Monday, August 1, 2011

Irresistible God? A Considerate Search into Calvinism, Part 1 of 7

I would like to explore the concept of Calvinism at length, comparing the teachings of John Calvin with Scripture to determine how “Calvinist” Christians truly are. I say this on my own behalf; I always believed that Calvinism possessed theological flaws, but felt that most fundamental Christians were essentially at least “mildly Calvinistic” in their thinking. Upon closer inspection, I humbly confess that this is a wrong assessment of John Calvin’s teachings, and much taught by this alleged Biblical exegete was not Scriptural. Together let us peer into Calvinism as its proponents teach it.

For your interest, here are the five points of Calvinism simply explained in order of its acronym, TULIP.

1. Total Depravity: that man, because he is spiritually dead to God in trespasses and sins, is incapable of responding to the gospel with first being regenerated by the Holy Spirit.


2. Unconditional Election: that God decides on no basis whatever but by the mystery of His will to save some (the elect) and to allow all others to go to Hell even though He could save them all if He wished to.


3. Limited Atonement: the elect are the only ones for whom Christ died in payment for the penalty for their sins and that His death is efficacious for no one else.


4. Irresistible Grace: that God is able to cause whomever He will to respond to the gospel; without this enabling no one could respond, and that He only provides this Irresistible Grace to the elect while damning the rest.


5. Perseverance of the Saints: God will not permit any of the elect to lose their salvation which He has freely given to them.

A word for anyone reading this post:
The intent of this look into Scripture is a critique upon Calvinism, not upon Calvinists. Do I consider Calvinists believers and beloved? If they have believed the gospel of salvation? Yes, without doubt. Would I fellowship with them? So long as they did not make Calvinism a point of contention, yes. I am not labeling Calvinists “heretics” or “unsaved.” I want to stress this here and now. What I would like to explore is the doctrines of Calvinism as laid down by its founder, John Calvin, and Augustine before him. I have no desire to cause division; rather I invite discussion with mature and otherwise like-minded Christians. Pro or con, my prayer is that this series of posts might edify and cause some to consider points they might not have otherwise entertained. I have labored with this for months, and been leery to post it; my brothers in Christ who espouse Calvinism, know that I love you and write this as a brother’s insights into Scripture, and where I believe John Calvin went wrong. God bless us all with clearer understanding regarding His word.

A second word of explanation:
Why am I even writing this? I spent considerable time weighing the legitimacy of Calvinism. I let detractors such as Arno Froese and Dave Hunt speak against it; I permitted protagonists like Erwin Lutzer and John Mcarthur defend Calvin’s doctrine. There was much said on both sides and interesting points were raised, but the man who finally tipped the scales for me was Mr. Arthur Pink. A. W. Pink was a highly devout student of Calvinism and his seminal book, “The Sovereignty of God” was originally abridged even by the Calvinist community because of its blunt treatment of the topic. I realized that I needed to hear from the mouth of a “strict Calvinist” what Calvinism truly was. Just as Christianity ought to be measured by Jesus Christ and not by Christians who fail to walk the way He walked; so too should Calvinism stand or fall in the light of its originator, defender and most ardent student. In this case John Calvin and his protégée Arthur Pink fit the bill. I let a Five Point Calvinist or “strict Calvinist” explain to me what his doctrine was. It is strict Calvinism I am addressing from this point on.

What did I find? More than I would have liked. To be utterly honest I was shocked and appalled by Mr. Pink’s abusive and caustic usage of Scripture to win his points for Calvinism, even when it meant twisting the plain meaning of a text to say something it clearly does not. He devoted an entire chapter to 1st John 2:2 in an effort to make the word “world” mean something other than its plain meaning in the context John used it. Why was this? Did Arthur Pink find this in Scripture? No; he inherited it from Calvinism. I will extrapolate shortly, God willing. Further uses of plain verses began to make me seriously concerned for this man and those who heed his teaching. Was Arthur Pink’s savior Calvin or Christ? One would believe the former for the theological cartwheels he does to defend the doctrine he believes to be true. When a liberal twists Scripture to this outrageous degree every true Christian fires at him with both barrels; but when someone who claims to be fundamental changes the clear meaning of God’s truth to fit a man-made system great lenience or even approval apparently follows. I cannot follow. Arthur Pink’s book sickened me to the point of revulsion and I pray that he repented of writing it before he went to answer to his Lord.

Forgive my shortness, but you can rest assured that Mr. Pink spared no niceties when he wrote “The Sovereignty of God.” There was a lack of grace, love or mercy in those pages; only an overwhelming insistence that John Calvin’s system was Christianity and a passionate desire to mutilate any Scripture that did not fit the framework of that system. Mr. Pink showed me why we should not follow men (1st Corinthians 3:4). He also clearly demonstrated why, at long last, I was compelled to write on Calvinism. I believe it is not founded in Scripture, and is at best added baggage to confuse men and muddy the waters of salvation that Jesus calls us to come and drink from.

A final word to the reader:
As I am dealing with strict Calvinism I describe its tenets (Total Depravity, Unlimited Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace, Perseverance of the Saints) in terms more befitting John Calvin, Martin Luther and men the likes of Arthur Pink. They did not describe reprobation in glowing terms such as God passing over men, but rather as God condemning them, so I am going to be equally candid as to pursue the truth behind Five Point Calvinism. If this offends readers such is not my intent, I assure you. But this system is so void of God’s mercy, grace, love and genuine justice that I can no longer keep silent. To that extent please bear with me, and detractors are welcome so long as civility is maintained. This is not a personal attack, but a search into what Calvinism teaches using direct, plain language. We shall soon see if this complex system is in fact the simplicity that is in Christ or so much more, 2nd Corinthians 11:3.

3 comments:

  1. All five points of Calvinism are approximations of scripture. In Mathematical calculations, it is standard to round up if a decimal is .5 or larger and down if it is less than five. Unfortunately, it sometimes produces unacceptable error. For example if we multiply 2.5 x 3.5X4.5 we get 39.375. if we follow the accepted practice and approximate them with 3, 4, and 5, we get 60, an error of 20.625, or more than half.

    In effect, taking all five points of Calvinism produces a similar result. While all may be reasonable approximations by themselves, combined they produce serious error.

    Good post.

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  2. I believe that the most important issue here is that when we read anything written by men such as John Calvin, Martin Luther or any of the great theologians we need to be guided by the Holy Spirit and God's Word (Bible). These great theologians were mere men and all had a sin nature as do you and me.

    I consider parts of Calvin and Luther's works to be biblical...however, there are certain ideas and beliefs these men had that I would never pass on to another believer because the Bible does not support them.

    There will always be disagreements when it comes to the Christian faith, but as believers in Christ we must not let those disagreements be stumbling blocks for the unsaved or weak Christian. God bless, Lloyd

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  3. Dfish,
    I agree with you completely; a system the likes of Calvinism, which proposes to supply the reasons behind why some believe and others do not must be examined by Scripture. If it is found defunct it is a system unworthy of further usage

    Lloyd,
    thanl you for the comment. I know that you espouse Calvinism to some degree at least, so I know I risk offending you, among other readers. I have no desire to cause weak believers to stumble or the unsaved to see any strife between Christians. My goal is to demonstrate that the gospel of Christ is sufficient without the added theology of John Calvin, which anyone must admit complicates things tremendously. Your insights are always valued, and I do hope you continue reading the rest of the series.

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