Saturday, March 4, 2017

A Scriptural Refutation Of Calvinism

  • Introduction:
          -Calvinism is a movement within traditional Protestantism that was developed by John Calvin (1509-1564), a French theologian. He was heavily influenced by the writings of the theologian and philosopher Augustine of Hippo. There are five major points to this complex theological system which are known by the acronym: "T.U.L.I.P."
  • Total Depravity:
          -A consequence of the fall of Adam and Eve is that man has been corrupted by sin. This has affected us negatively in every aspect of our being, physically, mentally, and spiritually. We therefore have a natural inclination to resist God. Man is totally unable to redeem himself. We cannot in any way change our sinful condition, but the grace of God can. Original sin does not mean that man is born with evil manifesting itself at its worst point or that he cannot do any kind of good works whatsoever. Rather, man has a natural bent toward choosing evil over good (Ephesians 2:1-3). Even our experience bears this point out. The Law of God says what it says despite our inability to live up to that standard. Thus, it condemns us. However, this is where grace comes into the picture of things. The atonement of Christ is the means by which God can forgive us.
  • Unconditional Election:
          -“All are not created on equal terms, but some are preordained to eternal life, others to eternal damnation; and, accordingly, as each has been created for one or other of these ends, we say that he has been predestinated to life or to death.” (Institutes of the Christian Religion: Book 3, Chapter 21, Section 5)
          -"The decree, I admit, is, dreadful; and yet it is impossible to deny that God foreknew what the end of man was to be before he made him, and foreknew, because he had so ordained by his decree." (The Institutes of Christian Religion, Book 3, Chapter 23, section 7)
          -The Bible teaches a different form of predestination than what is found in Calvinism. The scriptural view is that God determined beforehand, not which individuals will receive salvation and which ones will receive damnation, but how we would serve Him and the means by which we are redeemed. This view is known as corporate election. It pertains to the work that believers do in the church for the glory of God. He has predestined believers to be conformed to the image of His Son Jesus Christ (Romans 8:28-30; Ephesians 1:3-6). He has prepared in advance that we do good works (Ephesians 2:10). We become a part of God's elect by hearing and believing on the gospel as it is being proclaimed (John 6:51; Ephesians 1:13-14). 
          -God is not a respecter of persons (Acts 10:34; Romans 2:11-12; 1 Peter 1:17). He does not will that any perish, but all be saved (Titus 2:11; 1 Timothy 2:3-4; 2 Peter 3:9). God does not lead any into temptation (James 1:13-15). Sin is not from God (Jeremiah 7:24).
          -If we have already been predestined to heaven or hell, then what is the purpose of being cautious of the devil's plans of causing deception (1 Peter 5:8)? Why pray that His will be done (Matthew 6:10)?
          -If God has already meticulously predetermined everything since the foundation of the world, then it makes perfect sense for one to say that we have no free will. Why preach repent or perish?
          -Why would God sentence sinners to eternity in hell when He created them to be that way? Why would He punish people who had no control over their sinful actions in the first place?
          -If God has already meticulously predetermined everything since the foundation of the world, then there is no point in debating these issues since He created members of His elect to oppose Calvinism.
          -If God has foreordained since the beginning of time that the unbelieving and unrepentant are to perish eternally, then why did our Lord Jesus Christ claim that He was sent to seek and save that which is lost (Luke 19:9-10)? Why did God grieve over making man (Genesis 6:6)?
  • Limited Atonement:
          -"It maintains that God's design and intent in sending Christ to die on the cross was to pay for the sins and secure the redemption of those whom God has predetermined to save, namely the elect." (Theopedia, "Definite Atonement")
          -According to Scripture, Jesus Christ died not only for our sins, but also the whole world (1 John 2:1-2). He tasted death for all men (Hebrews 2:9). See also 1 Timothy 2:4-6 and Revelation 22:17. God wants every nation to repent and seek Him (Acts 17:26-31).
          -According to Scripture, Christ died even for false teachers (2 Peter 2:1). He has died for both the just and the unjust (1 Peter 3:18). Jesus Christ identified those who continually reject and oppose His message as being among those that He came to save (John 12:47-48).
          -If Jesus Christ was able to save the Apostle Paul who referred to himself as being the chief of sinners for persecuting the church of God in his younger days (1 Timothy 1:15-16), then would that not also imply that salvation is available to all who believe on the gospel (contrary to limited atonement)?
          -Notice how Paul included in his inspired definition of the gospel that Jesus Christ died "for our sins" (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). This sounds like a personal invitation to salvation. That is literally equivalent to me saying that Christ died for you and me, which refutes limited atonement.
          -Regardless of whether one is Calvinistic in soteriology or not, there is a sense in which the atonement is limited. It is either limited in scope (i.e. whoever is specifically chosen by God from before the foundation of the world) or by application (i.e. whoever believes the gospel receives the benefits of Christ's atonement).
  • Does Unlimited Atonement Necessitate Universalism?:
          -Christ's death for all men denotes divine judgement to the same extant because we have all been commanded to repent and believe on the gospel (Mark 1:15; Acts 17:26-31).
          -Just as the Jewish people had to look at the bronze serpent in order to be physically healed, so we must turn to Christ in order to have our spiritual infirmities removed (Numbers 21:9; John 3:14-16). Thus, no decision to receive salvation means no application of soteriological benefits.
          -God made atonement even for those whom He foreknew would not repent because of His love and graciousness. He blessed Adam and Even in the Garden of Eden even though He knew beforehand that they would fall. He sent prophets to admonish the Jews even though He knew beforehand that they would reject them.
          -God is, in the present tense, bringing about all things to His glory (Romans 8:28-30). If He specifically determined that the benefits of the cross be applied to all who repent and believe, then the gospel and His power are not undermined by belief in unlimited atonement.
  • Irresistible Grace:
          -"Those who obtain the new birth do so, not because they wanted to obtain it, but because of the sovereign discriminating grace of God." (Theopedia, "Irresistible Grace")
          -If irresistible grace is a biblical doctrine, then why is it that God would "spread out His hands all day long" to His rebellious nation Israel (Isaiah 65:2)? Why would God put Himself through so much trouble when He could have instantaneously resolved that problem? Why did Jesus mourn over Israel's unwillingness to accept the prophets God had sent (Matthew 23:37)?
  • Perseverance Of The Saints (Also Known As Eternal Security Or Once Saved, Always Saved):
          -"...those who are truly saved will persevere to the end and cannot lose their salvation. It doesn't mean that a person who is truly saved will never lose faith or backslide at any time..."Eternal security" is often seen as synonymous with "Perseverance of the saints." (Theopedia, "Perseverance of the Saints")
          -Warning texts for Christians against apostasy do not sit well with the idea that it is impossible for one to lose his salvation (Hebrews 3:12; 2 Peter 3:17; 9:24-27; Colossians 1:23; 2:4; 2 Thessalonians 2:3; 1 Timothy 4:1-4; 6:20-21; Galatians 5:4-5; 2 Peter 2:1-3; 20-22; James 5:19-20). We even have a few examples of genuine Christians falling away from the faith recorded in New Testament (1 Timothy 1:18-21; 5:11-15; 2 Timothy 4:10). In other words, it is possible for Christians to "walk away" their salvation.
          -God disciplines those who He loves, just as a father does a son who is guilty of some wrongdoing (Deuteronomy 8:3-5; Proverbs 3:12). A God who is willing to lay down His life for sinners is not going to instantaneously give up on somebody. A person does not reach sinless perfection upon conversion. We still struggle with a sin nature, but the grace of God, which we do not deserve, does transform our hearts. How God dealt with Israel in the Old Testament is a testimony to His patience. 
          -The loss of salvation is not caused by a single bad work, but is a slow, gradual process that takes place over time. We do not do bad works to "get unsaved." Bad works are the evidence, not the cause, of a declining faith or hardening heart. Our works are symptomatic of our spiritual state. God examines our hearts. We are justified by faith, apart from the merit of any good works (Romans 4:2-8). We are saved by faith in Christ. We obtain mercy from God through genuine repentance.
          -It is technically difficult for a Christian to "lose" his salvation. God is slow to anger (Psalm 145:8). He is rich in mercy (Ephesians 1:7-8). He does not will that any man perish (2 Peter 3:9). God is faithful even during our times of unfaithfulness. The Holy Spirit continually convicts the conscience of sin. But He can still cast off bad branches. Christians do not lose their free will upon conversion. He certainly has the power to keep us, but will not force people into heaven. That would not be love. We were not created to be robots or puppets, but His children.
          -We are kept in by the Holy Spirit the same way that we entered the Kingdom of God: faith (Galatians 3:1-6; Colossians 2:6-7). In other words, we are both justified and sanctified by faith. Salvation is not analogous to some wage that we can deplete by sin. We are not saved by acting better or remaining faithful, but by trusting in the atonement of Christ. We are either fully a part of God's kingdom or not a member at all.
  • Does A Rejection Of Calvinism Mean That Man Takes Credit For His Own Salvation And That God Is Not Sovereign?:
          -It is true that man in his fallen condition can never please God. We could never merit our salvation. His grace is an absolute necessity. 
          -We absolutely need Christ's imputed righteousness. It is by faith in Him that we are saved. However, we must accept the terms of forgiveness as prescribed in the gospel. 
          -This is analogous to a physician informing a patient of the need for a procedure such as a liver transplant. The latter performs the work on the former. In the same vein, it is God who diagnoses our problem of sin and totally removes it from our being. 
          -We have the ability to recognize that we have a spiritual problem in light of divine revelation. The choice to accept the gift of justification is not a work, anymore than is grabbing a lifesaver while drowning or accepting a birthday gift from a loved one. To say that we take credit for accepting a free, and even undeserved, gift would be irrational in the highest degree.
          -There is no denying that salvation is of God. He is its author and finisher. It is God who gets all the credit for saving us. Our decision to approach Him in humble repentance does not merit us anything. God is not under any obligation whatsoever to save us. 
          -God is compassionate and merciful. Our decision to repent is distinguished from His decision to save us. These two ideas cannot be equated. Faith is the antithesis of works (Romans 4:4-5; 11:6; Ephesians 2:8-9). Faith carries with it no merit of its own.
          -Atonement is applied freely to all who come to Christ by faith. It is God who regenerates us. The gospel itself has sufficient power to draw any sinner to God (Romans 1:16; 1 Corinthians 1:21; Hebrews 4:12). His grace is an absolute necessity in our conversion. The gospel is God's gracious offer of salvation to undeserving sinners.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is an outstanding article. I appreciate the Scriptural references and clarifications addressing some of Calvin’s teachings. Thanks so much for this!