The Beginning of the End of Calvinism
So I kept reading and re-reading Jesus’ words, referring to Himself as the atoning means of someone being saved, while quoting from the Serpent event in the Wilderness (John 3:14, 15). I was struck by the inclusive nature of the Hebrew passage from Numbers 21: “And the LORD said to Moses, ‘Make a poisonous serpent, and set it on a pole; andeveryone who is bitten shall look at it and live.'” (Num. 21:8, emphasis added) The author adds: “So Moses made a serpent of bronze, and put it upon a pole; and whenever a serpent bit someone, that person would look at the serpent of bronze and live.” (Num. 21:9) A general healing is provided forall the people without any noted qualification in the text; all one need do, in order to receive healing, is graciously look toward the provided means.
Furthermore, these truths point to the Church-historical conclusion that God really does love all in the world (John 3:16), His nature being that of love (1 John 4:8); God really did send Jesus into the world to die for the sin of the world (John 1:29); God really does desire all to be saved (Ezek. 18:23; 33:11; 1 Tim. 2:4), most clearly and explicitly contrary to John Calvin3 and Calvinists in general; God really did reconcile the world back to Himself in and through Christ (2 Cor. 5:19); and God really has elected to save those who believe in Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 1:21; Heb. 7:25; cf. John 3:16, 17, 36). These biblical truths were clouded or muddied in my mind by a dominating interpretive Calvinistic hermeneutic.
So, at the conclusion of my study, my options were: 1) still insist that God loves all people, and even confesses His desire that all be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth as it is in Christ (1 Tim. 2:4; cf. Ezek. 18:23; 33:11), but that God has unconditionally elected to save only some people — indeed, Calvin, using John 3:16, places the actual sonship of the alleged unconditionally elect and the not-yet regenerate, the not-yet united with Christ by grace through faith, in the eternal heart, mind, and plan of God4; 2) redefine the word love; 3) parse the concept of love to refer to common grace with regard to the reprobate but an “electing love” toward the unconditionally elect; or 4) take God at His own word and believe in His love for all of His creatures He created in His image. Perhaps a few other options remain, but I was too blind to note them, or I had already come to a stark conclusion: the latter option seemed the only one that Scripture could support.
To proffer that God’s so-called love of the world, with regard to the reprobate, amounts to nothing more than common grace also called into question God’s integrity. Do you mean to suggest that God “loves” the reprobate to the degree that He will provide for their temporary needs here on earth but not for eternity? To echo the appropriate question from Dave Hunt: What kind of love is that? So I concluded in taking God at His word and leaving His integrity intact.
Does this mean, then, that I think Calvinists do not take God at His word? Yes, that is exactly what I am insisting, and I think that they have to perform amazing hermeneutical gymnastics in providing evidence to the suggestion that God reprobates people from eternity past by some arbitrary decree. I consistently use the word “arbitrary” with regard to unconditional election and reprobation for the simple fact that, over the last four centuries, not one Calvinist, not Calvin, Beza, or Piper, has yet granted us a biblical (or even philosophical) reason why God would unconditionally choose to save or to damn one person over another — especially given the uncontested fact that we are all equally depraved, if not in a practical sense, then certainly in an ultimate sense. But I digress.
When I adopted classical Arminianism, I did so by reading Arminius, whose teachings I had unwittingly already received. Meaning, when I began reading Arminius, I was taken aback as to how much I already agreed with his theology. This I actually owe to Calvinists. Had not Calvinists so glaringly misrepresented Arminius on so many points, I may have never taken up his Works in college and begin to read. Once I found one gross misrepresentation, on the subject of Total Depravity and Total Inability, both of which he strongly advocates, I decided to read further, to see what other doctrines of Arminius Calvinists were eagerly distorting and misrepresenting. This was the primary reason I began blogging in 2007. Since then I have been engaged in many in-person and on-line discussions about both Calvinism and Arminius’ theology. While both camps obviously disagree on certain, significant matters, we also agree on much — more than what we tend to emphasize.
But what has never ceased to frustrate me to no end is the sour insistence that Arminian theology is damnable heresy (John Owen), a promotion of a false gospel (Stephen Anderson et al.), or is unChristian and antiChristian (J.I. Packer); the advocates of which may be “barely saved” (R.C. Sproul) and worshipers of the false deity free will (Augustus Toplady); the theology of which is merely a return to Rome (J.I. Packer, O.R. Johnston, and R.C. Sproul). With these types of Calvinists I can have no fellowship. I cannot respect such individuals; I cannot affirm them in ministry; I cannot even read their material, not even on unrelated Calvinist-Arminian topics, given what I know of them personally. Such are extremists, separatists, those who cause divisions in the body of Christ. The one who causes division in the body is, in Greek, noted as αἱρετικὸν, a heretic, a sectarian. Such are to be warned: “After that, have nothing to do with them.” (Titus 3:10)
I want to blog about the following, but I realize how careful I must be when I do: when the end finally dawned on my stint in Calvinism, my parents remarked on the attitudinal change they witnessed in me, and I did not at the time realize that I had changed so drastically. I think I have my finger on the pulse of the issue; and I think the answer explains why there are extremists in the Calvinist camp. Even at the very beginning of the end of Calvinism for me, when I was becoming less certain of the dogmas I was defending tooth and nail, a noticeable attitudinal change was occurring. I intend to post my opinions on the matter on Monday in a post entitled “The Psychology of Calvinism.”
1 The word “love” is used in various ways in the Greek New Testament. In the context of this post, with reference to John 3:16, the perspective of God’s love I envision is a God-kind of love that expressively and proactively seeks the well-being of an individual; it is the kind of love mentioned by Jesus in His prayer to the Father: “I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me [cf. John 17:21] and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (John 17:23, emphases added) The word “them” has its immediate reference to the disciples who believe in Christ; so that, we are right to conclude that God’s love for believers is as intense as His own love for Jesus His unique Son. That is, after all, the explicit statement of the Son of God Himself. To contort His words to mean any other notion is near blasphemous, I think.
Moreover, Jesus prays thus for the secondary benefit of “the world” — so that “the world” maybelieve (John 17:21) and know (John 17:23) that God the Father sent the Son. If God so cares, so loves the world in this fashion, then the notion of unconditional election and eternal reprobation by mere arbitrary decree is not merely a farce but an overt offense to God Himself. While Calvinists constantly complain to Arminians that Christ did not pray or intercede for “the world” here, what they continually neglect is Christ’s own confession as to the benefit of this prayer and the unity of believers: that “the world” may believe (John 17:21) and know (John 17:23) God in and through Christ. Such a concept hardly squares with the philosophy of unconditional election and reprobation.
2 Dr. Terry L. Miethe argues against the Calvinistic assumption “that because Christ’s death was ‘sufficient’ to save all for whom he died, then it must save all for whom he died.” (emphasis added) See “The Universal Power of the Atonement,” in The Grace of God and the Will of Man, ed. Clark H. Pinnock (Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 1995), 73. The same argument regarding the atonement is also applicable to the Calvinistic theory of unconditional election. Dr. Miethe continues:
Again, this is an important assertion. The question is, Where does the burden of proof lie [regarding the relation between “the world” and the atonement or as objects of God’s love]? Douty mentions the following works: Trench’s Synonyms of the New Testament, Kittel’sTheological Dictionary of the New Testament, Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, Vincent’s Word Studies in the New Testament, Robinson’s A Greek and English Lexicon of the New Testament, Thayer’s A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, Souter’sPocket Lexicon of the Greek New Testament, Berry’s Interlinear Greek-English New Testament, Arndt-Gingrich’s A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, Abbott-Smith’sManual Greek Lexicon of the New Testament, The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia, Tasker’sNew Bible Dictionary, Everett F. Harrison in Baker’s Dictionary of Theology, and John D. Davis in his Dictionary of the Bible (both Harrison and Davis list John 3:16 as referring to mankind, though both are Presbyterians). (74)
Not one of these sources will substantiate “the world” to refer to “the unconditionally elect.” Though this is exactly what John Calvin and those who follow his philosophy argue. See footnote 4.
John Kissinger [11/05/2015 8:23 PM]
Over the last four centuries, not one Calvinist, not Calvin, Beza, or Piper, has yet granted us a biblical (or even philosophical) reason why God would unconditionally choose to save or to damn one person over another — especially given the uncontested fact that we are all equally depraved, if not in a practical sense, then certainly in an ultimate sense. #BOOM
Charles Page [11/05/2015 8:26 PM]
Ricky Grimsley [11/05/2015 8:31 PM]
People need to abandon calvanism and arminianism. They are both wrong
Charles Page [11/05/2015 8:31 PM]
Ricky Grimsley [11/05/2015 8:35 PM]
To me there is no essential difference between god foreknowing or predestining. Both say that god knows that you will go to hell and he chooses to create you anyway. Both have an unalterable future either because god sovereignly decreed it or because he already knows it from the beginning and cant therefore be changed.
Charles Page [11/05/2015 8:39 PM]
God knows who is going to be cast into the lake of fire, He never wrote their name down in the book before the foundation of the earth was made.
He doesn’t foreknow who is going to hell (not predestined to hell) they go there of their own choosing.
Ricky Grimsley [11/05/2015 8:43 PM]
I believe that god does not know either but if you say that out loud people call you heretic. I could rattle off dozens of scriptures showing god changing his mind or saying he doesnt know something but most people would not listen.
Charles Page [11/05/2015 8:46 PM]
He gets blindsided with his children’s conduct (not by the unregenerate) and like a typical parents wishes he never brought them into the world.
Charles Page [11/05/2015 8:59 PM]
Wasn’t Jesus blindsided by the disobedience of the children of ‘Jerusalem’? How often…
Ricky Grimsley [11/05/2015 8:59 PM]
Charles Page [11/05/2015 9:04 PM]
the author adopted “Classical Arminianism” and that has close alignment with Calvinism especially in regards to original sin.
Timothy Carter [11/05/2015 9:19 PM]
Original sin is Eve after that there is no original sin.
People are frequently going on and on and on about original sin humans are not born as sinners.
It is not a sin to be human.
Timothy Carter [11/05/2015 9:38 PM]
Ricky Grimsley God did not predestined or for know anyone particular to perish eternally.
God set the plan in action so that we would need Him in order to exist.
In Genesis 1 -3 we see the creation of humanity. We hear how God creates everything by the spoken word yet he creates humanity by His own hands.
Notice that the man is not yet alive. The man is simply a beautiful sand creation or mud creation however you want to describe it. Maybe your translation uses the word dust. Either way God breathed into the nostrils and man became a living creature.
Man was not live without the breath of God.
Later we here in Ecclesiastes God if you withdraw your breath man will surely die.
This is a wonderful thing that God has done for us we are living forever from the moment of our creation forward because He breathes life into us.
When the original sin takes place judgment follows.
What is the original sin?
Of course we could go all the way back to save the original sin was Satan who committed the original sin while in heaven. But we’re not going there Satan is not human.
The original sin is when Eve listened to the serpent and chose to follow her desire instead of obeying the known and revealed will of God.
Notice the serpent question was questioning the Word of God.
Adam who was there with her did not correct the situation. He did not speak up and say the Word of God says this ” we should not eat from that tree”
Eve followed her own desire while her husband watched.
This brought animosity between humanity and the serpent. God punishes each one individually yet he promises because sin has now been introduced Christ will come.
Man is not born as a sinner rather we are born innocent into a sinful environment.
Sin is a choice.
God does not predestined us to sin.
He did not pre-destined Adam and Eve to sin he gave them a choice.
We each have a choice just as Paul tells us I would that you do not commit a sin but if you do know that we have an advocate with the father he is Jesus Christ our Lord.
This does not mean that we can do anything we want to and get away with it no this means if you mess up repent.
Timothy Carter [11/05/2015 9:52 PM]
God does not know every individual person who will sin ahead of time.
God knows that there will be people who cannot make it on their own that’s why he has made the provision.
Christ is our provision.
It is in Him that we live and we breathe.
Just as Adam was not alive until God breathe life into him. Spiritually we do not have life apart from Christ.
Understanding this if we join with Christ we have eternal life. The Greek word here for eternal life is Zoe.
The Gospel of John uses Zoe to describe eternal life.
We have eternal life in Christ. However outside of Christ we have no life.
We have the breath of God in us that last forever that he breathes in us to be a living being. But that’s not the same as Zoe which is eternal life in Christ.
This eternal life is the life we have in Him in heaven. We even have this eternal life in Him on earth.
Our human life our spirit as a human will last forever because it is the breath of God but it is not salvation.
This human breath that does not get saved has to go somewhere it’s cosmic garbage.
It cannot exist anywhere outside of the presence of God without being destructive because that is the very best it will produce death it has proven it loves death. It has chosen death over eternal life.
Therefore it is cast into eternal darkness and into the eternal fires forever to be separated from God.
These persons are going because they chose death / eternal life. They have their own ability to choose.
God did not predestined them. God did not forknow who was going to choose and who was not.
God has predestined the plan God for knows the plan.
God has laid out His strategy of action but he does not dictate which people.
I am completely supportive to the idea that we must repent without repentance we are not saved.
What does repentance look like? Repentance is a complete change of heart to turn from the desire of selfish things and turn to Christ.
Without turning away from and turning to Christ we cannot be saved.
Link Hudson [11/05/2015 10:32 PM]
I heard a Baptist Calvinist go on about how Calvinists needed to be cessationists so they could be like Calvin. I thought if he really wanted to be like Calvin, shouldn’ the burn himself at the stake, or at least banish himself from a city?
Ricky Grimsley [11/05/2015 10:33 PM]
Ricky Grimsley [11/05/2015 10:35 PM]
Timothy Carter so who are the subject of “for whom he did foreknow he did predestinate”?
Link Hudson [11/05/2015 10:58 PM]
Calvinists usually like Romans 9,
22 What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction:
23 And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory,
24 Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?
II Peter 2
“But these, as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed, speak evil of the things that they understand not; and shall utterly perish in their own corruption;”
While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled.
Charles Page [11/05/2015 11:12 PM]
I like chapt 9. The elect are the clay and all God’s work is providential shaping of his election for his purposes. The Calvinist believe that non-elect are clay as well and that God forms the non-elect into unworthy vessels – not so.
Charles Page [11/05/2015 11:14 PM]
The non-elect can’t resist the hand of God however the election will be the ones who ask: why have you made me thus? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid.
The doctrine of double predestination and divine reprobation is a belief from hell itself and is damnable!
John Kissinger [11/06/2015 5:23 AM]
Ricky Grimsley the problem is that when you start saying God does NOT know you tap into God’s all knowingness (Omniscience, they call it) and limiting God’s knowledge is denying his Sovereignty Rick Waldrop But then there’s some that say GOD doesnt know it all http://www.allanturner.com/article04.html
Ricky Grimsley [11/06/2015 6:52 AM]
Its not what i say….its what the bible says that matters. The scriptures say over and over that god doesnt know everything.
John Kissinger [11/06/2015 6:54 AM]
we all read the Bible here but its a matter of different interpretations – you see how a Bible passage about God NOT knowing everything would also be a question of interpretation
Ricky Grimsley [11/06/2015 6:55 AM]
Only because people are blind because it is what the bible says. Its plain reading.
John Kissinger [11/06/2015 6:57 AM]
you do understand how many would interpret what you just said as limiting God’s knowledge and His sovereignty, right?