What Is the Ultimate Aim of Calvinism?

Dave Hunt and James White, in a heated back and forth exchange, cobbled together one of the best books to understand the variance of thought as to Reformed Theology. Hunt is very anti-Calvinism. White is very pro-Calvinism. I readily admit my difficulties with Calvinist doctrine – especially unconditional election and this book has been an eye-opener to understand both sides of the equation.

I’m struck by a statement of Hunt, “Never forget that the ultimate aim of Calvinism is to prove that God does not love everyone, is not merciful to all, and is pleased to damn billions. If that is the God of the Bible, Calvinism is true. If that is not the God of the Bible who is love (1 John 4:8), then Calvinism is false. The central issue is God’s love and character in relation to mankind, as presented in Scripture.” (Debating Calvinism, pg.21)

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Some Thoughts on Abraham Piper – the Son of Prominent Calvinist John Piper

Kids can be challenging. Yet, we love them. We’re concerned for them, and we do the best we can for them. We don’t always like the decisions they make. And so, as a parent who dealt with a challenging teenager, I’m sympathetic to John Piper and what he must be experiencing with his son, Abraham. With our son being as defiantly independent as he was, about the only comfort I took was the hope that in the end, the natural occurring consequences of our son’s choices would bring about enough difficulty in his life for him to decide that just maybe it would be better to make other decisions. I’ve always thought that experience was a very good teacher.

However, in John Piper’s worldview with respect to his son Abraham, there’s nothing that could be hoped for. God has already chosen the path for Abraham. And that path appears completely devoid of God. John Piper is a ‘hard-determinist’ wherein God initiates and controls everything including the final outcome of any event or action. Nevertheless, I have no doubt that John Piper loves and cares deeply about his son. I have no doubt that John Piper wants only the best for his son. But John Piper, believing in God’s absolute determinism and God’s decreeing of all things which are to come realizes that there’s nothing that can be done to alter the course of his son’s life. This is most certainly one of the bitter fruits of Calvinistic theology – some people are blessed and given eternal life, and some people are screwed and cast off into the pit of hell. It wouldn’t surprise me for Abraham, having grown up with his father’s extreme Calvinistic teachings to ask himself, “What kind of God is this?”

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Calvinism Explained in 26 Seconds

S. Michael Houdmann wrote an article for the Christian blog, “Got Questions”, addressing why he believes some people so passionately oppose Calvinism? Houdmann’s last comment was intriguing; “For all you Calvinism haters out there, would it help if I told you that you were predestined to hate Calvinism?” I suspect Houdmann was trying to be cute inferring the deterministic aspect of his Calvinistic belief. But instead, Houdmann hammers home the stark reality that determinism within Calvinistic doctrines dominates all other aspects of that creed.

This sound bite is perhaps the most consistent presentation of Reformed Theology. And perhaps Dr. Zachariades is as true of a Calvinist as there is. Frankly, I admire his passion – and his consistency in being a hard-core determinist and believing that “God works all things after the counsel of his will.” So, Dr. Zachariades, you’re teaching me that God, as manifested through Calvinistic determinism not only prevents someone from committing adultery – but that adultery is ordained to be committed when God wants it to occur? Okay … no ambiguity there.

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And Here’s to You, Mrs. Robinson – Your References Don’t Support Divine Sovereignty and Unconditional Election

I looked through scriptures referenced in your blog post (noted below) defending God’s sovereignty and unconditional election. I don’t know … some of the verses may tangentially appear support God Sovereignty and unconditional election. Unfortunately, like many ardent Calvinists, you don’t differentiate between God’s sovereignty vs God’s determinism. Calvinists often appear to use these terms in an almost overlapping manner as if they’re equivalent. I certainly don’t think so. Further, I think it’s necessary to have a Biblically cohesive framework. That is, all scriptures must tie together to derive a logical set of beliefs. Hence, I think you run into difficulties when on the one hand you claim that God only chooses certain individuals (i.e. the ‘elect’) for salvation but verses such as John 3:16 and 2 Pet 3:9 clearly state that God wants all to be saved and for none to perish – meaning no one is intentionally excluded.

And just so you know, because of my competitive nature, I’m going to be keeping score. And no “appreciation trophy” will be awarded. You’ll either win or lose.

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And Here’s to You, Mrs. Robinson Regarding John 6:37 – It Doesn’t Infer Unconditional Election

You wrote in the Facebook Soteriology 101 Discussion group, “There are so many crystal-clear passages declaring God’s sovereignty over men and their salvation that as A.W. pink says, These Scriptures are so sweeping, and so dogmatic that all controversy concerning the subject ought to be forever at an end. Yet rather than receive them at their face value, every device of carnal ingenuity is resorted to as to neutralize their force.” You further add that if God had purposed the salvation of all men, then all men would be saved and reference John 6:37 – All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whomever comes to me I will never drive away.

The first obvious things to be noted is that the passage says nothing about regeneration. I’ve seen before where Calvinists begin to analyze a verse or passage with their Reformed theological presuppositions and thereafter develop an interpretation from that basis.

The second thing to note from Pink’s quote – it’s a non-sequitur. God has provided a way of salvation. Faith in Christ. That God has left the decision to accept this free gift to individuals in no way means that God has failed. God calls all. But not all respond.

I’ll grant you – at first glance, John 6:37 seems to offer an appearance of what you’d refer to as unconditional election. But with so many verses stating that God loves all and wants none to perish, then perhaps there’s another interpretation that is more in-line with all that is within the Bible.

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Predestination – A Squirrely Doctrine … and a good laugh!

Sometimes you just have to laugh! This was sent by a friend who’s “on the other side” when we discuss such things as the Calvinist doctrine of predestination. He apparently thought I needed a good laugh. And he was right. Source unknown:

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My Top 10 Difficulties with Calvinism

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?

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The Proof of Calvinism; Reprobate Firewood

Alcohol BurningCalvinists often use Eph 1:4 as “proof” that God elects or otherwise choses specific individuals for salvation from “the foundation of the world”. The thought recently occurred to me that with the prepositions removed, the verse distills down to God deciding that we were to be holy and blameless before he created the world. That is, the verse is not talking about a specific individual’s salvation having been predetermined.

Before too long, I was chided (albeit, gently) with the following comment, “Uh, [the word] ‘to’ is also a preposition [and] if you remove all [of] the prepositional phrases, [then there’s] no verse left! The idea that there is an end-result to God’s choice does not define in any way how God made the choice, or why God made the choice. [T]he basic facts we are left with are that 1) God chooses, and 2) those chosen will be made holy. [Eph 1:4] supports “Calvinistic” election more than it does not.”

Irrespective of my failure to realize that the word ‘to’ is a preposition, I maintain that the premise of the verse/passage is not about the individual salvation of certain individuals. Rather this verse is instead acknowledging the bestowment of a spiritual blessing wherein God is taking the initiative to create holy beings via the cross because of his desire that none should perish. John Piper, in an article written several years ago, (noted below) says he embraces unconditional election because: 1) it’s true, 2) it makes us fearless in proclaiming God’s grace, 3) it makes us humble, 4) it gives impetus for compassion, kindness, and forgiveness & 5) is a powerful incentive for evangelism.

Piper rectifies (what must be) a “discordant verse” with his Calvinistic overview and modifies a clear teaching of the Bible to justify an element of TULIP. Again, Eph 1:4 says nothing about one’s individual salvation. Instead, we’re to be made holy. It baffles me that Piper (and so many others, too), with knowledge of languages, cultures and history derive an entirely different conclusion.

All of which begs the question – why do I get so worked-up over the notion of unconditional election? Of the five TULIP elements, unconditional election is the one that most bothers me. Micah Murray (noted below) has a differing perspective on unconditional election and states:

If unconditional election is true, then salvation is an arbitrary lottery.

If unconditional election is true, then God’s creation is an act of cruelty.

If unconditional election is true, then God cannot be trusted.

Murray’s sentiments are at complete odds with Piper’s perspective. Per Piper, “Before you were born or had done anything good or bad, God chose whether to save you or not.” When viewed through a Calvinist lens, I can’t help but think that God looks to be a rather random, mysterious and capricious deity as unconditional election clearly implies that it is God who picks the “winners” and “losers” – and for no obvious or apparent reason.

A while ago I tried to calculate the percentage of “winners” (aka elected people – see link below). Maybe my math is a bit off as I essentially used the approximate number of Evangelical Christians divided by the total number of people in the world. As is, the likelihood of one being “elect” is ~1%. A rather puny number. But, put another way, for every person born throughout the world, there is a likelihood of ~99% that the individual is NOT one of the elect! So, why would God intentionally create so many “losers” in the world? What is the point of intentionally casting 99% of people to Hell? Perhaps God’s love, grace and mercy are in fact exceedingly limited? As Murray says, “If God chose before the foundation of the world who He would save and who He would not save, then it is an act of unimaginable cruelty to create [all of those] people he has already chosen not to save.” Murry goes on to state that God is essentially creating human firewood with only one purpose – to forever stoke the flames of Hell.

I can already sense the incoming responses:

  • God’s ways are not our ways.
  • Our understanding is confined by time and space – God’s isn’t.
  • He is God.
  • He is sovereign.
  • He is in control.
  • He is the potter and we’re just the clay. He makes us into whatever “vessel” he desires.

The end-result, though, is that I find unconditional election to be a significant bastardization of the Bible’s teaching. Furthermore, Calvinism lays waste the fundamental nature and character of God – one who loves all (John 3:16) and wants none to perish (2 Pet 3:9). TULIP, in and of itself, has a logical construct. However, when I look at various scriptures purporting to support Calvinism, it so often appears that the context of the verse/passage often indicates something altogether different. Being blunt, Christian faith is seems to be pointless with Calvinism at its core and fancy words spoken in a gentle manner by the likes of John Piper can’t cover the ugliness of a monstrous God who’s more inclined to display his wrath than he is to love his creation.

https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/five-reasons-to-embrace-unconditional-election

http://micahjmurray.com/election/

https://martinsmercurialmusings.com/2018/01/01/the-odds-of-calvinisms-unconditional-election/

If Predestination Is True . . .

jerry-edmonI like the insight Jerry Edmon offers with regard to the Calvinist’s understanding of predestination wherein:

If predestination is true, one is either eternally saved or eternally damned before birth.

If predestination is true, then the concept of choice is a cruel deception.

If predestination is true, then the thought of being a free moral agent is simply a pretense.

If predestination is true, then reaching out to the non-elect is nothing more than an exercise in religious recital.

If predestination is true, then the sharing of the gospel by the elect can only stir up false hope within the reprobate.

If 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 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 predestination is true, then the term “whosoever” from John 3:16 is a lie.

Edmon goes on to discuss two passages addressing predestination and how Calvinists have taken predestination out of context. According to Edmon:

[Romans 8:29-30 and Ephesians 1:3-14] specifically refer to a people group, not to individual people. What we see here is that God determined that he was going to have a people for himself, a Body. It is preplanned and predestined to happen. But it is misguided to take from these passages to suggest that [God] had selected [certain] “individuals to be saved” and [certain] “individuals to be lost”. God determined beforehand that those who believe in Christ will be adopted into his family and conformed to his Son. I believe in predestination as a people group. We are all called, but not as an individual. Individual predestination is misguided. We must individually hear the gospel and believe its message. We must appreciate the true condition of the fallen state of man and the plan of redemption that God provided for us if we will receive His precious gift. While it is true that man cannot come to God except he be drawn, that man still has to exercise his own independent choice to receive God’s invitation.