Bi-Weekly Apologetics Report: Calvinism

This week, I would like to report about Calvinism. First, I would like to discuss the inspiration for the topic, this article that Douglas Hamp produced for his website:

In this paragraph, he talks about the good news:

The good news, however, is that “election, elect, chosen” (and the derivatives are terms that have nothing to do with one’s eternal destiny. Scripture does speak at length of “the elect” and “the chosen” but these terms are devoid of the Calvinistic sense of someone who has been chosen to receive eternal life. The term elect and it’s derivatives therefore are not salvific in meaning but simply refer to persons or things that are chosen for a particular purpose and the purpose has nothing to do with eternal life. Once the definition of the word is established biblically, the foundation of Calvinism will be undermined and will collapse and arguing the tenants of TULIP will become inapplicable. The word elect (Greek verb: eklegomai ἐκλέγομαι; Hebrew verb: bakharבָּחַר) means to choose, select. The elect or chosen (as nouns or adjectives) are those people or things that have been elected, selected, or chosen for a particular purpose by someone. Scripture bears witness that elect and it’s derivatives have nothing to do with someone being chosen specifically to eternal life.
Hamp mentioned the acronym TULIP that Calvinists use:

T: Total Depravity
U: Unconditional Election
L: Limited Atonement
I: Irresistible Grace
P: Perseverance of the Saints

Kent Rieske of Bible Life did a report on Calvin and those five points:

Calvin forced the citizens of Geneva to attend church services under a heavy threat of punishment. Since Calvinism falsely teaches that God forces the elect to believe, it is no wonder that Calvin thought he could also force the citizens of Geneva to all become the elect. Not becoming one of the elect was punishable by death or expulsion from Geneva. Calvin exercised forced regeneration on the citizens of Geneva, because that is what his theology teaches.
Also, J.P. Holding (who considers himself a 1.5 point Calvinist) has his own works about it:


Anonymous said…
Registered for comment tracking.

Do yourself a favor and check the comments on Hamp's article. A guy by the name of Joe Dokes seems pretty knowledgeable on the subject. I may do another Hamp-inspired subject in two weeks.
Jason Pratt said…
I know we used to have some Calv Cadrists; if any are still around, maybe they'll respond to it?

Speaking as someone who actually agrees with the "selected for a purpose" meaning of the terms, I think major Calv theologians acknowledge the term doesn't always mean selected for salvation, and maybe even usually doesn't (taking the Bible as a whole). Their argument would be that the term is sometimes used for describing God's choice to make sure certain people are Christians, and that all Christians are Christians by God's election. I'm not a Calv, but I can agree with that.

The point of contention comes when synching that idea with the idea that some people will certainly never be saved from their sins, on one hand (which both Arms and Calvs, and their categorical variants, and their Catholic predecessors either way, agree the Bible teaches); and on the other hand, with the gospel assurance that God will surely succeed in saving from sin whomever He intends to save, which Calvs (and Augustinian Catholics) in their variants think the Bible teaches, although Arms (and Catholic variants) don't. Put those together with God's election of people to salvation (His intentional choice to save people basically), and you get God intentionally choosing to save some people but never choosing to save other people -- even though He could.

This question of which gospel assurance is true, and which is a false gospel assurance, is the key point of contention between Arms and Calvs: is the assurance that God definitely intends and acts to save all sinners from sin, or that God will definitely succeed in saving whomever He intends to save from sin?

(If you believe both assurances are true theologically and biblically, then you'll be a universalist like me. {wry g} But then it's the apparently hopeless punishment or fate of some sinners, Biblically and theologically, that's rejected for whatever reasons, not one of the two gospel assurances.)

Anyway, we typically do Nicene apologetics, not soteriological disputes. And I know from long experience that Calvs and Arms both have key theological emphases (important for trinitarian theism even when not specifically about ortho-trin) that they're trying to protect and promote which both sides generally agree are true. And each side has concerns that the other side is taking positions that, in various (sometimes different) ways, threaten one or more of those shared doctrines. And, speaking as a trinitarian theologian, I think both sides have good points and should be respected for their emphases and concerns. {g}

Two odd things about Calvinism, There are a lot of liberal theologian Calvinists who don't do the Tulip thing, Barth was a Calvinist who let everyone in the back door of salvation,saying hell was a null set.

I've never understood why Calvinists try to spread the Gospel.
Radical thing about Calvin is double predestination. sofware chosen to be damned to prove /god is sovereign I find that pernicious.
Jason Pratt said…
Re software chosen to be damned: WINDOWS 10 IS OF THE DEVIL!! {ggg!}

To be fair, there's some distinction between double predestination (in hard or soft forms, as though a deliberate choice by omniscience, omnipotence, and omnipresence, to save only some sinners doesn't involve a deliberate choice to not save others), and theories about why God only chooses to save some and not all. God's sovereignty is theologically important; the election of some to be saved and not others seems to Calvs (broadly speaking among some Lutherans, some Anglicans, older Presbyterians, some Baptists, Augustinian Catholics etc.) to be a scriptural fact that has to be accepted and dealt with; everyone agrees there are scriptures about God honoring God in both saving and judging creatures: from their perspective, it's a reasonable appeal to make.

As to why Calvs try to spread the Gospel: Christians are told to cooperate with God in leading as many people as God intends to cooperate with God. If we don't do that, or at least support it, we aren't cooperating with God ourselves; consequently, we're the ones who are sinning! If God will surely save whomever He intends to save (a point of agreement between Calvs and universalists or "Kaths", to coin a similarly nifty sounding nickname {g}), that's a reassurance that our labors in God won't be in vain: a conclusion Paul thought important enough to reassure his readers about at the end of 1 Cor 15 for example. We can evangelize with a total assurance of success sooner or later. (Albeit, the Calv eventual success is less than the Kath and Arm scope of potential.)

Of course there are Calvs who dismiss evangelism altogether on roughly Calvish grounds; but they'd be on par with the lazy servant in the parable of the minas/talantons. Such a dismissal might even, on Calvinist grounds, be evidence that they are of the non-elect!


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