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 church father Augustine. There are five major points to this complex theological system that are known by the acronym: "T.U.L.I.P."
  • Total Depravity:
          -The Bible never states that we are unable to do anything, but rather that we are unwilling to come to God (Isaiah 59:1-2). One consequence of the fall is that man has been corrupted by sin. We have a natural inclination to resist God. This is why He sent His Son Jesus Christ to make atonement on our behalf. We can only be justified by the grace of God. Justification cannot be merited by good works. But we must choose to accept His free offer of salvation as presented in the gospel. The biblical doctrine of total depravity is distinguished from the Calvinistic notion of total inability.
  • 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? How does it not follow that God is the author of sin?
          -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)?
          -Since we have no way to know God's predetermined decree, it follows that we cannot have any objective basis to know whether or not we are a part of His elect.
  • 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 (whoever is specifically chosen by God from before the foundation of the world) or by application (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 distress when He could have instantaneously resolved the problem?
           -Scripture very clearly affirms that God has given us reason and free will, which encompasses the ability to refuse the grace of God. Consider texts such as Joshua 24:15, Proverbs 1:29, Nehemiah 9:30, Isaiah 63:10, and 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 or her salvation (Hebrews 3:12; 2 Peter 3:17; 1 Corinthians 8:10-12; 9:24-27; Colossians 1:23; 2:4; 2 Thessalonians 2:3; 1 Timothy 4:1-4; 6:20-21; Acts 20:28-32; 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. That is totally unrealistic. 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. King David himself serves as a display to the greatness of His mercy.
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 heartfelt repentance.
          -It is technically difficult for a Christian to lose his or her 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). He 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. People can and do, though as shocking or unfortunate it may seem, abandon heartfelt convictions. God forbid that a believer apostatize from the faith, but it is an undeniable reality. 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.
          -If a Christian holds fast to the gospel by faith, and that alone, then he or she can rest assured of entering Paradise in the afterlife. 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. Justification is not analogous to some sort of a wage that we can deplete by sin. We are not saved by "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?:
          -Just because one believes that he or she must choose to accept Christ for salvation, does not validate the charge of a performance oriented gospel. That is a misrepresentation. It is true that man in his fallen nature can never please God. We could never merit our salvation. His grace is an absolute necessity. We absolutely need His imputed righteousness. It is by faith in Jesus Christ 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 the author of our salvation. He is the finisher of our salvation. It is He who gets all the credit for saving us. Our decision to approach God in humble repentance does not merit us anything. God is not under any obligation whatsoever to save us. He is compassionate. He is merciful. Our decision to repent is distinguished from His decision to save us. These two ideas cannot be equated. None of His plans are thwarted because He has given us the ability to either accept or reject Him. That is how He ordained things to be. Faith is the antithesis of works (Romans 4:4-5; 11:6). 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. Faith is not meritorious, but the antithesis of works (Ephesians 2:8-9). Christ's substitutionary atonement is not simply an example to follow, but was actually done as atonement for our sins.

1 comment:

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

    ReplyDelete