it nice to really have your cake and eat it too, by getting to
chastize the Pharisees, Galatians, Pelagians, Catholics and Arminians for their "works-
righteousness", (because of their belief thast it's by man's choice), yet then be able to turn
right around and preach the same "works" that they do?)
In practice, it has often come to the point of a person striving to "perform" in order to
"make your calling and election sure" (2 Peter 1:10). This in turn becomes no different
than some [deeply Pelagian] extreme Holiness church or cult (who believe you can lose
your salvation) urging their people to remain "saved" through their works, with the fear
of hell still looming over everyone's head! We are left in the same dilemma Calvinists
pose for non-Calvinists. Salvation is up to us. Only worse, because in the end, it is really
determined by the eternal decree of God, which nobody can know or control. So while a
person is "actually saved" in the eternal decree, no one is "actually saved" in time! Since
we live in time and have no access to eternity now, what good is this? So it's actually
the four-point Arminian who is more likely to have true assurance, resting in Christ's
payment for his sins, rather than his performance. "But this will lead to antinomianism!"
(people sinning with impunity). But the Calvinist making this claim then makes the same
mistake as the Pelagian churches which accuse Calvinism of the very same thing! We
don't threaten people with Hell to scare them into obedience, and then call that keeping
them saved! (One reason past society seemed so Christian, but everyone quickly "fell
away" when the paradigm shifted). We warn people about faking a walk with God,
discipline them in the Church (disfellowship, etc) if necessary, and then leave that
person's walk with God. And also speaking of salvation by works, let's not forget to add
in Calvin's belief in salvation being secured by infant baptism. (Didn't a person I quoted
earlier associate "free-will" faith with "Romanistic notions of a sacrament"?!!) "But to
him who doesn't work, but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted
for righteousness" (Romans 4:5) is overridden equally in both churches. So believing by
free will is "works salvation", but working to ultimately procure a secure salvation is not!
How twisted can a doctrine get?
Many Calvinists have even criticized "once saved, always saved" the way non-Calvinists
understand it as "only making people [or even 'tares'/'goats'] comfortable on the road to
Hell". When I read of some Calvinistic Southern Baptists declaring that up to half of the
people sitting in their pews are probably unsaved (because they all simply "prayed a
prayer", or "went down to an altar", but otherwise do not have enough "fruits" such as
attendance, morality, etc.; see for example http://www.founders.org/FJ19/editorial.html),
it becomes quite hypocritical for them to be berating non-Calvinists and Pelagians when
they have fallen into the same trap of legalism! The Calvinist Baptist TV Bible study
show "Word Pictures" (which includes series such as "A Workman Approved By God",
produced by Mark Kielar of "Cross TV" ministries) also suggested most in churches
today who believe they are saved aren't for the same reasons. (He also heavily
emphasizes "works", even saying that people aren't saved "because they don't want to do
the work"). It is true that people can go down to an altar and pray a sinner's prayer and
still be unsaved (if they were only going through a motion and didn't even mean it), but it
is highly wrong to go speculating that half or more of the people in a Bible-believing
Church denomination fit into such a category. (And even if it happened to be somewhat
true, only God would really know that. A lot of people are disobedient in many ways, but
1 John 2:19 and the other scriptures cited are talking about total apostasy, not necessarily
inactivity. So we must warn, but not pronounce people into Hell). But this is perfectly
logical given Calvin's statements. A lot of Spurgeon's and Edwards' preaching (e.g.
"Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God", etc) also seemed to presume their audiences
were full of unconverted pretenders. This is probably what most inspired the old practice
of preaching hellfire at the congregation (which I discuss in Rightwing.html, and which
the mostly Arminian revivalistic fundamentalists miss, and which drove people in revolt
out of Christianity more than anything else. Of course the Calvinists can justify it "well,
that was good; they drove all those 'tares' out of the Church", but if the world-as-script
model is wrong, they really did the Gospel a disservice. Christ clearly tells us that it is
His job to weed out the tares, not ours, "lest...ye gather up the wheat with
them"(Matt.13:29)).
Calvinists are the first to criticize the belief that if we do certain things we will be saved
(and to this they include faith without prior regeneration), but do not realize that saying
"if you do certain works and persevere in it, it proves you have been elected by grace" is
just a rehashed way of saying the same thing! With such an emphasis on performance
based assurance, even if this is just "God's eternal decree of unconditional election by
grace playing out in time", still, in time, it is "work", that has a "reward...reckoned
according to...debt" (Romans 4:4, which Calvinists throw at free-will faith). Paul
certainly spoke in terms of winning a race (1 Cor. 9:24-26), but what was "earned" there
was crowns, not salvation itself. (Many Calvinists reject the idea of rewards and works
being burned at a Judgment Seat of Christ, as continuing a form of punishment for sin
and making people in Heaven unequal, but the New Testament clearly teaches it). Verse
27: "lest...when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway [same word
translated "reprobate"]", can be taken to prove this Calvinistic concept of assurance, but
this still cannot be talking about a performance based faith, because it would contradict
Paul's statement in Romans 9:16 "Not of him who wills or him who runs, but of God who
shows mercy". Once again, it is truly unbelievable that Calvinists so frequently cite this
to prove unconditional election and preterition, but then so blatantly violate it when it
comes to "perseverance"! This, as well as "falling away" also, one must be careful
judging that a person has been "castaway" or "drawn back unto perdition" and was
therefore never "elect". Here too, where do you draw the line when someone backslides a
bit? The scriptures warn us about this, but still the churches Paul spoke to had a lot of
different kinds of sin, but Paul doesn't readily conclude they are all "tares". (I find a lot of
such scriptures are referring to converts from Judaism "falling back" into that system,
which would be destroyed in a few decades).
This whole particular brand of Calvinism has come under the banner of "Lordship
Salvation". It stems largely from a movement within the Southern Baptist Convention
(criticized as softening by many people) in which, as was mentioned, the Calvinists are
trying to take over. It may also involve some of what is known as "Calvinistic
Methodism", which combines Calvinism with the strict "holiness" of the traditionally
Arminian/Wesleyan denomination. Such combinations tend to be very "lethal" mixtures,
as they combine the worst of both sides of the issue. I have avoided criticizing
"Lordship", because the term is misleading. The debate at first glance would sound like it
is over whether a person needs to accept Jesus as Savior and Lord, or just Savior. You
wonder how anyone could accept Him as Savior without accept him as Lord. But in
actuality, it is really about this issue I have been discussing, where leaders pronounce
large swaths of the church lost, because they're not producing enough "fruit". Works are
what are are used to determine whether one has really "accepted Him as Lord". It seems
to be currently centered around well-known apologist John MacArthur.
Kielar's program at one point rotated in the same slot with MacArthur's on the Word
Network. They seemed similar, but I was not sure if they were connected. Much later,
former TV star Kirk Cameron and evangelist Ray Comfort ran a series, "Way of the
Master", on the network where they were teaching on evangelism. It still seemed like this
show was produced by the same people as the other two (all were formatted almost like
infomercials), but they otherwise did not seem related, and it seemed good. They were
just teaching you to be more bold in witnessing, and to use the Law rather than a sinner's
prayer. More recently, another evangelist, Paul Washer appears on the scene (with plenty
of videos on YouTube), putting down the sinner's prayer, asking if a person wants to be
saved, and altar call even harder than Cameron/Comfort criticized it, and boldly claiming
that a convert must be showing signs of regeneration ("hatred of sin", "dynamic change
of life", etc.) before the evangelist can receive him as genuinely saved. He even at one
point says that "wherever two or three are gathered, there I am" is not enough. Christians
have to have some sort of tangible life change experience for Christ to be present in them.
So he's getting just like the worst of the charismatics, now. (And many of them won't
even place salvation on the experiences).
He I then hear is in the "Lordship Salvation" camp of MacArthur. Yet one video shows
him as a guest on Cameron's show. So they're apparently all connected after all! It struck
me as a bit of a stealth tactic how you could watch this string of shows for years, and not
until recently really get their true underlying doctrinal agenda.
Like many other Calvinists, they feign the language of temporal cause and effect by
talking about how all these people are going to Hell because of bad preaching and
evangelism tactics that give them a false conversion or assurance. (Washer focuses a lot
on Joel Olsteen). But if we go and preach from the Law, then we will have genuine
conversion. Yet in reality, everyone who is saved and lost is already preordained.
Evangelism then is basically making the "sheep" aware of their calling. On some of those
videos, Washer sounded just like Catholics and Church of Christ people I used to debate
with. They use all the same scriptures on "works" and "perseverance" (and ultimately,
"process sanctification") as those groups. One person on a board even said
"Grace=obedience"!!! That goes even beyond the Catholics and Campbellists' "Grace
provides instructions", based on Titus 2:11. The only difference is claiming God enables
you, rather than free will choice. But "grace" means unmerited favor. It is not
instructions to do something. As one person puts it, "Salvation is receiving; NOT giving!"
Obedience is what we give (in love). The grace gives us the motivation to live holy, in
love, (John 14:15, 1 John 4:19) not to gain heaven.
I liked Cameron and Comfort's method of using the Law, but at the same time, we must
remember that we are not back in the Old Testament (which seems to be the model
people use to pronounce judgment and charges of "idolatry" on the entire church). Grace
has appeared since then, and it's not simply rehashing the same Old Covenant system,
with only some "enabling" added.
They point out how in the Bible, people were always commanded to "repent", but they
interpret that is "turning from" to the point that if you still struggle with sin, you haven't
"repented" at all; and they also supposedly change the term "repent OF your sins to
"repent FROM your sins". "REPENT" literally means "a change of mind". It's "turning
from" in the mind. We all may have turned in our minds, but we still all give in to the
flesh, and there is nobody who has completely "turned" in their behavior. Else, they
wouldn't need Christ anymore.
Have the people preaching this stuff really repented of ALL their sins? Or are they just
"trying harder" than others? Do you really think that anyone has "thrown off their sins
completely". A lot of more "conservative" types say that, but nobody sees any literally
"perfect" people anywhere. So again, the answer is not judging, it is showing each other
the same mercy God has shown us (If the person judging has even received that mercy
himself, that is!) You either keep the whole law perfectly (and with God's "enabling"
empowerment, it's now hypothetically possible, so no reason to claim any "process"), and
are saved by it, or by your own standard, you are just as lost and following something
"too easy" as everybody else! This is what happens when you play around with works-
justification. It is easy to preach that when those you're preaching to cannot see your
whole life. No one can know if they're keeping it, because we don't see them, their day to
day living, and know their every thought. (which is ALSO included!) A person just has to
assert that they do compared to everyone else. 2 Cor. 10:12 says "they measuring
themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise."
In complaining about all the laxity in the Church, they often end up being just like the
laborers in the vineyard (Matt.20) who were angry that the master (representing God)
allowed other people "in" who didn't "do the work" like they did!
20:13 But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do you no wrong: did not you
agree with me for a penny? Take that yours is, and go your way: I will give unto this last,
even as unto you. Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is yours
eye evil, because I am good?
This is like the flipside of using Romans 9 to answer someone who objects that God is
being too hard. Don't make the same mistake and talk about "too easy" either, because if
you're held up to His perfect standard, you fall harder than the other person.
So just like with the old-line fundies and all their issues; this reaction to the problems of
the modern Church, and trying to go back to Spurgeon and Edwards or whoever is a bit
hasty. On one of the videos, Washer so correctly points out that Baptists have often
formed their doctrines in opposition to false doctrine, and end up just as false. But he and
others are doing the same thing, with this reaction to what they call "easy believism". The
preachers of old may have scared the populace into submission, but as I had said, this
created an eventual backlash. I grew up hearing many people tell horror stories of this,
and then it would turn out the preacher was sinning himself, and the Church as a whole
favored stuff like slavery and later racism, and still later, ruthless capitalistic greed (under
the premise of the cold war). The Church had something to gain by using fear, as more
people would come to church and give money (increasing finance and power), and people
saw that this was what it was largely about. Yet in the last 30 years, all I hear is
conservatives screaming that they want to go back to this "godly age", including the old
preaching. But the infrastructure of subculture was stacked on top of lies and self
deception all along (even when Puritanism and later movements dominated culture). If
we just go back, we recreate all the same problems.
So just because we see some people not producing enough works and then appealing to a
prayer does not give us the license to try to "up the ante" and make it harder to be saved.
We are not to now decide "well, all this "easy-believism" is causing all this laxity, so we
must scare them into obedience by saying they aren't saved".
Much like in the Hunt-White debate, people defending Washer react that anybody would
dare criticize back. Some will then give an emotional account from their own experiences
where they struggled with doubts and sins and some evangelist or group leader told them
they were saved, and that it was the devil making them doubt, and later, they find,
supposedly, that they weren't really saved after all. So it is bad personal experience
driving a lot of this, and it is better to just say such a person was not yet saved at that
point, then to say he was saved. Of course, now that the person has "true assurance"
(through his works and hatred of sin), he feels much better than he did before. Of course,
he probably doesn't think he may ever fall into sin or doubt again (especially given
Calvin's full teaching, as we saw!)
Washer said that when a person hears about "the God of SCRIPTURE; he will angily
state 'I could never love a God like that!'"
But that's not the issue. A god like that (not of scripture, but of scriptures twisted to
support Calvinism and Lordship teaching) is not TRUSTWORTHY. A god like that leads
people to think that they are His "elect", and then tricks them later on (this right our of
Calvin's own mouth!) Who knows what He would do to those He does take into Heaven?
A god like that says he does not desire the death of people when he does! A god like that
says he did not come to destroy men's lives, but to save, when destruction is as much a
part of his deliberate plan as the salvation of a relative few. A god like that proclaims
"good news to all men", but really means "only a select few", who must be "regenerated"
for it to even sound like good news. (i.e. it is basically an esoteric term. And even to a
majority of those regenerated, it doesn't sound like good news). We could go and preach
that God commands child sacrifice (and even pull out a couple of scriptures that at first
glance make it look like He did), and people would respond the same way. That doesn't
mean it's right.
Again, when I hear these debates, it just bring to mind Luke 9:55,6 where the disciples
thought that fires should be rained down on a town because of their rejection of Christ,
and He told them they knew not what manner of spirit they were of, for Christ came not
to destroy men's lives but to save. If Christ's entire mission were part of an election
scheme depending just as much on damnation of individuals, then he would
basically have come to "destroy".
To understand then what all of these scriptures speaking of "false faith", "making your
election sure", "showing yourself approved" and "perseverance" to be saved were
addressing, we must remember that many people in the New Testament, beginning with
the ministry of Jesus Himself while still here, were hastily accepting Christ, but they did
not understand what the purpose of His mission was. So they "believed" (John 8:31), but
eventually their true fruits surfaced (v.37ff). Most others of this class, while not disputing
Jesus to His face would show their true colors when persecution would come and they
quickly abandoned Him. It's in this context that we have all the scriptures on
perseverance until the end. Like the others, these people "believed" and followed for the
wrong reasons. Remember, Israel was looking for a Messiah for mostly political reasons,
so many really did not understand His Gospel message—that they needed to be saved
from sin; not the sin of the pagans, but their own sin. They still thought of themselves as
the "good guys" waiting for God to put down the "bad guys", yet they were just as sinful
as the ruthless pagans. There is no thought of any Spirit bearing witness with their spirit,
or them thinking they were saved. They had their agenda, and Jesus showed that they
were not really following Him, though they professed. As soon as He began speaking of
dying, it knocked their whole agenda for a loop, and even the disciples were ready to
deny Him and run and hide. Why believe in Him if He's only going to die and not rise up
and crush the Romans and restore the kingdom to Israel right now? Many gentiles had
also fallen into a similar misunderstanding or misuse as well. (Such as those described
who would rise up and apostasize, drawing away their own following, thus using the
Church for control). Yet if people "persevered" in faith, then it would have shown that
they truly understood Christ's purpose (i.e. the true Gospel). Today we have many cults,
liberals, etc. who "believe" in Christ, but knowingly twist or reject parts of the Bible; in
effect creating a whole different concept of Christ (as different as the political Messiah of
Israel), and most do not even speak of thinking they are "saved", or if they do, they make
up their own idea of how to be saved (being good, keeping certain works, being baptized
into their group, etc.). All of these are the people who "believed in vain", not someone
who really believed they were saved, but fell into sin.
When I see someone who professes Christ but lives in open sin, I question and wonder if
he's really saved, but I can't declare that he is not. This is where "do not judge" comes in.
Of course, I try to admonish them to repent. If they don't, I leave it in God's hand, not
pronounce him "unsaved". There are other evidences you can look for, such as the basis
of their profession. One person I know seems to think he is Christian because he was
raised in a Christian home. Of course, he'll say he "believes". He puts on an act around
his family and church, but lives like a total heathen the rest of the time. When confronted,
he says "yeah, yeah, I know", but just continues the way he's going like there is nothing
wrong at all. So this person I can really question as not really understanding and
accepting the true Gospel (but I still can't be completely sure). And the average Christian
these Calvinist leaders are questioning I don't think, is even living that questionably. So
fruits aren't solely holy living, because then salvation does become tied to works.
Calvinism and Arminian revivalism: Is Calvinism the least problematic?
Calvinists often speak of getting people to "bow" or "bend the knee" to "God's
sovereignty". But only God can do that, and that IF the doctrine in question is really true.
There are a core of essentials we must agree on, yet some of these other doctrines are just
plain debatable, whether we think they are as clear and important (or even more) than the
Trinity or not. (The person I debated with on the first Internet board made this claim! The
revivalists, who are often rightly criticized by Calvinists, make similar claims about their
positions, such as KJV, separation, etc. So they also have to be careful about being just
like them: intolerant, reading ones' own ideas into the scriptures, etc.) We must also allow
questioning. I do know that Calvin, Luther and others often blasted away questioners as
though they were just some obstinate "mockers" or something, but they too were not
perfect. Many of the most militant non-Christians were turned away from the truth,
because the churches silenced them when they asked questions. If they are just mocking,
let God judge that. Who are we to be so indignant? If we know that this doctrine is so
"loathsome" to people, then why are we going to try and force it on them, almost proudly,
and not allow questioning? Especially when it is not even universally agreed upon by
orthodox Christianity? People have even given up on God figuring they must not be
"elect" since they can't understand it. This is obviously another tool of the Devil. As I
keep telling the revivalist types, we must remain aware of our own sinfulness and
fallibility when dealing with others.
To their credit, the Calvinist emphasis on human helplessness has shaped the world view
of some of them for the better, as the "Arminian revivalist" (Fundamentalist) emphasis on
human free will has corrupted their world view of a lot of them to the legalistic hostility
to society I criticize in Rightwing.html ("Traditional Correctness"). Some, such as
respected preachers like Sam Jones and Charles Finney had gone way overboard in
describing salvation in purely legalistic terms, (Jones said the sinner "saves himself", just
like the Calvinists charge all free-will advocates of believing) and even denying man had
a fallen nature—just like Pelagianism (to Finney, a fallen nature was seen as providing
man an "excuse" for his sins). That is why I quote a lot from Michael Horton, of the
Congress of Reformed Evangelicals and Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals on that
page. He says so many things that need to be said to the revivalistic Christian Right and
separatist fundamentalists, which expects fallen man and American society to be good
and follow God, and gets angry at them for rebelling. Some Reformed, realizing man was
hopeless in sin unless regenerated by God, did not place such demands on people, and
thus did not take such a world hating view, which has caused much of the alienation of
the Church that the revivalists complain about. But this does not mean one side is all
right, and the other all wrong. Many Calvinists have placed the blame for the ignorance,
legalism and culture-hating of revivalistic fundamentalism largely on its Arminian
background. Between the lines, Horton, for instance ultimately turns the culture war into
a "Calvinism vs. Arminianism" issue, which I feel does weaken his message. At the same
time, the Calvinists also try to blame the opposite trends— the liberalization of
Christianity and pragmatic self-help type tendencies of modern evangelicalism on "the
human elevating message" of many churches (e.g. that God "loves everybody" and man
has "control" over his salvation, for instance).
While certain elements of Arminianism, and especially the philosophy of the leaders cited
above may have helped shape these tendencies in the church, Calvinists need to beware
doing to the "Arminians" the same thing they rightly criticize them for doing to the
"humanists" and others— blaming a belief system one does not agree with on all of their
problems. For if this were the case, and a Calvinistic outlook was the answer, they would
have to show that the Calvinist world— Calvin's Geneva, the Puritans, the Reformed
Church in South Africa under apartheid, various Calvinistic Baptists and other
"fundamental" Reformed groups; were free of legalism, hostility to people and culture,
and other problems. Some may not have been quite as "separatist" as the revivalist types,
while some were in fact the "worst of both worlds", holding the errors of both separatist
fundamentalist and Reformed movements, especially given their view of assurance and
"man's responsibility" as shown above. Biblical Discernment Ministries and many
Calvinistic Baptist groups are good examples of the overboard separatism Horton
criticizes, and popular Religious Right leader D. James Kennedy has also been described
as "a revivalist in Reformed clothing". Worse yet, radical right-wing Reconstructionists
North and Rushdoony; whose "liberation theology of the Right" Horton criticizes; are
Calvinists! The infamous Fred Phelps ("God hates fags") is Calvinist! In actuality, the
worst of these elements in Protestant and evangelical history are more naturally tied to
Calvinism, as I'll explain next. Yet all were known for their harshness at times (yet
Calvinists often try to excuse this, much like the fundamentalists try to excuse the errors
of their past). Calvin himself and Luther, were also very harsh with the very "sinners" (or
whoever they thought was wrong), whose wills were supposedly so "bound". Once again,
since God still holds them "responsible", why not us be so hard on them as well?
Spurgeon and Edwards' hellfire preaching had just as much if not more influence on
fundamentalist revivalism as Jones and Finney. But it was from here that a lot of the
enmity between evangelicalism and the general populace developed, because trying to
scare people with hell (and the Law one is condemned to there for breaking) in the long
run only breeds rebellion, (Romans 7), ESPECIALLY given a system of unconditional
election and limited atonement where people are ultimately preordained to Hell! This
gives more fear than hope, and only leads many people to give up the Christian life.
Tony Campolo The Success Fantasy, pp.143-144 points out the influence Calvinism had
on the individualistic spirit of American conservativism including evangelicalism—
which Horton blames on Arminianism. Speaking of Calvinists such as the Puritans in
early America, “…certain Protestants, particularly those in the Calvinistic traditions, have
twisted Reformed theology in order to make wealth the evidence of divine election…
there were some Calvinists who wanted concrete evidence that God had chosen them to
be saved. The doctrine of predestination declared that God had already decided who
would be saved and who would be lost. However, these Calvinists still wondered what
the evidence or signs of divine election might be…Many Christians answered that the
saved would know of their election because they would economically prosper. Thus,
prosperity became the evidence of a right relationship with God.”
It is obvious a whole host of problems that would erupt later on could be traced to such
an ideology. If wealth is a sign of God's election, then right there, the "barbarian"
Africans and Indians then are not only divinely cursed (as evidenced also by their
demonic religion), but also their enslavement or eradication is justified. It was from here
that a heavy reliance on the Old Testament came into play, with the account of the driving
out or killing of the Canaanites ordered by God, and the preaching of prophets like Elijah
becoming the models for the "Christian" mission, with Church and secular state going
hand in hand. (Thus, unwittingly, the Pharisees and Galatians were essentially sided with
over Christ and Paul!) If the people could not be enslaved for long, then oppression
would continue. The elevation of the people to equal status in society would be like the
Israelites mixing with the pagans, and here we see the roots of the nation's racism and
segregation. Sure enough many blamed the country's supposed moral "downfall" on
allowing the cultures to mix, and it even spreads into the Church in the form of the
"contemporary versus traditional" debates. (Supposed 'judgments' on the nation in the
form of terrorism and natural disasters are also said to be a result of this). Racism then
became replaced by class war, in which you still had one group on top, and others below.
It was formerly drawn largely on race, but people could cross from one side to the other
now. Those on the top side, were said to be "deserving" because of their "hard work",
(while still appealing to "divine providence"); while the poor are considered to be lazy.
Citing a so-called "Protestant work ethic", the Christians often led this fight, to get the
government to stop taxing the well-off so much, and supposedly giving it all to the
"undeserving". Hence the basis of the "Christian Right" with its "Christian America"
concept Horton rightly criticizes. And Covenant Theology, which Horton advocates, is
where the notion of America as "the new Covenant nation even surpassing Israel of Old"
he criticizes obviously comes from. Yet the Right's rhetoric ignored how the powerful at
the top are often greedy and dirty dealing. Hence, this doctrine of, as it were, earthly
rewards for Christ's Elect is a hallmark of the Right-wing today. It also manifests itself in
the popular Christian teaching today where leaders preach "contentment" to the masses,
(with God sending all our pain for good to "build character"), while they themselves live
very well off, believing God is rewarding them for their "service"; as well as the Health
and Wealth teaching that extends the material blessings to the people as well (after they
give to the preacher first, of course). All of these things have become associated with
Arminian "revivalism", but we see the connection of them to Protestantism's Calvinistic
origins.
Basically, through Augustinianism, largely, Christianity was turned from the Good News
of God's mercy through Christ back into a purely negative message of condemnation
under the Law (and many Calvinists, including Horton himself and especially the
Lordship advocates, frequently mention we should be preaching "Law"). This was
supposed to scare the "elect" into the fold, and harden the non-elect. It was God's
sovereign right, so it could not be questioned. Yet it drove much of society from the
Church, creating the modern secularized nations of the West today. So the reason why so
much of these problems today seem to be coming from the Arminian church, is because
when you have a system of doctrines that is so deliberately "hard", people naturally scale
it down. You can just blame this on "human sin and sentimentality", or "the way our
limited understanding wants to make God", but anything called "the good News" should
not have had to be scaled down to remove so much bad news! To claim it is only "good
news" to the elect is to turn the plain words of scripture into some esoteric code language.
People can still not want good news, because they want to hold on to their sin, or they
think they can get into Heaven their own way, but the concept of salvation being offered
would still sound like "good news" to them. The Gospel is about what God has done, not
what He could do, or has the "right" to do.
So what happens is that "hyper-Calvinism" becomes scaled down to Calvinism, and
Calvinism becomes scaled down to infralapsarianism and "single-predestination", and
then others come and scale it further down to allow for free-will, because that sounds like
it is more consistent with "man's responsibility" and thus justify the harsh measures of
hell and judgment, even though the Calvinists insist they believe in man's responsibility.
Then, others scale it down even further to allow for people to somehow be saved without
Christ. And so on. Horton, White and others try to suggest that true Protestantism is at its
root Calvinistic, and they do have a point, as what we are seeing in the Church today can
as we see, be considered scaled-down Calvinism. However it's fruits are still not always
good, and the definitive Protestant principle of salvation by faith/grace alone does not
justify all of the other doctrines and practices done under its banner.
As was discussed before, perfectionism and Calvinism can go together well, since if
people are not producing enough "fruits", and yet it is God who regenerates by
unconditional election, (and regeneration produces "holiness", good works, etc) then you
can reasonably demand perfection and if it is not produced, simply conclude that the
person just wasn't elect! So even "legalism" and "works salvation" cannot be blamed on
Arminianism and Pelagianism, because Calvinism has crossed over into this as well. On
the flipside, look at how many Calvinistic denominational institutions have also
liberalized or watered down the Gospel. So every error and flaw that can be found in
Arminian groups can be found in Calvinistic groups, thus Calvinists are wrong to blame
Arminianism, when it is human sinfulness that causes apostasy, whatever group one may
side with. We all must realize that our traditions are at most mixture of truth and error.
This is the way to avoid unnecessary conflicts with other believers, and remain a unified
body of Christians preaching the one Gospel to the world. Since we are all limited beings
trying to comprehend God's revelation, we can have differences of view on issues like
this and still be true to the Gospel. One Calvinist told me "But the point is, reason alone
suggests that the sinner should claim the promise of Revelation 22:17 and conclude that
he is among the "whosoever" and claim the gospel promise for himself. If he refuses to
come, he may conclude (on death) that he was justly left alone to perish in his chosen
sins. The divine reasoning and pleading then to the sinner is: 'Turn ye, turn ye…why will
ye die?' The sinner need only concern himself with the thought that there is mercy for
sinners and he qualifies and should therefore seek the Lord. I usually end any gospel
tracts which I write with the words: 'Why not you? Why not now?'". This is all I am
arguing for. This we should focus on and not argue on how God accomplishes this from
eternity. We all know that God shall work all things out in the end. (Col.1:20, Eph.1:10,
Acts 3:20, 21)
Summary of Biblical points:
God "knows our frame; that we are dust"—he knows our limitations and judges us
accordingly (Psalms 103:14)
God tempts no man, and with every temptation (including that which God allows for His
plan) offers a "way of escape" (James 1:13-4, 1 Cor.10:13). Even though these passages
are directed to the saved, they still show divine principles of His dealings, as are
"common to man".
God/Jesus show sadness for man's stubbornness, and pleads with them to repent. God
does not delight (gets no pleasure) in the death of the wicked, (Matt. 23:37, Luke 19:41-
44, Ezekiel 18:30-32 and 33:11)
"Shall not the God of all the earth do right" (Genesis 18:25). This is spoken by Abraham,
asking God not to destroy people, not God explaining why He is doing something man
thinks is unjust. It shows man can know the standard that God holds Himself to, so we
cannot attribute just any type of action to Him and claim it is "right" just because He does
it, and brush off opposition as "flawed human reasoning".
"Today, IF you will hear His voice, do not harden your hearts..."(Hebrews 4:7/Psalms
95:7,8)
Hell was made for willfully rebellious angels (not man, as in predetermined reprobation)
(Matt.25:41)
To whom much is given, much is expected" (Luke 12:48) . In the Calvinist scheme, to
whom NOTHING is given, EVERYTHING is expected (i.e. "nothing" being in the sense
that they are not even given the ability to repent.) This has God being harder on men than
on angels who were created in a state of perfection and did consciously choose to sin.
God is not offering people a choice that most cannot make, but rather life itself. (Deut.
30:15, 19)
God is love, not hate, primarily. Wrath and hatred are only a reaction against sin. (1 John
4; cf. Deut.11:28,etc.)
"Unpardonable Sin" —would be moot if all "non-elect" were granted no possible pardon
for their sins. (Matthew 12:31, 32; )
Connected with this, a certain sin renders it "better if one had not been born" (Matthew
26:24). This too would lose its meaning if all "non-elect" were so decreed, (and therefore
better off not being born).
God is "no respecter of persons" (Acts 10:34)
"The publicans and harlots go into the Kingdom before you" (Matthew 21:31). People
with a lot of sin might actually be in more of a disposition to receive Christ than those
who look righteous, because they in all of their sin will be more likely to see their need of
a savior and have no pretense of righteousness to falsely trust in.
Ephesians 2:3 "we...in times past...were by nature the children of wrath, even as
others." Rather than groups people are eternally, unconditionally decreed into, all
(including those who are now "children of God") were once children of wrath, but it
could be crossed out of.
1 John 3:8-10 "children of God" and "children of the devil" are defined by whether one
"practices" sin. Nobody was born in the former state, so "children of the devil" is once
again not an eternally decreed state of some, but all who are saved once crossed out of it.
John 6:70, 17:12 one of the "chosen" ended up lost, so the calling or not calling in this
chapter does not equal election to salvation and preterition to damnation
Matt.22:14 "for many are called, few are chosen". This shows that "Calling" is not
something that is only towards those who get saved, while the rest were not "called" to be
saved at all (i.e. unconditionally rejected).
And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw ALL men unto me. (John 12:32)
"—to bear witness of that Light, that ALL through him might believe." "That was the true
Light, that lighteth EVERY man that cometh into the world." (John 1:7,9)
"For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world
through Him might be saved" (John 3:17)
"God our Savior, who will have all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the
truth...the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all. (1 Tim.2:3-6)
"tidings of joy to ALL men" (Luke 2:10, 11). The good news of Christ cannot be limited
to only a select few, with all others passed by.
The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slowness, but is long-
suffering toward us, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to
repentance. (2 Pet. 3:9). Can't refer to just "the [unconditionally] elect", whom there
would be no chance or even question of them perishing.
Romans 11:4 "Did they not stumble that they fall? Let it not be!"; v19ff— We are not to
be "high minded" in thinking those not saved were cut off in favor of us. Those cut off
can be grafted back in, and "faith" versus "unbelief" are the only criteria for this.
"even so these also have now not believe, that through the mercy shown to you they may
also obtain mercy. God concluded all in unbelief so he can have mercy on all"(Romans
11:31-2) [i.e. give all a chance] He does not conclude all in unbelief to have mercy only
on some.
2 Cor. 3:14-16: "But their minds were hardened [blinded]; for until the present the same
veil remains on the reading of the Old Testament, not taken away, because this veil is
taken away in Christ. But even to this day, when Moses is read, a veil lies on their heart.
Nevertheless, whenever one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away". Blinding is
corporate, but individuals could get out of that blinded state.
"Law" contrasted with "faith" (Gal.3:19 Rom. 7:7 Rom.7; 8:2 cf. 1 Cor.15:56, Rom.4:15,
2.Cor.3:6-8). Precisely since it could not be kept, and therefore couldn't save, but only
condemn, Paul calls it "the Law of sin and death". By making faith as unattainable as the
Law, Calvinists are making the Gospel into a new "law of sin and death", which leaves
many without hope.
"For to will is present with me, but how to perform that which is good I do not find".
(Rom.7:19) The "will", rather than being "bound" has the ability that we lack in actual
"performance" (work). This is why salvation must be by faith.
"believing" and "faith" are diametric opposites of "work", so one cannot argue that free-
will faith is "works-salvation" (Romans 4, Gal.2:15, 3:2, 5)
When "belief" is called a "work" it is credited to God, rather than the man doing a "work"
in order to "save himself" or otherwise contradict grace alone. (John 6:28, 29)
This does not deny that we can ask at first, (the simple initial form of "faith" or "belief")
and that is all one needs to do, and this is in no way a "work". God does give us more
faith when we come to him and ask, thus it is His work, and only in that sense it is a
"gift" (Mark 9:24, Luke 18:13)
Prodigal son pictured as deciding to come back to the father without any particular
"election" by the father (Luke 15)
"God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble" (1 Pet.5:5/James 4:6). When we
choose to be humble, what we then receive from God is still considered to be "unmerited
favor" rather than a 'reward' that is 'deserved'
God can accomplish His will through weakness. (1 Cor. 1:25). (e.g. —Calvinists think
God giving man a choice in salvation makes Him "weak")
Difference between "legal" charge of sin and "faith" and "knowledge" supports "age of
accountability", meaning the stillborn, for instance, are not condemned, even though they
are "sinners", by virtue of posessing the nature. (James 4:17, Rom. 4:20, 5:15, 14:23). It
is the acts (commission of sins; i.e. works) we are condemned for, (Eph. 5:5-6, Col.3:5-6,
Rev. 20:12,13), in conjunction with our "knowlege"; not being born with the condition by
itself.
Luke 9:55,6: Christ came not to destroy men's lives but to save. If Christ's entire mission
were part of an election scheme depending just as much on damnation of individuals,
then he would basically have come to "destroy". He also told His disciples they "knew
not what manner of spirit they were of" for wishing the destruction of others, rather than
doing it to show them His "glory".
Summary of misinterpreted Scriptures
Romans chapter 9, Isaiah 6:9, 10 Romans 11:8, Deuteronomy 29:4 and others — context
is describing Israel as a group, (Rom. 9:25-33, Isaiah 29:16 & 45:9 and Jer. 18:4-6ff &
25:34) hardened for God's purpose of spreading His grace to the Gentiles, not reprobating
individuals to Hell (passages do not discuss a hypothetical category of "all who will be in
hell"). Whole debate is "faith" versus "inheritance", NOT "election" versus "free will"!
Rom.9:10, John 1:13 — the plan of salvation and its carrying out is not of "blood" or "the
will of the flesh" (inheritance), "the will of man" (human schemes and ideas of how to be
saved), or of "him who runs" (strives to be good), but of God who shows mercy. Not
saying a person can't choose to accept the mercy God is showing.
Malachi 1:1-4, 3:6, and Genesis 25:12 — Jacob and Esau are referring to the nations that
would come from them, not God's personal hatred of the man Esau
Romans 5:12-19 Sin and death came through Adam, and justification and life came
through Christ. This says nothing about any "choice" or "legal imputation" of sin, apart
from people's actual sins. "Death spread to all men, because all sinned" says v.12. We
received our sin nature from Adam, which causes us to sin, and the "free gift" the second
Adam offers us is "NOT like the offense" (v.15). No one could help being affected by the
offense, but anyone can choose to receive the gift (v.18, 19).
John 6:37, 44/65 and 15:16 (none can come unless called) — Only certain people were
being called at this time before Christ's death, resurrection and outpouring of the Holy
Spirit on "all flesh" (Is.54:13, Jer.31:34, Micah 4:2) referred to here. Israelites were
hardened and not called. Doesn't say only a select group would ever be called. Verse 45
says "everyone who has heard AND learned from the Father comes to me", so this does
not mean "everyone who is called will come"
Romans 8:30 Whoever is "called" will also be "justified" and "glorified". "Called" in this
instance means "named" or "bid". It is not talking about selecting only some while
passing over others.
Acts 13:48, "Those 'ordained to eternal life'" ordained means "disposed". Example of
such a person in Mark 12:34, who was "not far from the Kingdom of God".
2:47, "such as should be saved" was "those who were being saved".
John 10 "sheep" that always hear His voice — "sheep" is a group (disposition) that one
can become apart of who was formerly not apart of it (they didn't always hear His voice)
Proverbs 16:4: "The LORD hath made...the wicked for the day of evil"; 1 Pet.2:8
'appointed' unto disobedience' and 2 Pet. 2:12, 17 & Jude 4 — The opposite of "sheep"; a
group that one can belong to and then cross out of. (All of us were once apart of it) The
evil was long ago appointed and condemned, not particular individuals who committ it.
Acts 4:27-28 those guilty of crucifying the Son of God came together "to do whatsoever
God's hand and counsel determined before to be done." The crucifixion was
predetermined, but it doesn't say the particular individuals were.
"But our God is in Heaven, and does whatever He pleases" (Psalms 115:3, 135:6) But
nobody believes this means He can lie or go back on His word, so whether doctrines such
as reprobation are true or not, you cannot use this to support it. The second passage
mentions the temporal destruction of certain people, but context of either of them does
not address preordained unconditional condemnation of individuals with no chance of
repentance because God does not want to save them.
Isaiah 45:7 God creates "evil". In this context, it means adversity or calamity. This is a
punishment for sin, not creating sin itself. Sin is a falling short of God, (a negative), not
some positive "thing" He creates.
Rom 3:11/Psalms 53:2,3— "None seek after God". Man does not of his own "crave"
(Gk). God, but this does not mean he can't see his sin and ask for foregiveness
Isaiah 64:7 and Hosea 7:7 "No one calls on Your Name" are used to answer "Whosover
calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved" (Joel 2:32/Acts 2:21). But these are talking
about the national hardening of Israel, not saying that no one can ever call on the name of
the Lord without essentially being saved first.
Eph 2:8 "For by grace are you saved through faith...it is the gift of God" — Faith is not a
gift in the sense that God gives some and withholds from others leaving them unable to
repent. Grace ("by [what]...) is the subject and salvation (...are ye saved") is the predicate.
How is salvation achieved? If through faith (as the means), then IT (the grace that leads
to salvation) is a gift
"God leadeth thee to/perhaps will give repentance" (Romans 2:4, Timothy 2:25) It is God
who leads to repentance, but He leads all, and if people consistently refuse, they become
hardened, and then there is no guarantee they will receive another chance of repentance.
"God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit
and belief of the truth:" (2 Thess 2:13), As in Matt.22:14, people who answer God's call
and come to Christ were "chosen"; this does not specify all else being "passed over".
I Corinthians 1: 26-29— Not many "wise" are called, but God has chosen the "weak"
things to confound the wise. People who are wise tend to think they are too smart for the
things of God. Someone who does not have worldly wisdom may be more likely to see
his need and come to God. That is the point of this passage. You may be "foolish", but
then you are what God uses more, and He will use you to confound the wise. If taken as
"unconditional election", it would not be unconditional, as it is based on "something in
(or about) the man", which that side of the debate always denies.
Matthew 11:20-26 "But woe unto you Chorazin...Bethsaida! For if the mighty works
which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented in
sackcloth and ashes" But the qualification for them repenting is them seeing His mighty
works, not electing them, because the people who were seeing those works were not
repenting, and His point was that they were more hard hearted then those heathens, not
"God could have elected them, but passed them over instead". Some may have repented
of God had done more to reach out to them, but they had enough light that they could be
judged, and plenty would "believe" if "they could only see", but God guarantees nobody
any such special revelation.

Summary of Calvinism's biggest flaws


On one of the boards, the question of "what causes one to differ from another" was held
up as the "stumper" for Arminianism. It is true that that is a hard to answer question,
without it being construed as still having something "good" innate in one who chooses
right. However, "what causes you to differ from another" is not a biblical question in that
repect. However, Calvinism is not without its holes as well.
•Assumes "called vs. blinded/sheep vs. goats/God's seed(wheat) vs. Satan's
seed(tares)/good ground vs. shallow, stony or thorny ground" to be eternal states.
So these "called" were never "blind"; they never did not hear His voice (as the sheep);
they never did not believe in Him (as the "children of God" rather than the Children of
Satan—John 8:42,44, 1 John 3:8-10); they never did not yield fruit or previously turn
away for not understanding, the cares if the world, or fear of persecution (and nobody
who ever did those things could be saved)
Therefore, they were never in any real sense, lost sinners, but at the worst, could have
been nothing more than backslidden saints (who simply didn't know they were saints).
As the Primitive Baptists claim (in opposition to the other Calvinists who deny this
point), the preaching of the Gospel is just feeding sheep rather than God's means of
saving them. (Yet they are still wrong if it is true that all were once children of wrath who
had to at some point get saved).
•consistently uses Romans 9:22,23 as describing Hell when it is discussing earthly show
of power to people on earth. Nobody has ever seen "hardened" Pharaoh or "blinded"
Israel[ites] go to Hell! Even in a framework of unconditional election, God could save
("unharden", "unblind") them after that purpose was fulfilled.
•Treat "dead in sin" as if it were actual physical death and insist that because of this "total
inability", people cannot believe, but only choose the way of death, and God is only
passively(single predestinarians) "allowing [the non-elect] to go the way they want", but
keep emphasizing "God blinded them that they may not see". Either they could accept the
way of life, and it is God who is preventing them ("for His sovereign purpose") or, once
again, the blinding is not both unconditional, and eternal at the same time. When it is
unconditional, it is a group wide blinding for a specific earthly purpose. If it is eternal, it
is "giving a person over" who had rejected numerous opportunities to repent.
•Insists God really gives a "genuine" offer of life, to the non-elect (who thus can be "held
responsible" for "freely rejecting it") when God never intended to save them (and
intentionally blinded them) [single predestinationists]
•Infralapsarians and "single predestinarians" claim their position is the "true" Calvinism,
and insist that Arminian portrayals of Calvinism in supralapsarian, double predestinarian,
or "hyper" terms are "misrepresentation of Calvinism", but then turn right around and try
to reason by casting foreknowledge in a way that suggests that God must be responsible
for sin, condemnation to Hell, and other points that define the supra/double predestinarian
position. This is clearly shown to be the heart of Calvinism, but it ignores the scriptural
teaching that God "concluded all in unbelief [i.e. allowed sin to exist] in order to have
mercy on all", (Romans 11:31-2—i.e. give all a chance to be restored from a fallen state),
not for condemnation as an end in itself with mercy only offered to some.
•Bases its concept of human guilt on a "federal headship" of Adam, which assumes each
individual person either made some sort of universal "choice" "in" Adam (almost as if
they were conscious preexisting souls as Origen taught), or were imputed with the choice
of their "head". Therefore God leaves many of them with no chance by specifically
willing not to save them, and Romans 9 can be appealed to saying this is not unfair. This
is based on Romans 5:12, but all that says is that we got our sin nature from Adam, and
says nothing about a choice of any but Adam. And it continues that Christ is the new head
for man, if they believe; justification being offered to the same "all" condemned by
Adam's sin, and several chapters later, once again, ch. 11:31-2.
•Uses "sovereignty", as well as "glory" and "holy" to contrast and in effect override love
as God's primary attribute and justify making God primarily (or at least equally) "hatred".
But love is what is used in scripture as a definition of God, and so His sovereignty must
also be seen in light of love.
•Interprets all instances of God's willing that "all" or "the world" be saved refer only to
the elect. [e.g. "all kinds of people", "the world of the elect"] In some cases it possibly
can, but not all. (1 Tim.2:3-6 and John 3:17, for example)
•Having regeneration precede faith either has a person being born again but not saved, or
renders faith as a useless formality
•In practice, assurance is not really possible because it is based on the person's own
performance and perseverance. Many will deny this, but that is what the doctrine, at its
root, and by its formulators teaches. So while a person is "actually saved" in the eternal
decree, no one is "actually saved" in time. Since we live in time and have no access to
eternity now, what good is this? We are left in the same dilemma Calvinists pose for non-
Calvinists. Salvation is up to us. Only worse, because in the end, it is determined by the
eternal decree, which noboby can know or control.
•Position was not recognized by the Church for first four centuries until Augustine. It is
true that there was much doctrinal shifting in that period, but still highly unlikely for such
an all important truth to have been "lost" for so long.
Just like they have pointed out in the non-Calvinists when confronted with "why does one
believe and not the other", the Calvinists fudge around the issue, arguing an "effectual
call" when they do begin hearing His voice, bearing fruit, etc., regarding the first point.
But that still doesn't answer the problem: were they ever blind or not? did they always
hear His voice, or not? They may then say "God's eternal decrees play out in time" But
then is it all just a script? Or is God's eternal realm just a backwards extension of our own
world of time where "a follows b" and we can lay it all out as this causes that? Other
points, they just reiterate their position. Eventually, you might get something like "you
guys are just using reason". Most often, the conversation is shifted back to "why does one
believe and not another" as the ultimate clincher for Calvinism.
I guess the whole issue, besides what election, predestination and foreknowledge really
mean, boils down the assumption:
Romans 5: God charges each individual with legal guilt apart from their own acts of sin
Romans 9: God is "just" to leave men in this condition.
But when it is shown that both scriptures have been misinterpreted, the whole premise
loses its basis. The only thing you have to fall on is "why do you believe and not another
— do you have some merit within yourself?". Granted, this is the best argument, though
according to the Scripture's definition of faith vs. works, it does not really follow either.
The conclusion: this argument really doesn't have a perfect solution. We should just
realize that Augustine of Hippo opened up a can of worms by going beyond the simple
Gospel of "man is lost, yet Christ saves" into trying to deeply hypothesize the timeless
mechanics of election. It's just another distraction for us to be arguing with each other
over, rather than just preaching the Gospel to the lost.
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