Its doctrines are not supported by the plain language of Scripture but are read into the Scripture. In Bible interpretation, the principle rule is to interpret according to the plain language of the text and according to the context.
Calvinism assigns preset definitions to theological terms instead of allowing the context to define them.
God’s omnipotence means God’s will cannot be resisted by man.
Election means man has no choice.
Total depravity means man is unable to respond to God and cannot even believe.
Let’s consider the doctrine of Total Depravity more carefully. According to this doctrine man so dead in trespasses and sins in such a sense that he cannot even believe on Christ for salvation, that he cannot make any choice in regard to salvation. I have challenged Calvinists to give me even one Scripture that teaches this, and I have examined books by Calvinists for such a proof text, but in vain. The Scriptures they quote do not teach their doctrine. They cite, for example, Eph. 1:1-4, but that passage says nothing about the sinner not being able to believe. It says the sinner is dead in trespasses and sin, walks according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, is a child of disobedience, and is by nature the child of wrath. But that is not the same as the Calvinist doctrine of total depravity which goes beyond the actual words of Scripture and adds the business about the sinner not being able to believe. They also cite Gen. 6:5 and Jer. 17:9 and Isa. 64:6-7 and Rom. 3:10-18, but again there is nothing in these verses about the Calvinist doctrine that the sinner is unable to believe, that he cannot exercise his will in receiving or rejecting salvation. After citing the previously mentioned Scriptures, Jeffrey Khoo of the Far Eastern Bible College concludes: “Man’s freedom of choice has been forfeited since the Fall. ... The Bible teaches human inability and total depravity” (Arminianism Examined, p. 4). Yes, the Bible definitely teaches that man is totally depraved in the since that the sinner is corrupt and there is nothing good in him that would warrant or that could earn salvation, but the Calvinism goes beyond this and adds its own unique twist that is not supported by Scripture.
Consider the doctrine of Limited Atonement, that Christ died only to save the elect and that He did not die for the non-elect. “He died in order to procure and secure the salvation of the elect only. ... the atonement is limited or particular in its design and intention.” Khoo quotes Augustine, who said that Christ’s death was “sufficient for all, efficient for the elect.” In other words, though Christ somehow made it possible for all sinners to be saved in this age, only the elect can actually be saved, because only they are effectively drawn and regenerated. There is not one Scripture to support this doctrine. Khoo quotes Matt. 1:21, which says Jesus will “save His people from their sins,” but this does not say that Jesus died for the elect only. “His people” here refers to the Jews, and we know that Jesus did not die only for the Jews. The Calvinist quotes Eph. 5:25, that Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it, but this does not say that Christ died only for the elect. That Christ gave Himself for the church is not to say that Christ gave Himself ONLY for the church or any other such Calvinistic twist. The Calvinist quotes John 6:38-39, where Christ said, “And this is the Father’s will which hath sent Me, that of all which He hath given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.” Again, this does not support the Calvinist doctrine of Limited Atonement. In fact, it says nothing whatsoever about the extent of the atonement.
The Calvinist must support his doctrine, every point of it, from the Scripture alone interpreted properly by the plain meaning of the words and by context. This he cannot do. If he is not allowed to read his doctrine into the Scripture, he is not able to support his doctrine from Scripture.
5. CALVINISM MISSTATES WHAT NON-CALVINISTS BELIEVE.
There are many strawman arguments that the Calvinist erects and defeats, but by defeating them he has only defeated a figment of his own imagination.
Calvinists claim, for example, that the non-Calvinist doesn’t believe in God’s sovereignty. I can’t speak for others, but this non-Calvinist certain believes in God’s sovereignty. God is God and He can do whatsoever He pleases whensoever He pleases. As one man said, “Whatever the Bible says, I believe; the Bible says the whale swallowed Jonah, and I believe it; and if the Bible said that Jonah swallowed the whale, I would believe that.” If the Bible taught that God sovereignly selects some sinners to go to heaven and sovereignly elects the rest to go to hell or that He chooses only some to be saved and allows the rest to be destroyed, I would believe it, because I believe God is God and man cannot tell God what is right or wrong. But the Bible reveals, rather, that the sovereign God made man with a will and that the sinner can still exercise that will in receiving or rejecting Christ. This does not detract from God’s sovereignty one iota.
They claim, further, that the non-Calvinist believes man is saved by his own will. I can’t speak for others, but this non-Calvinist does not believe that. No sinner can believe unless God enables him to do so. The Bible plainly states that Jesus enlightens (Jn. 1:9) and draws (Jn. 12:37) every man. Man is not saved by his will; he is saved by the grace of God in Christ and because of the blood of Christ. Jn. 1:12-13 leaves no doubt about this. “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” Verse 12 says as many as receive Jesus and believe on His name are born again, but verse 13 says this salvation by faith is not “the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” Thus, believing on Christ is not some sort of “will salvation.”
They claim that the non-Calvinist doesn’t believe that salvation is 100% of God, that by saying that the sinner can believe on Christ is to say that “he contributes to his salvation” and “thus, the work of salvation is not totally God’s” (Jeffrey Khoo, Arminianism Examined, Far Eastern Bible College, Singapore, p. 2). Arthur Pink says that if the sinner could yield to or resist Christ, “then the Christian would have ground for boasting and self-glorying over his co-operation with the Spirit...” (p. 128). Again, while I can’t speak for others, this non-Calvinist most definitely believes that salvation is 100% of God. It is God who enlightens (Jn. 1:9), convicts (Jn. 16:7-8), draws (Jn. 12:32), and saves. Man does nothing but receive a Gift and that is not a work and is not something to boast of! As with salvation, so with Christian living, it is all of God and man has nothing to boast of. “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13); and, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). Salvation is all of Christ, from beginning to end. This idea that receiving a gift leaves the recipient in a position to boast is ridiculous. The recipient of a Priceless Gift does not boast of himself but of the Giver. The man who is rescued from the sea and escapes certain death does not brag about what he did for himself but about what the rescuer did, even though the drowning man perhaps took hold of a life preserver that was thrown to him or relaxed in the arms of the life guard.
They say that the teaching that man can believe on or reject Christ means that one believes that the sinner is not truly depraved and that man is a “free moral agent.” Arthur Pink says this in his chapter on “God’s Sovereignty and the Human Will.” He presents many strawmen in this section. He says, “Does it lie within the province of man’s will to accept or reject the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour? ... The answer to this question defines our conception of human depravity. ... Man is a rational being and as such responsible and accountable to God, but to affirm that he is a free moral agent is to deny that he is totally depraved...” (p. 138). I certainly don’t believe that the sinner is a “free moral agent,” and I believe that man is totally without righteousness before God, dead in trespasses and sins, etc. I simply agree with what the Bible says about man believing the gospel. The Bible says that “whosoever believeth in him shall not perish” (Jn. 3:16). That teaches me that a sinner can believe on Christ, but to go beyond this simple concept and to claim that such a position is to deny human depravity or is to make him into a “free moral agent” is nonsense. Romans 3:10-18 and Eph. 2:1-4 are key New Testament passages on the depravity of the sinner, but neither passage mentions man’s will or whether he can or cannot believe on Christ for salvation. The same is true for every passage in the Bible that deals with man’s depravity in Adam, such as Gen. 6:4; Psa. 51:5; 58:3; Prov. 22:15; Ecc. 9:3; Isa. 64:6; Jer. 17:9; and Mat. 15:9. Again, the Calvinist reads his own theology into these passages.
Pink and other Calvinists even liken the non-Calvinist’s position on so-called “free will” to that of the Roman Catholic Church. Pink quotes from the Council of Trent, which said, “If any one shall affirm, that man’s free-will, moved and excited by God, does not, by consenting, co-operate with God, the mover and exciter, so as to prepare and dispose itself for the attainment of justification; if moreover anyone shall say, that the human will cannot refuse complying, if it pleases; but that it is unactive, and merely passive; let such an one be accursed.” Pink then concludes: “Thus, those who today insist on the free-will of the natural man believe precisely what Rome teaches on the subject! ... the Roman Catholics and Arminians walk hand in hand...” (The Sovereignty of God, p. 139). This is libelous in the extreme. The Roman Catholic Church believes that man is not utterly unrighteous in his fallen state and that he can actually cooperate with God in his justification, that salvation is by faith plus works and sacraments rather than by faith alone. The non-Calvinist does not believe anything like this. He simply believes the Scripture when it says that “whosoever believeth in him shall not perish” (Jn. 3:16) and he doesn’t try to bend such Scriptures to conform to the TULIP mold.
There are only a few examples of how the Calvinist tends to misstate and misrepresent what the non-Calvinist believes.
6. CALVINISM CONFUSES THE CHURCH WITH ISRAEL AND NATIONAL ELECTION WITH PERSONAL (Rom. 9:9-24).
John Calvin’s major argument for unconditional election and reprobation is based on God’s dealings with Israel. This is described in Calvin’s Institutes, Book III, Chapter 21, “Eternal Election.”
9:9 For this is the word of promise, At this time will I come, and Sara shall have a son.
10 And not only this; but when Rebecca also had conceived by one, even by our father Isaac;
11 (For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;)
12 It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger.
13 As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.
14 What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid.
15 For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.
16 So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.
17 For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth.
18 Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.
19 Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will?
20 Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?
21 Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?
22 What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction:
23 And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory,
24 Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?
This is doubtless the Calvinist’s favorite proof text for sovereign election. Does Romans 9 teach that God arbitrarily or sovereignly chooses some sinners to be saved and the rest to be lost? Let’s consider eight important facts about this passage:
(1) The example of Esau and Jacob does not refer to election pertaining to personal salvation but to election pertaining to nations in God’s overall program. Verse 12 makes this clear. “It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger.” The promise of God to Rebecca was about the elder son serving the younger, not about their personal salvation. Esau could have gotten saved. He could have believed in God and been in the Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11. This passage does not teach that Esau was sovereignly predestined to be reprobate. It teaches that God sovereignly chose Christ’s lineage.
(2) As for Pharaoh, it is important to understand that he first hardened his own heart. “But when Pharaoh saw that there was respite, he hardened his heart, and hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had said” (Ex. 8:15). This is not a case of “sovereign reprobation.” The Scripture teaches that it is always God’s will for men to serve Him, but when they reject Him He rejects them and judges them and makes examples of them. Compare 2 Thess. 2:10-12 -- “And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; BECAUSE THEY RECEIVED NOT THE LOVE OF THE TRUTH, THAT THEY MIGHT BE SAVED. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: THAT THEY ALL MIGHT BE DAMNED WHO BELIEVED NOT THE TRUTH, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” These sinners will be damned but not because they are not sovereignly elected and not because they are sovereignly reprobate but because of their personal decision in regard to the truth. Words could not be plainer. God did make an example of Pharaoh, but to go beyond what the Bible says and to claim that God chose to create Pharaoh for the purpose of reprobating him is a great error and is to malign the name of the loving God.
(3) Rom. 9:22-23 does not say that God sovereignly fits some sinners to destruction and some to glory. The phrase “vessels of wrath fitted to destruction” allows for a variant voice; according to the PC Study Bible, it can be both the passive and middle voice in Greek; middle means to fit oneself. In the middle voice the subject acts in relation to him/herself. Consider this note from Vincent Word Studies: “NOT FITTED BY GOD FOR DESTRUCTION, but in an adjectival sense, ready, ripe for destruction, the participle denoting a present state previously formed, BUT GIVING NO HINT OF HOW IT HAD BEEN FORMED. That the objects of final wrath had themselves a hand in the matter may be seen from 1 Thess. 2:15-16.” By allowing the Bible to speak for itself through the plain meaning of the words and by comparing Scripture with Scripture we see that the sinner fits himself for destruction by his rejection of the truth. Even those who have never heard the gospel, have the light of creation and conscience and are responsible to respond to the light that they have that they might be given more light (Acts 17:26-27).
(4) Rom. 9:23-24 does not mean that God calls only a certain pre-chosen elect group to salvation. “And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory, even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles.” One has to read that into the language of the verses. The Calvinist claims that verse 24 refers to “effectual calling,” which is a term that describes the “irresistible calling of the elect,” but this is adding to God’s Word, which is a great error. The Bible plainly states that God has called all who will come to Christ. God calls through the gospel (2 Thess. 2:14) and the gospel is to be preached to every creature (Mk. 16:15). God calls “whosoever will” (Rom. 10:13; Rev. 22:17). God calls every one that believes on Christ. “And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day” (Jn. 6:40).
(5) God’s salvation even of the Jews was not a matter of “sovereign” election but was based on an individual’s faith in His Word. “But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness. Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone; as it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed” (Rom. 9:31-33).
(6) Romans 10 leaves no doubt about this; the promise of salvation proves that it is not God’s arbitrary or “sovereign” choice (Rom. 10:8-13). Note the words “whosoever” and “all.” Would God mock sinners by promising them salvation if they believe in Christ and then only enable those who were sovereignly elected to actually exercise such faith?
(7) God’s sovereignty does not mean that His will is always accomplished in man. “But to Israel he saith, All day long I have stretched forth my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people” (Rom. 10:21). See also Matt. 23:37: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” God has made man in His image. Man is not a robot. He can exercise his will in saying no to God, and man has said no to God and has resisted God from Genesis to Revelation. If God’s sovereignty means that His will is always done, this world would make no sense! It is God’s will, for example, for every believer to “Be ye holy; for I am holy” (1 Pet. 1:16), but we know all too well that this is not always the case and is never the case perfectly.
(8) God’s blinding of Israel was not a matter of sovereign election but it was because they first hardened their own hearts. Consider Ezek. 12:2; Mat. 13:15 and Acts 28:25-27:
Ezekiel 12:2 -- “Son of man, thou dwellest in the midst of a rebellious house, which have eyes to see, and see not; they have ears to hear, and hear not: for they are a rebellious house.”
Ezekiel says the cause for Israel’s blindness is her own rebellion.
Matthew 13:15 -- “For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and THEIR EYES THEY HAVE CLOSED; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.”
Matthew says Israel closed her own eyes and that is the reason they were not converted. There is no sovereign reprobation here.
Acts 28:25-27 -- “And when they agreed not among themselves, they departed, after that Paul had spoken one word, Well spake the Holy Ghost by Esaias the prophet unto our fathers, Saying, Go unto this people, and say, Hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and not perceive: For the heart of this people is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and THEIR EYES HAVE THEY CLOSED; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.”
Again, Acts says Israel closed her own eyes lest she be converted. There is no support for the Calvinist doctrine of sovereign reprobation here.
7. CALVINISM GOES BACK TO THE “CHURCH FATHERS” FOR AUTHORITY INSTEAD OF STRICTLY TO THE NEW TESTAMENT APOSTLES AND PROPHETS.
Calvin freely acknowledged that his authority was Augustine. Consider the following quotes:
“If I were inclined to compile a whole volume from Augustine, I could easily show my readers, that I need no words but his” (Institutes, Book III, chap. 22)
“Let Augustine answer for me…” (Ibid.)
“[Augustine is the one] we quote most frequently as being the best and most faithful witness of all antiquity” (Institutes, Book IV, chap. 14)
“Augustine is so wholly with me, that if I wished to write a confession of my faith, I could do so ... out of his writings” (Calvin, “A Treatise on the Eternal Predestination of God,” trans. by Henry Cole, Calvin’s Calvinism, Grandville, MI: Reformed Free Publishing, 1987, p. 38; cited in Laurence Vance, The Other Side of Calvinism, 1999, p. 38).
WHO WAS AUGUSTINE? He was so polluted with heresy that the Roman Catholic Church has claimed him as one of its “doctors.”
Augustine was a persecutor and the father of the doctrine of persecution in the Catholic Church. The historian Neander observed that Augustine’s teaching “contains the germ of the whole system of spiritual despotism, intolerance, and persecution, even to the court of the Inquisition.” He instigated bitter persecutions against the Bible-believing Donatists who were striving to maintain pure churches after the apostolic faith.
Augustine was the father of a-millennialism, interpreting Bible prophecy allegorically; teaching that the Catholic Church is the kingdom of God.
Augustine taught that Mary did not commit sin.
Augustine believed in purgatory.
Augustine was one of the fathers of the heresy of infant baptism, claiming that unbaptized infants were lost, and calling all who rejected infant baptism “infidels” and “cursed.”
Augustine exalted church tradition above the Bible and said, “I should not believe the gospel unless I were moved to do so by the authority of the Catholic Church.”
8. CALVINISM CANNOT EXPLAIN CHRIST’S WARNINGS AND HIS JUDGMENTS.
Repeatedly, Christ warned sinners that except they repent and believe on Him they would perish (e.g., Lk. 13:3, 5; Jn. 8:24). Christ also issued judgments upon sinners because they did not believe.
Luke 10:12-16 -- “But I say unto you, that it shall be more tolerable in that day for Sodom, than for that city. Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works had been done in Tyre and Sidon, which have been done in you, they had a great while ago repented, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. But it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment, than for you. And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted to heaven, shalt be thrust down to hell. He that heareth you heareth me; and he that despiseth you despiseth me; and he that despiseth me despiseth him that sent me.”
In light of Calvinism’s definition of sovereign election and the irresistible drawing and regeneration of the elect, Christ’s warnings and judgments make no sense. Why would He warn sinners to repent and believe or perish and pronounce severe judgment upon sinners for not believing if He knows that only those who are sovereignly elected can do such a thing?
Calvinists have made pathetic attempts to answer this, but in my estimation the fact of Christ’s warnings simply and plainly refutes their doctrine.
9. CALVINISM CANNOT EXPLAIN THE APOSTLE PAUL.
Paul attempted to win the more. “For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more” (1 Cor. 9:19). How can I win more if the number of the elect has been settled from eternity?
Paul’s goal was to “save some.” “To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some: (1 Cor. 9:22). Isn’t the election of the saved already assured without Paul’s help? How could anything he did in his life and ministry have any affect upon the elect?
Paul sacrificed so that men would be saved. “Even as I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved” (1 Cor. 10:33). If election is sovereignly predetermined and irresistible, Paul’s statement makes no sense.
Paul persuaded men. “Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are made manifest unto God; and I trust also are made manifest in your consciences” (2 Cor. 5:11). If Paul were a Calvinist, he would know that the elect don’t need persuading and the non-elect can’t be persuaded!
Paul was willing to go to hell for the unsaved Jews. “For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh” (Rom. 9:3). How could a mere man care more about the destiny of the unsaved than God? We are convinced that the cry of Paul’s heart here is merely a mirror of the cry of God’s own heart for all lost sinners.
10. CALVINISM CANNOT EXPLAIN THE BOOK OF HEBREWS.
The book of Hebrews refutes the Calvinist or TULIP doctrines of unconditional and “sovereign” election and irresistible grace, that God sovereignly and arbitrarily chooses who will be saved and irresistibly and absolutely draws them so that on one hand it is impossible for the non-elect to be saved and on the other hand it is impossible for the elect not to be saved. If this were true, the Holy Spirit would not give such dire warnings and exhortations to professing believers about the possibility of apostasy, because if they are elected they could not possibly perish and if they are not elected, nothing they could do would change their status. Consider, for example, the following passages:
Consider Hebrews 2:3: “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him.”
This exhortation makes no sense in light of Calvinist doctrines. If election is as the Calvinist teaches, how could the elect neglect salvation and how could the non-elect do anything other than neglect salvation?
Consider Hebrews 3:12-14: “Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end.”
If the elect are predetermined “sovereignly” and if election has nothing whatsoever to do with the sinner himself and if he is irresistibly drawn, what could this exhortation possibly mean? How could a sovereignly elected, irresistibly drawn believer depart from God, and how could the non-elect do anything other than depart from God?
Consider Hebrews 4:9-11: “There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his. Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.”
How could this exhortation possibly apply to TULIP type election? This passages says the rest of salvation is something that every person must seek to enter into and all are urged to do so, but the doctrine of “sovereign” election teaches us that those elected to God’s rest are predetermined solely by God and they have no choice in the matter and will assuredly enter into that rest.
Consider Hebrews 6:4-6: “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.”
If TULIP theology is true, why the exhortation? How could the elect fall away? And how could the non-elect do anything but fall away?
Consider Hebrews 10:26-29: “For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. He that despised Moses' law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?”
Again, if TULIP theology is true, why would such an exhortation be given to professing believers? If they are sovereignly elected, they will surely persevere and if they aren’t they surely won’t. According to Calvinist doctrine, it has nothing to do with them or what they do.
If election is “sovereign” and “unconditional” in a Calvinist sense and the believer has no choice whatsoever in the matter of salvation, these passages don’t make any sense.
If, on the other hand, election involves an element of foreknowledge (1 Pet. 1:2) and involves a personal choice on the part of the sinner (“whosoever believeth,” Jn. 3:15, 16; 12:46; Acts 10:43; Rom. 9:33; 10:11; 1 John 5:1; Rev. 22:17; etc.), the exhortations and warnings in Hebrews make perfect sense. Because if this is true, and we know that it is because the Bible everywhere teaches it, then the sinner, being given light from Christ (Jn. 1:9) and being drawn by Christ (Jn. 12:32) and being convicted and enlightened by the Holy Spirit (Jn. 16:8) can, because of this gracious divine enablement, either believe on Christ or not and it is also possible for a sinner to come close to salvation without actually possessing it. Therefore he needs to be exhorted to believe on Jesus Christ truly and sincerely and not to turn away before he has been genuinely born again and indwelt by the Holy Spirit and adopted into God’s family.
11. CALVINISM CANNOT EXPLAIN PRAYER.
Arthur Pink says, “God’s will is immutable, and cannot be altered by our cryings” (The Sovereignty of God, p. 173).
In fact, God’s will can be altered by our prayers.
Prayer can never demand that God do something. Prayer is not demanding but asking. Prayer must always be “by the will of God” (Rom. 1:10). ‘If we ask anything according to his will he heareth us” (1 Jn. 5:14). But that is not to say that prayer is merely a robotic response to that which God has eternally predetermined. God has given man the responsibility to pray and has pledged Himself to answer, as long as the prayer is in accordance with His will. That means that it is up to man whether to pray or not to pray, how much to prayer, and how earnestly. And those prayers change things in things world!
Prayer can even change God’s mind. Consider the following amazing scene that occurred on Mt. Sinai:
“And the LORD said unto Moses, I have seen this people, and, behold, it is a stiffnecked people: NOW THEREFORE LET ME ALONE, THAT MY WRATH MAY WAX HOT AGAINST THEM, AND THAT I MAY CONSUME THEM: AND I WILL MAKE OF THEE A GREAT NATION. And Moses besought the LORD his God, and said, LORD, why doth thy wrath wax hot against thy people, which thou hast brought forth out of the land of Egypt with great power, and with a mighty hand? Wherefore should the Egyptians speak, and say, For mischief did he bring them out, to slay them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth? Turn from thy fierce wrath, and repent of this evil against thy people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, thy servants, to whom thou swarest by thine own self, and saidst unto them, I will multiply your seed as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have spoken of will I give unto your seed, and they shall inherit it for ever. AND THE LORD REPENTED OF THE EVIL WHICH HE THOUGHT TO DO UNTO HIS PEOPLE” (Ex. 32:9-14).
God told Moses that He would consume Israel and make a great nation of Moses, but Moses pleaded with Him and the Bible says that God repented. Where does this fit into Calvinism’s emphasis upon God’s absolute sovereignty? Here we see God interacting with man and His mind literally being changed by man’s pleas.
Someone will ask at this point about Numbers 23:19, which says, “God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?”
There is no contradiction between Num. 23:19 and Ex. 32:14. In Numbers 23 Balaam is speaking about God’s eternal plan for Israel, and in that He will not repent. “For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance” (Rom. 11:29). But within the context of God’s overall plan for the ages, He does repent or change His mind in relation to man’s actions in many ways, and that is the mystery of prayer.
What about 1 Sam. 15:29, which says, “And also the Strength of Israel will not lie nor repent: for he is not a man, that he should repent”? This statement was made by Samuel after God had rejected Saul and chosen David as the new king. Saul was pleading with Samuel to change his mind about that decision, and Samuel replied that God’s decisions in such matters are unchangeable.
There are times in which God’s mind can be changed and there are times when it cannot. At one point, God told two of the prophets not to pray for Israel (Jer. 7:16; Ezek. 14:4), but that was after Israel had gone too far in rebellion and God had determined to judge them. After other times, prayer, such as that of Moses in Exodus 32, drove back God’s wrath and gave Israel more time.
Neither Num. 23:19 nor 1 Sam. 15:29 change the fact that God repented of His plan to destroy Israel in Exodus 32 in response to Moses’ earnest intercession.
The fact is that man is an amazing creation. He is made in God’s image, and he is not a robot or a puppet. God is still God, but God has ordained that man has a will and can say yes or no to Him. Men can even change God’s mind through earnest entreaties! That is the wondrous power of prayer.
Consider another prayer scene in Scripture. In Isaiah 38 we read that King Hezekiah was sick unto death and God told the prophet Isaiah to go to him and say, “Set thine house in order: for thou shalt die, and not life” (Isa. 38:1). Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and wept and “prayed unto the Lord.” The Bible says that after this, God sent Isaiah back to the king to say, “Thus said the Lord, the God of David thy father, I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears: behold, I will add unto thy days fifteen years” (Isa. 38:5).
In response to earnest prayer God gave him this man 15 more years of life on earth. Prayer changes things!
“What takes the greater power (omnipotence): to create beings who have no ability to choose--who are mere pawns on God’s cosmic chessboard--or to create beings who have the freedom to accept or reject God’s salvation? I submit, the latter. ... Would a God who ordained the existence of immortal beings without making any provision for them to escape eternal torment be a cruel being? What kind of God would call on mankind to ‘believe and be saved’ when He knows they cannot [and] what kind of relationship is there between God and people who could never choose Him--but are ‘irresistibly’ called...? For these and other reasons I question the idea that individual unconditional election and five-point Calvinism best reflect the attributes of God. A God who sovereignly offers salvation to all through His elect Saviour reflects both power and love.” (Philip F. Cogdon, “Soteriological Implications of Five-Point Calvinism,” Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society, Autumn 1995; cited from Dave Hunt, A Calvinist’s Honest Doubts Resolved, p. 76).
WHAT ABOUT HYPER-CALVINISM?
Hyper-Calvinism is a label that some Calvinists have put upon other Calvinists. For example, in “Hyper-Calvinism Examined” Jeffrey Khoo, who is a Presbyterian Calvinist and a staunch defender of the faith and of the Greek Received Text and the King James Bible and a man that I have a high regard for, analyzes a position that he labels “hyper.” He says:
“Calvinism is that system of doctrine derived from the great French theologian--John Calvin. ... What then is Hyper-Calvinism? The prefix ‘hyper’ (Gk: hyper) means ‘above’ or ‘beyond.’ Hyper-Calvinism is a twisted form of Calvinism that goes beyond what Calvin in accordance to Scriptures had taught.”
Dr. Khoo presents two characteristics of Hyper-Calvinism: “(1) denial of common grace, and (2) denial of the free offer of the gospel.”
Common Grace vs. Saving Grace, Degrees of Love
Khoo claims that Calvin taught that there is both a common grace and a saving grace, and that failure to distinguish between the two is a mark of Hyper-Calvinism. Saving grace is “the Holy Spirit’s regenerative work on the sinner through the Gospel,” whereas common grace is “God’s favourable bestowal upon all of mankind of those things necessary for creaturely existence on this sin-plagued earth.”
Khoo says that Hyper-Calvinists reject the doctrine of common grace and that according to them, God hates all non-elect and works all things towards their destruction, whereas John Calvin taught that God does not hate the non-elect and that this is evident because He bestows upon them “common grace.”
Calvin taught that not only does God bestow common grace upon the reprobate, He also loves them to some degree. Expositing on Mark 10:21, which says Jesus loved the rich young ruler, Calvin said: “... God loves all His creatures without exception. It is therefore important to distinguish degrees of love. ... sometimes God is said to love those whom He neither approves nor justifies.”
What do we say about this? If I were the non-elect, I would wonder what kind of grace God has given me and what kind of love God has bestowed upon me, seeing that it is impossible for me to be saved and escape hell! “Common grace” and a degree of love might sound pleasant to ear of the Calvinist theologian, but it won’t get the “reprobate” into heaven.
The Free Offer of the Gospel
Khoo says that the second mark of Hyper-Calvinism is to reject the doctrine that the gospel should be preached to all men indiscriminately and that God sincerely invites everyone, elect and reprobate, to repentance and salvation in Christ; whereas Calvin Calvinists believe these things.
Khoo quotes John Calvin’s comments on John 3:16 and similar passages to prove that he believed that God “invites indiscriminately all to share in life” and “shows He is favourable to the whole world when He calls all without exception to the faith of Christ” and “no man is excluded from calling upon God” and “the gate of salvation is set open to all.”
When reading these quotes, one thinks for a moment that perhaps Calvin truly believed that all men can be saved through the gospel, but this is not at all what he means! While saying that the gospel is universally offered out of one side of his mouth, Calvin rendered the universal aspect of the gospel meaningless in any practical sense with his doctrine of sovereign election, because they are the only ones who are drawn effectively and regenerated and given the “gift of faith.”
Calvin went on to say: “God does not work effectually in all men, but only when the Spirit shines in our hearts as the inward teacher. ... The Gospel is indeed offered to all for their salvation, its power is not universally manifest.” Commenting on 2 Peter 3:9, Calvin asks the following important question: “If could be asked here, if God does not want any to perish, why do so many in fact perish?” The non-Calvinist Bible believer would reply that so many perish because God has decreed that man not be a robot but that he be given a choice in the matter of the gospel. But John Calvin must fall back upon his doctrine of sovereign election: “My reply is that no mention is made here of the secret decree of God by which the wicked are doomed to their own ruin ... GOD STRETCHES OUT HIS HAND TO ALL ALIKE, BUT HE ONLY GRASPS THOSE (IN SUCH A WAY AS TO LEAD TO HIMSELF) WHOM HE HAS CHOSEN BEFORE THE FOUNDATION OF THE WORLD.”
Desiderative vs. Decretive Will
According to Khoo, the Hyper-Calvinist’s problem in not being able to “see how God can be willing to save all when He has already willed that only the elect would be saved” is solved by the simple solution of understanding that God has both a “decretive” and a “desiderative” (from “desire”) will.
God’s decretive will is His sovereign election of some sinners to eternal salvation, whereas His desiderative will is His general concern for all sinners. According to the decretive vs. desiderative idea, salvation is offered to all mankind but given only to the elect. In the words of Augustine, Christ’s death was “sufficient for all, efficient for the elect.”
My friend, if you think this is some sort of “mumbo jumbo” or “gobbly gook,” you are not alone!
The Hyper-Calvinist would open shop and offer the Gift of Salvation only to the elect, while the “Calvin Calvinist” would open shop and offer the Gift of Salvation to whosoever will but only give it to the elect!
Do you see any significant difference between these two views?
It appears to me that Calvin believed that God plays a cruel joke upon the non-elect or “the reprobate,” as he calls them. He “sincerely” invites “whosoever will” to come and to believe on Christ and to be saved, but He knows that only the elect can do any of that. Thus, the non-elect can do nothing in regard to the “universal offer of salvation but to confirm his unbelief and his reprobate condition.
In my estimation, Hyper-Calvinism vs. Calvin Calvinism is more of a semantics game than anything else. The “Calvin Calvinist” wants to think that he believes what 1 Timothy 2 and 2 Peter 3 says about God willing that all men be saved, but when his position is analyzed carefully, he believes no such thing in any practical sense. The elect are still sovereignly elect, the only sinners who can be saved, and the reprobate are still sovereignly reprobate, unable to be saved and eternally locked out of heaven. Actually the Hyper-Calvinist is more consistent with the Five Points of Calvinism and with the Calvinist position on divine sovereignty in teaching that God does not truly love the non-elect and that He has no interest in their salvation.
The “Calvin Calvinist” is no more faithful to the Scripture than the Hyper-Calvinist. Both twist the Scripture to fit their theology and read their theology into the plain words of Scripture.
I DO NOT TREAT ALL CALVINISTS THE SAME
It is important to understand that there is a great variety of doctrine and practice among Calvinists, and by no means do I consider a man to be an enemy of the truth just because he accepts some of the Calvinist theology. The book Spurgeon vs. Hyper Calvinists: The Battle for Gospel Preaching by Iain Murray (Edinburgh, Banner of Truth Trust, 1995) does an excellent job of describing some of the differences among Calvinists. There are soul winning Calvinists, Calvinists with great evangelistic and missionary zeal; and there are Calvinists who condemn these things. Some interpret Calvinism in such a way that they do not believe in offering salvation to or preaching the gospel to all sinners; they do not even believe that God loves all men. According to Murray’s definition, these are “hyper Calvinists.”
Charles Spurgeon refused to try to reconcile every seeming contradiction in the Bible, and he was wise enough to know that he could not understand every mystery of God. He said:
“That God predestines, and that man is responsible, are two things that few can see. They are believed to be inconsistent and contradictory; but they are not. It is just the fault of our weak judgment. Two truths cannot be contradictory to each other. If, then, I find taught in one place that everything is fore-ordained, that is true; and if I find in another place that man is responsible for all his actions, that is true; and it is my folly that leads me to imagine that two truths can ever contradict each other. These two truths, I do not believe, can ever be welded into one upon any human anvil, but one they shall be in eternity: they are two lines that are so nearly parallel, that the mind that shall pursue them farthest, will never discover that they converge; but they do converge, and they will meet somewhere in eternity, close to the throne of God, whence all truth doth spring” (C.H. Spurgeon, New Park Street Pulpit, Vol. 4, 1858, p. 337).
Spurgeon warned about creating theologies that attempt to reconcile every biblical difficulty:
“Men who are morbidly anxious to possess a self-consistent creed, a creed which will put together and form a square like a Chinese puzzle,--are very apt to narrow their souls. Those who will only believe what they can reconcile will necessarily disbelieve much of divine revelation. Those who receive by faith anything which they find in the Bible will receive two things, twenty things, ay, or twenty thousand things, though they cannot construct a theory which harmonises them all” (C.H. Spurgeon, “Faith,” Sword and Trowel, 1872).
In these matters, Charles Spurgeon was a Calvinist but he was much more than a Calvinist; he was a Biblicist. It has been said of Spurgeon, that if you pricked him, even his blood was “bibline.” He loved theology and studied theology earnestly, but the bottom line was that he had childlike faith in everything the Bible says.
And while Spurgeon was a Calvinist, he was at the same time a great evangelist and believed in offering the gospel to all men and urging all men to be saved. Spurgeon believed that more sinners could be saved if the gospel was preached to them, and he did not try to reconcile such a view with God’s election. He believed his responsibility was to preach the gospel to as many sinners as possible. He believed that tools such as prayer could result in a greater harvest of souls. He had prayer meetings before the preaching services and every Monday night and on other occasions. Sometimes when the auditorium of the Metropolitan Tabernacle was full, a group would remain in the downstairs prayer hall and pray during the preaching (as per an e-mail from Mrs. Hannah Wyncoll, Administrative Assistant, Metropolitan Tabernacle, June 2, 2000). Spurgeon loved soul winning and taught his people to be soul winners. His famous book The Soul Winner is still in print. There were some in Spurgeon’s church who “made it their special work to ‘watch for souls’ in our great congregation, and to seek to bring to immediate decision those who appeared to be impressed under the preaching of the Word. [Bro. Cloud: Note the word ‘decision’ in Spurgeon’s description of this soul winner!] One brother has earned for himself the title of my hunting dog, for he is always ready to pick up the wounded birds. One Monday night, at the prayer-meeting, he was sitting near me on the platform; all at once I missed him, and presently I saw him right at the other end of the building. After the meeting, I asked why he went off so suddenly, and he said that the gas just shone on the face of a woman in the congregation, and she looked so sad that he walked round, and sat near her, in readiness to speak to her about the Saviour after the service” (C.H. Spurgeon, The Full Harvest, p. 76). Thus we see that Charles Spurgeon was a man who was very zealous for the winning of souls, and his Calvinism and his convictions about the sovereignty of God in no wise hindered that.
On the other hand, many Calvinists of that day opposed Spurgeon vehemently from their pulpits and in their magazines and denounced his practice of giving invitations for sinners to come to Christ. (He did not have the people actually come forward during the church service as is commonly practiced today, but he invited them to come to Christ all the same; and he believed that a sinner was saved in every seat in the Metropolitan Tabernacle’s massive auditorium of that day.)
For example, one popular Calvinist paper of Spurgeon’s day was the Earthen Vessel. In one of its issues in 1857, it boldly stated that “to preach that it is man’s duty to believe savingly in Christ is ABSURD.” Well, that was exactly what Spurgeon preached, so to a great many Calvinists of his day, Spurgeon was an absurd fellow!
This reminds us that there are different kinds of Calvinists and it is not wise to lump them all into the same mold.
I have had the privilege of knowing, and communicating at a distance with, many godly soul winning Calvinists. Though I am in strong disagreement with such men on the subject of Calvinist theology, I do not consider them enemies.
At the same time, I believe that our differences in theology are great enough to disallow us to minister together or to be members together of the same church.
BEWARE OF ANOTHER DANGER: QUICK PRAYERISM
A danger that is at least as damaging to evangelism as Calvinism is the “Easy Believism” or “Quick Prayerism” that is so prevalent among fundamental Baptists and many other groups. I prefer to call it “Quick Prayerism” rather than “Easy Believism” because the fact is that salvation is by believing (John 3:16) and it is not difficult. Those who practice Quick Prayerism are characterized as follows:
(1) They are quick to “lead people to Christ” even when the gospel presentation has been shallow and insufficient. Consider the following statement on “What is Salvation?” from Saddleback Church pastored by Rick Warren of Purpose Driven Church fame: “Our disobedient nature has eternally separated us from our Creator. No matter how hard we try, we can never earn our way back into God’s presence. Our only hope is to trust Jesus as God’s provision for our disobedience.” This statement is so shallow and insufficient that it is difficult to know where to begin, but briefly, salvation is much more than a vague, undefined decision “to trust Jesus as God’s provision for our disobedience.” There is no mention of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, even though this is how Paul defined the gospel in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4. There is no mention of the blood. No mention of repentance. The Saddleback paraphrase of the gospel is no gospel at all, and to lead a person in a sinner’s prayer when this is all of the “gospel” they understand is a crime and a disgrace to the cause of Christ. The shallowness of this type of evangelism is why I could sit next to a church member at Saddleback last year and have him tell me that he has always been a Christian. This was in response to my question, “When were you born again?”
(2) They are quick to lead people in a prayer even when there is no evidence of conviction or regeneration, in contrast to the Apostle Paul who, like John the Baptist, required evidence of repentance. “But shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance” (Acts 26:20).
(3) They are quick to ignore repentance or redefine repentance to have nothing to do with sin or a change of life. The typical soul-winning plan doesn’t even hint at repentance, that there is going to be a change of direction, a submission to God.
Many have rejected traditional definitions of repentance as “a change of mind that results in a change of life” and have re-defined repentance, instead, as merely “a change from unbelief to belief.” If a large percentage of their “converts” show no sign of a change of life, it does not greatly concern them, because they do not believe that repentance always results in a change of life.
(4) They are quick to give people assurance even if there is no evidence of salvation. Biblical security is only for those who are genuinely born again and those who are such will give clear evidence of it (2 Cor. 5:17). To give assurance to someone, especially a complete stranger, merely because he has prayed a sinner’s prayer or has walked down an aisle and professed Christ to a church worker is very dangerous, because it tends to give false hope to large numbers of unregenerate people.
(5) They are quick to count numbers regardless of how empty. Those who practice Quick Prayerism typically report large numbers of “salvations” even though a significant percentage of their professions give no evidence of salvation. In my experience, it is not uncommon that 90% of the professions produced under such ministries are fruitless. It is dishonest to give such reports. It is one thing to say that “20 men prayed to receive Christ in the prison last night” or “500 people prayed the sinner’s prayer through the ministry of our church last year.” It is quite another thing to say “20 men got saved in the prison last night” or “500 people got saved through the ministry of our church last year.” This is especially true when the one giving the report knows by experience that most of his “converts” don’t pan out and that most of the professions produced in his ministry are as empty as a homeless man’s refrigerator.
In conclusion, I am not saying that there are forms of Calvinism that are Scriptural and that it is only some types of more extreme Calvinism that are unscriptural. Spurgeon said that we need to go back to the Calvinism of John Calvin. As much as I respect Charles Haddon Spurgeon (knowing, too, that he was only a man), I must disagree with that grand old warrior in this matter. I say we need to go far beyond that. Calvin himself went back as far as Augustine, but that, too, is not nearly far enough. In fact, depending on the very undependable Augustine was one of Calvin’s chief errors. We don’t need to go back to Calvin or Augustine. We need to go all the way back to “the faith once delivered to the saints” as it is perfectly and sufficiently recorded in the Scriptures! That is where our systematic theology must start AND END.
This entire article can be found at the following link -- http://www.wayoflife.org/fbns/calvinismdebate.html
For more on this subject see the following:
Dave Hunt’s Refutation of Calvinism - http://www.wayoflife.org/fbns/davehunt-calvinrefutation.html
“Calvin’s Camels” - http://www.wayoflife.org/fbns/calvins-camels.html