Calvinists obviously have their tenants and beliefs, but I sincerely doubt they understand why so many express serious disagreements with Calvinistic doctrines. After a recent encounter, and in no particular order, I cobbled together 10 difficulties that I have with Calvinist doctrines.
1st point: Many Calvinists seem to delve into the Greek language when doing Bible studies if only to ‘prove’ a point. I prefer the NIV and believe it to be a reasonable translation. The scholars who put together the NIV (or any other translation for that matter) typically have advanced degrees and have studied the language, culture and history. How can I hope to do better?
2nd point: Calvinistic determinism is incompatible with the entirety of Scripture. Why would God give us Proverbs if he’s determining everything that will ever happen? There’s no point in understanding or gaining wisdom. Numerous verses appear to indicate that Paul didn’t believe in theistic determinism. I’ve added my own paraphrasing in brackets:
o Phil 2:25 I think it’s necessary (I think it’s a good idea)
o 1 Cor 16:3-4 If it seems advisable (if it seems right)
o Acts 6:1-7 This isn’t right (we need to do something about this)
o Acts 15:24 Got together, debated, decided and acted (people considered options)
Direct guidance, leading and revelation of God throughout the entirety of the OT & NT appears to be the rare exception and not a general rule as indicated by Paul’s experience on the road to Damascus. Also, ‘guidance’ from God appears only given to individuals who played a significant role throughout biblical history and has only been provided at critical points. Moses’ burning of the bush immediately comes to mind.
3rd point: Calvinism is not good news. Its doctrines are cruel and heartless pitting the ‘haves’ (believers) against the ‘have nots’ (non-believers). Ironically, Calvin himself declared that God often instills within a reprobate some sense of God’s own goodness and mercy to the point where the reprobate may even believe that God loves him, has mercy for him and has saved him. Yet, per Calvin, the reprobate is only enlightened with a ‘present’ and not ‘eternal’ sense of grace. Therefore, any conviction the reprobate experiences can never lead to salvation (Calvin’s Institutes of Religion 3.2.11). Therefore, Calvinists themselves can’t possibly enjoy any assurance of salvation. How can anyone have confidence in which it could be revealed (at some later point i.e. death and judgement) that, [God speaking] “Yeah, you may have known about my Son. Yeah, you may have thought you did all the right things. Yeah, maybe you even prayed the sinner’s prayers et al. Yeah, maybe you thought Jesus was your savior and that you were saved. Yeah, sorry Dude, I chose others. Not you! I didn’t give you eternal grace. Sorry you couldn’t know that you were always meant to be a reprobate and cast off into the pit of Hell. But that was my choice. Not yours. So, just deal with it. It’s all for my glory, of course.”
4th point: If theistic determination, as is prominent within the beliefs of Calvinistic doctrine is correct, then:
– Why is there so much angst against the killing of unborn children in this country? Isn’t it accurate within Calvinism to say God determined that abortion should become the law of the land in 1973? And, since then, would it also not be accurate within Calvinism to say that God has ordained >40M infants to be killed. Why am I not hearing a chorus of hallelujahs from my Calvinist friends regarding abortion?
– Why is there so much hypocrisy amongst Calvinist as to health concerns. Can it not be accurately stated that per Calvinistic determinism, God has brought about specific disease and health conditions in certain people … for his glory, of course! Wouldn’t any attempt to alleviate or cure that ‘God-given condition’ be in direct violation of God’s ‘decretive’ will?
5th point: Per Calvinism’s doctrine of Unconditional Election, God has chosen not to elect 96% of his creation. How so? Well, according to Wikipedia, there are ~660M Evangelical Christians out of a total world population of ~7,875M. It would seem reasonable to accept that only half of the 660M professing Evangelical Christians are actually saved i.e. born-again believers. To which, the total number of elect persons in the world would only constitute about 4.2% (330M/7875M) of people in the world.
6th point: The nature and character of God, as I understand him, isn’t at all fatalistic. Perhaps in the OT God had things planned out more so than in the NT. Within the NT, I see Jesus, who is the incarnation of God, with the woman at the well, bringing sight to the blind, feeding many, teaching the multitudes, calling out the Pharisees for their hypocrisy, reasoning with and helping his disciples to understand that he is indeed the Messiah. He came that we might have life and have it abundantly (Jn 10:10). He loves all and wants none to perish (2 Pet 3:9).
7th point: As a father of three, I can’t possibly imagine someone ever casting away from one of their own kids. I cried each time when I watched my kids come into this world. The joy was overwhelming. Who wouldn’t be reviled at a father (or mother) returning home from the hospital with newborn twins wherein one of the twins was favored and the other was disowned? This parent had decided long before the twins were even conceived, much less born, that the favored child would receive his parent’s love and attention. This favored child was given the best of everything. No benefit was withheld. The favored child got to live in the mansion. The parent even changed their will so that everything would be given to the favored child. All the while, the disowned child was left wanting, not loved, not cared for, and would have to live in the dank and smelly basement.
Granted, all analogies have their weak points. But isn’t this exactly how I God works within a Calvinistic framework. The concepts and teachings of Calvinism can’t possibly be from a kind, loving, and merciful God. And if they are, then is it at all surprising that many people have essentially walked away and otherwise deconstructed from their Christian faith?
8th point: It’s apparent that Calvinists start with Calvinism and try to make sense of Scripture. Non-Calvinists, on the other hand, start with Scripture and try to make sense of Calvinism. Indeed, Calvinists have their ‘bullet-points’ (TULIP) and go to great lengths to show that Scripture is speaking ‘truth’ to Calvinism.
A Rachel Held Evans blog post several years ago got right to the core (for me) of what constitutes Calvinism.
– God creates disposable people – people without any hope.
– God sovereignly ordains, every war, abortion and rape.
– God does not love the world but instead hates it and delights himself and finds glory sending people to hell.
9th point: Calvinists believe that God elected and predestined them to heaven. But it’s rare that Calvinists will admit that the opposite is also true – that God has determined to send the vast and overwhelming majority of people to hell. Is there anything more clearly stated in the Bible than John 3:16? God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son. Jesus paid the price and God allows free-will choices of every individual. God wants none to perish (2 Pet 3:9). But individuals must decide to accept this free gift. No one is intentionally excluded as Calvinism would have you believe. If nothing else, Calvinist theology makes God out to be exceedingly arbitrary and capricious.
10th point: Jerry Edmon offers insight as to the Calvinist’s understanding of predestination wherein:
- If Calvinistic predestination is true, then the concept of choice is a cruel deception.
- If Calvinistic predestination is true, then the thought of being a free moral agent is simply a pretense.
- If Calvinistic predestination is true, then reaching out to the non-elect is nothing more than an exercise in religious recital.
- If Calvinistic predestination is true, then the sharing of the gospel by the elect can only stir up false hope within the reprobate.
- If Calvinistic predestination is true, then why bother sharing God’s love unless it is just some misdirected sadistic tease to those who can never have eternal life?
- If Calvinistic predestination is true, then preaching the gospel only dangles a mirage about the river of life to those dying of thirst who’re not able to partake of its stream.
- If Calvinistic predestination is true, then the term “whosoever” from John 3:16 is a lie.