Calvinism (also known as reformed theology) is a branch of Protestant Christianity that is commonly associated with John Calvin during the Reformation era of around 1500-1650.
The teachings of Calvinism have filtered through into many Christian denominations and churches today. It is becoming so widely taught that many people conform to it without understanding what it is.
Calvinists hold alternative views on many essential doctrines such as who God is, salvation and Christ’s atonement for sin.
One of the reasons we want to explore Calvinism in such great depth is because of the danger it poses to a believer. Many Calvinists struggle over whether they are truly one of the elect, whether God has selected them for salvation and also struggle with their idea of God’s personality and love that Calvinism poses.
Charles Spurgeon often struggled with Calvinism and wrote that “those great truths, which are called Calvinism… are, I believe, the essential doctrines of the Gospel that is in Jesus Christ.”
To many preachers and believers, it has become a fundamental part of what they believe, completely entwined with the gospel and therefore needs to be warned against if it is found to be false.
The teachings of Calvinism can be traced back to John Calvin, but also to St Augustine. We will briefly explore the lives of these men to study their influence on modern day Calvinism.
Who was St Augustine?
St Augustine of Hippo was a Catholic bishop who is famous for his philosophical views and writings. He was born in AD 354 in present day Algeria.
Augustine was considered one of the most highly regarded Catholic saints, and many of his teachings carried through the reformation and continued with Lutherans and Calvinists that broke away from Catholicism.
Alvin L. Baker wrote in ‘Berkouwer’s Doctrine of Election: Balance or Imbalance?’, “There is hardly a doctrine of Calvin that does not bear the marks of Augustine’s influence.”
Augustine was one of the first to write about regeneration, election and predestination as fits with reformed theology, and was clearly a huge influence on John Calvin.
Who was John Calvin?
John Calvin was born in France in 1509 and died in Geneva, Switzerland in 1564. In 1523 he went to the University of Paris to study to be a priest but later decided that he wanted to be a lawyer and studied in Orléans, France.
In 1531 he returned to Paris and became involved in the Protestant movement for church reform as begun by Martin Luther (who posted his 95 Theses when Calvin was eight years old). In 1534 he fled Paris as a result of the resistance to the Protestants and went to Angoulême, France.
He later settled in Switzerland and wrote ‘The Institutes of the Christian Religion’, which he continued working on until his death. In this book he recorded his ideas on the total depravity of man, predestination and God’s sovereignty and quoted the writings of St Augustine extensively.
He began preaching against Catholicism and immorality in Geneva in 1536, until he was banished back to France where he married in 1540. In 1541 he was asked to return to Geneva by the council to restore order to the people and encourage the organisation of the structure of the reformed church.
He elected a group of pastors and elders to control public immorality; they were given permission to search homes, banish people, force attendance during sermons and ban dancing, drinking and gambling.
It was forbidden to criticise Calvin or church officials and punishments could include fines, banishments or the death penalty, and between 1541 and 1546, hundreds of Christians were killed for rejecting Calvin’s views.
During his final years, Calvin trained up many men to carry his ideas all across Europe.
How did Calvinism begin?
John Calvin may not have been the first person to teach the doctrines that are associated with Calvinism, but he was one of the first to clearly explain and record what he taught. He was also highly influential in popularising the ideas and encouraged the early spread of his teachings across Europe, particularly England, Scotland, France and Germany.
Early Calvinist views may have begun with Huldrych Zwingli, who is known for beginning the Swiss Reformation of the church, teaching similar ideas to Martin Luther. He held to the doctrine of election, as did other figures involved in the Swiss Reformation.
Many other public figures around that time also believed in election and predestination, such as Heinrich Bullinger, Guilhelm Farel, Wolfgang Musculus and Peter Martyr Vermigli. It was a few years later when Calvin first wrote his book and began to bring popularity to the teachings.
During the 1550s, many of the French refugees that were being persecuted for their Protestant views (known as Huguenots) fled to Geneva, where Calvin trained them in his doctrines and sent them out to share it around the world. Calvin also had an input in the French Confession of Faith in 1559.
John Willock and John Knox then played a huge part in spreading reformed theology to Scotland during the Scottish reformation, and the Church of Scotland accepted the Scots Confession which embraced Calvinist doctrines. At a similar time it became popular in the Netherlands, Germany and Poland.
During the English reformation, Calvinist ideas were encouraged by Peter Martyr Vermigli, Martin Bucer and Jan Laski through consultation with Archbishop Thomas Cranmer.
In 1620, a group of English separatists known as Puritans travelled on the Mayflower to Plymouth (a colony in North America). Most of them were from a Calvinist group known as the Brownists. Other Calvinist Puritans also travelled to settle in Northern American colonies, for example colonists from the Dutch Reformed Church settled in New Netherland and began to teach Calvinist doctrines.
In the 1630s, there was a movement of Calvinistic Baptists who published the First London Baptist Confession in 1644. In the 18th century, this was used by the Philadelphia Associated (formed by Calvinist Baptists) to create the Philadelphia Confession which was almost identical.
What does Calvinism teach about God’s sovereignty?
During its spread across the world, reformed theology has come to mean many different things. It can be understood in many different ways, however our aim is to examine whether or not the fundamental teachings it holds to are consistent with what the Bible teaches.
Calvinism teaches that God is sovereign. This means that because he is all-knowing, all-powerful and all-present, he can do anything that he chooses to do.
Of course, the principle of God’s limitless power is taught throughout the Bible, for example, Jeremiah 32:27, “Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh: is there any thing too hard for me?”
Also, 1 Chronicles 29:11-12, “Thine, O LORD is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine; thine is the kingdom, O LORD, and thou art exalted as head above all. Both riches and honour come of thee, and thou reignest over all; and in thine hand is power and might; and in thine hand it is to make great, and to give strength unto all.”
These passages clearly teach that God has the power and ability to do anything that he chooses to, in line with his other characteristics and aspects of his nature. For example, the Bible says in Titus 1:2, “In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began;”. We see that God cannot lie, this is not because he is limited and unable to, but because it contradicts his nature.
However, Calvinists take this teaching to an extreme level where it contradicts man’s free will. Charles Gregg Singer wrote in his book, ‘John Calvin: His Roots and Fruits’, “No person since Adam has ever had a free will… Every unsaved person is…. free to go only in one direction… free to go down.”
Calvinists hold to different beliefs on this subject. Some exaggerate God’s sovereignty to argue that it eliminates man’s free will completely and all of our actions have already been chosen for us by God. Others say that God just knows our every action that we will choose and therefore only God can understand how our will can be reconciled with his sovereignty.
The majority of Calvinist teachers would agree that Calvinism is founded on the idea that God is sovereign. However, they make God the cause of every single thing that occurs, and eliminate man’s decisions, even in relation to sin. Loraine Boettner in his book, ‘The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination’ wrote, “Even the fall of Adam, and through him the fall of the race… was so ordained in the secret counsels of God.”
Furthermore, Edwin Palmer in his book ‘The Five Points of Calvinism’ wrote, “Even sin – the fall of the devil from heaven, the fall of Adam, and every evil thought, word, and deed in all of history, including the worst sin of all, Judas’ betrayal of Christ – is included in the eternal decree of our holy God… If sin is outside the decree of God, then the vast percentage of human actions… are removed from God’s plan. God’s power is reduced to the forces of nature… Sin is not only foreknown by God, it is also foreordained by God… Calvin is very clear on this point: “Man wills with an evil will what God wills with a good will””.
This teaches that our sin is a direct result of God willing it to happen, sin occurs by God’s decree, not by man’s choice.
Philip Congdon wrote ‘Soteriological Implications of Five-Point Calvinism’ against these teachings and said, “Classical Calvinists may talk about man having a “free will”, but it is a very limited freedom!”
Calvinists believe that if man had the freedom to choose their own actions, this would contradict God’s sovereignty. Each time we sin, this was already ordained to happen by God, but also our choice whether or not to be saved was made for us by God and is unchangeable, we could not choose against this even if we wished to.
Even amongst Calvinists, this doctrine is made unclear and uncertain, but it is generally agreed that Calvinists teach every action of man is done according to God’s will. However, how can our sin be according to God’s will? Is this not contrary to God’s will for us?
Ezekiel 33:11 reads, “Say unto them, As I live, saith the LORD God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?”
This verse shows God pleading with Israel to turn from their evil ways, God desires that “the wicked turn from his way and live”, however in order for this to actually happen, man has to listen to God pleading with him and choose to act in accordance with God’s will for them.
God asks them “why will ye die”, even though God pleads with them to live, they choose wickedness and death. This verse clearly places the responsibility of the sin on man, not on God’s sovereign foreordination which causes them to sin.
A.A. Hodge wrote, “Foreordination is an act of the… benevolent will of God from all eternity determining… all events that come to pass.” This makes God the author of evil and removes man’s accountability for sin, as it was already decided for us by God.
Calvin himself wrote in ‘Institutes of the Christian Religion’, “God is the disposer and ruler of all things… the counsels and wills of men are so governed as to move exactly in the course which he has destined”.
This is not just teaching that God foreknows each event that will happen, it teaches that God “destined” each action we will make and has already governed our wills to act however he chooses us to.
In order for Calvinists to teach that God exercises complete control about everything that happens in the universe, they must also accept that God is the cause and creator of man’s sin, otherwise man would be acting against God’s will, which does not conform to a sovereign view of God.
The only way to reconcile God’s nature and power with a world full of sin and suffering is to allow for man’s free will and man’s ability to choose to rebel against God’s will. This also makes man responsible for their own choices and does not diminish God’s power but shows his decision to allow man a choice rather than decreeing our every action.
God has all knowledge, and therefore knew each sin we would commit before we ever committed them. He did not decree or cause the sin, man’s free will and disobedience did, but God does not stop us sinning in order to preserve our choice and place the responsibility on us.
Calvinists make God the author of sin and argue that because he has already foreordained us to sin, we could not choose not to even if we wished to.
Palmer wrote in ‘Sovereignty’, “The Bible has well over a hundred examples in which God brought sin to pass… This is the awesome Biblical asymmetry: God ordains sin and man is to blame. We cannot comprehend this. If all things are ordained by God – including sin and unbelief – then God has ordained who will be unbelievers”.
The God of Calvinism is a God that chose man to sin, rather than man choosing to sin as a result of his own rebellion. As Will Durant wrote in ‘The Reformation’, Calvin “darkened the human soul with the most absurd and blasphemous conception of God in all the long and honoured history of nonsense.”
This is not consistent with the teachings of the Bible. For example, Romans 14:12 reads, “So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.” If God “brought [our] sin to pass” as Palmer wrote, or if God ordained “sin and unbelief”, it is meaningless and unjust that we will be judged for our sin and made to give an account of ourselves to God, as God has already foreordained whether we shall sin or not sin, and we are completely helpless to contradict this.
Furthermore, Hebrews 10:26 teaches that we are able to “sin wilfully”, this teaches sin happens as a direct result of man’s will, not because God destined it to occur.
We understand that God is in control and that nothing can happen unless he allows it to. For example, see 1 Corinthians 10:13 which says, “…but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able…”, God will not allow anything to happen that tempts us beyond what we can cope with, he has the power to stop things happening but also the wisdom to allow things to happen that can strengthen us or edify us.
The difference between this understanding of God and Calvinist teaching is that we believe that God has unlimited power to allow/stop events from happening, but he is not the direct cause of all events that occur. If I choose to lie, this is not because God destined it and caused it, it will occur because God allowed me to act on my free choice.
Calvinism distorts the nature of God and makes his sovereignty so supreme that it damages our understanding of God being loving, merciful and just. It teaches that God destines man to sin and punishes them for it anyway, and we will examine further how Calvinism destroys God’s love for us as we study the five points of Calvinism.
The Five Points of Calvinism:
The main teachings of Calvinism are often summarised with the acronym TULIP, as shown below:
T – Total Depravity
U – Unconditional Election
L – Limited Atonement
I – Irresistible Grace
P – Perseverance of the Saints
Those who follow Calvinist teaching often differ on the extent to which they agree with these points, sometimes calling themselves “five-point Calvinists”, “four-point Calvinists” etc. Even amongst Calvinist or reformed churches there is often disagreement on the levels to which each of these doctrines is held to.
Each of the points follows on systematically from the last and creates the need for the next doctrine, as we will see below. For instance, the totally deprived nature of man creates the need for unconditional election and so on.
Below, we will explore each of these points in more detail and study whether each doctrine is scriptural. If it is not, it needs to be warned against, as the Bible says that we should “hate every false way” (Psalm 119:104).
The Calvinist doctrine of total depravity teaches that since Adam’s original sin, everyone is born into sin and we are wholly affected by our sinful nature.
This is taught from verses including the following:
Jeremiah 17:9, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?”
Romans 3:10-11, “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.”
This idea is taught within the Bible, our natural man has a sinful nature and our sin is caused by our heart.
However, Calvinists take this further and teach that we have such a sinful nature, we could never freely choose to trust in Christ or accept the gift of salvation. We are so enslaved to sin that it is impossible for us to understand and respond to the gospel message.
The London Baptist Confession of 1689 (written by Calvinists), says, “As a consequence of his fall into a state of sin, man… is not able, by any strength of his own, to turn himself to God, or even to prepare himself to turn to God.”
Therefore, they teach that in order for us to be able to be saved, it cannot be by our own choice, so God must intervene and create a change in us that makes us open to salvation, which they call regeneration.
But what does regeneration mean? The Bible uses this term in Titus 3:5, “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;”.
Calvinistcorner.com uses an analogy of a light bulb to show that ‘regeneration’ must occur before our faith for salvation is possible. They say that if a light bulb is going to light up, the electricity must be in place. But it is not true that the light has to be in place in order for the electricity to occur. The light depends on the electricity, the electricity does not depend on the light.
Therefore, the electricity must logically come first. However, once the electricity comes, the light simultaneously and instantly appears. The electricity is not first temporally, just logically.
Similarly, they argue regeneration must come before faith, not in regards to a time period but purely in terms of logic. Although they seem to happen at the same time, logically, God’s process of regeneration must have come first which then creates the opportunity for salvation.
From a Biblical perspective, regeneration simply means the moment we are freely born again. As we have seen in Titus 3:5, regeneration is associated with when God “saved us”, “washing” and “renewing”. Throughout the rest of the Bible, these terms are associated with the moment of salvation and being born again as a new creature.
The problem lies with who is responsible for initiating the regeneration and at what point in our salvation it occurs, which is a debate known as monergism/synergism.
Monergism (which Calvinists identify with) teaches that God alone is responsible for all aspects of our salvation and that we have no input or choice in this, but God saves us according to his sovereign power.
Synergism on the other hand, teaches that we play a role in our salvation to some degree by choosing to personally accept Christ and cooperate with God’s will for us to be saved.
In order to teach monergism, Calvinists use verses such as John 1:13, “Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” They use this to say that our salvation is not of our own will, but purely by God’s will.
However, one argument against that understanding of this verse could be that it means we cannot will for each other to be saved, but it has to be a personal and individual decision. It is not because of another man’s will for me that I can be saved, but because of my own desire to.
Furthermore, by reading the verse in context with verse 12, we see that our salvation is conditional on us personally choosing to receive and believe. We cannot be saved if we choose not to receive salvation or believe on Christ, and therefore the verse is not teaching that salvation is foreordained for us by God’s desire, but that our salvation comes only by God’s work to pay our sin for us, our salvation is purely “of God”, but not decided for us by God. Salvation cannot be a decision that is made for us.
The Bible is clear that God brings the conviction and understanding necessary for salvation and begins a work in us in order for us to desire to be saved. As Jesus said in John 6:44, “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.” God draws us to the Saviour and reveals to us how to be saved, but it is down to us as individuals to make the choice to follow this and obey God’s calling.
There are many other Bible verses that teach that it is our responsibility to turn to God and seek him, for example:
Jeremiah 29:13, “And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.”
Hebrews 11:6, “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.”
Isaiah 55: 6-7, “Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.”
Revelation 22:17, “…And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.”
Acts 7:51, “Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye.” Why would Stephen rebuke the Jews for resisting God if it was not their choice to?
The moment that we are born again, after personally and freely making the decision to place our trust in Jesus Christ as our Saviour, we are regenerated, as we become a new man.
2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”
At the point of salvation (once we are “in Christ”), we put off the old man and put on the new man and are renewed as we become a new creature. Regeneration is not a work that God needs to do before we can begin to be saved, it is something that happens to us the moment we are saved, and happens because we are saved.
Look at Galatians 3:26, “For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.” We become the children of God through our faith in Christ Jesus, not by a process of regeneration that has to be chosen and initiated by God first.
Hebrews 4:2 says, “For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it.” The gospel is not profitable unto salvation if it is not mixed with faith. This verse does not teach that the gospel is not profitable to people because God has not chosen to regenerate them, it is because they do not have faith. We need faith for salvation, which then results in the process of regeneration as we are born again.
It is true that man is born with a sinful nature, we are born into sin and this is why we need to be born again, spiritually. The issue with total depravity is the teaching that sin makes us so depraved that we are completely unable to respond to the gospel, unless we are selected to be sovereignly regenerated by God.
The Calvinist doctrine of regeneration teaches that God causes a change in sinners that enables them to receive the gospel, but this is not the same as salvation, so it is possible for someone to be regenerated but still be unsaved. This is like teaching that we need to be born again (regenerated) in order to be born again (saved)!
How can Calvinism teach that we are so depraved we are unable to respond to the gospel and be saved, and yet we will be held accountable and punished if we are not saved? We cannot be punished for being unwilling to do what we are not able to do, and this teaching contradicts itself, but most importantly damages our understanding of God’s character.
The Bible is clear that each of us are born in sin, but we are presented with a choice: to trust in the salvation freely offered to us through Christ, or reject it, which will result in an eternity spent in hell. It never teaches that we are unable to make this choice and therefore it must be made for us by God, and it never teaches that regeneration must come before faith. God gives each of us enough freedom and enough knowledge to choose, and we are responsible for the choice we make.
Therefore, the Calvinist teaching of total depravity is not Biblical. The Bible teaches that man is sinful but at the moment we freely choose to be saved, we are regenerated and washed from our sin, not that God needs to intervene and regenerate us in order to give us the ability to even understand the gospel, before the point of salvation.
There is not a single Bible verse Calvinists can point to that teaches that we cannot believe the gospel unless God regenerates us first.
The reason people are not saved is not because they are unable to respond to the gospel, it is because they have heard it and made the decision to reject it. Jesus said in John 5:40, “And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life.” He offered salvation and eternal life to them freely but it was because they would not accept it that they were unsaved, not because they were unable to accept it.
If salvation is a free gift, that is freely given and freely accepted, how can we be unable to understand or accept it? How can we lack the ability to believe? Paul spoke of the “simplicity that is in Christ”, and yet we are unable to receive it? How can God offer us a way of redeeming us from sin, the we are unable to accept – because of our sin?
This teaches that because we are all dead in sin, God must elect (choose) certain people for salvation, and anyone who is not part of the ‘elect’ cannot be saved.
Election is not based on the merit of the individual person (as we are all in a state of total depravity) but based on who God decides to set his love and grace upon.
Calvinists teach that since the foundation of the world, God chose who he would save and his sovereign choice is unchangeable, therefore only those who God has elected to salvation are able to be saved, everyone else will remain ignorant of God and the gospel and be condemned to eternity in hell without even a chance for salvation.
A key idea of this teaching is that the election of the saints is unconditional, this means that if God elects someone, they will be saved without any input or choice of their own, and nothing can reverse God’s election.
Unconditional election is taught from verses such as:
Ephesians 1:4, “According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:”
Romans 9:16, “So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.”
Romans 9:21, “Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?”
Acts 13:48, “And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.”
Calvinists teach a different understanding of the term ‘election’ which is not consistent with the Bible.
Gotquestions.org says that the term ‘elect’ means chosen for salvation, just as we choose who to elect as President. The main verse they use to teach this is 1 Peter 1:2, which says, “Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied.”
They also say, “God not only divinely elects those who will have faith in Jesus Christ, but also divinely elects to grant to these individuals the faith in Jesus Christ… God’s election unto salvation is not based on a foreknowledge of an individual’s faith, but is based on the free, sovereign grace of Almighty God. God elects people to salvation, and in time these people will come to faith in Christ because God has elected them.”
This is teaching that whoever God chooses to elect to salvation will be saved, without any decision of their own. However, this actually contradicts the verse which says, “Elect according to the foreknowledge of God”, the elect are saved by their own free will, but according to God’s foreknowledge. This means that God already knows who will and will not get saved, but based on our own faith and desire for salvation, not an unconditional election.
Foreknowledge is not God choosing whether or not we will be one of the elect, it means that God has complete knowledge about who will or will not freely choose to be saved. God knows whether or not we will be saved from the foundation of the world, but he does not decide it for us.
A Calvinist understanding of election is contradictory to the free gift of salvation we see in God’s word. The Bible clearly shows that God extends salvation to all, and it is our own individual responsibility to either accept or reject it.
The reason Calvinists teach a monergistic view of salvation is because they believe that if man makes their own choice, this gives man control and destroys God’s sovereignty. Again, GotQuestions.org says, “God chooses those whom He will save and then saves them. This view puts God in His proper place as Creator and Sovereign.”
However, this ignores the damage that this teaching does to God’s nature. It does not damage God’s sovereignty to allow man a choice, it emphasises his power in providing a means of salvation and shows his mercy and grace as he offers each man a choice, draws them to him and then permits man to choose eternal life or eternal damnation.
This creates a much more loving and powerful understanding of God, instead of making our unchangeable choice for us, he opens the way of salvation to everyone.
However, rather than this teaching of previous election creating an image of a unjust, unloving God who chooses in advance whether or not we can be saved or not saved, Calvinists actually argue that it shows an amazing revelation of God’s love for the elect.
Calvinists even teach that God is pleased to ordain the majority of people to hell. The Westminster Confession of Faith says, “The rest of mankind, God was pleased, according to his unsearchable counsels of his own will… for the glory of his sovereign power over his creatures… to ordain them to dishonour and wrath for their sin, to the praise of his glorious justice.”
So God has selected the majority of the world to be unregenerate and spend eternity in hell, and this supposedly pleases him and shows his sovereign power and glory!
This is clearly contradicted by Ezekiel 33:11 that we looked at previously, “…I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?”
Furthermore, if we look at what the Bible says the will of God really is, we see that God’s will is to have all men to be saved (1 Timothy 2:4, 2 Peter 3:9, John 6:40). Our will is battling against this, but God balances his sovereignty and his gift to us of free will, and allows us the choice. Jesus said in John 5:40, “And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life.” It is because of the sinful will of man that so many people today are unsaved, not because God chose not to elect them.
A key question raised by the monergistic teaching is on what basis does God choose to elect or not elect us?
Calvinists would not teach that we are chosen for salvation by our own merit or qualities, as we know that “all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags” to God (Isaiah 64:6). But they would also disagree that whom God chooses to elect is decided randomly or on a whim.
Therefore, what decided whether or not God chose to elect us? It is not down to our own willingness, as according to Calvinists we have no will in salvation, otherwise God would not be exercising his sovereign power.
Ephesians 1:4 says, “he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world”, but how does God choose us if it is neither specific nor random?
Psalm 33:14-15 reads, “From the place of his habitation he looketh upon all the inhabitants of the earth. He fashioneth their hearts alike…”. Our hearts have been fashioned alike, there is no justification for a Calvinist to say that God chooses to elect some and not others.
Calvinists also misuse the term ‘predestination’. They teach that it means God choosing whether or not we will be one of the elect.
However, look at Romans 8:29, “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren”, this verse does not teach that God pre-chooses us and destines whether or not we will be saved, but predestination is based on God’s foreknowledge of our choice.
The doctrine of unconditional election teaches that God only extends salvation to those he has elected. There is such a huge number of verses in the Bible that contradict this by showing that salvation is freely offered to everyone, for example those given below:
John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
John 10:9, “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.”
2 Peter 3:9, “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”
1 Timothy 2:3-4, “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.”
Titus 2:11, “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men,”
John 7:37, “In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.”
Isaiah 45:22, “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else.”
Psalm 86:5, “For thou, LORD, art good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon thee.”
Psalm 145:9, “The LORD is good to all: and his tender mercies are over all his works.”
These verses clearly show that God offers salvation to “the world”, “whosoever”, “any man”, “all”, “all men”, “all the ends of the earth”, etc. This is not a limited group of elect people, salvation is offered to every single person in the world and it is the responsibility for each of us as individuals to accept it in order to be saved.
Calvinists argue against these verses by teaching that when the Bible uses terms such as “whosoever”, “all men” and “all”, it is only referring to the group of the elect which are spread amongst all men.
Therefore, when the Bible says “whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life”, Calvinists believe that this means that when the elect believe on Christ (once God has elected and regenerated them), they will be saved.
This teaching is clearly false and contradictory to the teachings of the Bible.
If we examine Titus 2:11 in more detail, this verse says that “the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men”. If we take the Bible literally and how it is clearly written, this means that God’s saving grace can be understood and has been revealed to everyone.
This contradicts the teaching of total depravity and unconditional election, as these teach that the gospel can only be acknowledged and understood if God has done the work already to regenerate and elect us.
Furthermore, if we study the times that the phrase “all men” is used in the Bible, we allow the Bible to define itself rather than adding our own misinterpretation.
Matthew 19:11 reads, “But he said unto them, All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given.”
The context of the passage is related to marriage, but we clearly see a distinction between two groups of people, “all men” and “they to whom it is given”. Therefore, if we use scripture to interpret scripture, “all men” means everyone collectively, as not everyone could accept what Jesus was teaching, and “they to whom it is given” means a part of the whole group.
This verse supports the understanding of Titus 2:11 and the other verses as teaching that God offers salvation to every single person, “all men”, “whosoever” etc. literally means everyone, not just the elect.
How can we say that every time the Bible refers to everyone or the entire world, this is only referring to the elect? Why say “the world” but only mean a select few? We cannot put our own interpretation on these verses, we must take them for what they clearly say.
‘Elect’ is a Biblical term, however the Calvinist understanding of it is unbiblical. As we have seen, reformed theology teaches that election means God choosing whether or not we will be saved, whereas the Bible teaches that the elect are people who are saved.
Everyone in the world is given the chance to understand salvation and if we exercise our free will to accept Christ, we are adopted into God’s family and become one of the elect.
Again, a key issue with the teaching of unconditional election, is why does God only choose to elect a certain number of people?
Arthur Pink wrote in his book, ‘Sovereignty’, “If God was able to subdue your will and win your heart, and that without interfering with your moral responsibility, then is He not able to do the same for others? Assuredly he is.”
But then why doesn’t he? Why does God save so few and condemn so many to hell?
Why does God not choose to save us all?
It does so much damage to God’s character, when the Bible tells us that “God is love” (1 John 4:8), God “so loved the world” (John 3:16), and yet Calvinists teach that God has the ability to regenerate everyone to be able to be saved, and yet he only chooses a certain few. Is this a loving act?
We know from 2 Peter 3:9 that God is “…not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” How can we reconcile this verse with the Calvinist teaching that God ordains people to eternal damnation and does not offer them any hope of salvation because they are not part of the elect? And even that he is pleased to do so?
This teaching completely destroys our understanding of salvation, instead of it being something meaningful and personal to each of us, reformed doctrine makes it into some kind of lottery so that God chooses whether or not to grant to each of us eternal life, before we were even born.
Furthermore, unconditional election removes a Christian’s trust in God. How can we pray for our loved ones to be saved, or serve God by preaching the gospel to every creature as we have been commanded to, or praise God for his mercy and grace, or even trust God that we have truly been saved? How can we trust our Creator if he created the majority of this world to go straight to hell for eternity without a chance?
Calvinism at its core redefines God’s nature and completely eliminates his love for all humanity. How could we accept the teachings of Calvinism with such sacrifice to our faith and understanding of God and the Bible?
Again, how can God decide to either make us elect or reprobate before we have even been born, and then still punish for eternity those who he has not elected to salvation anyway?
John Wesley correctly stated that God “will punish no man for doing anything he could not possibly avoid; neither for omitting anything which he could not possibly do. Every punishment supposes the offender might have avoided the offence for which he is punished. Otherwise, to punish him would be palpably unjust, and inconsistent with the character of God.”
How is the God of Calvinism just and fair by sending people to hell as a punishment even though he has created them completely unable to respond to the gospel and not part of the elect?
Finally, we will examine another verse used by Calvinists to teach unconditional election.
2 Thessalonians 2:13 reads, “But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth:”.
Already we can see how this verse could be twisted to teach that Paul was writing to the church at Thessalonica that “God hath from the beginning chosen… to salvation”, and therefore they had to have been elected to salvation otherwise they would not have been saved.
However, this verse is not teaching that God had to choose them to be saved, if we read it with the rest of the verse it says God, “hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth”.
This means that from the foundation of the world, God had chosen that the method of salvation would be “through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth”, the part that God had chosen was how he would offer salvation to us, which is by faith. He did not choose who would be able to be saved, but how he could offer salvation to us all.
Even if God had chosen them to salvation, there is no reason to say that he only chose a select few. God chose the entire world to be saved, which is why he died for the sins of the whole world. It is then the duty of each individual to chose salvation. God chose the nation of Israel to be a peculiar people and to be holy (Deuteronomy 14:2), but this doesn’t mean that every Israelite obeyed this.
Another verse that Calvinists use is Exodus 33:19 where God said, “… [I] will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy.”
However, they always take this in a negative sense to say that God’s grace and mercy is limited by God. If God dispenses mercy and grace on whom he chooses, in his sovereign power this therefore is limitless! The rest of the Bible also tells us that God offers his grace to all – this statement is actually telling us that God freely offers his blessings to all.
Dave Hunt presents a good criticism of unconditional election in his book, ‘What Love Is This?’. He writes:
“The Apostle James points out the hypocrisy of saying to someone who is “naked, and destitute of daily food… be ye warmed and filled” and then failing to meet his need (James 2:15-16). Yet the God who inspired James, according to Calvinism, tells a lost and perishing world, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved,” but withholds the faith without which they cannot believe and be saved. Such a God sees those who are in greater need than physically naked and destitute, and He fails to rescue them from an eternal hell even though He could in His omnipotence and sovereignty do so – in fact, He has predestined them to this horrible fate.”
The ‘L’ in TULIP stands for limited atonement (sometimes called particular redemption), which means that when Christ died on the cross to pay for sin, he only died for the elect.
The verses Calvinists use to support this doctrine are few, but the usual example given is John 10:15, “…I lay down my life for the sheep.” They teach that this shows that Jesus only died for the sheep, which they say means the elect.
Another verse they use is Matthew 26:28, “For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” They argue that Jesus’ blood was only shed for “many”.
Now compare this vast number of Bible verses showing that Jesus died for everyone/the whole world/every man:
1 John 2:2, “And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.”
Hebrews 2:9, “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.”
1 Timothy 2:5-6, “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.”
John 1:29, “The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.”
John 4:42, “And said unto the woman, Now we believe, not because of thy saying: for we have heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world.”
Isaiah 53:6, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.”
2 Corinthians 5:15, “And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.”
How can we ignore all of these verses, and the clear teaching that Jesus died for everyone in the world, offering them all a free choice to accept their pardon or reject it?
Furthermore, beyond all of these straightforward verses, the Old Testament contains many ‘types’ of Christ which prophecy the atonement for sin that Jesus would make. For example, look at Numbers 21:6-9:
“And the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died. Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD, and against thee; pray unto the LORD, that he take away the serpents from us. And Moses prayed for the people. And the LORD said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live. And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived.”
After the Israelites had realised that they had sinned against God, they asked for forgiveness, and Moses was told to make a fiery serpent out of brass on a pole so that anyone who looked upon it would be healed.
Jesus taught that this was a picture of his work on the cross in John 3:14-15, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.”
Jesus was prophesying that he would be lifted up on the cross to die, and that anyone who believed on him would have eternal life. Just as all of the Israelites were offered a chance to be healed if they would only look, anyone in the whole world can be saved if they would only believe. This redemption is not only offered to a select few, just as the offer in the book of Numbers of healing was not limited.
This is not the same as teaching universal salvation (that because Jesus paid for all sin, everyone in the entire world is automatically saved). But Jesus died for the sins of everyone, and everyone has to make the individual decision to accept this redemption, otherwise the atonement does not cover them.
Another example of this is the Passover in Exodus. All of the Israelites were commanded to put the blood from the sacrifice on their doors so that God would spare their firstborn. This redemption was offered to each and every Israelite, but they still had to make the decision to obey it in order to be saved. Jesus’ blood is able to cover us all, because Christ died for all, but we have to receive it by faith in order for it to be applied to us.
The doctrine of limited atonement logically follows on from the other teachings of Calvinism – if only the elect can be saved and everyone else is already predestined for hell, there was no need for Christ to pay for the sins of the whole world, only the elect. However, under scrutiny and comparison with the Bible, this doctrine too is completely unsupported. Never in the Bible does it teach that Jesus only died for the sins of certain people.
Irresistible grace (also known as efficacious grace) teaches that God draws the elect to himself and the Holy Spirit works in the lives of the elect to make them willing to come to God.
The word ‘irresistible’ means that their salvation is inevitable – once God has chosen to elect them, he sets his grace upon them and nothing can prevent their salvation.
The verses that Calvinist use to support this teaching include:
Psalm 3:8, “Salvation belongeth unto the LORD…”
John 6:44, “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.”
Acts 16:14, “And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul.”
2 Corinthians 4:6, “For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”
John 5:21, “For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them; even so the Son quickeneth whom he will.” (In this context, “quickeneth” means to give life to)
They argue that these verses teach that as salvation belongs to God, he determines who to bestow his irresistible grace upon and who he will not, and use the example from Acts 16 to say that Lydia only attended unto the things spoken of Paul because the Lord opened her heart.
However, this is not what these verses are teaching. Salvation belongs to God, because God provides our means of salvation, he is the Saviour. But it does not mean that God determines who is saved and who will not be.
God opened Lydia’s heart, just as the Holy Spirit works in the hearts of believers and non-believers to convict them. But it had to be Lydia’s personal and free choice to believe what she heard, she was not unable to resist God’s grace. Although God had done the work to open Lydia’s heart, it was reliant on her choice to accept or reject the gospel, which ultimately was her personal decision.
Furthermore, the teaching of irresistible grace distorts the order of the process of salvation.
Loraine Boettner (a Calvinist) wrote in the book, ‘The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination’ that “A man is not saved because he believes in Christ; he believes in Christ because he is saved.”
This is teaching that we are saved by God’s irresistible grace, and then faith comes. However, this is inconsistent with the Bible, which says that faith comes before salvation, as the verses below show:
Acts 16:31, “And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.”
Mark 16:16, “He that believeth and is baptised shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.”
Hebrews 11:6, “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.”
Calvinists argue that the teaching of irresistible grace is surrounded by ‘misconceptions’ in their attempt to justify the implications of this doctrine.
Below is a quote from an article on the Gotquestions.org website (a Calvinist website) about irresistible grace:
“Another misconception concerning this doctrine is that it teaches the Holy Spirit cannot be resisted at all. Yet, again, that is not what the doctrine teaches because that is not what the Bible teaches. God’s grace can be resisted, and the Holy Spirit’s influence can be resisted even by one of the elect. However, what the doctrine does correctly recognize is that the Holy Spirit can overcome all such resistance and that He will draw the elect with an irresistible grace that makes them want to come to God and helps them to understand the gospel so they can and will believe it. The doctrine of irresistible grace simply recognizes that the Bible teaches God is sovereign and can overcome all resistance when He wills to. What God decrees or determines will come to pass… God’s grace in salvation is irresistible because when God sets out to fulfill His sovereign purpose, no person or thing can successfully resist Him.” (Emphasis added)
This paragraph is contradictory within itself! They argue that it is possible for the Holy Spirit to be grieved and resisted, and that the grace of God for salvation can be resisted, and then argue that despite this, God will overcome this resistance, as the elect have been chosen by God’s sovereign will for salvation, and nothing can prevent this.
The idea that a person can resist the grace of God implies that they have enough free will to choose to resist. This makes that individual responsible for their choice to resist the grace of God. How can we say that the Holy Spirit then overrides this resistance and will “make” that person want to come to God for salvation? This is teaching that if someone chooses to resist the truth of salvation, God will override their choice and save them anyway!
The teaching that God’s grace is irresistible is not Biblical. The Bible teaches that grace comes from God (Romans 1:5, Romans 1:7, Romans 15:15) and that it is the means of our salvation (Ephesians 2:8, Romans 3:24). We are able to frustrate the grace of God by making it into something it isn’t (Galatians 2:21). But each individual must freely and personally choose to accept the grace of God for their salvation.
Titus 2:11 tells us, “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men”.
God’s grace appears to all men, providing their salvation if they accept it. It is not only offered to the elect.
John 12:48 reads, “He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.”
This verse clearly shows that as individuals, we make the decision to either reject or receive the words of Jesus, and we will be judged on this basis one day. We are each accountable for our own response to the gospel, and we are free to choose whether or not to accept the grace of God.
Furthermore, the doctrine of irresistible grace is mistaken about how people are called to salvation. The Bible does not say that we are saved by the Holy Spirit directly changing our mind and will. Romans 1:16 says that the gospel is “the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth…”, whilst 2 Thessalonians 2:14 says, “Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
We are called by the gospel, and saved by the grace of God.
We cannot say that God selects some to bestow his grace upon, even sovereignly overcoming all resistance they may have, and yet others are left to an eternity in hell with no regeneration or irresistible grace offered to them. Where is the justice in this?
Psalm 89:14 says, “Justice and judgment are the habitation of thy throne: mercy and truth shall go before thy face.”
How can we claim that God inhabits justice, judgement, mercy and truth, and then say that God sets such an irrational and unjust standard for salvation? How can Calvinism avoid the fact that their idea of a sovereign will-overriding God does not choose to save everyone? God so loved the world, but he only chose to save some?
Perseverance of the Saints:
Perseverance of the saints is one of the more subtle errors in Calvinist teaching. The doctrine is essentially similar to eternal security – the teaching that once we are saved, we are born again, sealed and cannot lose our salvation. This is in alignment with the teaching of the Bible, as the verses below show:
John 10:28, “And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.”
Ephesians 1:13, “In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,”
John 5:24, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.”
However, as we have already seen, Calvinism wrongly defines the process of salvation.
The chart below shows the process of salvation according to Calvinists, and the definitions for each stage come from various Calvinist websites (there may be some variation amongst some Calvinists but this is generally agreed):
As this page has already shown, this is not consistent with the teaching of the Bible, as we know that our conversion brings regeneration, which justifies us and adopts us into God’s family as the elect.
While the teaching of the perseverance of the saints agrees that as Christians, we have assurance of our salvation, the key difference is how we can have this assurance.
From what the Bible teaches, we know that we can be assured of our salvation because we know that the moment we place our trust in Jesus Christ as our Saviour, his blood cleanses us from our sin and we unconditionally receive the gift of eternal life. Nothing we can do or not do will change this, we are eternally forgiven at that point of salvation and there is no more condemnation once we are in Christ Jesus.
On the other hand, Calvinists believe that they have this assurance because God has chosen them to be the elect. But how can they know they are one of the elect? They argue that if someone has conviction and a desire to be saved, it is probable that they are one of the elect, as God has already regenerated them and given them this desire, and that once they are saved, the fruits of their salvation are evidence that they are elect.
Below are some quotes from a Calvinist named Paul Washer, showing what they believe about salvation:
“You have been raised on this: ‘If you believe in Jesus you will be born again’; All the early Baptist confessions say: ‘ye must be born again in order to believe in Jesus.’ That’s the difference!”
“And so how do you know you are saved? … Paul says, ‘I’ll tell you what’s the evidence of whether or not you are saved’ … ‘Are you a new creature? Has God changed you from the inside out?’ You see, Salvation is not: ‘I have made my decision.’ Salvation is, God literally (this is not poetry), God literally does a supernatural recreating work in a Christian, takes out his God-hating heart—a heart that doesn’t care about God, that doesn’t care about His Word, that doesn’t care about prayer, that doesn’t care about seeking Him, that doesn’t care about walking with Him, that doesn’t care about keeping His commandments—and puts in the place of that wicked, defiled, heart; a new heart, recreated in the image of God, and true righteousness and true holiness, a new heart that desires God and wants to please Him, and know Him and seek Him. … an entirely new creature!”
“So you see, my dear friend, the one who says, ‘I have come to know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments is a liar and the truth is not in Him.”
The general idea behind these quotes can be seen in James 2:18 says, “Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.”
We know that our works give evidence of our faith and show others that we are saved, but our works contribute nothing to our salvation.
However, where Paul Washer (and Calvinism) makes subtle errors is by saying that if we do not show evidence of works, we must never have been one of the elect in the first place.
This means that we can never really have assurance of salvation, we can never really have peace with God through Christ, because if our lives do not show evidence of works, we have no basis on which to say that we are one of the elect. There is no method of discerning who is elect and who isn’t or who will be saved in the day of judgement and who won’t, because the decision is purely of God, and works are the only evidence of ‘true’ salvation.
1 John 5:13 says that we “may know that ye have eternal life…”, but under Calvinist theology this is impossible. Although they do not teach that salvation is by works, their doctrine shows that works are the only way to determine salvation.
R.T. Kendall wrote in ‘Calvinism and English Calvinism to 1649’, “nearly all of the Puritan ‘divines’ went through great doubt and despair on their deathbeds as they realised their lives did not give perfect evidence that they were elect.” Philip Congdon wrote, “Absolute assurance of salvation is impossible in Classical Calvinism.”
This is not the Christian life that Jesus promised. He said in John 5:24, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.”
Hebrews 4:16 reads, “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.”
How can we have this boldness and this assurance that we “hath everlasting life”, when our salvation is only made known by how we live our lives after the moment of salvation?
The Bible does acknowledge that works reveal our faith, but works are never required to prove salvation, and it is incorrect to say that it is the only way to judge whether or not someone has been elected and sovereignly changed by God.
It is impossible for a Calvinist to definitively say that they are one of the elect, and it is a doctrine full of confusion and uncertainty. Just as no Jehovah’s Witness can say they are one of the 144,000, no Mormon or Muslim can know that they have been good enough to reach heaven. It is a doctrine of devils, and it corrupts the salvation that God freely offers to all.
A further issue with the teaching of the perseverance of the saints is that it misunderstands where our faith comes from, and how we are saved.
The Bible teaches that our faith makes us one of the elect. Calvinism teaches that our election causes us to have faith.
We know that once we place our faith in Christ, this is eternally secure, but Calvinists argue that this faith is God-given in the first place, and therefore we play no part in our own salvation. Yet again, this is illogical and meaningless to say that salvation is by faith and yet this faith can only come if God chooses us to give it to.
If our assurance of salvation is performance-based, we can never actually be assured, and we will never keep this assurance. Just look at the quote below from R.C. Sproul in ‘Assurance of Salvation’:
“A while back I had one of those moments of acute self-awareness… and suddenly the question hit me: “R.C., what if you are not one of the redeemed? What if your destiny is not heaven after all, but hell?” Let me tell you that I was flooded in my body with a chill that went from my head to the bottom of my spine. I was terrified… I began to take stock of my life, and I looked at my performance. My sins came pouring into my mind, and the more I looked at myself, the worse I felt. I thought, “Maybe it’s really true. Maybe I’m not saved after all.””
Is this the assurance that God promises us?
Look at the example of Paul in the Bible, he wrote in Romans 7:21-24, “I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?”
Paul also struggled with the sins he had committed, and admitted that his flesh was in “captivity to the law of sin”. But Paul finishes the chapter with verse 25, which reads, “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Paul knew that he needed deliverance from the body of death, the flesh he was in that was prone to sin. But he thanked God that he had redemption through Jesus Christ our Lord, and no matter what, he was forgiven.
Calvinists cannot claim this same assurance, as the only way they know they are of the elect is by the fruits in their life, so sin threatens this and can create such fear over whether or not someone has been chosen by God to be saved.
What is Hyper-Calvinism?
Hyper-Calvinism is a branch of Calvinism that extends the teaching of predestination even further and teaches that evangelism, preaching and praying for people to be saved is in vain and meaningless, as if someone has been elected they will be saved with or without these efforts and if they are not elect, sharing the gospel with someone or praying for them is useless as they cannot be saved.
This completely removes the idea of God’s love for the lost and his desire for them to be saved, but also prevents people from obeying the Great Commission and evangelising.
Please read the following verses which clearly show our duty to preach to the lost and the power it has to bring salvation by giving them the knowledge of the Saviour and the choice to believe it or reject it.
Romans 10:14-15, “How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!”
Mark 16:15, “And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.”
2 Corinthians 5:20, “Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.”
Acts 10:42, “And he commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify that it is he which was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead.”
1 Corinthians 9:16, “For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!”
By examining the views held by Calvinists, we can see that it does not line up with what the Bible teaches about salvation. But further than this, it introduces heretical teachings into the church, even causing confusion about the very nature of God.
Calvinistic Reformed Theology has penetrated into so many churches today, often very subtly. We must be more aware of the damage it does and be prepared to stand against it.
Thomas Jefferson wrote in a letter to Thomas Adams in 1823:
“I can never join Calvin in addressing his god. He was indeed an Atheist, which I can never be; or rather his religion was Demonism. If ever man worshipped a false god, he did. The being described in his 5 points is not the god whom you and I acknowledge and adore, the Creator and benevolent governor of the world, but a demon of malignant spirit. It would be more pardonable to believe in no god at all, than to blaspheme him by the atrocious attributes of Calvin.”
Calvinism destroys a Christian’s presentation of God. How can we tell people that God loves them and wants them to be saved from eternity in hell, when he has already predestined them for heaven and hell. This is not a relationship, this is God deciding our future for us, God determining where we spend eternity and God choosing us to either serve him or be punished for not being able to choose to. How can we say that this is a two-way, voluntary relationship?
Why would God throughout the whole Bible plead with the world to be saved, command us to preach the gospel to every creature, claim to love the whole world, and yet only regenerate a number of people to be the elect, only die for some, and only allow some of the world to even understand the gospel?
This is the most damaging teaching of Calvinism. It makes no sense, it is self-contradictory and completely damages God’s character, his love, his justice and his mercy.
Why would God plead with people to be saved, when most of them are already predestined to an eternity of torment and who are completely incapable of repenting even if they wished to? Why would God withhold regeneration from people so that they are unable to turn to him?
Luke 13:3 says, “…except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.” The Bible never says that God acts to ensure salvation to a select number of people.
If God’s act of regeneration means that someone will be saved because they are one of the elect, without any desire, intention or participation of their own, how can it justifiably only be offered to a certain number of people? If God can violate their free will in his sovereignty, to regenerate them to make them willing to believe, why is this not the will of every person in the world?
Calvinism presents a God who doesn’t freely offer salvation, he chooses whether or not to individually give us the ability to accept Christ as our Saviour. Calvinists will never admit it in these terms, but this is the truth of what they teach and believe.
Calvinism removes any reality of us taking responsibility for our own actions, it teaches that we have no moral responsibility as it is purely down to God’s choice whether or not we could be saved.
If all humans exist in a state of total depravity, it is not rational to believe that God (who has infinite love and mercy towards us) would elect someone for eternal life and some for eternal damnation, especially when he has the ability and desire to make us all part of the elect.
John Calvin himself wrote in ‘Institutes of the Christian Religion’, that God “saves whom he wills of his mere good pleasure” – the rest of the world, “it was his good pleasure to doom to destruction”. God is not just if he punishes people for rejecting the gospel, when he himself created them unable to respond to it!
Calvin also wrote, “For there is scarcely a mind in which the thought does not sometimes rise, Whence your salvation but from the election of God? But what proof have you of your election? When once this thought has taken possession of any individual, it keeps him perpetually miserable, subjects him to dire torment, or throws him into a state of complete stupor.”
Calvinists have no assurance that they are one of the elect. Is this the peace that passeth all understanding?
Jesus said in Luke 19:10, “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.” Christ came to earth to save the lost, not the elect – the lost includes every man and woman until the moment they freely choose to call upon his name and be saved.