Five Other Points of Hard Calvinism - THORN

 

Paul had a thorn in his flesh in 2 Corinthians 12:7. We do not know what this was, but we do not want to be a thorn to our brothers and sisters in Christ. However, you have to tell those you love about a THORN in their doctrine so that they can remove it. One could make a case that extreme Arminianism is worse than extreme Calvinism, but not believing one error does not justify another as an alternative. Extreme Arminianism has its own THORN, but this paper deals with the THORN of Calvinism.

 

What Do These Have In Common?

 

"Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world"

"Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so"

"But the Pharisees and experts in the law rejected God's purpose for themselves, ..." Luke 7:30.

"[God] is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance." 2 Peter 3:9

"This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men - the testimony given in its proper time." 1 Timothy 2:3-6

 

Calvinists either deny these or give novel interpretations.

 

Who Are the Real Calvinists?

 

What is a Calvinist? I have been told [wrongly] that Calvinists must be cultists. I have been told that all Baptists are Calvinists, because they believe in once-saved-always-saved. Hyper-Calvinists are not Calvinists. Hyper-Calvinists are Calvinists. Exactly what makes a true Christian a Calvinist?

 

Calvinists themselves often describe Calvinism with their term "Doctrines of Grace". Specifically absent from their doctrines are God having compassion on all, the importance of preaching God's grace to all, and a sincere call to obedience to the gospel for all. Since a hyper-Calvinist or Calvinist can completely believe the "Doctrines of Grace" yet deny these things, the Calvinistic "Doctrines" are a very incomplete description of God's grace.

 

Calvinists' doctrines of grace are often described in an acronym.

Total Depravity (or some Calvinists say Total Inability)

Unlimited Election

Limited Atonement (some prefer Definitive atonement)

Irresistible Grace, (Irresistible Secret Will for some)

Perseverance of the Saints

All Calvinists (including hyper-calvinists) subscribe to these five points. Many non-Calvinists are so-called 3-, 4, and 4 1/2 point Calvinists they agree with most of the words, though the definitions differ. But if TULIP does not show the distinctives of Calvinism, then what are the distinctives?

 

Five Key Errors

 

Not all Calvinists have their all five points in their theology, but belief or at least acquiescence of these peculiar teachings are "sharp distinctions" between Calvinists and other Christians.

¬ Total Control - God's Sovereignty Misdefined

¬ Humans are Blamed for Adam's Guilt

¬ Only Grace: Faith is just Another Work :

¬ Responsibility without Respond-ability

¬ No Savior, Offer, Justice, or Love for All

 

Now we will briefly explain each thorn and why they are wrong. Extensive proofs and quotes are in the following sections.

 

¬ Total Control - God's Sovereignty Misdefined

 

Calvinist believers say God must control every action, event, thought, by His decree, down to the last atom. They base this primarily on their logic (God would not be God otherwise), Eph 1:11, and Prov 16:4,33. One can see the logical consequences: God is the author of sin, Calvinism is fatalism, and God works against Himself. Calvinists deny these consequences, though.

 

All agree that while God permits sin, God does not tempt people; God is not the immediate cause of sin. Calvinists deny, over and over, that God is the author of sin. Calvinists actually believe God is the ultimate cause of sin, because Calvinists call God the decreer, governor, willer, and determiner of every sin. (A.W. Pink p.101,251-252, Loraine Boettner p.240).

 

All agree that an impersonal fatalism is false. Calvinists deny, over and over, that Calvinism is fatalism. Since even Calvinists agree Islam teaches that God ordains a personal fatalism, Calvinists are open to the same charge. As one Calvinist put it, "you are either a robot of God or a robot of Satan."

 

All agree that God is not divided. Calvinists ought to deny that God works at cross purposes with Himself. If people displease God, bring on God's wrath, successfully resisting God's revealed will, because God sovereignly chose that they should do so in His secret will, how then God does not agree with what He decrees?

 

An Alternative: God is Interactive. Nothing happens beyond what God allows, God directly controls everything He chooses. God has chosen not to directly control some things, but also permits within bounds. God even permits things that did not originate in His mind (Jer 19:5; 32:35), to happen along with things He desires, such as a measure of human freedom. God works all things together as part of His ultimate plan. (Eph 1:11).

 

¬ Humans are Blamed for Adam's Guilt

 

Christians believe that 1) all deserve punishment from God for their own sins, 2) we inherited death, a sinful nature, and curses from Adam, and 3) we do suffer for the actions of others. Calvinists fail to distinguish between curses in this life and guilt before God. Calvinists think the plain meaning of Ezek 18 is misleading, for it violates their interpretation of Rom 5:15-21.

 

Calvinists misunderstand Romans15-21 because they fail to see that Adam's sinful actions do not directly make us guilty of eternal condemnation; rather Adam's actions brought the result that we are guilty of eternal condemnation.

 

If Romans 5 did teach that Adam's actions made us deserving of guilt, do Jesus' actions make us deserving of justification? -No!

 

Unless someone says that the reprobate are punished more severely for Adam's sins (and I think Calvinists would not say this), then even assuming there is added guilt for Adam's sins, this has no eternal effect, though Adam's curse brought about severe temporal effects.

 

An Alternative: God is Interactive. All do not have the same opportunities in life, and we inherit from Adam our nature, but not his guilt. However, God judges us based on what we know, and we can all know something from God in Romans 1:18-20. Romans -21 shows that Adam's sin brings about the result of the condemnation of all, but Ezekiel 18 shows that nobody shares our guilt of our sins, and we do not have the guilt of anybody else.

 

 

¬ Only Grace: Faith is just Another Work

 

All agree that works are an essential result of salvation; but all of our works are insufficient to help save us in the least bit. Calvinists deny, over and over, that they teach human exertion does not matter. Romans and the Bible never contrast grace vs. faith, rather the Bible contrasts grace vs. works.

 

Many Calvinists feel very strongly about one of the rallying cries of the Reformation "sola fide" (by faith alone), and that is good. R.C. Sproul wrote an excellent book on this. However, when other Calvinists emphasize that "we have no part in our salvation," then our faith would have no role in us getting saved. They call faith simply a "good work" as Loraine Boettner said in The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination p.365. While some Calvinists would back away from a crass equating of faith with works, those who do not have in common with Catholics and legalists the view of placing faith on the same level as works, and sola fide becomes non fide. Those who do not actively support this teaching need to distinguish how we are saved by the grace of God through our faith in Christ.

 

An Alternative: God is Interactive. In Luke 7:50 "Jesus said to the woman, 'Your faith has saved you; go in peace." Now all can agree that faith is not the ultimate cause of our salvation: God is. However, faith does have a role as part of the immediate cause.

 

¬ Responsibility With No Respond-ability

 

All agree that God is not unjust (Heb 6:10). Now humans can have unusual ideas about justice, but God is just as He describes His justice in Scripture. Sin done unintentionally is still sin, but is not held to our account (Romans 4:15; 5:13).

 

The Pharisees rejected God's purpose for themselves in Luke 7:30. The reprobate can resist the Holy Spirit in Acts 7:51. Co-workers can receive God's grace in vain in 2 Cor 6:1.

 

Calvinists often say that if we understood divine justice, it would not longer be divine, or some similar tautology. Well, I think that if we could understand God's word in Ezekiel 18, it would still be God's word, and if we could understand what God has revealed, it would still be God's revelation.

 

An Alternative: God is Interactive. If we are to be self-controlled (1 Peter 5:8), then by God's grace we have a responsibility and expectation to have a measure of self-control.

 

¬ No Savior, Offer, Justice, or Love for All

 

Calvinists disagree among themselves whether the Gospel should be offered to all, and whether people should be asked to believe in Jesus. If hard Calvinism were balanced and true, then people in Hell could say, "I might have believed many errors, but I did not believed the "lie" that Jesus loved me, died for my sins, and offered me any chance of escaping the eternal flames. As for godliness, at least I succeeded in everything God willed me to do."

 

Friends, God is not that way at all, and I think even Calvinists would agree with that. Jesus wept over Jerusalem in Lk 19:41; do you weep for the lost? In Acts 2:38 Peter commanded "every one of them" to repent and be baptized. In 2 Th 2:8 God will punish those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord. If the gospel, of accepting Christ as our Lord and Savior, is not for them to obey, for what disobedience to the gospel are they being punished for?

 

We agree that the only Mediator is Jesus. But Calvinists teaches that many have no mediator. In one sense you cannot blame some Catholics and Orthodox for wanting Mary to mediate for them, since Calvinists say that for many, Jesus will not.

 

An Alternative: God is Interactive. God is timeless, and only He could create a universe with both potentiality and certainty. In Romans 5:18 the same "all men" who were condemned were the same "all men" Jesus brought life for. Jesus did not just die for some of the world in 1 John 2:2, but either that verse misled all the Greek-speaking early Christians or Jesus died for the whole world. There is also a particular, definite aspect to Christ's atonement, but we must place the two side by side, as Jesus "is the Savior of all men, and especially of those who believe." (1Timothy 4:10)

 

Conclusion

 

A common saying of a Calvinist friend of mine is, "you can't take Calvinism to its logical conclusions." Since these are not "illogical conclusions", but logical ones, then it must be the premises that are flawed and incomplete. May we all grow to a more complete love and true understanding of his passion.

 

The problem with Calvinism is not as much in what it says, as the revealed truth it denies. Calvinism, at least for some, has muffled the loving, seeking, voice of God to hearers of the Gospel. If a theological system made the plain meaning of scripture appear misleading, would you choose the system first, or the normative meaning of scripture first?


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