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Strong Calvinism and Voluntarism

John Calvin   best likeness Strong Calvinism and Voluntarism
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Post Author:  Darrell

Five Point Calvinism is commonly referred to by the acronym TULIP.  The “T” in TULIP stands for Total Depravity.  Theopedia defines it as follows: “[E]very person born into the world is morally corrupt, enslaved to sin and is, apart from the grace of God, utterly unable to choose to follow God or choose to turn to Christ in faith for salvation.”  The “I” in TULIP stands for Irresistible Grace, which according to Theopedia teaches that “the saving grace of God is effectually applied to those whom he has determined to save (the elect), whereby in God’s timing, he overcomes their resistance to the call of the gospel and irresistibly brings them to a saving faith in Christ.”       

Critics of Five Point Calvinism claim that a strong interpretation of these two doctrines makes God out to be unloving at best and monstrous at worse.  The reasoning for this can be stated as follows.  A strong view of Total Depravity says that man is unable to choose God unless God first regenerates him, thereby giving him the ability to have faith.  In addition, Irresistible Grace says that if God gives a man faith, that individual is unable to resist the call and will come to God in faith.  In other words, those to whom God gives faith are going to heaven.  In fact, they are unable not to go to Heaven, for God’s grace is irresistible.  However, those to whom He does not give faith have absolutely no chance for Heaven because they are totally depraved and are unable to choose God. 

Here is the sticky point though – if man cannot choose God unless God first gives him faith, and if those to whom God does give faith are definitely going to Heaven, why doesn’t God give everybody faith?  Those He doesn’t are destined for Hell and have no other options.  God could save them, but He doesn’t.  How is it all-loving for God to give faith to some yet leave others with absolutely no options other than Hell?

One response I have received when discussing this dilemma with Strong Calvinists is that whatever God chooses to do is perfectly just simply because God wills it.  They then tell me to suggest otherwise is wrong because I am presuming to judge God.  I would like to point out two problems with this response.   First, it is begging the question that the Strong Calvinist positions on Total Depravity and Irresistible Grace are correct.  However, that is precisely the point being discussed.  Therefore, I am not judging God’s actions; rather, I am judging the merit of the Strong Calvinist’s opinion of what God’s actions have been.  Second, this response employs a radical form of Voluntarism – the belief that something is right simply because God wills it is to be so. Voluntarism creates some serious problems for the Calvinist, for it leads to inconsistency in their position on the nature of God and renders the doctrine that God is a simple unchangeable being (a central doctrine of traditional Christianity) untenable.  In his book Chosen But Free, Dr. Norman Geisler pointed this out quite eloquently.

[Strong Calvinists] are inconsistent with their own position on the nature of God.  On the one hand, they claim God’s mercy is based in His supreme and sovereign will – He can will anything He wants to will and show mercy on anyone to whom He wants to show mercy.  On the other hand, they claim that God’s holiness and justice are unchanging.  He cannot be unholy or unjust, even if He wanted to be.  By His very nature God must punish sin.  But they cannot have it both ways.  For as a simple unchangeable being, all of His attributes are unchangeable.  If He is just (and He is), then He must be unchangeably just at all times to all persons in all circumstances.  And if He is loving (and He is), then he must be unchangeably loving to all persons at all times in all circumstances.  To be other than this would be to act contrary to his unchangeable nature, which is impossible (Chosen But Free, Pg.246). 

I couldn’t have said it better.

Bottom line – if God is all-loving, He has to be loving to all.  To irresistibly save some by giving them faith, yet withhold the ability to exercise faith from others, thereby dooming them to Hell, is most certainly not all-loving.  In addition, parsing up God’s loving nature by saying He can show love to some and withhold it from others violates His nature as a simple unchangeable being.  In my opinion, this presents some serious challenges to the Strong Calvinist positions of Total Depravity and Irresistible Grace.

 Strong Calvinism and Voluntarism

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Comments

  • Mark

    This subject was always confusing to me. God is all-knowing and by that definition he knows the future, so he knows all of our eternal destinies even before we are born. And God created each one of us not only with our virtues but with our faults. And some people end up going to Hell supposedly, so couldn’t God tweak people and situations so that nobody ends up going to Hell?

    For example, if some guy born into a gangster family ends up leading a gangster life and never repenting and goes to hell, why couldn’t God instead make that guy be born into a Christian family so he could avoid hell, and then in his place put someone else who would perhaps start out in the gangster lifestyle but then repent and be saved? It seems from a vantage point of omniscience, God could tweak things so that the maximum number of people were saved, and maybe so even nobody went to Hell….

  • http://www.toughquestionsanswered.org Darrell

    Mark,

    Sorry for the delay in getting back to you. Work was crazy this week. Your question is a good one… it is something that has been discussed by theologians and philosophers on all sides of the fence. I will share my point of view.

    God created us as free creatures, and God cannot do that which is logically impossible. Forced freedom is a contradiction in terms, and is, therefore, logically impossible. As a result, it would be impossible for God to make creatures who are both free and who always do the right thing.

    Hope that helps.

    Darrell

  • http://eReformation.com Anthony

    Great blog! In response to “Strong Calvinism”, there are some people that God hates, Esau for example. God shows a general love to all people – He could take someone out the moment they sin, but He doesn’t. He shows them mercy. There are many verses that explain God’s hate: Ps 5:4-5, Pr 6:16-19, Dt 12:31, Ps 11:5, Isa 1:14, Jer 12:8, Hos 9:15, Ps 31:6, Rev 2:6, Rom 9:13, etc. Most people cling to Jn 3:16 as if it explains the whole counsel of God and God loves them just as they are. God is holy and hates sin.

    However, God has a special love for His covenant people (the elect), a salvific love that not everyone gets. They get grace whereas everyone else gets justice. Paul says to love your wife like Christ loved the church and gave himself for her. Now, I hope you don’t love my wife the way I love my wife – there is a different love that is spoken about here. It is not a general love that would extend to all persons, but a specific love for a specific person (wife, church).

    I understand your objections – it took a while for me to grasp hard scriptures also. But remember, God will have mercy on whom He will have mercy, and He will harden whom he will harden. He is under no obligation to save anyone as we are all in rebellion to Him. He mercifully saves some and for that I’m grateful.

    God bless.

  • Mick Curran

    Hi Darrell,

    I very much like Mark’s contribution.

    I’m a hopeful Universalist and have been for a few years. I cannot CONCLUDE that everybody WILL be saved but I can HOPE that everybody MAY be saved. And so I do.

    Hope springs eternal in the human breast;
    Man never Is, but always To be blest:
    The soul, uneasy and confin’d from home,
    Rests and expatiates in a life to come.

  • franklinmonroe

    Hi Darrell,

    I may a later time discuss some Calvinistic theology with you. However, I will start by pointing out that after introducing the T (Total Depravity) by defining it in the first paragraph), you don’t really do anything else with it (except by breifly repeating the definition in different words). You don’t really deal with the T subject at all. Why is it here?

  • http://randyeverist.blogspot.com Randy Everist

    Anthony, I’d like to point out you’re committing a common fallacy by strong Calvinists: confusing the attributes of “love” and “justice.” For whatever reason, the almost-universal response to the omnibenevolence argument with respect to salvation is that God is not obligated to save anyone and is just in punishing sin. The problem is love is wholly independent of justice insofar as pure category is concerned! God may be just in this scenario, but he’s not loving. You give the analogy of your wife, and how I would love her much differently than you do. But even if she had been rude to me in the store, or even slapped me, I would still push her out of the way of a bus. The point is this: if a strong calvinists’ definition of God’s love is true, there are humans (most of us, anyway) who display more love than God does. Paul, in Romans 10, wished his unsaved Jews would be saved. I want loved ones to be saved. These things are true becuse we love them. Our love is sufficient to secure their salvation were our power to be sufficient. The same cannot be said of God if strong calvinism is true. The objection that humans are more loving towards the reprobate than God is seems to be one of the strongest when you really consider it.

  • Salvatore Mazzotta

    Could it be that, although the Father has expresses a love toward all men, could it be that the His love for the Son is greater than His love of fallen humanity?

  • Whickman00

    Thereare 2 distinctly different kinds love that God has- general love, and saving love. General love is given to all whom God created, but saving love is given to the people whom God will impute righteousness upon. Therefore, God loves all people, but he will only give saving love to the elect.

  • Darrell

    Whickman,

    The Bible does not describe God as having two types of love. Rather, the Bible tells us that God *is* love. Not only that, it tells us He *loves* all and desires *all* to be saved. No matter how you parse it, God only granting some the ability to choose Him while condmening others to hell by not granting them the ability to choose Him is not love – general or otherwise.

  • Whickman00

    I am not disputing the fact that God desires all to be saved. He does not relish the thought of some going to hell, while others go to Heaven, and He does not want anyone to be damned, but He does not save everyone. Jesus did not die for all who have ever lived and will live- only the elect. If he did die for everyone, when the judgment day comes, and some are sent to hell, God would be punishing their sins twice.

    The scriptural proof of limited atonement is listed below-
    John 10:24-29
    John 17:1-3,6-9
    John 17:24

    Also I have proof that it is within God’s rights to not save everyone-
    Romans 9:14-21
    “14 What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! 15 For he says to Moses,

    “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy,
    and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”[f]

    16 It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy. 17 For Scripture says to Pharaoh: “I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.”[g] 18 Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.

    19 One of you will say to me: “Then why does God still blame us? For who is able to resist his will?” 20 But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’”[h] 21 Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use? “

  • Darrell

    Wickman,

    You said: “I am not disputing the fact that God desires all to be saved.”

    Actually, that is exactly what your theology is disputing. If God truly desires all to be saved and has the ability to irresistably call all to salvation, which TULIP claims, then why doesn’t He call all? One of those two premises must be false. Either God doesn’t really desire all to be saved, which scripture says explicitly He does, or He cannot and does not irresistably call people to salvation. Interestingly enough, scripture DOES NOT teach that God irresistably calls people to salvation. This Calvinist doctrine is inferred from Scripture, and, in my opinion, based upon Scripture and the consensus teaching of the Church since the time of the Apostles, it is an incorrect inference.

    I appreciate all the Bible verses you quoted, and I wholeheartedly agree with each and every one of them. However, you have provided no insight as to why you think these verses necessitate a Strong 5 Point Calvinist interpretation.

    Five Point Calvinism is a modern doctrinal development. It is virtually absent from Christianity until the last few hundred years. For 1500 years theologians of all stripes, including the Church Fathers, knew and read the verses you are citing and did not feel the necessity to interpret them the way Calvin did. Do you honestly believe that virtually every Church Father interpreted these verses incorrectly and suddenly Calvin got it right? If so, and if Calvinism is such an essential to Christianity, what does this say of Christ’s promise to lead the Apostles and the Church into all truth, such that He would never let the gates of Hades prevail against the Church?

  • Whickman00

    God does not have to love anyone. We are all sinful, and He could turn His face from everyone that has ever lived and will ever live, and that would be within His rights. This all changed when Jesus died. He died to save those that God chose to have compassion, but not those that God hardened. Romans 9:18 “Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.” Also, we can never and will never understand God and His justice, and that is okay. His justice is perfect, and we should never question whether what He chooses to happen is just. Job 8:3 “Does God pervert justice? Does the Almighty pervert what is right?” Job 34:12 “It is unthinkable that God would do wrong, that the Almighty would pervert justice.” God is always just in His decrees, and we should never question His purposes.

  • Darrell

    Whickman,

    You said: “God does not have to love anyone.”

    Scripture teaches us that God *is* love. Love is the very nature of God… it is who He is. This being the case and God being Simple, God has to love all, for it is who He is. Scripture testifies to this repeatedly.

    Loving people does not necessarily equate to loving their actions. I agree with you that we are sinful creatures, and I certainly don’t think God loves all of our actions. However, God can love the person without loving the things that they do. This is what parents do with their children over and over again. Furthermore, it what we are *commanded by God* to do with *everyone* as part and parcel of being “perfect just as [our] Father in Heaven is perfect.” Why would God command us to do this in order to be perfect if He Himself *does not do it* and is perfect? Your reasoning makes no sense.

    You have brought up Romans 9 a couple of times, and I appreciate where you are going with it. However, I do not agree with your take on Romans 9. Paul is not giving a treatise on salvation in this section. In fact, he is not talking about salvation *at all*. Instead, he is referring specifically to the election of Israel as God’s chosen people through which Christ would come into the world. God chose Israel not for salvation, but rather to be the verhicle whereby He would acheive the incarnation. It is a mistake to read salvation into Paul’s words. If election in this section refers to salvation then why does Paul speak of Israel as the elect when they are not all going to be saved?

    You said: “God is always just in His decrees, and we should never question His purposes.”

    I agree that God is always just in His decrees. I am not questioning God’s decrees; rather, I am questioning and taking issue with the Strong Calvinist interpretation of what God’s decrees are. The two are not one in the same. To say they are is begging the very question at hand.

    God bless!

    Darrell

  • Whickman00

    Also, in your earlier post, you said “Five Point Calvinism is a modern doctrinal development. It is virtually absent from Christianity until the last few hundred years. For 1500 years theologians of all stripes, including the Church Fathers, knew and read the verses you are citing and did not feel the necessity to interpret them the way Calvin did. Do you honestly believe that virtually every Church Father interpreted these verses incorrectly and suddenly Calvin got it right? If so, and if Calvinism is such an essential to Christianity, what does this say of Christ’s promise to lead the Apostles and the Church into all truth, such that He would never let the gates of Hades prevail against the Church?”
    By stating this, you are committing a logical fallacy by saying that something is correct because it has been widely accepted for many years. And, by the way, if you want to follow your track by saying that Arminianism is older than Calvinism, you are incorrect. Calvinism started in the 16th Century, while Arminianism started in the 17th Century.

  • Darrell

    Whickman,

    I don’t believe that something is correct simply due to the fact that it is older. Rather, I believe that Christ promised to form His Church and blessed it and its leaders with the gift of the Holy Spirit to guide them into all truth. As such, I believe it is incorrect to believe that the Church lay in the dark relative to true doctrine until the 16th century, e.g., 5 Point Calvinism. :-)

    Also, I don’t follow Arminianism either. Both Calvinism and Arminianism are modern developments.

  • Whickman00

    You said “I don’t follow Arminianism”, but the problem with that statement is that your beliefs, at stated on through these posts, directly correlate with some of the 5 Premises of Arminianism, therefore you technically do believe in parts of Arminianism.
    Here are the 5 Premises of Arminianism (which Ifirmly belive are all dangerous and unbiblical)
    1.election (and condemnation on the day of judgment) was conditioned by the rational faith or nonfaith of man;
    2.the Atonement, while qualitatively adequate for all men, was efficacious only for the man of faith;
    3.unaided by the Holy Spirit, no person is able to respond to God’s will;
    4.grace is not irresistible; and
    5.believers are able to resist sin but are not beyond the possibility of falling from grace.

  • Darrell

    Whickman,

    The faith and beliefs I follow relative to salvation are the ancient positions of the Eastern Orthodox Church. Arminianism and Calvinism are products of late medieval Christianity that had come under the influence of the Latin scholastics and the Protestant Reformation.

    Arminianism, in many respects, is closer than Calvinism to the teachings of the ancient Church. Nevertheless, to an Eastern Orthodox Christian, the Arminian label doesn’t apply because its positions predate the Calvin versus Arminian debate. In many respects, it turns the debate on its head.

  • Darrell

    Whckman,

    I should have added that part of the reason for the Arminian view not being appropriate to the Orthodox is the Eastern Orthodox do not view salvation in a forensic sense. Calvinism and Arminianism pretty much presume salvation as a forensic matter.

  • Ggodat

    22 What if God, although choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction? 23 What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory— 24 even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles?

    7 What then? What the people of Israel sought so earnestly they did not obtain. The elect among them did, but the others were hardened, 8 as it is written:
    “God gave them a spirit of stupor,
    eyes that could not see
    and ears that could not hear,
    to this very day.”[a]

    27 “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him

    14 “For many are invited, but few are chosen.”

    48 When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed.

    37 All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.

    44 “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day

    65 He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.”

    Darrell, clearly the bible teaches that while God desires all to be saved not all have been chosen. We just cannot deny the scriptures that show this.

  • Darrell

    Greg,

    I can understand where you are coming from. One of the things that we have to remember is that our interpretation of Scripture does not occur in a vacuum. The message we garner from scripture is heavily effected by the framework through which one interprets scripture. There’s a story that speaks to this.

    There was a monk who had a mosaic of a beautiful woman. He took the mosaic apart and left. Another monk came and put the mosaic back together in the order he thought was appropriate. When it was finished he had a picture of an animal. When the first monk arrived back, he asked him, “What is this?” “Your mosaic”, he replied. “What? It’s not an animal. It’s a beautiful woman.” The second monk replied, “No, see… it’s an animal.”

    Scripture can be taken apart and put it back together to support all manner of doctrines. What we come up with is all based upon the framework through which we approach it. Such is the reason that some believe in Calvinism, some believe in Arminianism, and others believe in Oneness Pentecostal, etc. They are all reading the same scripture; however, they are using different frameworks by which to interpret it.

    If you approach scripture through the Calvinist framework, you can most certainly come up with the idea of Total Depravity and Unconditional Election. However, Scripture by no means necessitates this interpretation. The Church did not interpret scripture to say this for 1600 years. They viewed it VERY differently because their framework was different. The question is, “Which framework is correct?”

  • Ggodat

    Darrell,

    i appreciate your comments but it can’t be a he said/she said debate. When i read the scriptures that specifically say God chooses whom he wishes I dont know of any other way to resolve that. God is holy and therefore ANY thing He does is therefore holy regardless of our lack of understanding. This applies to the millions of men, women and children killed in Joshua as much as it does to Pharoah and the elect.

    Maybe you can help me understand another interpretation of the scriptures above…

  • Darrell

    Greg,

    I agree that it is not a he said/she said debate – it is a debate about what the truth is. And to determine that, we have to decide 1) What interpretation of scripture is given by the Holy Spirit?; and 2) How do we know it and recognize it?

    As I’ve mentioned, the interpretation you are giving to scripture, i.e., that God arbitrarily decides to gift some with the ability to choose Him, they have no choice but to choose Him, and all others are doomed, is really fairly modern. Is it your position that the Church was completely in the dark on this issue until Calvin?

    We can certainly discuss the interpretation of specific scriptures, but I’m not certain we are going to get anywhere with that until we define how we approach scripture. Is scripture meant to be viewed alone, e.g., sola scriptura, or is it part of a bigger picture which provides the framwork in which to view it?

  • Darrell

    I guess what I am getting at Greg is that I am not sold on the fact that discussing what we think Scripture says is the answer. If it was, Protestantism would have settled the Arminian/Calvin debate long ago. Nearly 500 years and that war is still waging despite to commitment to Sola Scriptura.

    I beleive we need to look at the framework from which we approach scripture. Pointing back to my example, the 2nd Monk was using all the right stones, but he constructed the wrong picture. However, if would have had the right framework and basis to work with, he would never have constructed an animal. He would have gotten the beautiful woman.

    Same can be said for our use of scripture. We can use the right verses and construct something that is completely wrong. However, if we approach scripture with the right framework, we have a much better chance of creating the right picture and message.

  • Ggodat

    You said,

    “As I’ve mentioned, the interpretation you are giving to scripture, i.e., that God arbitrarily decides to gift some with the ability to choose Him,”..

    God doesn’t arbitrarily do anything. We dont understand most of what God does but that doesn’t mean He does it without purpose. The scripture says to Pharoah “I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.

    He raised up Pharoah to combat his people such that the power of God could be displayed and marveled at by all. Some clay for honerable purposes and some for dishonerable…

    Frankly I’m not really concerned about what the early church had as an interpretation (it could have been wrong). We need to be discussing what the original authors meant. I cannot (unless you can provide text otherwise) see how anything Paul wrote about predestination meant anything other than God has chosen an elect people according to his perfect will. Not everyone will be saved and the bible is clear about that and leaves no room for interpretation. Anyone believing differently is just wrong, not on my authority but on God’s.

    You have seen on this blog those that clearly reject God and will never choose him. God did not choose these people as his elect. Why? That is somthing we cannot explain. God’s mind is infinite and ours finite and we simply cannot understand everything. I just go back to God being completely holy therefore no matter what He does, He is justified and righteous throughout every action.

    Darrell, I read your bio on this blog and you mentioned that you were led out of the Morman church to (then) Cornerstone. Do you think the Holy Spirit mislead you? I’m trying to reconsile how one can be lead to one church then led to another and have different beliefs. This is not an attack! I greatly appreciate your intelligence and ability to dive into details but I just cant figure out why the change?

  • Darrell

    Greg,

    Thanks for the comments. I’ll Facebook you later to finish the discussion.

  • Whickman00

    Okay, so you are not Arminian, but the idea of God having an elect people that God predestined is totally biblical and irrefutable. God’s actions in this may not seem loving, but God is totally holy and totally loving. Below is some of the scriptural basis for the Doctrine of Election.

    Ephesians 1:11
    “11 In him we were also chosen,[a] having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will,”

    Ephesians 2:1-10
    “1 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh[a] and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. 4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

    Romans 8:28-30
    “28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[a] have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.”

    Acts 13:48
    “Acts 13:48: And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; AND AS MANY AS HAD BEEN APPOINTED TO ETERNAL LIFE BELIEVED.”

    These are just a few of the numerous examples in the Bible that show that there is an elect people that God chose out of His good will, so that no man may boast.

  • Darrell

    Whickman,

    Thanks for the reply, and I appreciate each of the passages you have cited. I do not deny that God has an elect people who are chosen. The difference between our beliefs is not that I deny the biblical passages that state this while you affirm them. The difference is in how we interpret those passages and how the words contained in them, specifically elect, chosen, and predestined, are defined. These words, as viewed by the Ancient Church, do not mean that God has picked certain people for salvation while leaving others the inability to choose Him, for we do not hold to Total Depravity as defined by those in the Calvinist tradition.

    In our view, salvation is a synergistic relationship that is initiated by God’s reaching out to man in Christ. God calls us to have a relationship with Him, and we have the opportunity to accept or reject that call. If it was not for God’s initial reaching out, mankind would be doomed to an eternity of separation from the Holy Trinity. There is nothing that man, left to himself, could do to be saved. It all starts with God.

    However, what cannot be denied here is that man still has a part to play in this process. . . . we have to say “yes” to God. God is love and love does not force itself on anyone. God allows us the freedom to say yes to Him or no to Him. There are many, many passages which demonstrate this fact. Luke 4:5-17, John 5:24, Luke 13:34, Gal 5:16-21 are just a few such verses. To deny that man has a choice is to take virtually all meaning out of the Bible. It is God’s love letter to us that is written with the implicit assumption that we are free to accept or reject its message.

  • Darrell

    I meant Mark 4:5-17, not Luke. Sorry.

  • Whickman00

    Ok, but if Christ’s death on the cross was sufficient to pay for all past present and future sins of mankind, then if God was to be just, He would have to save everyone. Since we know that not everyone will go to Heaven, and also that God is just, we must assume that He could not have poured more wrath on Jesus than was necessary. Now, if we look at this from a Reformed(and correct) point of view, we see that God planned who would be saved and who wouldn’t, therefore He knew exactly how much wrath to pour out on Jesus. If God poured out any less or any more wrath than was necessary, He would be unjust, and we both know that God cannot be unjust. If Jesus’ death could have paid for all sins, but didn’t because not all are saved, then God was unjust to Jesus. It is a disgrace to the name of God that anyone could possibly have the slightest idea that He could pour out more of His wrath than is necessary.

  • Darrell

    Whickman00,

    I understand where you are coming from. Limited Atonement is very consistent with the other four points of Calvinism, and when viewed as a coherent theological system, it is very logical. However, there are a few things that you (and the system itself) have assumed to be true.

    As noted in my OP, you are still left with the notion of radical voluntarism. I will not comment further on it as I have already addressed it in the post. Suffice it to say that I don’t agree with this viewpoint, and I think it radically weakens the case for 5 Point Calvinism.

    In addition, your critique assumes a forensic view of the atonement, i.e., that Christ’s death on the cross was a legal transaction to pay a debt to God for our sins. Hence, your criticism regarding how much wrath God did/did not pour out on Christ.

    This position is generally the standard view for much of Western Christianity. However, neither Eastern Christianity, nor the early Church in general, view/viewed the atonement in this manner. When looked at over the 2000 year history of Christianity, Penal Substitutionary Atonement is actually a fairly modern theological development. I did a post on recapitulation (the atonement view of Eastern Christianity and the early Church) here.

    http://www.toughquestionsanswered.org/2011/11/09/the-recapitulation-theory/

    When Christ’s saving work is viewed outside the lens of Penal Substitutionary Atonement, your criticism really loses all strength, for Christ’s sacrifice was not to “pay a debt” that the Father required. There is no amount of wrath that needs to be counted up and logically tabulated against humanity’s sin in order to determine if the accounting books of heaven are perfectly matched. Instead of being a mission to satisfy the wrath of God, Christ’s life and death were a mission to heal humanity’s damaged nature, destroy death, and provide a means of unity between God and man. Christ, the very Icon of God, came to restore the Image of God within mankind by becoming human Himself. He became the second Adam and accomplished what the first Adam failed to do – to unite humanity and all creation with God. Rather than being a means of punishment, His death on the tree reversed the curse of the first tree (the tree from which Adam and Eve partook) and allowed Him to enter into the grave to destroy death by His resurrection. He then ascended to heaven and now sits at the right hand of the Father. There is now a *man* in heaven, and all who choose to put on Christ can enter into Life of Holy Trinity through His Person.

  • Salvatore Mazzotta

    Thoughtful post. But 3 points in response:

    1) I am glad that salvation is a gift and not a “chance.” I’ve never been good at games of chance or of skill.

    2) Please reconsider whether it is wise to take arguments that atheists use against Christianity and turn them against the clear meaning of Bible passages (that happen to be popular with Calvinists).

    3) When an Islamic court sentences a Christian convert to beheading for “blaspheming Muhammad” and promoting Christianity, could we not conclude that, in overturning that verdict, and in punishing those wicked judges for it, God is acting in a loving manner?

  • http://twitter.com/IsOneRight Think about it.

    “In addition, parsing up God’s loving nature by saying He can show love to some and withhold it from others violates His nature as a simple unchangeable being.” … But he did this with the Israelites?

  • Antoine

    I beg to differ. When God does something (think back to when he allowed, permitted and invited Satan to ‘rock Job’s world almost to death’) it is not evil even if our minds see it as evil. This is in the case of both moral and natural evil occurrences (refer to Isaiah 45:7 for natural evil).

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