Refutation of the Superficial Arguments on Calvinism

Some arguments about Calvinism are superficial and not well-thought out; others are much more substantial. Here is a quick description and refutation of 14 superficial ones.

1. Why have Reformed churches, since a non-believer cannot be "reformed", but needs to be transformed and born again?

The word "reformed" refers to church teaching and structure, not people's salvation. The Reformation was when many Christians saw that the Catholic Church was unbiblical, ungodly, and very corrupt. While it is important to preserve the unity of the spirit in Christ, we are not to be a part of a murderous, ungodly unity apart from Christ.

2. Predestination is alien to the natural, unsaved mind.

No it is not. Many Muslims believe a form of it (See Boettner p.318).

3. Arminianism leads to Catholicism.

Augustinian monks and Jensenist Catholics would disagree.

4. Arminianism leads to errors of Semi-Pelagianism

No more than Calvinism leads to hyper-Calvinism. Both Arminianism and Calvinism, without God in the center of theology, have led to accommodation with liberalism.

5. Arminians spawn bad groups: liberal churches, Campbellites, Mormons, and Jehovah's Witnesses.

Calvinists too: Hyper-Calvinists, PC U.S.A., Congregationalists, Rev. Moon. Actually Mormons, Campbellites, and Jehovah's Witnesses are not Arminian; they are Semi-Pelagian or Pelagian. Even people with the best possible theological training, from Paul and John themselves, without God, can go rotten.

6. Arminianism can lead to the error of Antinomianism

Without God being the center of their life, that unfortunately is true. But so can Calvinism.

7. Arminianism can be taken to the heresy of Universalism

So can Calvinism. (See Calvinist Lorraine Boettner p.131-132 )

8. Calvinism alone is consistent.

The Open Theology errors of Clark Pinnock and others, can be partly the result of the inconsistency of the type of Calvinist teaching they had. Calvinists themselves speak of "hyper-doxes", and "parallel lines" (Boettner p.222) Inconsistency of some radical Arminians does prove inconsistency of all non-Calvinists.

9. Calvinists believe God is the author of evil as well as good.

Actually, Calvinists are unanimous in saying God is NOT the author of evil. So why do God controlling everything NOT make God the author of evil? Some Calvinists say it is simply a mystery, but other Calvinists say it is because God controls the ends but not necessarily the means. Other Calvinists, such as Charles Hodge because God not only commands things, but God also "permits".. These permissive decrees, enable us to be able "to make God sad" as Francis Schaeffer says.

10. Only Calvinism does justice to the decrees of God's Sovereignty

Then I guess its God's decree that most Christians are meant to be non-Calvinists. ;-) Seriously, Calvinism misdefines God's sovereignty and some non-Calvinists balance God's sovereignty with His other attributes.

11. Calvinism is truest to the Greek texts.

Then why did all known early Christians believe in free will? The first person who was roughly Calvinistic was Augustine, and he self-admittedly was not very good at Greek. In particular, Calvinists are criticized for the novel renderings of 1 John 2:1 and 2 Timothy 2:4-6. When Greeks-speaking early Christians cannot be found who interpret these verses any but the standard way, one has to question this assertion.

12. Calvinism is true to Scripture

It makes God's justice a meaningless mystery. Most Calvinist books slaughter 1 John 2:2 and 2 Pet 2:1, interpreting them in ways totally alien to any native Greek-speaking Christian..

13. The early church was Calvinistic.

No. They were not radical Arminians or Calvinists. Not until Augustine. (See Boettner p.365. and read the papers Calvinism: Absent among Pre-Nicene Christians and Calvinism: Absent until Augustine)

14. Calvinism is defined by the TULIP acronym (Total depravity, Unconditional election, Limited atonement, Irresistible grace, Perseverance of the saints).

Necessary for Calvinism, but does not define Calvinism, since most non-Calvinist Christians agree with 3 or 4 of the points. Calvinists are not Calvinists for what they believe, but for what they deny: any significant freedom of will, any real hope for all, judged for what we are able to respond to, God's justice being comprehensible, etc.

14. Specific church fathers taught the TULIP.

TULIP Doctrine

Church Father



Clement of Rome 98 A.D.

Denied L only


Barnabas 100-150 A.D.

Denied P,did not affirm L only


Ignatius 90-116 A.D.

Seemed to deny P


Justin Martyr

135-165 A.D.

Seemed to deny T. Did not affirm L only


Tertullian 200-220 A.D.

Denied T


Smyrna 169 A.D.

Did not affirm L only


Athanasius 326-373 A.D.

Denied T L only


Cyprian 200-258 A.D.

Denied L only


Clement of Alex. 192-220

Denied T


Irenaeus 182-188 A.D.

Denied L only


Eusebius c.360 A.D.

Denied L only


Origen 230-254 A.D.

Did not affirm L only


Arnobius 300 A.D.

Denied L only

sort of L I

Lactantius 320 A.D.

Did not affirm L only


Hilarion 390 A.D. (written by Jerome)

"redeemed many" does not affirm L only


Ambrose of Milan c.378

Somewhat Calvinistic


Julius Africanus 232-245

Did not affirm L only


Gregory Nanzianzus -391

Denied L only


Epiphanius 390 A.D.

Epiphanius was L only


Jerome 390 A.D.

Denied T (Against Pelagians)

(* Examples of denied L only are "the fountain is open to all" or "the hope is for all". Accepting universal aspects of the atonement does not mean a denial of all definitive aspects.)

(First two columns adapted from Horton in Putting the Amazing Back into Grace p.280-301).

Michael Horton also does not mention the other early church fathers who explicitly denied some of these points In actuality, early church fathers varied from being Arminians to being what are called 4-point Calvinists.

15. Some might think that Calvinism must be all right, because look at the alternative: extreme Arminianism.

Extreme Arminians sometimes have very serious problems in trying to place restrictions on God, and believing God has to "muddle through in time" just like we do. Extreme Arminianism is not the only alternative to the error of Calvinism. An alternative that is scripturally consistent is called Interaction, which is similar to what is called four-point Calvinism, except that Interaction explains some things that four-point Calvinism leaves undefined.

16. Calvinism means that all infants who die are going to Hell.

That is not true. Back in the 19th century, the Calvinist Charles Spurgeon answered this accusation well.
It has been wickedly, lyingly, and slanderously said of Calvinists, that we believe that some little children perish.  Those who make the accusation know that their charge is false.  I cannot even dare to hope, though I would wish to do so, that they ignorantly misrepresent us.  They wickedly repeat what has been denied a thousand times, what they know is not true.  In Calvin's advice to Omit, he interprets the second commandment "shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me," as referring to generations, and hence he seems to teach that infants who have had pious ancestors, no matter how remotely, dying as infants are saved.  This would certainly take in the whole race.  As for modern Calvinists, I know of no exception, but we all hope and believe that all persons dying in infancy are elect.

Today, a number of Calvinists would say that while the Bible does not clearly state the destiny of infants, "nothing in the Bible excludes this and we can be hopeful of God's mercy and justice."

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by Steven M. Morrison, PhD.