The Dangerous Theology of Calvinism

John Calvin was a priviledged, aristocratic man who lived about 500 years ago. A number of websites will tell you more about his life circumstances than this page will attempt. In the 1500s, he would have been one of only a few people who had the time or the resources to study the scriptures to try to find a "something only" answer to the riddle of salvation. If anyone wonders whether teachers have an impact on the world, we only have to look at the destructive legacy of John Calvin. Teachers leave a footprint upon the world whether the conclusions they arrive at and teach are correct or not.

"Something only" approaches will not explain God's marvelous plan for our salvation. "Grace only" can't survive a reasonable reading of Romans 6 or the three judgement scenes of Matthew 25. "Faith only" is annihilated in James 2: 24 "Ye see then that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only." Works are necessary (James 2) but works alone without faith in God or the power of God's grace will not get us to heaven (Hebrews 11: 6; Ephesians 2: 8-10). Baptism saves--the New Testament says it point-blank in I Peter 3:21--but if it all ended with baptism, Simon the Sorcer must have been rebuked for nothing, and "Be thou faithful unto death" in Revelation 2 must have been a psychotic utterance. The love from God saves (John 3: 16), but the fact that few will enter heaven (Matthew 7: 13, 14) says that God is not a respector of persons (Acts 10: 34; Romans 2: 11; three other similar passages in the NT). Salvation is not fully explained by God's love only. Church affiliation definitely matters ( Acts 2: 47; I Corinthians 1: 10-16), but just becoming a member of the church with a scriptural name is not enough to bring about salvation (II Peter 2's discussion of the false teachers that sprang from within the church).

So--to use an expression from the Baby Boomer generation--"Enough with the 'only' stuff" for trying to explain salvation! It takes all of it, working together. The fact that salvation is complex is reflected in the length of the Bible. "Works only" or "church affiliation only" or "faith only" could have been described in only a page or two, instead of there being the need for 66 books.

People seem to approach God's word, the Bible, either as a mess of greens or as a bowl of fresh salad. God's word is not a mess of greens to be put in a cooker with some water and boiled down until man thinks it is about right or at a level man thinks he can tolerate. God's Holy Spirit wrote the Bible, not man (II Peter 1: 20, 21). God's word is more like a salad to be eaten raw, uncooked, complete with all of its vitamins and nutrients. Much of the motivation of man to "boil it down" has stemmed from his laziness to search the scriptures daily like the Bereans of Acts 17. We are to "study to show ourselves approved unto God, workmen who need not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth," as Paul told Timothy to do in II Timothy 2: 15. "Rightly dividing" is to put scripture into proportion. It is to arrive at appropriate emphases. Rightly dividing is not just to make a distinction between the Old Testament and the New, for the publishers have already done that for us. We have "rightly divided" the word of truth when we arrive at an interpretation that says something to us, and that something is not in conflict with other scriptures. Scripture does not contradict itself.

If scripture does not have contradictions, the interpretations of it by John Calvin certainly do. The teachings of John Calvin have been taught by an acronym called T. U.L.I.P. In case. you need a little review, here’s what the acronym TULIP means:

This kind of theology from man is what happens when lazy men try to take God's wonderful plan for man--which took 66 books to write down because there needed to be 66 books--and they try to reduce it to something that can be taught in a single sermon. In a way, it is like cooking greens: You cook all the vitamins and minerals out of it when you try to boil it down to something that you won't have to chew on.

Below are only a few of the head-to-head scriptural contradictions that Calvinism runs into. The person who is too lazy to read the Bible for himself will never see these.

Calvanistic belief Direct Scriptural Conflicts

Total Depravity

The belief that man is utterly helpless and can do nothing in bringing about his salvation

Philippians 2: 12--". . . work out your own salvation in fear and trembling." also verse 14--"Do all things without grumbling or questioning . . . " See all three stories of the prepared and unprepared in Matthew 25--they were criticized, and eternally so, for not taking an appropriately active part in their own salvation. "And why call ye me 'Lord, Lord,' and do not the things which I say?" Luke 6: 46. Also the many parables of watchfulness and of stewardship in the Gospels, taught by Jesus himself. Why would the Greatest Teacher have taught those things if man was utterly depraved and could not have helped himself?

Unconditional Election

The teaching that individuals were predestined by God to be saved or lost

Unconditional election, or the doctrine of predestination, is a heretical doctrine, an accusation by man of unfairness levelled against God Himself. Predestination takes several passages, particularly from Romans, out of context and in conflict with other parts of the New Testament and even from Romans itself, to try to argue that God decided before the foundation of the world which individuals would be saved and which ones would not. Direct conflicts: Acts 10: 34; Romans 2: 11; Ephesians 6: 9; Colossians 3: 25;I Peter 1: 17. A better interpretation of Romans 11 is that God foreknew that there would be a group or class of people who would avail themselves of the opportunities to hear and obey the Gospel, rather than to say that there were individuals selected by God to be saved.
Limited Attonement, the teaching that Christ's blood flowed only for those who had already been elected. Scripture to support this interpretation seems to be extremely limited, even in the most open-minded of discussions. Why would Christ have been described as the Redeemer who came to take away the sins of the world (Joh 1:29 "On the morrow he seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold, the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world!"). Indeed the teaching of "limited atonement' would be an intrusion into the Golden Text of the Bible, John 3: 16 "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have eternal life."

Irresistable Grace, or that the elected could not refuse the grace of God even if they wanted to.

Rev 3:14-22 And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God: I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So because thou art lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spew thee out of my mouth. Because thou sayest, I am rich, and have gotten riches, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art the wretched one and miserable and poor and blind and naked: I counsel thee to buy of me gold refined by fire, that thou mayest become rich; and white garments, that thou mayest clothe thyself, and that the shame of thy nakedness be not made manifest; and eyesalve to anoint thine eyes, that thou mayest see. As many as I love, I reprove and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock: if any man hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. He that overcometh, I will give to him to sit down with me in my throne, as I also overcame, and sat down with my Father in his throne. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches." Question--if the people in that church at Laodecea had no choice about whether to accept the grace of God, why would Christ be begging them to mend their ways? Wouldn't it already be a "done deal?" Why would Paul have reasoned with the Galatians as he did in Galatians 1: 6-9 if there was no danger of them leaving their saved condition? Why would Jesus have said what he did in Mark 16: 16 if people could not resist the grace of God even if they wanted to? Mar 16:16 "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that disbelieveth shall be condemned." The parables of the least, the last, and the lost of Luke 15 are nonsensical if the lost had no power to resist the grace of God.

Perserverance of the Saints, or "once saved, always saved." Rev 2:10 Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee the crown of life. Gal 6:7-9 Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth unto his own flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth unto the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not be weary in well-doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not." Gal 5:4 "Ye are severed from Christ, ye who would be justified by the law; ye are fallen away from grace." Rom 6:1,2 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. We who died to sin, how shall we any longer live therein?" Luke 9:62 "But Jesus said unto him, 'No man, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.'" And the story of Simon the Sorcerer in Acts 8.

These scriptural difficulties with John Calvin's interpretation of the New Testament are only the tip of the theological iceberg. Students of the Bible could extend this brief set of textual objections manyfold with only a few minutes or hours of reflective study. The only reasons that Calvinism is still such a driving force in religion in the world are (1) man's laziness in reading the Bible for himself and so he lets mis-informed or opportunistic teachers sway him and (2) ignorance. Some people are willfully ignorant. Acts 17:30 "The times of ignorance therefore God overlooked; but now he commandeth men that they should all everywhere repent."

You and I know people who are willfully ignorant of the scriptures. They have seized upon "one factor only" texts of the Bible which they suppose are proof texts so they can find a religion that will let them do whatever they want to do in this life and then come up to judgement, thinking that God will "buy into it." Of such Jesus said in Matthew 7: 21-23 "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy by thy name, and by thy name cast out demons, and by thy name do many mighty works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity."

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