Category Archives: Predestination

Was John Calvin a TULIP Calvinist?

By Spencer D Gear PhD

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(Tulip image courtesy photos public domain)

Does it matter what your church teaches and practices concerning Christian salvation?

What is the future for churches that proclaim the following?

clip_image004All people are saved (universalism)?

clip_image005People have no say in whether they accept or reject the Gospel of salvation?

clip_image004[1]The whole of humanity is so corrupted inwardly that there is no hope of salvation without God’s supernatural intervention – without that person’s agreement.

clip_image006People have a free will that enables them to accept or reject God’s offer of salvation.

clip_image005[1]The offer of salvation is open to everyone in the world?

Two of these positions come under what is known as the salvation theology of Calvinism.They are:

clip_image005People have no say in whether they accept or reject the Gospel of salvation?

clip_image004[1]The whole of humanity is so corrupted inwardly that there is no hope of salvation without God’s supernatural intervention – without that person’s agreement.

In this article, I will examine whether the teaching of TULIP was included in the doctrines of Calvin.

I’m particularly concerned with whether John Calvin, who preceded the formulation of TULIP, believed the doctrines of TULIP.

1. What is TULIP Calvinism?

TULIP is an acronym for the theology expounded at the Synod of Dort (1618-19), held in the city of Dordrecht, the Netherlands, that responded to the five points of the Arminian Remonstrance. These doctrines have been summarised as TULIP. Here is a brief explanation of these five doctrines at: ‘The Calvinistic “TULIP”’:[1]

In brief, TULIP means:

clip_image008 – ‘total depravity. This doesn’t mean people are as bad as they can be. It means that sin is in every part of one’s being, including the mind and will, so that a man cannot save himself’.

clip_image010– ‘unconditional election. God chooses to save people unconditionally; that is, they are not chosen on the basis of their own merit’.

clip_image012 – ‘limited atonement. The sacrifice of Christ on the cross was for the purpose of saving the elect’.

clip_image014 – ‘irresistible grace. When God has chosen to save someone, He will.

clip_image016 – perseverance of the saints. Those people God chooses cannot lose their salvation; they will continue to believe. If they fall away, it will be only for a time.

Since Calvin did not originate TULIP, the purpose of this article is to discover from Calvin’s writings if he taught the theology expressed in TULIP.

Of necessity, this article will require many quotes from Calvin, especially to demonstrate favour or disfavour towards each point of TULIP.

clip_image0181.1 Total Depravity:

Calvin wrote in Institutes of the Christian Religion, 2.2.26: ‘The will is so utterly vitiated[2] and corrupted in every part as to produce nothing but evil’.

Elsewhere in Institutes he states:

‘Every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually,’ (Gen. 6:5; 8:21). If every thing which our mind conceives, meditates plans, and resolves, is always evil, how can it ever think of doing what is pleasing to God, to whom righteousness and holiness alone are acceptable? (John Calvin, Institutes, Book 2:2.25)

… Man, since he was corrupted by the fall, sins not forced or unwilling, but voluntarily, by a most forward bias of the mind; not by violent compulsion, or external force, but by the movement of his own passion; and yet such is the depravity of his nature, that he cannot move and act except in the direction of evil. If this is true, the thing not obscurely expressed is, that he is under a necessity of sinning (Institutes Book 2:3:5).

clip_image020See my articles in support of total depravity:

clip_image0221.2 Unconditional Election:

Calvin wrote in Institutes of the Christian Religion:

Book Three, Chapter 21.1: OF THE ETERNAL ELECTION, BY WHICH GOD HAS PREDESTINATED SOME TO SALVATION, AND OTHERS TO DESTRUCTION.

The covenant of life is not preached equally to all, and among those to whom it is preached, does not always meet with the same reception. This diversity displays the unsearchable depth of the divine judgment, and is without doubt subordinate to God’s purpose of eternal election.

But if it is plainly owing to the mere pleasure of God that salvation is spontaneously offered to some, while others have no access to it, great and difficult questions immediately arise, questions which are inexplicable, when just views are not entertained concerning election and predestination. To many this seems a perplexing subject, because they deem it most incongruous that of the great body of mankind some should be predestinated to salvation, and others to destruction.

How ceaselessly they entangle themselves will appear as we proceed. We may add, that in the very obscurity which deters them, we may see not only the utility of this doctrine, but also its most pleasant fruits. We shall never feel persuaded as we ought that our salvation flows from the free mercy of God as its fountain, until we are made acquainted with his eternal election, the grace of God being illustrated by the contrast–viz. that he does not adopt all promiscuously to the hope of salvation, but gives to some what he denies to others.

See also Institutes 3.22.7,10. In point 10 of this quote, Calvin wrote:

Some object that God would be inconsistent with himself, in inviting all without distinction while he elects only a few. Thus, according to them, the universality of the promise destroys the distinction of special grace. . . . But it is by Isaiah he more clearly demonstrates how he destines the promises of salvation specially to the elect (Isa. 8:16); for he declares that his disciples would consist of them only, and not indiscriminately of the whole human race. Whence it is evident that the doctrine of salvation, which is said to be set apart for the sons of the Church only, is abused when it is represented as effectually available to all. For the present let it suffice to observe, that though the word of the gospel is addressed generally to all, yet the gift of faith is rare (emphasis added).

This point also infers the doctrine of Limited Atonement as well.

In his commentary on Romans 9:3 he wrote:

It was then a proof of the most ardent love, that Paul hesitated not to wish for himself that condemnation which he was impending over the Jews, in order that he might deliver them. It is no objection that he knew that his salvation was based on the election of God, which could by no means fail; for as those ardent feelings hurry us on impetuously, so they see and regard nothing but the object in view. So Paul did not connect God’s election with his wish, but the remembrance of that being passed by, he was wholly intent on the salvation of the Jews (Calvin’s Commentary, Romans 9:3).

Second Timothy 2:19 (ESV) states, ‘But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity”’.

Calvin responded:

Having this seal ([It] denotes either “a seal” or “the print of a seal”) having led into a mistake some people who thought that it was intended to denote a mark or impress, I have translated it sigillum (a seal,) which is less ambiguous. And, indeed, Paul means, that under the secret guardianship of God, as a signet, is contained the salvation of the elect, as Scripture testifies that they are “written in the book of life.” (Psalm 69:28; Philippians 4:3.)

The Lord knoweth who are his This clause, together with the word seal, reminds us, that we must not judge, by our own opinion, whether the number of the elect is great or small; for what God hath sealed he wishes to be, in some respect, shut up from us. Besides, if it is the prerogative of God to know who are his, we need not wonder if a great number of them are often unknown to us, or even if we fall into mistakes in making the selection.

Yet we ought always to observe why and for what purpose he makes mention of a seal; that is, when we see such occurrences, let us instantly call to remembrance what we are taught by the Apostle John, that “they who went out from us were not of us” (1 John 2:19) (Commentary on 2 Timothy 2:19-21).

While Calvin’s language is not that of unconditional election but elect who are known only to God who has sealed them, shut them in. That sounds awfully like unconditional election language.

Elsewhere he stated it more clearly: ‘It is no small matter to have the souls perishes who are bought by the blood of Christ’. (A Selection of the Most Celebrated Sermons by John Calvin: Titus 1:15-16, p. 84).

This reads like universal atonement but the same sermon he wrote of God’s eternal predestination and election before the world began:

Whereupon hangeth our salvation? Is it not upon the election and choice that hath been from everlasting? God chose us before we were. What could we do then? We were made fit, We were well disposed to come to God. Nay, we see that our salvation doth not begin after we have knowledge, discretion, and good desires; but it is grounded in God’s everlasting decree, which was before any part of the world was made: (A Selection of the Most Celebrated Sermons by John Calvin: Sermon II, 2 Tim 1:8-9. p. 42).

There you have the contradictory nature of Calvin’s views: (1) Souls perish who have been bought by Jesus’ blood sacrifice, BUT (2) God’s salvation is grounded in His decree before believers were created and before the world came into existence.

I’m befuddled how Calvin could say that he bought the souls of unbelievers with his blood but they didn’t make it into the elect. This is a glaring example of Calvin’s violation of the law of Noncontradiction.

clip_image020[1]See my articles opposing unconditional election:

clip_image0241.3 Limited Atonement

Calvin wrote (quoted above) that salvation is solely for the ‘sons’ (believers) of the church and is not effectual for all. So, Jesus’ salvation through substitutionary sacrifice could not have been for everyone.

By application, it means Jesus’ atonement was for a limited number of people, ‘the sons of the church’. Did he believe in limited atonement? Was it only for the elect of God? Let’s check him out!

He continued:

Though the word of the gospel is addressed generally to all, yet the gift of faith is rare. Isaiah assigns the cause when he says that the arm of the Lord is not revealed to all (Isa. 53:1). Had he said, that the gospel is malignantly and perversely condemned, because many obstinately refuse to hear, there might perhaps be some color for this universal call (Institutes 3.22.10).

Paul Helm’s research on Calvin and the atonement led to this conclusion:

While Calvin did not commit himself to any version of the doctrine of definite atonement, his thought is consistent with that doctrine; that is, he did not deny it in express terms, but by other things that he most definitely did hold to, he may be said to be committed to that doctrine. The distinction is an important one in order to avoid the charge of anachronism (Helm 2013:98).

Not all Calvinistic scholars are in agreement with Helm’s conclusions as he acknowledged:

Those who claim that Calvin held to indefinite atonement are by no means agreed about its consequences. G. Michael Thomas refers to a “dilemma” in Calvin’s theology, the existence of “stress points,” rendering Calvin’s overall position “inherently unstable.” R. T. Kendall holds that while Calvin had an unlimited view of the atonement, Christ’s intercessions were definite, on behalf of the elect alone. Kevin D. Kennedy claims that, according to Calvin, while atonement is universal, union with Christ is particular. The difficulty with the last two views, which tend in the direction of post-redemptionism, or Amyraldianism,[3] is that they imperil the unity of the divine decree, and the divine operations ad extra that Calvin emphasized (Helm 2013:100).

He included this example from Calvin to support his conclusion:

That which Augustine adds in continuation must by no means be omitted. “Since we know not (says he) who belongeth to the number of the predestinated, and who doth not, we ought so to feel as to wish all to be saved. From this it will come to pass that whosoever shall come in our way, we shall desire to make him a partaker of the peace which we ourselves enjoy. ‘Our peace,’ however, will nevertheless ‘rest upon the sons of peace’ (John Calvin, A Treatise of the Eternal Predestination of God).

Calvin wrote this treatise to challenge the teachings of ‘Albertus Pighius, the Campanian, a man of evidently phrensied audacity, [who] attempted, at the same time, and in the same book, to establish the free-will of man. and to subvert the secret counsel of God, by which He chooses some to salvation and appoints others to eternal destruction’ (ibid.).

Other Calvinistic scholars are not as sure as Helm – neither am I – about Calvin’s support for limited atonement. The following evidence should demonstrate that Calvin’s teaching on the scope of the atonement extended to the whole world. But there are passages where he is double minded.

1.3.1   I John 2:2 (ESV) states:

‘He [Jesus Christ] is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world’.

Calvin’s interpretation endorses his view of limited atonement.

And not for ours only He added this for the sake of amplifying, in order that the faithful might be assured that the expiation made by Christ, extends to all who by faith embrace the gospel.

Here a question may be raised, how have the sins of the whole world been expiated?…

They who seek to avoid this absurdity [universalism – all saved, including Satan], have said that Christ suffered sufficiently for the whole world, but efficiently only for the elect. This solution has commonly prevailed in the schools. Though then I allow that what has been said is true, yet I deny that it is suitable to this passage; for the design of John was no other than to make this benefit common to the whole Church. Then under the word all or whole, he does not include the reprobate, but designates those who should believe as well as those who were then scattered through various parts of the world. For then is really made evident, as it is meet, the grace of Christ, when it is declared to be the only true salvation of the world. (Commentaries on the Catholic Epistles: John 2:1-2).

Honestly, is that what 1 John 2:2 teaches? Sounds more like Calvin pushing his own Reformed barrow to me.

Here Calvin confirmed again that Christ’s propitiation/expiation was not for the sins of the whole world of unbelievers but for the ‘whole Church’ and that ‘all … does not include the reprobate’. It only designates those who ‘should believe’.

Simply put, that is not what 1 John 2:2 teaches. Jesus died for ‘our sins’ (believers’ sins) and ‘the sins of the whole world’ of unbelievers. Any other interpretation manufactures conclusions to agree with one’s presuppositions.

1.3.2 Conversely, Calvin also supported universal atonement

However, in other passages Calvin supported unlimited atonement. This is only a sample from some of his commentaries, Institutes, and other writings:[4]

He wrote:

We must now see in what way we become possessed of the blessings which God has bestowed on his only-begotten Son, not for private use, but to enrich the poor and needy. And the first thing to be attended to is, that so long as we are without Christ and separated from him, nothing which he suffered and did for the salvation of the human race is of the least benefit to us (Institutes 3.1.1).

Calvin used the language of the offer of universal salvation, hence unlimited atonement, to have limited effects on people:

If it is so (you will say), little faith can be put in the Gospel promises, which, in testifying concerning the will of God, declare that he wills what is contrary to his inviolable decree. Not at all; for however universal the promises of salvation may be, there is no discrepancy between them and the predestination of the reprobate, provided we attend to their effect. We know that the promises are effectual only when we receive them in faith, but, on the contrary, when faith is made void, the promise is of no effect (Institutes 3.24.17).

I find this commentary by Calvin to be conflicting, even contradictory:

This is my blood. I have already remarked that, when we are told that the blood is to be shed according to the narrative of Matthew — for the remission of sins, these words direct us to the sacrifice of the death of Christ, without the remembrance of which the Lord’s Supper is never observed in a proper manner. And, indeed, it is impossible for believing souls to be satisfied in any other way than by being assured that God is pacified towards them.

Which is shed for many. By the word many he means not a part of the world only, but the whole human race; for he contrasts many with one; as if he had said, that he will not be the Redeemer of one man only, but will die in order to deliver many from the condemnation of the curse. It must at the same time be observed, however, that by the words for you, as related by Luke — Christ directly addresses the disciples, and exhorts every believer to apply to his own advantage the shedding of blood Therefore, when we approach to the holy table, let us not only remember in general that the world has been redeemed by the blood of Christ, but let every one consider for himself that his own sins have been expiated (Commentary on Matthew, Mark, Luke, vol 3, Mark 14:24).

On the one hand, the Lord’s Supper reminds believers that ‘God is pacified towards them’, i.e. His wrath towards sinners has been appeased (expiation). However, according to Calvin, ‘shed for many’ means for ‘the whole human race’. Wait a minute! Is it for the whole world? Not according to Luke where this message is directed to the disciples/believers and this shedding of blood is applied only to them and their own sin being expiated.

Here, I see that Calvin has violated the law of non-contradiction.

The law of non-contradiction states that A and not-A (where A is a proposition) cannot both be true at the same time and in the same sense. For example, my car cannot be parked in my driveway and not parked in my driveway at the same time and in the same sense.[5]

Calvin’s contradictory remarks were: (1) The Lord’s Supper reminds believers God is pacified towards them, and (2) When the ‘holy table’ is approached, ‘let us not only remember in general that the world has been redeemed by the blood of Christ’. Has the whole world been ‘redeemed’ by Christ’s death or only that of believers? He did not state it plainly as it is.

However, everyone does not embrace the Gospel that is proclaimed:

Accordingly, he is called our Head, and the first-born among many brethren, while, on the other hand, we are said to be ingrafted into him and clothed with him,[6] all which he possesses being, as I have said, nothing to us until we become one with him. And although it is true that we obtain this by faith, yet since we see that all do not indiscriminately embrace the offer of Christ which is made by the gospel, the very nature of the case teaches us to ascend higher, and inquire into the secret efficacy of the Spirit, to which it is owing that we enjoy Christ and all his blessings (Institutes 3.1.1).

1.3.3 Calvin, Scripture and universal atonement[7]

clip_image026 Matt 22:14: ‘For many are called, but few are chosen’ (ESV).

Calvin’s interpretation was:

The expression of our Saviour, “Many are called, but few are chosen” (Matt. 22:14), is also very improperly interpreted (see Book 3, chap. 2, sec. 11, 12). There will be no ambiguity in it, if we attend to what our former remarks ought to have made clear, viz., that there are two species of calling: for there is an universal call, by which God, through the external preaching of the word, invites all men alike, even those for whom he designs the call to be a savor of death, and the ground of a severer condemnation. Besides this there is a special call which, for the most part, God bestows on believers only, when by the internal illumination of the Spirit he causes the word preached to take deep root in their hearts (Institutes 3.24.8).

clip_image027 The parallel in the Synoptics is Mark 14:24 (ESV): ‘And he said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many”.

Concerning this verse, Calvin’s comment is significant:

Mark 14:24. This is my blood. I have already remarked that, when we are told that the blood is to be shed according to the narrative of Matthew — for the remission of sins, these words direct us to the sacrifice of the death of Christ, without the remembrance of which the Lord’s Supper is never observed in a proper manner. And, indeed, it is impossible for believing souls to be satisfied in any other way than by being assured that God is pacified towards them.

Which is shed for many. By the word many he means not a part of the world only, but the whole human race; for he contrasts many with one; as if he had said, that he will not be the Redeemer of one man only, but will die in order to deliver many from the condemnation of the curse. It must at the same time be observed, however, that by the words for you, as related by Luke — Christ directly addresses the disciples, and exhorts every believer to apply to his own advantage the shedding of blood Therefore, when we approach to the holy table, let us not only remember in general that the world has been redeemed by the blood of Christ, but let every one consider for himself that his own sins have been expiated (Commentary on Matthew 26:26-30; Mark 14:22-26; Luke 22:17-20).

Here would have been an ideal opportunity for Calvin to expound on ‘many’ meaning that Jesus did not die for the whole world but only for the elect. He didn’t. Instead he stated that ‘many’ does not leave out a chunk of the world’s population that are excluded from Jesus’ atonement.

This was in opposition to contemporary Calvinistic commentator, the late William Hendriksen, who stated that ‘Jesus’ says that his blood is poured out “for many,” not for all’ (Hendriksen 1975:575).

This is in contrast with the biblical teaching in 1 Timothy 2:9 (ESV), ‘For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time’.

Jesus’ atonement cannot be ‘for many’ and that does not mean ‘for all’. Why is ‘for many’ used in this way? Lenski, a Lutheran commentator, explained the meaning of huper mallwn (‘in behalf of many’) in the synoptic parallel of Matt 26:28 as:

These polloi [many] are all men [people], for all of whom the blood was shed “for remission of sins,” and not merely the believers in whom this remission was realized. They are “many,” and thus extend far, far beyond the eleven. Mark combines this by using huper mallwn, “in behalf of many” in the sense of “in place of many, huper having the idea of substitution (Lenski 1943:1031).

clip_image026[1] John 1:29 (ESV): ‘The next day he [John the Baptist] saw Jesus coming towards him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!’

How would Calvin interpret ‘the sin of the world’? He leaves no doubt that it applies to all people, Jews and Gentiles – everyone:

Who taketh away the sin of the world. He uses the word sin in the singular number, for any kind of iniquity; as if he had said, that every kind of unrighteousness which alienates men from God is taken away by Christ. And when he says, the sin Of The World, he extends this favor indiscriminately to the whole human race; that the Jews might not think that he had been sent to them alone. But hence we infer that the whole world is involved in the same condemnation; and that as all men without exception are guilty of unrighteousness before God, they need to be reconciled to him (Commentary on John 1:29-34).

Calvin did not understand Jesus’ taking away the ‘sin of the world’ in any limited way. All were guilty of unrighteousness and needed to be reconciled to God through Christ’s death for all. Calvin is sounding more like Amyraldians who support a universal atonement.

clip_image026[2] John 3:14-16 (ESV):

Calvin’s commentary on John 3:16 was:

And he has employed the universal term whosoever, both to invite all indiscriminately to partake of life, and to cut off every excuse from unbelievers. Such is also the import of the term World, which he formerly used; for though nothing will be found in the world that is worthy of the favor of God, yet he shows himself to be reconciled to the whole world, when he invites all men without exception to the faith of Christ, which is nothing else than an entrance into life.

Let us remember, on the other hand, that while life is promised universally to all who believe in Christ, still faith is not common to all. For Christ is made known and held out to the view of all, but the elect alone are they whose eyes God opens, that they may seek him by faith. Here, too, is displayed a wonderful effect of faith; for by it we receive Christ such as he is given to us by the Father — that is, as having freed us from the condemnation of eternal death, and made us heirs of eternal life, because, by the sacrifice of his death, he has atoned for our sins, that nothing may prevent God from acknowledging us as his sons. Since, therefore, faith embraces Christ, with the efficacy of his death and the fruit of his resurrection, we need not wonder if by it we obtain likewise the life of Christ (Commentary on John 3:16).

So, all are invited to Christ to partake of the Christian life and unbelievers are without excuse. However, while all people ‘without exception’ are invited to faith in Christ, but there is one brick wall for them: Only the elect have eyes opened by God.

There we have a violation of the Law of Noncontradiction again: All are invited to come but all do not have a chance of responding positively to the invitation. I could paraphrase Calvin’s position: ‘Yes, all of you can come to Christ but all of you can’t come because you are not elected to salvation’.

clip_image026[3] John 12:48 (ESV): ‘The one who rejects me [Jesus] and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day’.

How is it possible for anyone to reject Christ if he or she is included in TULIP theology? What did Calvin have to say about this verse? ‘And receiveth not my words…. We must therefore attend to this definition, that Christ is rejected when we do not embrace the pure doctrine of the Gospel’ (Commentary on John 12:47-50).

So, individual people can reject or embrace the Gospel. This excluded unconditional election, limited atonement and irresistible grace. Since Calvin believes there is this choice for people, he is affirming some dimension of free-will, the power of alternate choice for or against Jesus.

clip_image026[4] John 16:8-11 (ESV): ‘And when he [the Helper] comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgement: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgement, because the ruler of this world is judged’.

Will the Helper, the Holy Spirit, convict the whole world of sin and righteousness or only part of the world because the other part is not included in Jesus’ salvation?

Calvin’s interpretation was:

He will convince the world; that is, he will not remain shut up in you, but; his power will go forth from you to be displayed to the whole world. He therefore promises to them a Spirit, who will be the Judge of the world….

Under the term world are, I think, included not only those who would be truly converted to Christ, but hypocrites and reprobates. For there are two ways in which the Spirit convinces men by the preaching of the Gospel. Some are moved in good earnest, so as to bow down willingly, and to assent willingly to the judgment by which they are condemned. Others, though they are convinced of guilt and cannot escape, yet do not sincerely yield, or submit themselves to the authority and jurisdiction of the Holy Spirit, but, on the contrary, being subdued they groan inwardly, and, being overwhelmed with confusion, still do not cease to cherish obstinacy within their hearts (Commentary on John 16:8-15).

Holy Spirit convincing will happen to the entire world with two kinds of responses, according to Calvin, they willingly agree with the Holy Spirit’s conviction while the rest do not yield. There is no U or I here.

clip_image026[5] Isaiah 53:12 (ESV): ‘Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors

Calvin’s comment was: ‘I approve of the ordinary reading, that he alone bore the punishment of many, because on him was laid the guilt of the whole world. It is evident from other passages, and especially from the fifth chapter of the Epistle to the Romans, that “many” sometimes denotes “all”’ (Commentary on Isaiah 53:1-12).

Therefore, he adopts the view that the Messiah’s bearing the punishment ‘of many’ means He had ‘the guilt of the whole world’ laid on him. If ‘many’ sometimes indicates ‘all’, as in Romans 5, the Messiah took on himself the punishment for the whole world (of sinners).

Thus, Calvin supported universal atonement.

clip_image027[1] Galatians 5:12 (ESV): ‘I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves!’

This is an unusual verse to attract this kind of comment by Calvin:

Would that they were even cut off. His [Paul’s] indignation proceeds still farther, and he prays for destruction on those impostors by whom the Galatians had been deceived. The word, “cut off,” appears to be employed in allusion to the circumcision which they pressed. “They tear the church for the sake of circumcision: I wish they were entirely cut off.” Chrysostom favors this opinion. But how can such an imprecation be reconciled with the mildness of an apostle, who ought to wish that all should be saved, and that not a single person should perish? So far as men are concerned, I admit the force of this argument; for it is the will of God that we should seek the salvation of all men without exception, as Christ suffered for the sins of the whole world (Commentary on Galatians 5:7-12).

Here he supports the view it is God’s will for all people to seek salvation and that refers to every single person in the world, without exception. How is this possible? ‘Christ suffered (atonement?) for the sins of the whole world’.

Nothing could be clearer. He supports unlimited atonement. However, in Institutes 3.24.16 he makes ‘all men’ mean all ‘order of men’. I find this to be manipulation. He seems confused, indicating salvation is for all people but then he tempers it to the limit of ‘order of’ people – groups, ethnicity, etc. This is nonsensical eisegesis of the biblical texts.

clip_image026[6] Colossians 1:14 (ESV): ‘in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins’.

Calvin’s commentary on 1:14 could not be clearer on the extent of expiation of sins:

Unquestionably, when God remits our transgressions, he exempts us from condemnation to eternal death. This is our liberty, this our glorying in the face of death — that our sins are not imputed to us. He says that this redemption was procured through the blood of Christ, for by the sacrifice of his death all the sins of the world have been expiated (Commentary on Colossians 1:12-17).

So Calvin supported expiation for the sins of the world, thus confirming his rejection of limited atonement.

clip_image026[7]1 Timothy 2:3-4 (ESV): ‘This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Saviour, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth’.

This passage should challenge the extent of Calvin’s understanding of the atonement. He wrote:

How comes it that many nations are deprived of that light of the Gospel which others enjoy? How comes it that the pure knowledge of the doctrine of godliness has never reached some, and others have scarcely tasted some obscure rudiments of it? It will now be easy to extract the purport of Paul’s statement. He had commanded Timothy that prayers should be regularly offered up in the church for kings and princes; but as it seemed somewhat absurd that prayer should be offered up for a class of men who were almost hopeless (all of them being not only aliens from the body of Christ, but doing their utmost to overthrow his kingdom), he adds, that it was acceptable to God, who will have all men to be saved. By this he assuredly means nothing more than that the way of salvation was not shut against any order of men; that, on the contrary, he had manifested his mercy in such a way, that he would have none debarred from it (Institutes 3.24.16).

Note the difference between what Scripture states that God our Saviour ‘desires all people to be saved’ but Calvin interprets it as salvation ‘not shut against any order of men’. The difference is crucial – and cunning manipulation, in my view.

All people include every single person in the world while ‘any order of men’ can refer to different classes and races of people instead of individual people. In his commentary on 1 Tim 2:4 Calvin stated that ‘all’ does not mean ‘all’:

Hence we see the childish folly of those who represent this passage to be opposed to predestination. “If God” say they, “wishes all men indiscriminately to be saved, it is false that some are predestined by his eternal purpose to salvation, and others to perdition.” They might have had some ground for saying this, if Paul were speaking here about individual men….

There is no people and no rank in the world that is excluded from salvation; because God wishes that the gospel should be proclaimed to all without exception. Now the preaching of the gospel gives life; and hence he justly concludes that God invites all equally to partake [of] salvation. But the present discourse relates to classes of men, and not to individual persons; for his sole object is, to include in this number princes and foreign nations (Commentary on 1 Timothy 2:1-4).

‘God our Saviour, who desires all people to be saved’ does not refer to every single person in the world but only to groups of people such as classes of people, princes of foreign nations, but definitely not ‘individual persons’.

That’s Calvin’s view and I’d put it in the class of Calvinistic spin where these interpreters make it comply with their presuppositions against universal atonement, conditional election and the free grace of Titus 2:11 (ESV), ‘For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people’.

clip_image026[8] Hebrews 5:9 (ESV): ‘And being made perfect, he [Jesus] became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him’.

For Calvin, his interpretation was that benefits of salvation came to those who chose to obey him:

To all them that obey him. If then we desire that Christ’s obedience should be profitable to us, we must imitate him; for the Apostle means that its benefit shall come to none but to those who obey. But by saying this he recommends faith to us; for he becomes not ours, nor his blessings, except as far as we receive them and him by faith. He seems at the same time to have adopted a universal term, all, for this end, that he might show that no one is precluded from salvation who is but teachable and becomes obedient to the Gospel of Christ (Commentary on Hebrews 5:7-11).

There is no unconditional election, limited atonement or irresistible grace here. Nobody is disqualified from salvation except those who do not want to obey the Gospel of salvation through Christ alone.

Overall, Calvin is straddling the fence between limited atonement and unlimited atonement. He can’t make up his mind.

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(image courtesy The Remarkable Blog)

clip_image030See my articles opposing limited atonement:

clip_image0321.4 Irresistible Grace

John 6:44 (ESV) states: ‘No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day’.

This verse is used by Calvin to expound his gospel of irresistible grace:

Christ declares that the doctrine of the Gospel, though it is preached to all without exception, cannot be embraced by all, but that a new understanding and a new perception are requisite; and, therefore, that faith does not depend on the will of men, but that it is God who gives it.

Unless the Father draw him. To come to Christ being here used metaphorically for believing, the Evangelist, in order to carry out the metaphor in the apposite clause, says that those persons are drawn whose understandings God enlightens, and whose hearts he bends and forms to the obedience of Christ. The statement amounts to this, that we ought not to wonder if many refuse to embrace the Gospel; because no man will ever of himself be able to come to Christ, but God must first approach him by his Spirit; and hence it follows that all are not drawn, but that God bestows this grace on those whom he has elected. True, indeed, as to the kind of drawing, it is not violent, so as to compel men by external force; but still it is a powerful impulse of the Holy Spirit, which makes men willing who formerly were unwilling and reluctant. It is a false and profane assertion, therefore, that none are drawn but those who are willing to be drawn, as if man made himself obedient to God by his own efforts; for the willingness with which men follow God is what they already have from himself, who has formed their hearts to obey him (Commentary on John 6:41-45).

In light of that interpretation, how does Calvin interpret the prevenient grace of John 12:32 (ESV), ‘And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself’.

Following Calvin’s decision on the meaning of John 6:44, he is required to provide an interpretation at 12:32 that is in harmony with 6:44. I wasn’t disappointed:

I will draw all men to myself. The word all, which he employs, must be understood to refer to the children of God, who belong to his flock. Yet I agree with Chrysostom, who says that Christ used the universal term, all, because the Church was to be gathered equally from among Gentiles and Jews, according to that saying,

There shall be one shepherd, and one sheepfold, (John 10:16) [Commentary on John 12:27-33].

I find this to be fiddling with the data of exegesis to fit into Calvin’s theological framework of only the elect (the children of God) being drawn. Calvin could reach a harmonious conclusion if he accepted:

clip_image034 Only God provides salvation (Eph 2:8-9; 2 Tim 1:9);

clip_image035 Since Jesus’ death and resurrection, God has extended his grace (his drawing power) to all people (John 6:44; 12:32; Titus 2:11). It is not irresistible grace. It can be rejected or accepted.

clip_image034[1] Since the time of Adam and Eve, God has given all human beings the power of alternate choice (free-will). They can choose for or against God’s salvation (John 1:11; 12:48; Acts 16:31).

Calvin further supports irresistible. Is God’s grace extended to all sinners to enable them to repent? Not according to Calvin:

Hence it is that the whole world no longer belongs to its Creator, except in so far as grace rescues from malediction, divine wrath, and eternal death, some, not many, who would otherwise perish, while he leaves the world to the destruction to which it is doomed (Institutes 3:22.7).

It is agreed that all human beings suffer from the curse (malediction) of sin. Why, then, would the Creator choose only a portion of these cursed sinners while allowing the rest to be damned forever? It sounds awfully unjust to me?

The fundamental problem with this comment from Calvin is that he ignores the extent of God’s grace to all people: ‘For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people’ (Titus 2:11 ESV). See my exposition of this verse: How to interpret ‘appeared’ in Titus 2:11.

Calvin wrote that there was zero chance of anyone anywhere resisting God. This citation could just as easily be placed under unconditional election and the sovereignty of God:

Scripture proclaims that all were, in the person of one, made liable to eternal death. As this cannot be ascribed to nature, it is plain that it is owing to the wonderful counsel of God. It is very absurd in these worthy defenders of the justice of God to strain at a gnat and swallow a camel. I again ask how it is that the fall of Adam involves so many nations with their infant children in eternal death without remedy unless that it so seemed meet to God? Here the most loquacious tongues must be dumb. 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. Should any one here inveigh against the prescience of God, he does it rashly and unadvisedly. For why, pray, should it be made a charge against the heavenly Judge, that he was not ignorant of what was to happen? Thus, if there is any just or plausible complaint, it must be directed against predestination (Institutes, 3.23.7).

I react negatively to this view when examining the logical consequences of the Lord God Almighty and his ‘wonderful counsel’ being ‘dreadful’ and ‘impossible to deny’. It makes God the author of horrible evil. Calvin’s teaching is that salvation is irresistible through grace extended to the elect but that God decreed all that happens in our world.

That makes God responsible for child sexual abuse, rape, murder, genocide, the Holocaust, terrorism, etc. He would be a monster God. See my articles:

(1) God sovereign but not author of evil,

(2) Is a Calvinistic God a contradiction when compared with the God revealed in Scripture?

(3) Salvation by grace but not by force: A person chooses to believe

(4) Prevenient grace – kinda clumsy!

(5) Does God create all of the evil in the world?

clip_image030[1]See my articles opposing irresistible grace:

Now to the last point of TULIP. Did Calvin teach and promote it?

clip_image0371.5 Perseverance of the Saints

For although adoption was deposited in the hand of Abraham, yet as many of his posterity were cut off as rotten members, in order that election may stand and be effectual, it is necessary to ascend to the head in whom the heavenly Father has connected his elect with each other, and bound them to himself by an indissoluble tie (Institutes 3.21.7).

In Institutes 3:22.10 Calvin wrote:

Why does the Lord declare that our salvation will always be sure and certain, but just because it is guarded by the invincible power of God? (John 10:29). Accordingly, he concludes that unbelievers are not of his sheep (John 10:16). The reason is, because they are not of the number of those who, as the Lord promised by Isaiah, were to be his disciples. Moreover, as the passages which I have quoted imply perseverance, they are also attestations to the inflexible constancy of election.

Rieske (2016) in

citing data from Calvin supporting penal substitution, from such places as Institutes, 2.16.2.3.5 and 3.22.7.10, on the definite scope of the atonement, the distinction was made between Calvin’s being committed to definite atonement and committing himself to that view.

Calvinism has been called “the archenemy of soul-winning” and rightly so…. Failure to present the gospel of Christ is the real problem. One can easily notice that Calvinists discuss and present Calvinism with the notion that they are presenting the gospel.

How can they do that when their theology states that not all people are thoroughly depraved, offered the Gospel without reservation when they don’t accept conditional election? How can a TULIP people be true to their calling when their theology states that Jesus died only for the elect and not for all. Imagine an evangelist on the street preaching, ‘Seek forgiveness from God for your sins, repent – but you may not be able to do this as you are not in God’s elect. Unless the Calvinists are honest with their theology, they should keep quiet on evangelism, not preach for all within listening distance. They could do letter box drops and engage in Internet evangelism where they don’t have to be honest about their TULIP beliefs.

I find that to be a dishonest approach to evangelism in my community. I attended 2 different Presbyterian churches for 6 years and preached semi-regularly in another. None of these TULIP Calvinist churches conducted evangelistic outreach. I asked one pastor why there was no evangelism in his church and his response was, ‘God will bring them in.’ He sometimes does in dribs and drabs but they are most often from other churches and not new converts.

I recommend this printed interview with Austin Fischer by Jonathan Merritt on Religion News Service, Author says Calvinism can’t make sense of the cross (3 April 2014). Fisher tells of his journey into the young, restless and reformed Calvinists and his journey out of them.

clip_image030[2]See my articles in support of perseverance of the saints:

I am convinced the Bible does not teach OSAS where a person makes a decision for Christ, does not persevere in the faith, and is considered saved forever. See: Once Saved, Always Saved or Once Saved, Lost Again?

I also am convinced by the biblical teaching on total depravity.

2. Conclusion

Calvin taught total depravity, unconditional election, irresistible grace, and perseverance of the saints. He presented contradictory messages on the atonement. At times he stated that Jesus’ death was for the whole world. In other instances, Jesus’ atonement was for the elect of God.

Therefore, Calvin was a ‘leaky’ TULIP theologian because of his double-mindedness on the atonement.

I am a TP Calvinist, which makes me a Reformed Arminian in my doctrine of salvation.

I highly recommend Roger E Olson’s article, ‘What’s wrong with Calvinism?‘ (Patheos, March 22, 2013).

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3. Works consulted

Barnett, T 2015. Can We Escape the Law of Non-Contradiction? Stand to Reason (online), 31 October. Available at: https://www.str.org/blog/can-we-escape-the-law-of-non-contradiction (Accessed 30 June 2019).

Geisler, N 2004. Systematic theology: Sin, salvation, vol 3. Minneapolis, Minnesota: BethanyHouse.

Helm, P 2013. Calvin, Indefinite Language, and Definite Atonement. In D Gibson & J Gibson (eds), From Heaven He Came and Sought Her: Definite Atonement in Historical, Biblical, Theological, and Pastoral Perspective (online), 97-120. Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway. Available at: http://s3.amazonaws.com/churchplantmedia-cms/new_covenant_presbyterian_church_ga/from_heaven_he_came_and_sought_her_1.pdf (Accessed 21 June 2019).

Hendriksen, W 1975. New Testament Commentary: Exposition of the Gospel according to Mark. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic.

Lenski, R C H 1943/1961.Commentary on the New Testament: The interpretation of St. Matthew’s Gospel. The Wartburg Press. This limited edition licensed by special permission of Augsburg Fortress to Hendrickson Publishers, Inc. Edition.

Lumkins, P 2011. John Calvin on Limited Atonement. SBC Tomorrow (online), 15 April. Available at: https://peterlumpkins.typepad.com/peter_lumpkins/2011/04/john-calvin-on-limited-atonement-by-peter-lumpkins.html (Accessed 15 June 2019).

Rieske, K R 2016. Calvinism: False doctrines from the ‘Pope’ of Geneva. Bible Life Ministries (online). Available at: https://biblelife.org/calvinism.htm (Accessed 15 June 2019).

4.  Notes

[1] Available at: http://www.thecaveonline.com/APEH/calvinTULIP.html (Accessed 29 June 2019).

[2] Vitiate means to ‘spoil or impair the quality or efficiency of’ (Lexico/Oxford Dictionary 2019. s.v. vitiate).

[3] Post-redemptionism and Amyraldianism are synonymous terms for belief in Jesus’ universal atonement and are opposed to limited atonement (particular redemption).

[4] These Scriptures were raised and expounded by Peter Lumkins (2011).

[5] Barnett (2015).

[6] See Eph. 4:15; Rom. 6:5; 11:17; 8:29; Gal. 3:27.

[7] I am indebted to Geisler (2004:182-185) for some of the research in this section.

Copyright © 2019 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 02 July 2019.

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Elected to salvation and/or damnation?

Green Salvation Button  Man falling

(images courtesy ChristArt)

By Spencer D. Gear

What is the biblical teaching on election?

Does it matter whether you or I differ in our beliefs on how ‘election’ or ‘predestination’ to salvation works? You might think this has no relevance to the people in the pew or on the street. However, what your view is on election / predestination will have a practical impact on your approach to evangelism.

I used to preach for a Calvinistic church that was not growing, but was diminishing in the number of people who attended. I asked the pastor about his view on evangelism. His response was: ‘God will bring them in’. This had a very practical impact on the lack of evangelism in that church. His view of unconditional election caused that church and him to go silent on evangelism in their community. Why? To use the pastor’s words, ‘God will bring them in’. How was it that God was not bringing them in to that church?

Let’s check into the two most prominent views of election.

What’s the difference between election and predestination? Not much! Kevin DeYoung (a Calvinistic Reformed pastor) explained:

The terms election and predestination are often used interchangeably, both referring to God’s gracious decree whereby he chooses some for eternal life. In Romans 8:30 Paul speaks of those whom God has predestined, called, justified, and (in the end) glorified. In 8:33 Paul references “the elect,” apparently a synonym for the predestined ones described a few verses earlier.

A sharp distinction between the two words is not warranted from Scripture, but if there is a distinction to be made, predestination is the general term for God’s sovereign ordaining, while election is the specific term for God choosing us in Christ before the foundation of the world. That is, predestination is the broader category of which election is the smaller subset (DeYoung 2010).

In this brief article, I’ll be treating election and predestination as interchangeable terms.

Why bother about the differences between Arminians and Calvinists in their theological understandings of how salvation happens? Here’s how they differ:

 

John Calvin by Holbein.png

John Calvin (image courtesy Wikipedia)

Calvinism: Matthew Slick explains,

Unconditional Election:
God does not base His election on anything He sees in the individual. He chooses the elect according to the kind intention of His will (Eph. 1:4-8; Rom. 9:11) without any consideration of merit within the individual. Nor does God look into the future to see who would pick Him. Also, as some are elected into salvation, others are not (Rom. 9:15, 21) (Slick 2012).

James Arminius 2.jpg

Jacob Arminius (image courtesy Wikipedia)

Arminianism: The Society of Evangelical Arminians states:

The FACTS of Salvation C: Conditional Election

Desiring the salvation of all, providing atonement for all people, and taking the initiative to bring all people to salvation by issuing forth the gospel and enabling those who hear the gospel to respond to it positively in faith (see “Atonement for All” and “Freed to Believe” above), God chooses to save those who believe in the gospel/Jesus Christ (John 3:15-16, 36; 4:14; 5:24, 40; 6:47, 50-58; 20:31; Rom 3:21-30; 4:3-5, 9, 11, 13, 16, 20-24; 5:1-2; 9:30-33; 10:4, 9-13; 1 Cor 1:21; 15:1-2; Gal 2:15-16; 3:2-9, 11, 14, 22, 24, 26-28; Eph 1:13; 2:8; Phil 3:9; Heb 3:6, 14, 18-19; 4:2-3; 6:12; 1 John 2:23-25; 5:10-13, 20). This clear and basic biblical truth is tantamount to saying that election unto salvation is conditional on faith. Just as salvation is by faith (e.g., Eph 2:8 – “For by grace you have been saved through faith”), so election for salvation is by faith, a point brought out explicitly in 2 Thes 2:13 – “God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth” (NASB; note: “God has chosen you . . . through . . . faith in the truth”; on the grammar of this verse, see here) (Society of Evangelical Arminians 2013).

So there is quite a difference in these two views of election. They could be summarised as: God picks people for salvation and they cannot refuse; his election is unconditional (Calvinism) versus God picks people for salvation and they can accept or reject the offer of salvation because they are freed to believe or refuse God’s offer, based on God’s grace (Arminianism). In election God determined what would happen before the foundation of the world (Calvinism), while in Arminianism God has foreknowledge of what will happen but human beings’ free will is not removed.

A blaze of disagreements

If you want to enter a firestorm of theological controversy, start talking about election and predestination in a church group or in an online Christian forum. The sparks are likely to fly both ways. Here are a few prominent proponents who are coming from different sides of the theological fences to demonstrate how conflicting the views can be:

Roger E Olson is an avid and convinced Arminian. He wrote of

the controversy between Calvinism and Arminianism. While both are forms of Protestantism (even if some Calvinists deny that Arminianism is authentically Protestant), they take very different approaches to the doctrines of salvation (soteriology). Both believe in salvation by grace through faith alone (sola gratia et fides) as opposed to salvation by grace through faith and good works. Both deny that any part of salvation can be based on human merit. Both affirm the sole supreme authority of Scripture (sola sciptura) and the priesthood of all believers. Arminius and all of his followers were and are Protestants to the core. However, Arminians have always opposed belief in unconditional reprobation – God’s selection of some persons to spend eternity in hell. Because they oppose that, they also oppose unconditional election – the selection of some persons out of the mass of sinners to be saved apart from anything God sees in them. According to Arminians the two are inextricably linked; it is impossible to affirm unconditional selection of some to salvation without at the same time affirming unconditional selection of some to reprobation, which, Arminians believe, impugns the character of God (Olson 2006:14-15; also HERE).

Dr. Olson

Roger E. Olson (photo courtesy George W. Truett Theological Seminary)

In another context, Olson stated:

All that is required for full salvation is a relaxation of the resistant will under the influence of God’s grace so that the person lets go of sin and self-righteousness and allows Christ’s death to become the only foundation for spiritual life. Was Arminius’s soteriology then synergistic? Yes, but not in the way that is often understood. Calvinists tend to regard synergism as equal cooperation between God and a human in salvation; thus the human is contributing something crucial and efficacious to salvation. But this is not Arminius’s synergism. Rather, his is an evangelical synergism that reserves all the power, ability and efficacy in salvation to grace, but allows humans the God-granted ability to resist or not resist it. The only ‘contribution’ humans make is non-resistance to grace. This is the same as accepting a gift.  Arminius could not fathom why a gift that must be freely received is no longer a gift, as Calvinists contend (Olson 2006:165; also HERE).

I recommend the article by Roger E Olson, ‘What’s wrong with Calvinism?‘ (Patheos, March 22, 2013).

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Henry C Thiessen (photo courtesy Wheaton College)

Henry C Thiessen does not identify himself as an Arminian, but his views are sympathetic with those of Arminianism. I used his text when in a Bible college in the early 1970s in Australia where the teacher of theology was an Arminian. Thiessen provided this definition:

  1. The Definition of Election. By election we mean that sovereign act of God in grace whereby he chose in Christ Jesus for salvation all those he foreknew would accept him. This is election in its redemptive aspect. The Scriptures also speak of an election to outward privileges (Luke 6:13, Judas; Acts 13:17; Rom. 9:4; 11:28, Israel) to sonship (Eph. 1;4, 5; Rom. 8:29, 33), and to a particular office (Moses and Aaron, Ps. 105:26; David, 1 Sam. 16:12; 20:30; Solomon, 1 Chron. 28:5; and the Apostles, Luke 6:13 – 16; John 6:70; Acts 1:2, 24; 9:15; 22:14). But we are here concerned with election as related to salvation, and so we analyze the above definition more fully.

(1) Election and Foreknowledge. Election is a sovereign act of God; He was under no obligation to elect anyone, since all had lost their standing before God. Even after Christ had died, God was not obliged to apply that salvation, except as He owed it to Christ to keep the agreement with him as to man’s salvation. Election is a sovereign act, because it was not due to any constraint laid upon God. It was an act in grace, in that He chose those who were utterly unworthy of salvation. Man deserved the exact opposite; but in His grace God chose to save some. He chose them ‘in Christ.’ He could not choose them in themselves because of their ill-desert; so He chose them in the merits of another. Furthermore, He chose those who He foreknew would accept Christ. The Scriptures definitely base God’s election on His foreknowledge: ‘Whom he foreknew, he also foreordained,… and whom He foreordained, them He also called’ (Rom. 8:29, 30); ‘to the elect… according to the foreknowledge of God the Father’ (1 Pet. 1: 1, 2). Although we are nowhere told what it is in the foreknowledge of God that determines His choice, the repeated teaching of Scripture that man is responsible for accepting or rejecting salvation necessitates our postulating that it is man’s reaction to the revelation that God has made of himself that is the basis of His election. May we repeat: Since mankind is hopelessly dead in trespasses and sins and can do nothing to obtain salvation, God graciously restores to all men sufficient ability to make a choice in the matter of submission to Him. This is the salvation-bringing grace of God that has appeared to all men. In His foreknowledge He perceives what each one will do with this restored ability, and elects men to salvation in harmony with His knowledge of their choice of Him. There is no merit in this transaction, as Buswell has clearly shown in his allegory of the captain who is beaten into unconsciousness by the crew on the deck of his vessel, if that captain is revived by restoratives and then accepts the proffered leadership of a captain from another vessel who has come to his rescue[1] (Thiessen 1949:344; also HERE).

But the Calvinist takes a very different view of election to salvation:

R. C. Sproul (cropped).jpg

R. C. Sproul (photo courtesy Wikipedia)

R C Sproul stated his view clearly:

What predestination means, in its most elementary form, is that our final destination, heaven or hell, is decided by God not only before we get there, but before we are even born. It teaches that our ultimate destiny is in the hands of God. Another way of saying it is this: From all eternity, before we even existed, God decided to save some members of the human race and to let the rest of the human race perish. God made a choice – He chose some individuals to be saved into everlasting blessedness in heaven and others He chose to pass over, to allow them to follow the consequences of their sins into eternal torment in hell….

The Reformed view holds that, left to himself, no fallen person would ever choose God. Fallen people still have a free will and are able to choose what they desire. But the problem is that we have no desire for God and will not choose Christ unless first regenerated. Faith is a gift that comes out of rebirth. Only those who are elect will ever respond to the gospel in faith.

The elect do choose Christ, but only because they were first chosen by God (Sproul 1992:161-162: also HERE).

At least Sproul admitted that most Christians do not accept his view. He stated that ‘the non-Reformed view, held by the vast majority of Christians, is that God makes that choice on the basis of His foreknowledge. God chooses for eternal life those whom he knows will choose Him. This is called the prescient view of predestination because it rests on God’s foreknowledge of human decisions or acts’ (Sproul 1992:161, emphasis in original).

Ji-packer

J. I. Packer (photo courtesy Regent College, Vancouver)

J I Packer, another Calvinistic Reformed stalwart, put it in terms of election:

The verb elect means “to select, or choose out.” The biblical doctrine of election is that before Creation God selected out of the human race, foreseen as fallen, those whom he would redeem, bring to faith, justify, and glorify in and through Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:28-39; Eph. 1:3-14; 2 Thess. 2:13-14; 2 Tim. 1:9-10). This divine choice is an expression of free and sovereign grace, for it is unconstrained and unconditional, not merited by anything in those who are its subjects. God owes sinners no mercy of any kind, only condemnation; so it is a wonder, and matter for endless praise, that he should choose to save any of us; and doubly so when his choice involved the giving of his own Son to suffer as sin-bearer for the elect (Rom. 8:32).

The doctrine of election, like every truth about God, involves mystery and sometimes stirs controversy. But in Scripture it is a pastoral doctrine, brought in to help Christians see how great is the grace that saves them, and to move them to humility, confidence, joy, praise, faithfulness, and holiness in response (Packer 1993:149; also HERE).

What about those who are damned to hell (the reprobate)? Packer explained:

Reprobation is the name given to God’s eternal decision regarding those sinners whom he has not chosen for life. His decision is in essence a decision not to change them, as the elect are destined to be changed, but to leave them to sin as in their hearts they already want to do, and finally to judge them as they deserve for what they have done. When in particular instances God gives them over to their sins (i.e., removes restraints on their doing the disobedient things they desire), this is itself the beginning of judgment. It is called “hardening” (Rom. 9:18; 11:25; cf. Ps. 81:12; Rom. 1:24, 26, 28), and it inevitably leads to greater guilt.

Reprobation is a biblical reality (Rom. 9:14-24; 1 Pet. 2:8), but not one that bears directly on Christian behavior. The reprobates are faceless so far as Christians are concerned, and it is not for us to try to identify them. Rather, we should live in light of the certainty that anyone may be saved if he or she will but repent and put faith in Christ.

We should view all persons that we meet as possibly being numbered among the elect (Packer 1993:150-151; also HERE).

Disagreement on a Christian forum

This article will touch down on only a few issues. This response was provoked by an initial comment I received from an advocate of ‘free grace’ theology[2] on a large Christian forum. Here is our interchange:

He stated,

‘There are NO verses that specifically and clearly state that God elects anyone to salvation. None at all. Which is why the Calvinist doctrine of election is in error.

To be elected is to be chosen for special privilege and service, not chosen for salvation. Those who equate the 2 are in error.

The Bible gives at least 6 categories of election that have nothing to do with being chosen for salvation, including Judas, one of the 12 chosen (Jn 6:70)’.[3]

Evidence for election to salvation or not?

Therefore, a logical question for me to ask was, ‘So do you believe that there is biblical evidence for people being predestined to salvation/justification?’[4]

His anticipated response was:

No, I believe that there is NO Biblical evidence for people being predestined to salvation unconditionally.

Unless you understand that God chooses ALL (unconditionally) believers for salvation. Even the stinky ones.

The problem is that the logical conclusion from Calvinism is that per their view of election, God has chosen who will believe, completely removing the free response of man, which is unbiblical.

Yes, God chooses who He will save. And that is believers ONLY. No doubt about it. But Calvinism’s view results in God choosing who will believe, which is rejected as truth.[5]

Hence my reply:

In essence I agree with what you said because I believe in conditional salvation (i.e. human beings make a response) and not the Calvinistic unconditional salvation.
However, my question to you was: ‘So do you believe that there is biblical evidence for people being predestined to salvation / justification?’

I was asking about predestination / election and not unconditional predestination / election. By your response you have indicated that you do not believe in the unconditional election of Calvinism – neither do I as I don’t find it taught in Scripture.

For a better understanding of predestination/election, I recommend, ‘The FACTS of Salvation C: Conditional Election‘ (Society of Evangelical Arminians).[6]

His comeback was: ‘Correct. Calvinism’s election is foreign to Scripture. Election isn’t even about salvation. It’s about being chosen or elected to special privilege and service, as all 6 categories illustrate, even including ol’ Judas (Jn 6:70)’.[7]

There is no concept of election in salvation, he said

He then chose to reply to my statement: ‘For a better understanding of predestination/election, I recommend, ‘The FACTS of Salvation C: Conditional Election‘ (Society of Evangelical Arminians)’.

I just looked over the site you cited. The opening statement was this:

There are two main views of what the Bible teaches concerning the concept of election unto salvation: that it is either conditional or unconditional.

I disagree that there is any concept of election unto salvation. The reason is that of the 3 related Greek words translated “elect/election”; ekloge (noun), eklektos (adjective), and eklegomai (verb), none of these words are used in conjunction with salvation.

In Rom 9:11, Paul notes there is a “purpose in election (ekloge)”.

Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad – in order that God’s purpose in election might stand:

So we know there is a purpose in God’s election. But is it choosing who will be saved? No, for there are no verses that use any of the 3 Greek words in relation to salvation.

The ISBE [The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia] defines election as being selected for special privilege and service. While some may argue that being chosen for salvation IS being chosen for special privilege and service, they have no point or defense, since even Judas was elected (Jn 6:70) and Jesus even described him as a devil.

However, we clearly see that Judas’ election was about special privilege and service, even though he was not saved. To be with Jesus easily qualifies to be a special privilege. And as for “service”, he was the one who betrayed Jesus. Not the kind of service we generally think of, but he did fulfill the plan of God by doing so.

So, when one encounters any of the 3 Greek words, the question needs to be asked, “chosen for what special privilege and service?”.
Also, since the nation of Israel was a chosen nation, and it is quite obvious that many were not believers, this election had nothing to do with salvation.[8]

Election: It’s Greek to me!

I asked:[9]

Can you read NT Greek and the tools or not? If you read and understood NT Greek, you would not come to such a conclusion. Going to the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (ISBE) is not the place to go to learn how to exegete the Greek NT. I suggest that you use these tools:

  • Arndt & Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature.
  • Colin Brown (ed), The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology (3 vols).[10]
  • Kittel & Friedrich (eds), Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (10 vols).[11]

I’m not going to do the exegesis for you from these Greek tools that I use. But if you went to Arndt & Gingrich, you would find that the definition of ‘election’ on the site of the Society of Evangelical Arminians is correct and that the view you are promoting on this forum is incorrect.

Arndt & Gingrich’s Greek lexicon gives only two meanings for the noun he ekloge (the elect). They are,

1. Active use, which means selection, election as choosing. Examples are a chosen instrument (Acts 9:16), especially of God’s selection of Christians (2 Peter 1:10; 1 Thess 1:4); with the accusative verb, ‘to selection by grace = selected by grace (Rom 11:5); the purpose of God which operates by selection (Rom 9:11); ‘as far as (their) selection or election (by God) is concerned beloved’ (Rom 11:28); there is an outside source from the NT that means, ‘make a selection from among some people’ (MPol 20:1).

2. Passive use, a NT example being Rom 11:7, which means of persons, ‘those selected’ (Arndt & Gingrich 1957:242)

Arndt & Gingrich give the meaning of the adjective eklektos (masculine declension) as:

1. Chosen, select

a. Generally of angels (1 Tim 5:21); of the Messiah (Lk 23:35);

b. ‘Especially of those whom God has chosen from the generality of mankind and drawn to himself’ (Mt 20:16; 22:14). ‘Hence of the Christians in particular (as in the OT of Israelites)…. chosen (Mk 13:20, 22, 27; 1 Pt 1:1; 2 Tim 2:10; elect of God (Lk 18:7; Rom 8:33; Col 3;12; Tit 1:1, etc.

2. ‘Since the best is usually chosen, choice, excellent … Rufus ‘chosen in the Lord’, ‘the outstanding Christian‘. ‘Of a stone choice‘ (1 Pt 2:4, 6) [Arndt & Gingrich 1957:242}.

I did not have the time to go through the other Greek resources to demonstrate that this person’s perspective was incorrect when compared with the Greek meanings, gained through exegesis.

Election does refer to salvation!!!

He went to the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia to try to gain support for his view of election. However, when I go to the Evangelical Dictionary of Theology (Walter Elwell ed, 1984), this is what I find about the meaning of …

Elect, Election. Scripture employs a rich vocabulary to express several aspects of God’s sovereign election, choice, and predestination. Five types of election call for distinction. (1) There is only one reference to “the elect angels” (1 Tim. 5:21; cf. 1 Cor. 6:3; 2 Pet. 2:4; Jude 6). (2) Election to service or office is evident in God’s sovereign choice of David as Israel’s king (1 Sam. 16:7–12) and in Jesus’ choosing of the disciples and apostles (Luke 6:13; John 6:70; 15:16; Acts 9:15; 15:7). (3) The election of Abraham’s descendants to form the theocratic nation of Israel is a common biblical theme (Deut. 4:37; 7:6–7; 10:15; 1 Kings 3:8; Isa. 44:1–2; 45:4; 65:9, 15, 22; Amos 3:2; Acts 13:17; Rom. 9:1–5). The election of Israel originated in God’s sovereign choice, expressed his covenantal love, and served the goal of redemptive history culminating in Jesus Christ. (4) The election of the Messiah is a fourth type of election. Isaiah referred to the servant of the Lord as “my chosen one” (42:1; cf. Matt. 12:18). Of the Synoptics only Luke refers to Jesus as the Chosen One (9:35; 23:35). Peter echoes another Isaiah reference (28:16) in 1 Peter 1:20 and 2:4, 6. These references indicate the unique mediatorial office of Christ and the Father’s pleasure in him. It is an election basic to the final type, (5) election to salvation, with which the rest of this article is concerned.

The most common NT reference to election is God’s eternal election of certain persons to salvation in Jesus Christ. The subject is dealt with comprehensively in Ephesians 1:3–11 and Romans 8:28–11:36 (Elwell 1984:348; also HERE).

If you go to the 1996 revised edition of Elwell’s dictionary (online) you will find that ‘elect, election’ has these emphases: ‘The term “elect” means essentially “to choose.” It involves discriminatory evaluation of individuals, means, ends, or objects with a view to selecting one above the others, although not necessarily passing negative judgment on those others’. These are the meanings of ‘elect, election’, based on the exposition of Scripture that is documented in Elwell:

  • God’s Election of Angels;
  • God’s Election of Israel;
  • God’s Election of the Place of Worship;
  • God’s Election of People to an Office;
  • God’s Election of Individuals for Various Reasons;
  • God’s Election of the Messiah;
  • God’s Election of Means to Accomplish Ends;
  • God’s Election to Salvation of Believers and the Believing Community.

This Elwell exposition harmonises with the biblical material and not with the view this person on the Christian forum was promoting that ‘election isn’t even about salvation. It’s about being chosen or elected to special privilege and service’. Yes, there is election to a special privilege and service, but there also is election to salvation. The biblical emphasis is that this election is effected by God’s initiation and the human being’s free will response to that call. I cannot find the Calvinistic determinism in relation to unconditional election and double-predestination in Scripture.

R C Sproul defines the Calvinistic Reformed doctrine of double-predestination: ‘In the Reformed view God from all eternity decrees some to election and positively intervenes in their lives to work regeneration and faith by a monergistic work of grace. To the non-elect God withholds this monergistic work of grace, passing them by and leaving them to themselves. He does not monergistically work sin or unbelief in their lives’ (Sproul, Double’ Predestination, Ligonier Ministries).

The good God and creation of evil

If God is doing everything in the world according to his sovereignty, then God is responsible for all its evil. That would be a horrifying thought. However, I see a different picture in Scripture:[13]

We know from Jesus that,

  • Many are called, but few are chosen’ (Matt 22:14 ESV).
  • Acts 13:48 (ESV) confirms that ‘as many as were appointed to eternal life believed’. So, from God’s point of view, only the elect will believe.
  • However, the Lord is ‘not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance’ (2 Pet 3:9 NIV). We obtain a similar message from 1 Tim 2:4 (NIV) that God our Saviour ‘wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth’.
  • Therefore, ‘God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son’ (John 3:16 NIV).
  • Why was this? That Jesus would be ‘the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world’ (1 John 2:2 ESV).
  • So God has provided salvation for all, but how do people receive it? ‘Now he commands all people everywhere to repent’ (Acts 17:30 ESV) and believe (Acts 16:31 (ESV).

It would be outrageous for God to command all people to be saved and not make salvation available for all people.

We know that God is not the creator of evil (sending the damned to hell) because God is the good God and not the evil God:

  • Psalm 25:8 (ESV), ‘Good and upright is the LORD; therefore he instructs sinners in the way’.
  • Psalm 136:1 (ESV), ‘Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good’.
  • Psalm 100:5 (ESV), ‘For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures for ever, and his faithfulness to all generations’.
  • Mark 10:18 (NIV), ‘“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good–except God alone”‘.

Richard Bargas (2006) has written an article that does not support double predestination, ‘Double trouble: Is double predestination biblical?

I, the author of this article, accept the Arminian understanding of election. See my articles on this subject:

clip_image003 God’s foreknowledge and predestination/election to salvation

clip_image003 Jesus died for those who will be damned

clip_image003 Sent to hell by God: Calvinism in action?

clip_image003 Conflict over salvation

clip_image003 Did John Calvin believe in double predestination?

clip_image003 The injustice of the God of Calvinism

I recommend the article by Roger E Olson, ‘What’s wrong with Calvinism?‘ (Patheos, March 22, 2013).

Works consulted

Arndt, W F & Gingrich, F W 1957. A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature.[12] Chicago: The University of Chicago Press (limited edition licensed to Zondervan Publishing House).

Brown, C (ed) 1975-1978. The new international dictionary of New Testament theology, 3 vols. Exeter: The Paternoster Press / Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Corporation.

Buswell, J O 1937. Sin and atonement. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

DeYoung, K 2010. What is the difference between election and predestination? The Gospel Coalition (online). Available at: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevindeyoung/2010/08/13/what-is-the-difference-between-election-and-predestination/ (Accessed 1 May 2013).

Elwell, W A (ed) 1984. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House.

Kittel, G & Friedrich, G 1964-1977. Tr & ed by G W Bromiley. Theological dictionary of the New Testament, 10 vols. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Olson, R E 2006. Arminian theology: Myths and realities. Downers Grove, Illinois: IVP Academic.

Packer, J I 1993. Concise theology: A guide to historic Christian beliefs. Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

Slick, M 2012. The five points of Calvinism, Calvinist Corner (online). Available at: http://www.calvinistcorner.com/tulip.htm (Accessed 2 May 2014).

Society of Evangelical Arminians 2013. The FACTS of Salvation C: Conditional Election (online). Available at: http://evangelicalarminians.org/the-facts-of-salvationc-conditional-election/ (Accessed 2 May 2014).

Sproul, R C 1992. Essential truths of the Christian faith. Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

Notes


[1] Here he acknowledged Buswell’s publication on sin and atonement (Buswell 1937:112-114).

[2] Another free grace theology proponent defined it this way: ‘Free Grace is the view that “salvation is by grace through faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ”. 1 Cor 15:3-4. Good works and discipleship ought to follow salvation but are separate and distinct from salvation itself. This is contrasted with Lordship Salvation which views good works as essential to “final salvation”. John MacArthur [is] arguably Lordship Salvation’s best known modern proponent’ (Free Grace Theology, Frequently Asked Questions, ‘What is free grace?’ available at: http://free-grace-theology.blogspot.com.au/, accessed 1 May 2014).

[3] FreeGrace2#54, 28 April 2014, Christian Forums, Soteriology DEBATE, ‘I believe that arminianism and calvinism are both true at the same time’, available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7816600-6/ (Accessed 1 May 2014).

[4] Ibid., OzSpen#55.

[5] Ibid., FreeGrace2#56.

[6] Ibid., OzSpen#57.

[7] Ibid., FreeGrace2#58.

[8] Ibid., FreeGrace2#60.

[9] Ibid., OzSpen#61.

[10] Bibliographical details in ‘Works consulted’ at the bottom of this article.

[11] Bibliographical details in ‘Works consulted’ at the bottom of this article.

[12] This is ‘a translation and adaptation of Walter Bauer’s Griechisch-Deutsches Wörtbuch zu den Schriften des Neuen Testaments und der übrigen urchristlichen Literatur’ (4th rev and augmented edn 1952) (Arndt & Gingrich 1957:iii).

[13] I made this post to Christian Forums.net, Apologetics & Theology, ‘Predestination and Calvinism’, OzSpen#541, 26 May 2016. Available at: http://christianforums.net/Fellowship/index.php?threads/predestination-and-calvinism.64471/page-28 (Accessed 26 May 2016).

Copyright © 2014 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 1 May 2016.

Did John Calvin believe in double predestination?

By Spencer D Gear

Green Salvation Button

What do I mean by double predestination? I mean predestination either to eternal salvation in Christ or eternal damnation for the remainder of humanity. If God predestines the elect, then the automatic inference is that he leaves the rest to damnation, so he predestines the damned to hell.

I’m jumping ahead of myself. What is meant by predestination? My understanding is that the teaching on foreknowledge, election and predestination are closely related. Henry Thiessen explained it:

God foreknew what men [human beings male and female] would do in response to His common grace; and He elected those whom He foresaw would respond positively. Election is followed by foreordination (also called predestination). This is the act of God whereby He pre-registers, as it were, those whom He has chosen. It implies that He has determined to save them: to give them life (Acts 13:48), place them into the position of sons (Eph. 1:5, 11), and conform them to the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29, 30)….

[As applied to redemption], in election God has decided to save those who accept His Son and the proffered salvation, and in foreordination He has determined effectively to accomplish that purpose [Thiessen 1949:157, 345].

The biblical sequence is articulated in Romans 8:29-30 is, ‘For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son…. Those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified’ (ESV).

Charles Hodge (photo courtesy Wikipedia)

Calvinistic theologian, Charles Hodge, explained that there is one meaning of predestination where

it is used in theology generally to express the purpose of God in relation to the salvation of individual men. It includes the selection of one portion of the race to be saved, and leaving the rest to perish in sin. It is in this sense used by supralapsarians, who teach that God selected a certain number of individual men to be created in order to salvation, and a certain number to be created to be vessels of wrath. It is in this way they subordinate creation to predestination as a means to an end (Hodge 1979:321).

Norman Geisler calls himself a moderate Calvinist, although his views in Chosen but Free (Geisler 1999:129) indicate to me that he is closer to Arminianism in his understanding of predestination and free will. His view is that

all Calvinists must believe in some form of double-predestination – the logic of their position demands it. Augustine said of God, ‘As the Supreme Good, he made good use of evil deeds, for the damnation of those whom he had justly predestined to punishment and for the salvation of those whom he had mercifully predestined to grace’ [Augustine n d:100].[1] R. C. Sproul confirms, ‘If there is such a thing as predestination at all, and if that predestination does not include all people, then we must not shrink from the necessary inference that there are two sides to predestination’ [Sproul 1986:141]….

Moderate Calvinists [such as Geisler] call the active predestination of both the elect and the reprobate ‘double-predestination’. Those who maintain it are called hyper-Calvinists (Geisler 2004:564, emphasis in original).

Was John Calvin a double predestination advocate?

John Calvin (image courtesy: Wikipedia)

At the level of the laity, this is sometimes stated this way: ‘Heck even Calvin did not believe in double predestination’.[2]

With this kind of statement, I went looking for John Calvin’s view on double predestination. Did he follow Hentenza’s view or not. This led to the following post by me:[3]

Why did this person misrepresent John Calvin’s teaching like this? This demonstrates that the person did not know what Calvin taught about predestination.

The facts are: Calvin most definitely did believe in double predestination. This is what he wrote and taught:

The predestination by which God adopts some to the hope of life, and adjudges others to eternal death, no man who would be thought pious ventures simply to deny….By predestination we mean the eternal decree of God, by which he determined with himself whatever he wished to happen with regard to every man. 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 3.21.5).

From where did this person get the idea that Calvin did not teach double predestination? Did he get it from another Calvinist?

This quote from the Institutes of the Christian Religion refutes this person’s statement about Calvin. He most definitely did believe in double predestination.

Black and white denial

#

(image courtesy openclipart)

I provided the exact quote from Calvin to demonstrate that this theologian did believe in double predestination. So what did this person do? He stated:

lol This is a typical Arminian quote mine. You need to keep reading. The term double predestination is actually a pejorative and use to fully twist Calvin’s views of the “election” of the reprobate. It has been used as a synonym for a “symmetrical” view of predestination which sees election and reprobation being worked out in an equally parallel mode of divine operation.

This twisting of double predestination suggests a parallelism of foreordination and predestination by means of a positive symmetry, which results in a positive-positive view of predestination, i.e., God positively and actively intervenes in the lives of the elect to bring them to salvation and in the same way God positively and actively intervenes in the life of the reprobate to bring him to sin.

The classic position of Reformed theology views predestination as double in that it involves both election and reprobation but not symmetrical with respect to the mode of divine activity. A strict parallelism of operation is denied. Rather predestination is viewed in terms of a positive-negative relationship based on God’s knowledge.[4]

This sounded too academically sophisticated for the kind of posts that this person has been making, so I searched online and found that it had been plagiarised. This was my reply:

Why have you engaged in plagiarism here – stealing somebody else’s ideas without giving him credit?

Some of your material here is from R C Sproul on ‘Double” predestination‘.

For the sake of integrity in your posts, I urge you to give credit to your sources when you use another person’s views.[5]

His response was: ‘The majority of my post came from an article given to me by one of my students of my bible class and is not copyrighted. I thought it was well written but did not realize that some of the material came from Sproul. My apologies’.[6] My reply was,

That confirms that you got the information from somebody else and did not give them credit. That also is plagiarism. I am not attacking you, the poster. That is the farthest thing from my mind.

When you misrepresent another person’s views, as you did with John Calvin on double predestination, I’ll draw that to your attention because it is the truth. When will you acknowledge that you were wrong when you stated that Calvin did not believe in double predestination – when he did?[7]

What is plagiarism?

Here is a USA definition from US Legal (accessed 19 October 2013):

Plagiarism Law & Legal Definition

Plagiarism is taking the writings or literary ideas of another and selling and/or publishing them as one’s own writing. Brief quotes or use of cited sources do not constitute plagiarism. The original author can bring a lawsuit for appropriation of his/her work against the plagiarist and recover the profits. Although not normally a crime, a person who plagiarizes is subject to being sued for fraud or copyright infringement if prior creation can be proved. Penalties vary depending on jurisdiction, the charges brought, and are determined on a case by case basis.

The Internet has made plagiarism easier than ever before. From elementary schools to the highest levels of academia, the ease of downloading and copying “untraceable” online information has led to an epidemic of digital plagiarism. Plagiarism detection software now exists and is used in schools to monitor student’s work. If you adopt someone else’s language, provide quotation marks and a reference to the source, either in the text or in a footnote, as prescribed by such publications as Format, The MLA Style Sheet, or another manual of style. Students who commit plagiarism may be subject to grade or disciplinary penalties, which vary by institution.

Intentional or unintentional use of another’s words or ideas without acknowledging this use constitutes plagiarism: There are four common forms of plagiarism:

  • The duplication of an author’s words without quotation marks and accurate references or footnotes.
  • The duplication of author’s words or phrases with footnotes or accurate references, but without quotation marks.
  • The use of an author’s ideas in paraphrase without accurate references or footnotes.
  • Submitting a paper in which exact words are merely rearranged even though footnoted.

Even though I provided information in black and white with a quote from Calvin’s Institutes, this person continued to deny Calvin taught and believed double predestination with responses like these:

6pointMetal-small ‘I am not misrepresenting Calvin’s views. That is for you to prove’.[8]

6pointMetal-small ‘The only thing that you have proved is your ignorance of Calvin’s theology but then again, quote mines only show ignorance anyway’.[9]

6pointMetal-small ‘You posted a quote mine that YOU interpret as meaning that Calvin believed in the pejorative double predestination. I have already addressed this’.[10]

This is what happens when a person’s pet doctrine is challenged with contrary evidence. He was immediately into denial of Calvin’s teaching of double predestination or blaming me for misrepresenting him. I did not misinterpret him. I quoted him exactly. He said Calvin didn’t believe in double predestination.

It doesn’t fit with his established and agreed view of Calvinism. The truth can be disturbing when it is provided and it confronts an accepted doctrine. It is not easy to admit, ‘I was wrong. Thanks for providing that correction. I’ll be able to affirm Calvin’s belief in double predestination when it is raised. Thanks for your research to correct me’. That kind of response was far from his mind.

Is double predestination an Arminian twist?

This person also wrote, ‘There is no Calvinistic view of double predestination. Tis (sic) is an Arminian twist. God does not positively act in the lies of the reprobate to keep them reprobate. God knows that they will not turn from their ways and merely passes them over’.[11]

I replied:[12]

Why do you refuse to believe what John Calvin said about his belief in the doctrine of double predestination? It is not an Arminian twist. It is Calvin’s own teaching. When will you get it?

The title page from the 1559 edition of John Calvin’s Institutio Christianae Religionis

(image courtesy: Wikipedia)

Here the quote is again. The facts are: Calvin most definitely did believe in double predestination. This is what he wrote and taught:

The predestination by which God adopts some to the hope of life, and adjudges others to eternal death, no man who would be thought pious ventures simply to deny….By predestination we mean the eternal decree of God, by which he determined with himself whatever he wished to happen with regard to every man. 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 3.21.5).

I wrote: You are the one who is misrepresenting John Calvin’s teaching when you refuse to accept his belief in and teaching about double predestination. In this one paragraph, he emphasised it twice:

  1. ‘The predestination by which God adopts some to the hope of life, and adjudges others to eternal death’;
  2. ‘each has been created for one or other of these ends, we say that he has been predestinated to life or to death’

Why do you, a Calvinist, refuse to believe what Calvin believed by affirming that God predestines to life and God predestines to death. God predestines to the hope of life and adjudges (predestines) others to eternal death. To deny this is to deny what Calvin taught.

See:Double-Talk From a Double Predestinarian [John Piper’, by J C Thibodaux. The article begins:

Dr. John Piper recently responded to the question, “What did the death of Jesus on the cross accomplish for the non-elect? Anything?” His reply, oddly, raises more questions than it answers. Despite his views on unconditional election and reprobation, Piper frames his answer in terms of God giving those who aren’t chosen a “chance” at salvation. Ted Kaczynski, aka the Unabomber, was identified partially by his unusual, but correct use of an oft-misquoted proverb that’s very applicable here: “You can’t eat your cake and have it too.”

To understand the issue, the reader should know that Piper is a 5-point Calvinist and a supralapsarian (Got Questions 2002-2016).

He believes that whether one is saved or not is strictly up to the choice of God, with no input from a human being  or conditions fulfilled by human beings. His view is that God unchangeably chose or rejected each individual before the world was ever made.

He also believes that Christ didn’t die for the ones that weren’t chosen in any sort of way by which they could be saved through free will (this is commonly called “limited atonement”). Whether one accepts the gospel or not is entirely dependent upon whether he or she has been “regenerated” by God beforehand (per Calvinism, one who is regenerated inevitably will believe the gospel, one who isn’t regenerated never can). With that said, let’s examine Piper’s response.

In one sense, as soon as we sin we should be punished eternally. We shouldn’t get another breath. There should be no reprieve. There should be no time given to us. So clearly then, in some sense, the time given to us is grace. And grace for a sinner requires some kind of payment or purchase or warrant from a holy God. And Christ would be the one who provides that.

So I’m inclined to say, “Yes, the fact that the non-elect, the unbelievers all over the world are still breathing and have another chance to believe is a gift, just like the offer of the gospel is a gift. And that offer is provided by the cross”….

Now here’s the catch. Romans 2:4 says, “Don’t you know that the patience of God is meant to lead you to repentance? But you, by your hard and unrepentant heart, are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when the righteous judgment of God is revealed.”

So if a non-elect person spurns-which they do-they spurn this grace, the grace itself becomes added judgment. Which makes me wonder, “In what sense was it grace?” In some sense it is. It’s a real offer, it’s a real opportunity. But if you spurn it, if you reject it, it backfires and mounts up with greater judgment….

It’s like the more kindness is shown to a person that they resist, then the more wicked they show themselves to be. And the more wicked they show themselves to be, the more judgment falls upon them.

I think the answer is yes. I think real grace, real common grace, real offer of salvation-right now, just watching this-is grace. And if you’re a non-Christian, grace is being offered you at this very moment in my warning you that, if you spurn this, judgment will be greater….

And that’s a gift to you right now that God may be pleased to then use to awaken you to say, “Whoa. I don’t want to multiply my judgment. I want to respond to this moment of grace.”

That’s what I think the upshot of this conversation should be: respond to the grace. You’re alive! There’s still a chance to believe and be saved.

J C Thibodaux concluded with this assessment:

Again, per 5-point Calvinism, if you’re not among those elected to salvation, tough beans. God hasn’t chosen you, Christ didn’t die for you, and the Holy Spirit most certainly won’t regenerate you. You are lost without remedy, condemned already beyond repair, there isn’t a single ray of hope, and you never had a prayer. The accessibility of salvation to you is absolute zero. Nothing. Zilch. Nada. So how can a person to whom salvation isn’t even remotely applicable have any sort of “opportunity” to be saved?

Put even more simply, if Christ didn’t die for the forgiveness of one’s sins in any sense, then there can never be an “opportunity to be saved” for him, because there is no way to be saved unless Christ died to forgive his sins.

Such doublespeak is strong cause to question Piper’s personal theology. If his determinist views are so repugnant that he has to “balance” them with concepts that flatly contradict his doctrine, then he’s essentially embraced cognitive dissonance. If you reject universalism, but believe that God still genuinely offers salvation to all men, then which is more consistent and less convoluted to believe?

1. Christ died provisionally for the sins of all, such that any who believe in Him will be forgiven.

2. Or Piper’s view, where if you’re not one of the elect, you’re given an “opportunity” that you can’t possibly take, to accept an “offer” of salvation from God that isn’t really His will that you accept, just so you’ll have a “chance” to obtain faith that isn’t even accessible to you, wrought by a Savior who didn’t die to forgive your sins, but whose death fortunately did provide “grace” that will inevitably backfire and condemn you even more.

Makes perfect sense. Where do I sign?

Works consulted

Augustine n d. Enchiridion – The handbook on faith, hope and love (online). The Fathers of the Church, New Advent. Available at: http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/1302.htm (Accessed 19 October 2013).

Geisler, N L 1999. Chosen but free. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Bethany House Publishers.

Geisler, N 2004. Systematic theology: Sin, salvation, vol 3. Minneapolis, Minnesota: BethanyHouse.

Hodge, C 1979 (reprint). Systematic theology, vol 2. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Sproul, R C 1986. Chosen by God. Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

Thiessen, H C 1949. Introductory lectures in systematic theology. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Notes:


[1] The New Advent online edition provides this translation, ‘He used the very will of the creature which was working in opposition to the Creator’s will as an instrument for carrying out His will, the supremely Good thus turning to good account even what is evil, to the condemnation of those whom in His justice He has predestined to punishment, and to the salvation of those whom in His mercy He has predestined to grace’ (Augustine n d).

[2] Christian Forums, Baptists, ‘Calvinist Arminian dialog’ (online), Hentenza#152, available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7773893-16/ (Accessed 19 October 2013).

[3] OzSpen#158, http://www.christianforums.com/t7773893-16/.

[4] Hentenza#167, http://www.christianforums.com/t7773893-17/.

[5] OzSpen#172, http://www.christianforums.com/t7773893-18/.

[6] Hentenza#173, ibid.

[7] OzSpen#175, ibid.

[8] Hentenza#177, ibid.

[9] Hentenza#181, http://www.christianforums.com/t7773893-19/.

[10] Hentenza#184, ibid.

[11] Hentenza#201, http://www.christianforums.com/t7773893-21/.

[12] OzSpen#211, http://www.christianforums.com/t7773893-22/.

 

Copyright © 2013 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 20 September 2016.