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Struggling with Calvinistic Arguments

Dear Colleen,

My struggle with Calvinism is, in part, due to scriptural references Calvinists use and subsequent arguments made which I believe to be a misapplication and misunderstanding of what scripture seems to teach.  If you’ll allow me, let’s consider the references you previously mentioned: Rom 3:10-11 and Jn 4:23

First, Rom 3:10-11, which says:

  • There is none righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God.

You used this verse as an example that we are totally degenerate beings unable to reach out to God because of our sin nature.  As such, you believe it is God who must “enable” people (the elect) to desire the beauty of God righteousness.

If that were all the verses said, I could be more inclined to accept your argument.  However, verse ten begins with, “As it is written”.  My NIV Topical Bible indicates that Rom 3:10 is a reference to Isaiah 64:6-7, which is Solomon’s prayer of dedication after the Ark was brought to the temple.  As such, Paul is using an Old Testament reference regarding the inability of God’s chosen people (in this case, the Israelites) to keep the law.  Further, in Roman 3:20, Paul says:

  • Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.

In the introduction to the book of Romans, my NIV Topical Bible states: “All human beings are in a desperate situation of sin and all stand condemned before God.  But God has provided us a way out of this horrible predicament by sending his Son Jesus to die for our sin.  By his grace, God regards those who believe in Christ to be righteous in his sight.  In faith, we must accept this gift of God and begin living the Christian life.”

With respect, Colleen, I submit that this passage in Romans chapter three identifies the futility of Paul’s intended audience (and us, too) of trying to justify themselves with the law.  In Rom 3:24, Paul states that we are “justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”  There’s no indication of election here and I do not see how you can use these verses in Romans as justification for man’s inability to seek God and therefore it is only because of God’s sovereign decree that a very few individuals – the elect – are saved.  I honestly don’t see that concept taught here.

Second, John 4:23, which says:

  • Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.

Related to this verse, you asked, who is seeking whom?  Presumably, you’re wanting to show how it is God who is seeking us and not us seeking Him.  And, I think you’re right – but probably not in the sense you think.  As I read through all of John chapter four, the overriding sense I get is that God wants people’s hearts and that God responds to people’s hearts.  This would seem to imply (but certainly doesn’t prove) that we have a choice in the matter.  It’s as though God doesn’t care about people’s “religious motions” i.e. practicing the law, performing rituals, etc.  That, to me, doesn’t indicate that God has already determined who will be saved and who will be damned.  Consider 2 Pet 3:9 which says: “[The Lord] is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”  With that thought in mind, I’m not convinced that when Jesus is speaking to the Samaritan woman, He’s teaching election and only referring to a very select few for salvation.  Instead, I believe Jesus to say that after He rises from the dead, the law will be over and we will worship in spirit and in truth.

I value your time and effort and I appreciate the opportunities you have afforded me to think through various concepts and issues that have been gnawing at me for a long time.  With that, I await your reply.

Most Sincerely,

Bob

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  1. January 22, 2010 at 11:23 am

    Herein lies the problem with using a topical Bible in this manner. In Romans 3, Paul is not citing Isaiah 64, although the subject matter may be similar. Paul is not just citing, but quoting passages (the “as it is written”) from the Psalms, Jeremiah and Isaiah, which are:

    Psa 14:2-4 The LORD looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. (3) They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one. (4) Have they no knowledge, all the evildoers who eat up my people as they eat bread and do not call upon the LORD?

    Psa 53:1-2 To the choirmaster: according to Mahalath. A Maskil of David. The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, doing abominable iniquity; there is none who does good. 2 God looks down from heaven on the children of man to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God.

    Psa 5:9 For there is no truth in their mouth; their inmost self is destruction; their throat is an open grave; they flatter with their tongue.

    Psa 140:3 They make their tongue sharp as a serpent’s, and under their lips is the venom of asps. Selah

    Psa 10:7 His mouth is filled with cursing and deceit and oppression; under his tongue are mischief and iniquity.

    Pro 1:16 for their feet run to evil, and they make haste to shed blood.

    Isa 59:7 Their feet run to evil, and they are swift to shed innocent blood; their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity; desolation and destruction are in their highways.

    Psa 36:1 To the choirmaster. Of David, the servant of the LORD. Transgression speaks to the wicked deep in his heart; there is no fear of God before his eyes.

    This is one example of Greg Koukl’s “Never Read A Bible Verse” (http://www.str.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=5466). The entirety of the passage beginning in ch. 1, v. 18 and ending in 3:20 is about a) man’s knowledge of God, which leaves him without excuse before Him and b) the fact that both Jews and Gentiles are in the same boat and c) that such inherent knowledge (through Creation, the Law given to the Jews, the works of the law written on each man’s heart and through the testimony of his conscience) of God is only enough to condemn him, but not to save him. This passage indeed has nothing to do with election – it is addressing man’s spiritual status/ability/responsibility – and we have to take the whole passage as the message. Paul is stating that this isn’t a new concept, in his quoting of the OT to make his point.

    John 4 addresses multiple issues but the verse in question is addressing the contrast between the worship of the Jews up to this point – which had been focused on Jerusalem and the temple (see v. 20) – as opposed to Jesus new concept, which was one of worshiping God regardless of one’s physical location and aside from the physical temple they were used to. We can’t use this verse to prove one side or the other other with regard to whom actually does the seeking – all the verse says is that the Father seeks. The verse does not rule out man’s “seeking,” although other verses in proper context do – just not this one (One must define “seeking” as well in its proper context. V. 24 doesn’t make anyone’s point).

    His discourse with this woman does not address the issue of election (however one wishes to define it) at all. He is bringing a new concept and also calling out this woman for her behavior while doing so in love. If we read on in John 4, we will see His words come back again in John 6 – with regard to living water and He explains what the will of the Father is that he came to do, which He introduces in v. 34.

    2 Peter 3:9 does address election, but in a different manner for another discussion.

    Thanks.

  1. July 22, 2009 at 6:12 am

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