Calvin's Tenets Considered in Light of Scripture...and more

Glenn Addington By Glenn Addington, 30th Nov 2017 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL
Posted in Wikinut>Family>Religion

A comparison of scripture with the tenets of Calvinism, along with related discussions.

Is Calvinism true to scripture?

There are promises and axioms in scripture that, when read straight-forward, are plain and easily understood. Case in point: "Whatever a man sows, that he will also reap." If we choose to treat those around us poorly, it isn't likely that we will be well treated by them. But there are scripture passages which state some things very clearly, but are 'over-turned' or contradicted by the teachings of Calvinism. One person's testimony regarding their experience of attending a Calvinistic church was, "Everyone seemed to be in a state of dismay, or seemed forlorn. There didn't seem to be any sense of joy amongst the people of that church." If the plain texts of scripture aren't true, those which offer assurance to those who are faithful, then there can be no sense of peace or satisfaction and joy in one's faith. When one begins to analyze the tenets of Calvinism, and compare them with the plain texts of scripture, there are glaring discrepancies. Calvinism's teachings would make us believe that we cannot count on what is plainly stated in God's word. Let's begin the analysis of Calvinism alongside scripture, and see if there are inconsistencies.

The doctrine of "total depravity"

The doctrine of total depravity (also called "total inability") asserts that, as a consequence of the fall of man into sin, all people by their own faculties are morally unable to choose to follow God and be saved because they are unwilling to do so. But in Acts 11:19, we’re told that among those scattered because of the persecution that arose after the stoning of Stephen, some traveled to Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, preaching the gospel, but limiting themselves to an entirely Jewish audience. Luke goes on to tell us that some began speaking to the Greeks, with the result that, Acts 11:21 “And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a large number who believed turned to the Lord.”
In Acts 13, at the close of Paul’s lengthy history lesson and message, beginning with verse 17, we’re told in vs. 42, “As Paul and Barnabas were going out, the people kept begging that these things might be spoken to them the next Sabbath. "
We’re also told in Acts 17:11 concerning those in Berea, “ Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.”
Luke proceeds to tell us, Acts 17:12, “ Therefore many of them believed, along with a number of prominent Greek women and men.” These three examples fly in the face of the premise described above. So also does the description Paul gives of himself in Acts 22:3 , ‘being zealous for God, as all of you are this day’, and Philippians 3:6, ...". as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless."

The doctrine of "unconditional election"

“The doctrine of unconditional election asserts that God's choice from eternity of those whom He will bring to himself is not based on foreseen virtue, merit, or faith existing in those people. Rather, it is unconditionally grounded in God's mercy alone.” We’re all grateful for God’s mercy, but the statement above is troublesome. “Virtue, merit or faith” become meaningless in Calvin’s theology, and so we must ask, “What about all the passages which promise reward to the faithful, and punishment to the wicked?” Are we to believe that every promise in scripture made by God concerning these two things are null and void, because, according to Calvin, God in His sovereignty will choose whomever He will and destine them for eternal reward – despite the life lived – and will destine others for eternal punishment, their service to Him and His kingdom being of no consequence whatsoever? Someone may reason, “Whatever I do to serve God doesn’t really matter, because, according to this doctrine, God gives no consideration to any of that when choosing my eternal destiny - all that matters to Him is the exercise of His sovereignty.”
If this is true, we may as well pack up all our toys and go home and stop playing church, because none of our service or ministry is valid in His sight. Our eternal destination is entirely based on His choosing.
There are some who would quote to us Paul’s statement from Romans 9:15. “For He says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion."
Some would have us believe that this teaches that Calvinism is true. But God doesn’t go on to say, here or anywhere else, “I will dispense wrath on whomever I will dispense wrath.” The reality that God honors those who seek Him is evident in the instance of Cornelius. Though a Gentile, and not a proselyte to Judaism, he is recognized and acknowledged by God for his activities. Consider these verses.
Acts 10:1-4 Now there was a man at Caesarea named Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian cohort, a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, and gave many alms to the Jewish people and prayed to God continually. About the ninth hour of the day he clearly saw in a vision an angel of God who had just come in and said to him, "Cornelius!" And fixing his gaze on him and being much alarmed, he said, "What is it, Lord?" And he said to him, "Your prayers and alms have ascended as a memorial before God.”
Unconditional election contradicts the teaching of scripture, because God has always placed the conditions of obedience and faithfulness on those who would choose to have a relationship with Him. God’s promises to bless Abraham in Genesis 12:2-3 were contingent on Abraham’s obedience to leave his home and family and go where God intended him to go. When God called Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac in the land of Moriah, Abraham’s intended obedience was so evident that God was sufficiently convinced that he would carry out the deed if allowed to continue. Abraham was stopped by the voice of the angel of the Lord. God’s pleasure with Abraham’s determined obedience is clear, based on His promises to Abraham. Genesis 22:17-18 “Indeed, I will greatly bless you, and I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your seed shall possess the gate of their enemies. In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice."
Back to the issue of promised punishment and rewards: Paul has much to say regarding God’s mercy and the rewarding of individuals based on their actions, whether they be obedience to His moral expectations or disobedience. Paul wrote in Romans 9:22-23 “What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction?” And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory…,.” If we can safely change the message of these verses into a statement instead of it being a question, we read that ‘God endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction to demonstrate the riches of His glory for those who would receive His mercy – AND WE ARE TOLD THAT HE PREPARED THEM BEFOREHAND FOR GLORY.’ On the other side of the coin, Paul speaks of those who take for granted God’s grace.
“Romans 2:4-5 Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance. But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God?” These two verses seem to imply that the vessels of wrath are doing the preparation on themselves!
Romans 2:6-11 clearly tell of God’s intention of punishment or reward. ” will render to each person according to his deeds: to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life; but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation. There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek, but glory and honor and peace to everyone who does good, to the Jew first and to the Greek. For there is no partiality with God.”

The doctrine of "limited atonement"

Another tenet of Calvinism is that of ‘limited atonement’. This implies that salvation is a reality only for those for whom it is intended. Their own statement, the title of one of their published articles, is “The Myth of Common Grace.” Jesus, they say, did not die for the sins of all mankind, but only for the elect – those whom God had predetermined in His sovereignty to save. They have even perverted the meaning of the passage in 2 Peter 3:9, which says, “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” They have changed the latter part of this in their doctrine and teaching to say ‘God is not willing that any of those whom He had predestined to be saved to perish, but for all to come to repentance.” This completely changes the sense of the verse, and takes away the assurance promised the believer. It also puts a blemish on God’s nature and character. But what about this idea that Christ died so that all men can be saved? Is this fiction, or can it be substantiated by scripture? John 3:16 states that”… whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.” The passage cited above in 2 Peter states God’s desire that all should come to repentance. All, then, can be saved if they choose repentance instead of continuing on their own way. In 1 Timothy 2:4, we are told’ desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.’ In 2 Corinthians, Paul clearly says ‘all’. 2 Corinthians 5:14-15 says “For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.” Twice in these verses, Paul tells us that He died for all. There is no hint of limited atonement in these verses, or a restriction keeping some from the atonement and forgiveness available because of Jesus’ death on the cross.

The doctrine of"'irresistible grace"

The next tenet of Calvinism is ‘irresistible grace’, which says that those foreordained to be saved will be saved in spite of their lack of desire or disinterest in being saved. This is supposedly because of the work of the Holy Spirit. God’s spirit does indeed convict the sinner, but not apart from the truth of scripture. And continued wicked behavior will not cause God’s spirit to draw near to us. Paul’s warnings to believers tell us that our actions and attitudes can grieve the Holy Spirit or even force Him out of our lives entirely .

The doctrine of "perseverance of the saints"

The final tenet in Calvinism is perseverance of the saints, which states that those who are foreordained to be saved cannot ever lose their salvation. It is often heard of the wayward, that, although their behavior clearly violates the righteousness God expects of His children, they once made a statement of faith and a commitment to God, so they are OK. But nowhere in scripture is it implied that God will look the other way and ignore the sins of men. The punishment of Adam and Eve for disobedience, and the constant cycle of oppression of the nation of Israel during the time of the judges because of their idol worship and unfaithfulness to God plainly teach us that God demands obedience and righteousness. After the breakup of the nation of Israel into two nations – Judah and Israel – both nations were eventually swept into captivity by foreign nations as promised by the prophets, sent by God, because of their disobedience and worship of idols. God honors those who are obedient and faithful. II Peter 2:20 states, " if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and are overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first." Their situation is worse than it has ever been. The warning in Hebrews 6:4-6 is to be considered. Our behavior and character are demonstrations of our loves, whether they be of ourselves above all else, or the God we declare that we love and serve. And we are reminded of Jesus’ promise in Revelation 2:10. “Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.”

Three discussions

Three discussions are necessary at this point. One of the attributes of God is omniscience – that He knows all things. This is stated in I John 3:20, Hebrews 4:13 and elsewhere. But some have the mistaken notion that since God knows all things, He is responsible for their happening. Those thinking this haven’t thought it through. This would make God the guilty party in the fall of Adam and Eve, the murder of Abel by Cain, and every other sin ever committed. This would make the whole scheme of redemption ridiculous, since man could not be blamed for his sin, since God is truly the guilty party. And the question must then be asked, “Who was responsible for all the things that happened to Job in the first chapter of the book of Job?” The loss of all he had could only be attributed to Satan’s attack on Job – God was not responsible for any of Job’s misfortunes.
The second discussion regards the issues of divine sovereignty and human freedom. God is indeed sovereign, but has allowed free will to mankind as a means of allowing men choice. This results in them having the ability to respond in love to God’s love and gift of redemption through the death of His Son on the cross, or the freedom to reject that love and gift. God chose not to make us robots with no will and thus the inability to demonstrate love. Free will allows us to be rebels, rejecting God and His call for righteousness – or loving servants, who will choose to accept what has been offered us and to then live lives changed by the power of His Spirit in our lives and the transforming truth of His unchanging, timeless word.

The third discussion regards the doctrine or concept of ‘election’. Election relates not to individuals, but to the entire body of Christ, and to the individuals as members of that body. Election to salvation is all-inclusive in the sense that so far as individuals become identified with and associate with the body of Christ, they are the elect.” Elect” may be said to properly describe those who
1] are living by faith in Jesus Christ,
2] are continuing to abide in Christ ,
3] continuously maintain a relationship with the Lord because they regularly confess their sin, and receive forgiveness and cleansing ,
4] strive to seek out and do the Lord’s will ,
5] are using their gifts in the service of the Kingdom ,
6] are submissive to godly leadership
7] are obedient to the Word of God
8] are properly reverent at the Lord’s Table
9] are striving to be an encouragement to others in the body.
The idea of 'elect' is not to be confused with the concept of 'chosen'. The apostle Paul was one who was 'chosen', as a messenger to the Gentiles. It has been said "many are called , but few are chosen. In Acts 9:15, Ananias is told, "Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel...,."

Read through these dsiscussions and consider the truth of what they say. Please reply or respond if you wish. Thank you for your time.

All scripture references are from the New American Standard Version. Please click on the line alongside my picture, beneath my name, to see the list of the rest of my articles. Thank you!!


Calvinism, Divine Sovereignty, Election, Free Will

Meet the author

author avatar Glenn Addington
I am an American, former Viet Nam veteran, and a Christian, living in East Tennessee. I am now retired and am pursuing a writing career. I would welcome writing assignments.

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