3 thoughts on “The Points of Calvinism: Retrospect and Prospect.

  1. Pingback: Horticulture and Theology: Uprooting an old T.U.L.I.P.? « ResponsiveReiding

  2. Merry Christmas!

    At this time of the year as I find my thoughts filled with the joy that is the birth of Christ, I can’t help but sometimes wonder how a Calvinist can truly say that Christmas is merry with sincerity? Could one really find delight in the fulfillment of the Calvinists’ God’s detailed plan to bring every person into this world with no ability to accept Him, with no ability to do anything but evil, and then this same God torments forever and ever these depraved people who have no ability to do anything but what they have done? And for the lucky few to whom He “gives” eternal life, He does this by imposing his will on them through no choice of their own, and grants them eternal life only in exchange for a lifetime of servitude. Is there anything joyful in this horrific plan when it is unmasked from all its intellectually sounding words and creeds? Is this Calvinistic UNESCAPABLE sentence of eternal torture really good tidings for the majority of mankind?

    I am so thankful that these Calvinistic characteristics do not represent the nature of our loving God. That I can joyfully adore the God of Christmas who provides a gift of eternal life for all mankind; that I can wonderfully proclaim to every person that the Saviour of the world has come and taken away the sins of the entire world! That God is pleading and long-suffering with each human being that each might believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. That He enables every single person to receive Him, and his only sincere will is that every human being would accept his free gift. This is the wonderful Christmas story, one that truly offers merriment and joy to all mankind as a free gift with no obligations. A gift that every person has the ability to accept and has to do nothing to earn or keep.

    I am speaking plainly here about the doctrine of Calvinism, but I truly love those who are Calvinists and count them as Christian friends just as I do anyone who believes on the Lord Jesus Christ. I do believe, however, that it is spiritually beneficial to occasionally shine a light on the disturbing philosophy behind Calvinism. When one strips away all of Calvinism’s fancy creeds and theories and restates them in simple terms, we can clearly see its core theology of a God that torments people forever whom he (God) brought into the world with no ability to do anything different than what they have done. And this was the plan he choose (among the infinite plans he could have implemented) simply because it makes him happy to do this. Surely anyone whose God-given conscience has not been completely seared must find themselves troubled about how a good and holy God could practice these kind of terrors. These attributes stand in stark contrast to the righteousness and goodness which God represents and asks us to follow. They stand in stark contrast to the good tidings of great joy which is the Christmas story.

  3. Dear Ken – thank you for stopping by and commenting, and please accept my apology for not replying sooner. I’m afraid that the busyness of the Christmas season, some personal health problems and being involved in the care of my 94 year old Dad as he was transitioning to a nursing time cut my time rather short. But at last, here are some words in reply.

    I have to agree (sadly) that the way you paint Calvinism in your note is an all too often reality given the “pop-Calvinism” of many today. Failure to reckon both with God’s sovereignty and human responsibility by some, leaves one with the impression that the Calvinism is little more than fatalism. However, that was neither the way Calvin framed things, nor how the great Calvinistic creeds or statements state them.

    Properly understood, Calvinists believe God has a genuine goodwill toward all mankind. That His free offer of the Gospel is both genuine and sincere. When we speak of man’s inability to respond to that Gospel, we do not understand it as an inability of “function” – as though the will is non-existent – but of “moral inability.” Men do not – when left to themselves WANT to give up their personal sovereignty to regain a right relationship with God as originally granted in the Garden. So God does indeed plead with mankind – through all who preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ to come and be saved. Ezekiel 33:11 (ESV) “11 Say to them, As I live, declares the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel?” As in Romans 1 we read how all mankind fell in Adam and God has given us up in some capacity, so in Christ, deliverance and salvation is to be preached to all. Paul argues that all human beings inherently know God exists, but resist and suppress that truth. And this, due to our own willful rebellion in Eden.

    That said, God in His grace told Adam that He would send a redeemer, and Jesus Himself likened His own salvific mission to that of the brazen serpent lifted up in the wilderness – that all who would look, would be healed. It is absolutely true that whosoever will, may come. But the tragic reality is that none WOULD come, except for God’s gracious intervention on the behalf of some.

    Why one and not another? We do not know. That mystery remains hidden in God. But that He calls to all and makes the Gospel known is also true. And that men reject that Gospel when they might freely take of it – excepting for their own unwillingness, is also true. So it is the Calvinist Jonathan Edwards could preach: “Come to Christ and accept salvation. You are invited to come to Christ, heartily to close with Him, and to trust in Him for salvation. If you do so, you shall have the benefit of His glorious contrivance. You shall have the benefit of all, as much as if the whole had been contrived for you alone. God has already contrived everything that is needful for your salvation; and there is nothing wanting but your consent. Since God has taken this matter of the redemption of sinners into His own hand, He has made a thorough work of it. He has not left it for you to finish. Satisfaction is already made; righteousness is already wrought out; death and hell are already conquered. The Redeemer has already taken possession of glory, and keeps it in His hands to bestow on them who come to Him. There were many difficulties in the way, but they are all removed. The Savior has already triumphed over all, and is at the right hand of God to give eternal life to His people. Salvation is already brought to your door; and the Savior stands, knocks, and calls that you would open to Him so that He might bring it to you. There remains nothing but your consent. All the difficulty now remaining is with your own heart. If you perish now, it must be wholly at your door. It must be because you would not come to Christ that you might have life, and because you virtually choose death rather than life.”

    Christ has come! That is the good news. Come to be the sin-bearer. Come to call us back to the Father. Come to bear our punishment. And if He did not also, by His Spirit grant faith to some, none would come at all. None would be saved. Because none want to in and of themselves.

    In all of this, we must not forget that the effects of sin have affected us even in our sensibilities, and our fullest perception of what is just and right as God understands it. He never stands in the balances of my heart and mind to be judged by me for His sovereign choices – I am judged by Him – for He is the only judge. There are many things which He has chosen to do by His divine prerogative that I do not understand, nor can fully conform to my own fallen sense of justice. But His ways are far above my own, and in the end, His way will be shown to best, even if I cannot fathom it now.

    I do trust you had a wonderful time of celebrating the incarnation, and pray that Christ richly bless you in the days to come.

    If I might make one recommendation, it might be to treat yourself to a Christmas book – check out Ken Stewart’s fine little work “10 Myths about Calvinism.” I think you might find a profitable read. Will we agree on everything? Most certainly not. But it might be useful in clearing the path to better understanding.

    Regards – Reid.

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