Calvinism’s Many Fallacies
Part 1 Of 3
When any person says they don’t believe in Calvinism, the first question they’re confronted with is:
What about Election and Predestination? Both are in the Bible.
It’s true. Election and Predestination are both mentioned in the Bible. What is not in the Bible is Calvinism.
It is also true that while Predestination is a biblical concept, Election does not constitute a subdivision of soteriology. It’s a word. It’s used many times in the Bible to refer to people who’ve been saved but it also refers to some who haven’t been saved and it never represents unqualified selections. I’ll explain more in the next post and as we go along but for now, the word alone carries no special meaning.
The reason people ask about Predestination and Election is they’ve been led to believe that these ideas are somehow connected to Calvinism. Not so! The terms Calvinism and Election are not synonyms and cannot be used interchangeably, although that is the assumption at the ground level.
Calvinism is nothing more than an interpretation imposed on the biblical text. The belief that these separate ideas are intertwined is where the conversation needs to begin. We need to disentangle the mess and one way to start is to disclose the endless number of fallacies implied by Calvinistic thinking.
Calvinism (including all the concepts reflected in the acronym TULIP) is a manmade system that is not biblical, was never biblically based, and those who promote it in this life will be embarrassed for it in the next. They’ll definitely have a lot to apologize for.
Calvinism’s illogical ideas turn grace into cruelty, diminish the potential effect of the Cross, insult the intelligence of humans created in the image of God, and mask one of the most important truths of the New Testament.
Jesus died for everyone, every person, every individual. He left no one out. He loves the entire world and wants all people to come to repentance.
I’m taking a good old-fashioned farmer’s approach in this discussion.
To replace Calvinistic confusion with clarity, like the farmer, you must first clear the ground. Planting the good seeds of truth in uncultivated soil is wasteful. We need to break up the ground and remove the foreign matter first.
The initial set of talking points must focus NOT on Calvinism but on the illogical implications of Calvinism. You can’t begin to discuss Election and Predestination with a clear head till you reveal and dispel the fallacies of Calvinistic thinking.
There are many questions to ask and answer before you settle into the privileged armchair of Calvinism.
- What is being said?
- What are the implications?
- How does it apply?
- Where does it take us?
To be clear, this is not a study of weeds. I’m not going to discuss the ideas promoted by Calvinists any more than necessary. I’ll start by giving the general definition of Calvinism so we have a base to work from but that’s it.
The point of this series of posts is to look at two things: the implications of Calvinistic teachings and what Election and Predestination actually mean.
I am fully aware that that is a tall order but it isn’t near as ambitious as trying to build a generally accepted version of Calvinism. Many have already tried to do that and failed.
This and the two following posts are long but even with the length, it’s just a beginning. Hopefully, it will encourage the curious, provoke the naysayers, but most of all, stimulate additional thought.
If you prefer to go deeper into Calvinistic thinking, just Google TULIP and you’ll get more search results than one person could manage in a lifetime. You’ll also get a wide range of highly nuanced, noncohesive ideas with no resolution or consensus. Calvinism is in a constant state of flux and has been for several hundred years because it really isn’t in the Bible and is therefore subject to the whims of each new wave of super pious intellects.
A Brief Definition Of Calvinism
The definition of Calvinism according to Merriam-Webster is:
The theological system of Calvin and his followers marked by strong emphasis on the sovereignty of God, the depravity of humankind, and the doctrine of predestination.
That definition, though brief, is foundational to all versions of Calvinism.
The First Fail Point
More to the point, if you accept that definition, you’re endorsing the idea that God lovingly created every person equally and in His own image but decided before the creative process began that only some would be saved and all the others lost forever to hell.
Just saying that leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
The worst part of that idea, and the thing that makes every reasonable, sensible person question the concepts of fairness and justice is that the suggestion is that God made this plan knowing that the first two humans, Adam and Eve, though created perfectly without sin, would be the only perfect individuals to make a sinful choice that would then cause the infection of the entire human race with a sinful nature.
Let me say that again a little differently.
What’s being said is that the first two perfectly sinless humans made a personal choice to become sinners. Not just to commit a sin but commit the first sin which then infected them with a permanently sinful nature that resulted in the ongoing infection of every other person born after them.
There is an unfairness here that rubs most people the wrong way but stay with me.
If you were God and you were going to choose some people to be saved and leave the rest unchosen, who would be first on the unchosen list? Who would be the first people you decided not to save? For me, it would be Adam and Eve. They started all the trouble and were equipped with perfect natures.
However, instead of being unchosen, they were the first to be elected. That has to be a problem for any rational person.
I don’t know of anyone who thinks Adam and Eve weren’t believers but what that means is that the two people who caused all the trouble are getting a free pass (getting away with murder so to speak) and everyone else, all born in a state of sin, is subject to the salvation lottery.
That is what Calvinists are saying. If that were true, you and I and every other person would have good reason to question the inspiration of the Bible, the concept of a good God (forget loving), and a reason to reject it all.
And we’re just getting started. There’s much more to consider.
How Were Selections Made
At the heart of Calvinism is a selection process. Some people are selected to be saved and others are left in a condemned state. The question is how were the selections made.
Did God do all the choosing, and if so, how did He make His choices?
Was there a Trinitarian meeting at which selections were made by consultation? Would it make sense to think each candidate was considered one by one and arguments offered for and against the selection of each?
If that’s the case, I wonder how they decided on Adam and Eve.
Even worse. That means both salvation and condemnation are personal. God is the personal savior of me and the personal executioner for each of the unchosen.
But maybe the choices were made by lottery. All of our names put into a hat and drawn out blindly without considering any individual qualities? In that case, dirtbags and dummies are chosen as readily as the best and the smartest. Would that make sense?
Or maybe God closed His eyes and pointed a finger or threw darts at a board with all the names on it?
Maybe He chose some because He liked them better than the others? Would God make choices motivated by favoritism?
Do sinful humans have any input in the matter? Do the chosen ones have the option to decline?
Everyone assumes the chosen will automatically want to know and love God. Does that mean the chosen are automatically infused with a Stepford Wife mentality? Did God create people who can’t make a choice between loving God or not loving God? Is humanity now reduced to automatons?
That idea reflects badly on God and Christians.
Better yet, another good question to ask is do the unchosen ones have recourse? Can they make an appeal to heaven’s mercy for reprieve?
Calvinists, of course, believe humans are Totally Depraved and suggest that they have no ability to repent. Sinners can’t see or understand the real issue. It’s like they are dumb, mentally incapable of making an appeal, but Esau puts a hole in that argument.
The Bible says he not only sought to change the choice God made but wept bitterly with tears that he couldn’t (Hebrews 12:16-17).
If Hebrews 12 were talking about salvation, maybe Calvinists would have a point but it’s not. That chapter is focused on running the race of service. It has nothing to do with salvation. Jacob was elected, Esau was not but salvation wasn’t the issue, nation-building was.
Why Choose Only Some
If we’re talking about salvation, another question to ask is why choose only some? Was the number to be selected predetermined, or was it decided on the fly?
Why would it be necessary to make a selection at all? What is the motivation and reason for saving only some?
Is it a question of desire? Surely, if God lovingly made each person, wouldn’t it be reasonable to think He’d want to save each one? Is it out of character to think He would desire the best for all of humanity?
Is it a question of power? Did God decide to save only some of us because He only has the power to save a few? Is He now limited?
Did He limit the number because He couldn’t make heaven large enough to accommodate all the people He created in the world? He made an ever-expanding, unmeasurable universe but heaven will have to be scaled down?
Are we suggesting He has the power to create the universe but not enough left over to save it? Oh, that’s right. He’s going to save the universe just not all the people in the universe.
Is that what we’re saying? He loves everyone but doesn’t have the resources to save everyone so He had to choose some to save and leave the others bound for hell? He could only create a smallish heaven but He had enough power to create a hell to accommodate the rest.
If you think that sounds irreverent, you’d be correct but what Calvinists suggest is even worse. They say God loves everyone and has the power to save all of us but He decided to save only some of humanity and consign the rest to eternal damnation because He is Sovereign.
His Sovereignty, they say, allows Him to do whatever He chooses.
That’s kind of true. He is Sovereign. He has the power to do whatever He wants but would He want to do what Calvinists suggest? Does He really want to save some people and send all others to hell? Does He really want to send anyone to hell?
By that understanding, Sovereignty becomes the synonym for mean and hateful. Is that the God you wish to spend eternity with? Sounds more like a clique. The Bible clearly teaches against such ideas. The people who form cliques are a bad influence and the people who join them are shallow. Is that where we’re at?
Appealing to His sovereignty is not an answer. There’s still the question of why God would want to do this? When pressed for an answer Calvinists suggest we can’t know what God wants or why He does what He does. We must just bask in the grace He shows to the chosen and not worry about the implications.
The unchosen, they contend, are too depraved to know what’s going on. They are eternally bad guys. Sounds a bit like finger-pointing. We’re the good guys and all the others are rejects.
How Is Salvation Secured By The Chosen
How Calvinists say a person gets saved is probably the meanest, cruelest, and the most unthinking idea of all: irresistible grace.
Irresistible Grace (also known as effectual grace, effectual calling, or efficacious grace – terms not found in the Bible) is the teaching that God invades a chosen person’s life with a calling that is so powerful and moving that it overcomes any barriers to their believing. They’re incapable of resisting.
In fact, faith, they say, is the gift. Not grace, not salvation, not forgiveness but faith. Belief isn’t a byproduct of considering the issues. It’s just instilled with no mental exercise required!
It’s like closing your eyes lost in one moment and opening them in a saved state the next. God is entirely the doer and the recipient is entirely oblivious.
This grace cannot be refused. Like it or not, the story for the chosen ends with an I-didn’t-see-it-coming smile on their face.
When Calvinists describe irresistible grace, I always think of the film Invasion of the Body Snatchers in which people were taken against their will and transformed into emotionless, mindless replicas of their previous selves. If you’ve spent time with Calvinists you can’t help but see the parallel.
The worst part, though, is what Calvinists say about the unchosen. Read closely. You need to see this.
Based on John 12:32 where Jesus says If I am lifted up (referring to the cross) I will draw all people to myself, Calvinists say that the lost will be drawn to Jesus but will not and, yes, even cannot fully accept the offer of salvation. It is generally agreed that that verse means everyone will be drawn to the cross and salvation. But because they believe only some are “Elected” they must come up with a weird explanation as to what is happening beyond the call.
And what do they say? How do they explain it?
Calvinists suggest that the unselected can see the cross, understand the implications, feel persuaded, but can never fully accept. After thinking about that for a minute, you realize that’s like holding a piece of meat so your dog can see it, passing it by his nose so he can smell it, and then eating it in front of him so he knows he’s not getting it.
Or worse. Maybe you do that with two dogs but only one gets the morsel.
Irresistible grace may sound wonderful to the chosen but to the unchosen, it’s more like torture than grace.
Managing The Forever Condemned
Here’s another problem. How do you manage all the unchosen?
We don’t know how many are denied salvation but judging from the number of people who don’t confess Jesus at the moment it could be a mob. Even among those that do confess Jesus, many don’t subscribe to Calvinistic thinking so maybe Calvinists think they aren’t really elected either. But there are two problems we need to think about.
One is the fact that the unchosen can never get saved. According to Calvinism, there is nothing we or they can do to change their spiritual state. They are all eternally locked in a downward sinful spiral.
That alone is a dismal thought, but it gets worse.
A second and more severe problem is the fact that the unchosen are totally depraved (this is what Calvinists say). They are born totally depraved and only get worse as they get older.
You may be asking the same question that occurred to me. How can a TOTALLY depraved person get worse? It’s a good question and it points out another stumbling point in Calvinism’s irrational line of thinking but we need to move on.
The important question is how much damage can the unchosen cause and how much trouble can they incite? How bad might their behavior become?
Remember that a totally depraved person cannot appreciate law and order. To be sure, they are lawless. They can’t respond to decency. They only respond to pain and punishment so the only option the chosen have is to beat them and threaten them into submission. You cannot reason with a totally depraved person.
That may be why cultures where Calvinism reigns are big on judicially regulating behavior with ever-expanding prison systems and swelling prison populations.
How else can we control this mob?
Obviously, sharing the Gospel can’t make a difference.
In spite of that fact, though, Jesus commanded us to share the Gospel with everyone so Calvinists mechanically and smirkingly obey but what can we realistically expect. Calvinists say the unchosen can’t receive the Gospel so it wouldn’t make sense to think they could be persuaded to good behavior by hearing it.
If anything, the unchosen are more likely to be irritated by the Gospel.
That observation raises another question. Did God command us to share the Gospel with the unchosen just so we could stir things up and cause a little trouble? Is that the goal? If you are tempted to agree with that idea, you have a serious problem since Jesus taught us to be Peacemakers.
If we can’t lead the unchosen to Christ and we can’t change their nature, the only option we have is to regulate them. Create endless laws and severe penalties to keep them in line. Calvinism’s condemned, though not sensitive to sin and salvation, are still vulnerable to pain and can be motivated to avoid it by the threat of penalty.
That’s the road down which Calvinistic thinking is taking us.
What About Family Members
If an individual happens to be a chosen one and he or she gets married before they get saved, should they expect their partner to be chosen as well?
If two chosen ones get married and have kids, how will they take it if one or more of their kids are not chosen? What is the point of raising your kids to know the Lord if they aren’t chosen? An unelected family member can only become an agitant.
The Bible says a lot about raising kids in the right way. What’s the point if one or more of your children are unchosen? The only purpose of corporal punishment in the case of an unchosen child would be preconditioning for the pains of hell.
Calvinism Offers A Hopeless Gospel
If a Calvinist preacher stands in the pulpit and says “Jesus died for you” addressing the congregation collectively, he’s lying. He can’t honestly say that. The only thing he can say honestly is “Jesus may have died for you.” There’s no way he can know for certain that everyone is chosen.
In the early days of American history, in the New England Colonies, that’s exactly what Calvinists said. They never made appeals for everyone to get saved. In fact, they never made appeals at all, ever. No one was invited or encouraged to get saved. They didn’t think it was biblical.
Even though their ideas about election were wrong, they had integrity and were too intellectually honest to say what they didn’t really believe.
Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield, both Calvinists, argued over the appeal issue. Edwards preached firey damning messages but never invited anyone to get saved. If anyone asked about it, his response gave no hope.
Either God will save you or not. There’s nothing you or I can do about it either way.
Whitefield always made appeals and thousands responded.
Edwards gets credit for taking Calvinism to its logical end but Whitefield will have more rewards in heaven.
Charles Finney was another thorn in the flesh of Calvinists. He was born 20 years after Whitefield died and was an indefatigable preacher of the Gospel. He traveled and preached constantly, and never failed to give an appeal.
Finney’s appeals were met with huge responses because the whole northeast of the American states had been choked out with non-appeal giving Calvinists. Calvinist preaching was convincing. Hell was made real. People wanted to get saved but didn’t know what to do about it. Finney opened the door, urgently inviting people to come and trust the Savior. Thousands responded. There was a lot of pushback from Calvinists.
Calvinism Doesn’t Account for the Implications of the Unpardonable Sin
Based on the words of Jesus in Matthew 12:22-32 (along with Mark 3:22-30 and Luke 12:10) it is believed that a person can commit a sin that cannot be forgiven.
The traditionally accepted understanding of this sin is that it is:
The repeated refusal to receive Christ as Savior.
The sin is referred to as blaspheming the Holy Spirit because the Spirit is the personal agent enlightening individuals to the need for forgiveness and to the fact that Christ is the source of forgiveness.
The idea is that any person who repeatedly says no to the Spirit personally wooing them to salvation will eventually reach a point where they can no longer be moved or touched by the Spirit’s leading and therefore cannot be pardoned.
Calvinists don’t disagree. They have described this blasphemy as a deliberate, defiant, high-handed, implacable resolve to oppose Christ.
My question is why would the Spirit of God woo anyone to be saved if, in fact, they are forever unchosen?
What is being suggested is that people have the ability to willingly, intentionally, and knowingly defy Christ but have no ability to embrace Him.
And it gets worse. This teaching further implies that every person who is unchosen will commit this sin and they have no choice in the matter. They are forced by the will of God to make repeatedly self-destructive choices that lead to irreversible perdition.
That’s hard to swallow and serves to only further implicate the idea that God isn’t so good after all.
And if this is a done deal. If everything was settled in eternity past, why bother mentioning this problem. Only a saved person can understand the issue but it has no bearing on their salvation, so what is the point.
That is if Calvinism bears any semblance of truth.
Why Would God Do This
What is even more strange is that Calvinists believe this whole save-some-reject-some plan pleases God. I’m not sure any decent person could accept that idea but let’s explore it a bit.
First of all, God can do anything He wants, they say, but that isn’t what the Bible actually teaches. There are some things God doesn’t want and there are some things He can’t do.
- God is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)
That’s a clear statement of what God wants and it’s repeated just as powerfully in 1 Timothy 2:4.
(God) will have all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
Those verses clearly say what God wants. He doesn’t want anyone to perish. His preference is that ALL (not some) should come to repentance. There’s a double emphasis in both verses. He makes the same statement two different ways to make it very clear.
One, God is not willing that any should perish.
Two, instead, He wants (truly desires) that everyone come to repentance.
That’s a prickly idea. If Calvinism were a balloon, it just got popped.
But there’s more. Aside from what God wants, there are some things He cannot do.
- It is impossible for God to lie. (Hebrews 6:18)
This statement includes direct bald-faced lies and all the permutations. He won’t mislead us. He won’t misrepresent the facts. He won’t fine-print us into hell.
He wouldn’t tell us He wants everyone to come to repentance if that isn’t what He really wants.
- God cannot change. (Malachi 3:6)
We find a very curious statement in Malachi’s book, “I change not.” Malachi wasn’t expressing what he personally thought. These aren’t Malachi’s words. It was a direct quote. God said this about Himself and Malachi repeated it.
What it means, of course, is God won’t say He wants something on one occasion and then change His mind later. It’s not possible.
Other Scriptures also attest to this truth. James 1:17 refers to God as “The Father of lights with whom there is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.”
The only thing you can do with these verses is believe them without qualification. If God wants no one to perish and He wishes all to come to repentance, that’s exactly His intent. What He wants is not going to change. Fickleness is not a part of God’s character.
- God cannot deny Himself.
Another nail in the coffin in Calvinism’s ideas is the fact that God cannot deny Himself. He makes and keeps His promises. He never fails to follow through. He doesn’t send mixed signals. He will not contradict His stated purposes.
And we’ve already talked about His purposes. He loves the whole world, has made it possible for whosoever to believe, and wants everyone to come to repentance.
These are clear, direct statements expressing God’s intent. He’s not going to deny them.
- God CAN force His will on us but doesn’t.
Acts 17:30 says “God commands all people everywhere to repent!” If people were irresistibly tranced into salvation, no command is needed.
Instead of hypnotizing us into salvation, He’s made Himself findable and knowable (Acts 17:27) and has commanded us to embrace Him in faith. If it’s His will and He commands it, then it isn’t something He forces on us.
Jesus wept over Jerusalem for one simple reason. They were not willing to accept His offer of salvation and protection. He wanted to save them. He was able to save them. He was even able to save them against their will but He clearly says of them, “you were not willing.” (Matthew 23:37)
- God cannot learn.
This idea doesn’t directly speak to Calvinistic issues but it does distantly relate.
God CANNOT learn, not because He is limited intellectually but because He is omniscient. He already knows everything.
You and I, however, can’t help but learn. We learn whether we want to or not every day. It’s automatic but we also have the capacity to learn intentionally and we should. We are supposed to investigate, gain knowledge, get experience, and expand continually throughout life.
Unfortunately, all the talk about election and predestination reduces the motivation to do so. If everything is already settled, why bother.
Learning, of course, points to another truth, what I like to call human become-ability. We can become things. God doesn’t become anything. He already is. We can become all kinds of things: doctors, lawyers, dentists, soldiers, husbands/wives, academics, and more but only if we make the effort.
We are by nature curious. God is not. Calvinist ideas tend to blunt the compelling nature of curiosity.
If you’re thinking these arguments aren’t sufficient, that the issues haven’t been settled, I would agree. This doesn’t explain “Election” or “Predestination” as they are used in the Bible. That will come in the next two posts.
This first post was simply a groundbreaking ceremony. You have to weed out the fallacies, before you can appreciate the truth.