Christian Theology, Biblical Theology

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Examination of Reformed Theology (Calvinism)

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I. Introduction

God is not willing that any should perish but that all men should come to repentance. And as the 3rd century Church Father Origen of Alexandria wrote: "And to those who merely preach the justice of God, let me remind you that God is first a good God”.

This study of the unbiblical support and logical inconsistencies of the Calvinistic system of theology was written in response to a tape series that I listened to on Calvinism. In this series the pastor of a large church in the southwestern US made the following comments: “Any theology that teaches anything other than the theology expressed by Calvinism is heresy, and the church has always taught Calvinistic like theology throughout the ages. The Synod (Council) of Dort in 1618 condemned the teachings of Jacobus Arminius as heresy and formulated the acronym TULIP to describe what they believed to be the orthodox faith as expressed through Calvinism.”

As a student of church history I know that the historical Christian church has always taught a theology of universal grace (atonement) and freedom of the will which would be closer to the theology of Pelagius or Arminius than the theology of John Calvin. Calvin’s theology teaches limited atonement and bondage of the will. The beliefs of the Early Church Fathers (100 AD-325 AD) were leaning towards Pelagian and Arminian Synergism (man’s faith freely cooperating with God’s grace). They taught that man, though fallen still has the ability to respond to God’s call, and that Christ died for the sins of mankind not just the elect. Many of these Church Fathers were disciples of the apostles, apologists, and martyrs; they laid the groundwork for the doctrine of the Trinity, defended the deity of Christ, and developed the early creeds of the church which served as bulwarks against the heresies to preserve the apostolic faith. They will be cited in The Five Points of Calvinism Examined, section VI. It wasn’t until the middle of the 5th century when the theologian Augustine of Hippo began to propagate the doctrine of unconditional election, which is the essence of Calvinism. Augustine’s theology was later refuted by the church councils until the 16th century when Martin Luther and John Calvin revived it and made some adjustments to his theology to give us what we have today commonly referred to as Reformed theology.

The Synod of Dort condemned the doctrines of Arminius as heresy nine years after his death. Jacobus Arminius (1560-1609) was actually a staunch Calvinist and a Professor of Theology at Leyden. At the request of the Magistrate of Amsterdam he set out to defend the teachings of Calvinism from Dirik Volckaerts zoon Koornheert who was teaching the doctrine of universal grace and freedom of the will. After Arminius began studying the Bible with regards to these issues he realized that his opponent’s arguments were more Biblical than those of the Calvinists were. He too then began to teach the doctrine of universal grace and freedom of the will.

It is not my intention to offend or insult any Christian who may be a Calvinist; in fact I have many good friends who are Calvinists, and I too am a former believer in unconditional election and have attended several Reformed churches in my life time. Many of my close friends are Reformed Christians. Rather it is my intention to examine the Calvinistic system of theology and the five main pillars that it rests on referred to as TULIP. Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace, and Perseverance of the Saints. A study of these tenants of faith will be made holding them up to the light of scripture to determine whether this system of theology has its origins in philosophical arguments or in the full counsel of God as expressed in the Bible. The very nature of God is at stake and a correct understanding of His nature is critical.

I would implore the reader to keep my intentions in mind while reading this paper and to diligently study the proof texts for both systems of theology, let the Scriptures be the final authority. I believe the issues that are about to be studied are first and foremost in-house debates, and are worthy of discussion but not division.

When studying theology we must understand the Bible is not a book of systematic theology rather it is God’s partial revelation to man. Just because a system of theology is valid, doesn't imply that it is true. Often Calvinists pride themselves on holding to a logical system of belief, though it may be valid (TULIP) it isn't necessarily truthful. Consider the valid argument "Jones has 10 unicorns and Calvin has 12 unicorns, therefore together they have 22 unicorns". Theology is not a word of God to man but a word of man about God in response to His revelation. For example the resurrection of Christ is a Biblical fact; Christ’s claims to being the Son of God are also Biblical facts. These are clear statements in the Bible that lend themselves to no other interpretation; however, the doctrines of the Trinity, Atonement, Christology, etc. are products of systematic theology developed by man. This is not to say that these doctrines are not founded upon Biblical truth, but rather they are man’s attempt to often describe the indescribable and best explain what he feels God has communicated to him. Systematic theology is very important and absolutely essential. Saint Paul encourages us to rightly divide the word of God. It is very important when developing theological systems to take into account the full counsel of God, and to avoid building on a few favored Scriptures for reasons of theological biases; thus ignoring or explaining away clear statements in the Scriptures that are contrary to one’s theology. It is a settled rule in hermeneutics that the unclear passages must be explained by the clear and obvious passages and not vice verse.

II. What Calvinism Teaches

Calvinism teaches that absolutely nothing happens that God has not foreordained or predestined to happen. The Westminster Confession: “God from all eternity did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass: yet so, as neither is the God the author of sin…”1 If an individual goes to heaven, it is because God predestined that he would, independent of anything this individual would do or believe of his own free will. If an individual goes to hell, it is because God predestined that he would, independent of anything this individual would do or believe of his own free will. This point is clearly stated in the Westminster Confession: "By the decree of God, for the manifestation of His glory, some men and angels are predestinated unto everlasting life, and others foreordained to everlasting death. These angels and men, thus predestinated are foreordained, are particularly and unchangeably designed; and their number is so certain and definite, that it cannot be either increased or diminished.1.5 Those of mankind that are predestined unto life, God, before the foundation of the world was laid, according to His eternal and immutable purpose, and the secret counsel and good pleasure of His will, has chosen in Christ unto everlasting glory, out of His mere free grace and love, without any foresight of faith or good works, or perseverance in either of them, or any thing in the creature, as conditions, or causes moving Him thereunto; and all the praise of His glorious grace.”2 The rest of mankind, God was pleased, according to the unsearchable counsel of His will, whereby He extends or withholds mercy as He pleases, for the glory of His sovereign power over His creatures, to pass by, and to ordain them to dishonor and wrath for their sin, to the praise of His glorious justice.”3

Strictly from a philosophical view Reformed theology is contradictory and incoherent. Let’s begin with the eternal decree: “God from all eternity did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass: yet so, as neither is God the author of sin…In essence Reformed theology is one of “Hard Determinism” and a system of necessity which precludes any free agency (Free agency and Liberty are synonyms) and therefore, free will. Yet Reformed theology claims that men are free agents and after the fall and suffer from the inability to turn unto God without His unconditional election. The theology also teaches “Second causes” which is an attempt to remove God as the author of sin. Four major philosophical problems with Reformed theology shall be discussed:

1. The Eternal Decree precludes any free agency whatsoever; and free agency is absolutely essential to moral accountability: According to Reformed theology “God ordained whatsoever comes to pass” - absolutely every single event in history….Hard Determinism – a system of necessity. “Yet so, as neither is God the author of sin…” here Reformed theologians attempt to relieve God from and distance Him from the responsibility of sin. But if God has ordained whatsoever comes to pass: He has ordained whatsoever comes to pass – He is responsible for sin…period! Some theologians attempt to devise and interweave obscure schemes such as “Second causes” to get around this issue - again incompatible with the Eternal Decree. I can stop here with the incompatibility of the Eternal Decree and free agency and rest the case against Reformed theology; but let us continue…

2. Reformed theology teaches that men are free agents with a fallen nature resulting in an enslaved will or the inability to do any spiritual good such as turning himself unto God. Here again the concept of free agency is incompatible with the Eternal Decree; if God decrees every human decision, desire and motive and event; this is Hard Determinism which precludes any free agency. Secondly power over the will is an essential element of free agency; an enslaved will negates true free agency. Reformed theology teaches that individuals are free to do as they please; but their motives are governed by their fallen nature. Their actions or will are a product of antecedent causes viz. strongest motives and the Eternal Decree. Motives causally determine will. This is their definition of free will; man’s choices are free and at the same time predestined by God. This is not free agency this is necessity; actually it’s double talk! There is no free agency or free will in Reformed theology. In order to be a free agent one must have power over their faculties of reason, motives, and will; the intrinsic power of rational self-movement; the ability to exercise reflection and judgment over motive and ends. One can not be a free agent and lack power over the will due to some inability. Native depravity or inability results in necessity and negates any free agency. Free agents have power over their motives and desires. By whatever means the Reformed theologian wishes to re-define free-will; they will never make the concept truly compatible with the Eternal Decree. Soft Determinism or Compatiblism is illogical.

3. Free agents are endowed with the power efficient cause of their actions. This ability of “Self determination” is intrinsic to the agency of man, not the will. They are created in the image of God and are the first cause of their actions. The Eternal Decree precludes this concept. Reformed Theology denies that personal or free agents have the power of efficient cause. Free agency requires that acts of the will, choices and volitions are determined by the sovereign power of the agent; Reformed theology hold that these choices, volitions and acts of the will are caused by the objective motive or strongest motive; closer to the Principle of Causality.

4. Reformed theology teaches that God has ordained whatsoever comes to pass and therefore, He has perfect foreknowledge; the future is certain because He ordained it. Reformed theologians equate this certainty with the necessity of the Eternal Decree. Actually God’s foreknowledge is perfect but not in a causative sense. God knows the past, present and the future and of course the free choices made by free moral agents. What ever I freely choose God knows it; but not in the causative sense that He ordained it. You might say that God’s foreknowledge of my actions is contingent on my free choices – and yet He is still God! This certainty from God’s perspective does not negate the contingency of man’s free will choices.

These are just a few of the philosophical problems inherent with Reformed theology. Let’s now measure this system against the bible and see how it measures up to the witness of scripture.

Calvinism can be summed up in the acronym TULIP: Total depravity: all of mankind fell in Adam and are guilty of his sin and also inherit a sinful nature. Because of this man can not do any good much less seek and desire God; therefore, God must seek man and regenerate him before man can place saving faith in Christ. Unconditional election: since all men are guilty of eternal death, God in His sovereignty for His good pleasure, not foreseeing any faith on man’s part or good works has chosen in eternity past, whom He will save. He will leave the rest in their fallen state to die and suffer eternal damnation for their sins including the sin of Adam or original sin. Limited atonement: Christ died for the elect and only the elect. He died for His sheep and not the goats (penal substitution theory). Irresistible grace: since God’s election is what He has decreed and can not be thwarted, and is unconditional, when the elect receive the effectual call they will answer it and choose Christ. Perseverance of the saints: since God’s election is decreed, and His grace is irresistible, and Christ’s died for them alone; with so perfect a sacrifice and plan of salvation, the elect will persevere until the end. This entire system is of necessity springing forth out of the Eternal Decree.

III. What Scripture Teaches (These Scripture verses will be further explained throughout this study, more specifically in section VI.)

God is not pleased to withhold mercy, to pass by His creatures and to ordain them to dishonor and wrath. Ezekiel 18:23 “Do I have any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord God, rather than that he should turn from his ways and live.
God wills for all men to be saved. Isaiah 45:22 “Turn to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth, for I am God, and there is no other.” 1 Timothy 2:3-4 “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.” 2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some men count slackness, but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him, should not perish, but have everlasting life.

God calls all men to salvation. Mathew 11:28 Jesus said “Come to me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” John 7:37 “Now on the last day of the great feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying ‘If any man is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink’.” In John 12:32 Jesus said “And if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Myself.” Acts 17:30 “Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now commanding all men everywhere to repent.” Revelation 22:17 “And the Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come’. And let the one who hears say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who wishes (wills) take the water of life without cost.” Romans 11:32 “For God has shut up all in disobedience that He might show mercy to all.

Man is fallen and incapable of saving himself; however, he did not lose his ability to choose God and place saving faith in Him. Joshua 24:15 “and if it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the river, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Romans 10:13 “Whosoever will call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.

Man doesn’t inherit the guilt of Adam’s sin, but he does acquire a sinful nature through temptation and sin. Ezekiel 18:20 “The soul that sins shall surely die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.” Ephesians 2:3 “Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.

God’s grace is resistible and man can resist His calling for salvation. Luke 7:30 “But the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected God’s purpose for themselves, not having been baptized by John.” Acts 7:51 “You men who are stiff necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears are always resisting the Holy Spirit; you are doing just as your fathers did.” Mathew 23:37 “Oh Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling.” Romans 2:5 “But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgement of God,” John 5:39 “You search the Scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is these that bear witness of Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me, that you may have life.” Romans 10:21 “But as for Israel He says, ‘All the day long I have stretched out my hands to a disobedient and obstinate people’.”

Regeneration or being born again is conditioned on the act of faith, not prior to the act of faith. Ephesians 1:13 “In Him you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation-having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise.” Galatians 3:2 “This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?” 2 Corinthians 3:16 “but whenever a man turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.” Acts 19:2 “and he said to them, ‘Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?’ And they said to him, ‘No, we have not even heard whether there is a Holy Spirit’.” Romans 4:3 “And what does the Scripture say? ‘And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness’.”

The atonement is universal, Christ died for all men and not just the elect; however, only those who place saving faith in Christ will benefit from it. Romans 5:18 “So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men” Isaiah 53:6 “All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him.” John 10:14-15 “I am the good shepherd; and I know my own, and My own know Me, even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. 2 Peter 2:1 “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves.” Hebrews 2:9 “But we do see Him who has been made for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone.”

1 John 2:2 “and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.” 1 Timothy 4:10 “For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers.” Titus 2:11 “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men,” John 1:29 “The next day he saw Jesus coming to him, and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!’” 1 Timothy 2:6 “who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony borne at the proper time.” 2 Corinthians 5:19 “namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.” Romans 5:18 “So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men.” 1 Corinthians 15:22 “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive.

God in His foreknowledge (might) know who the elect are. God’s election of individuals for salvation is never apart from their union with Christ and is conditioned on God’s foreknowledge of who will place faith (non-meritorious) in His Son. 1 Peter 1:1-2 “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, who are chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, that you may obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood: May grace and peace be yours in the fullest measure.” Romans 8:29 “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren;” Ephesians 1:4-5 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will,”1 Thessalonians 1:4 “knowing, brethren beloved by God, His choice of you;” 2 Thessalonians 2:13 “But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth.”

God unconditionally elects nations and people for purposes other than salvation. Romans 9:17 “For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, ‘For this very purpose I raised you up, to demonstrate My power in you, and that My name might be proclaimed throughout the whole world’.” Romans 9:11-12 “for though the twins were not yet born, and had not done anything good or bad, in order that God’s purpose according to His choice might stand, not because of him who works, but because of Him who calls, it was said to her, ‘the older will serve the younger’. Psalm 135:4 “For the Lord has chosen Jacob for Himself, Israel for His own possession.” 2 Chronicles 6:6 “but I have chosen Jerusalem that My name might be there, and I have chosen David to be over My people Israel.”

Salvation is a work of God, saving faith is not a work nor is it meritorious, it is simply repenting from your sins and accepting the finished work of Christ. Ephesians 2:8 “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not of works, that no one should boast.” Romans 3:27-28 “Where then is the boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith. For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from the works of the Law.” Romans 10:17 “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Hebrews 4:2 “For indeed we have had good news preached to us, just as they also; but the word they heard did not profit them, because it was not united by faith in those who heard.” Hebrews 11:6 “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.”

Perseverance of the Saints: This doctrine will not be addressed; although I would challenge the reader to compare the dozens of scriptures that attest to the believer’s ability to fall from grace to the 1 or 2 proof texts used to support eternal security. Additionally the early church (100 AD – 1500 AD) with almost unanimous consent believed that a Christian could fall from grace.

Summary of Biblical Teaching

The doctrines of a divine will and a divine provision of a universal salvation, on the sole condition of faith, are clearly taught in many passages and are Biblical facts. God wills to save all men and has made the provision to do so. To deny this or to restrict these passages to a particular class of people is impossible without doing violence to the grammar and context, and overthrows the system which it is intended to support. To say that God calls all men but only intends to save some is a contradiction between intention and expression and is fatal to veracity, which is the foundation of human morality, and is an essential attribute of God. A man who says the reverse of what he means is called a hypocrite and a liar. The qualities of a good, righteous, just, holy, and loving God are clearly set forth in the Scriptures and; therefore, rests on the wisdom and revelation of God and not the reasoning of man. God is first a good God, and from His goodness come forth grace, mercy, love, righteousness, and justice. God is the Sovereign Ruler of the universe and in His sovereignty has given fallen man the ability to accept or reject His calling. God does not delight in the death of the wicked. Salvation is a gift and is 100% from God and man’s exercise of faith is not a work.

IV. The Five Points of Calvinism Examined

Calvinism does not have its starting point in Total Depravity that states “all of mankind sinned in Adam.” Calvinism starts with the eternal decree, which the Westminster Confession explains: “God from all eternity did by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass: yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin…1 The essence of Calvinism is predestination; and based on this premise, all other aspects of the Calvinistic system can be considered products of a logical progression. None the less the five points of Calvinism will be discussed. It should be noted that the Reformed doctrine is fundamentally flawed at its very essence in that this decree attributes to God His ordaining all events that take place in history and yet does not charge Him with being the author of sin. Herein lies the problem; how can God ordain all events and yet not be responsible for a portion of them (those being the sinful events)?

1. Total Depravity

The Westminster Confession: Every sin, both original and actual, being a transgression of the righteous law of God, and contrary thereunto, does, in its own nature, bring guilt upon the sinner, whereby he is bound over to the wrath of God, and curse of the law, and so made subject to death, with all miseries spiritual, temporal, and eternal.”4Man, by his fall into a state of sin, has wholly lost all ability of will to do any spiritual good accompanying salvation; so as a natural man, being altogether averse from that good, and dead in sin, is not able, by his own strength, to convert himself, or to prepare himself thereunto.”5This effectual call is of God’s free and special grace alone, not from anything foreseen in man; who is altogether passive therein, until, being quickened and renewed by the Holy Spirit, he is thereby enabled to answer this call, and to embrace the grace offered and conveyed in it.”6

Doctrine stated: 1) When Adam sinned he passed on his sin or original sin to his posterity, the guilt and the effects: spiritual death, physical death, and a sinful nature. Infants are born with the guilt of Adam’s sin as well as the consequences of the fall including spiritual death and physical death. 2) Man’s will was corrupted and he lost the ability to freely choose God for salvation and is unable to convert himself. 3) Since man is spiritually dead he can not respond to God’s call without first being quickened (regenerated or born again) prior to placing saving faith in Christ.

1) Original sin: Calvinism appeals to Romans 5:12 “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned” Romans 3:10 “as it is written, ‘There is none righteous, no not one;’” Romans 3:23 “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Ephesians 2:3 “Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.”

Doctrine refuted: the Scriptures in the preceding paragraph do not make any reference to the extent of mankind’s participation in Adam’s sin. The concept of mankind being held accountable for the guilt of Adam’s sin was not accepted until the 5th century when Augustine propagated it. The Eastern Church has never held the position of Adam’s inherited guilt but rather only his damaged nature. God forgave Adam and Eve of this sin in Genesis 3:21 “And the Lord made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them.” This is the first Biblical account of atonement. If God forgave Adam and Eve of the guilt of their sin, why would He hold us accountable? The Bible is clear with respect to the accountability of sin. Ezekiel 18:20 “The soul that sins shall surely die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.”

Just because infants die does not prove that God is holding them accountable for the guilt of Adam’s sin, for even Christians die; and we know that we have been forgiven of all sin. It does; however, prove that we inherit the consequences of his sin. Now if Romans 5:12 is referring to the guilt of Adam’s sin, then we must also accept at the following Scriptures. Romans 5:18 “So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men.” 1 Corinthians 15:22 “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive.” If indeed Romans 5:12 is dealing with the guilt of Adam’s sin, then these Scriptures clearly show that Christ’s death erased the guilt of Adam’s sin. Regarding Romans 3:10 and 3:23, all men are sinners and according to Ephesians 2:3 we are sinners by nature. But we are sinners because of our continuing in sin and are only guilty of the sins that we commit not the sin that Adam committed. By nature means by natural birth – this doesn’t imply some native or natural inability; it merely implies that we will sin under temptation. I may add that All unconverted men will sin and it is only through the grace of God and the life of Christ can we live free from sin.

There is strong Scriptural proof to show that children are innocent in God’s eyes until they reach an age of accountability of which age, only God knows. These Scriptures are Isaiah 7:15-16 and Deuteronomy 1:34-39. This is a very thorny issue for Calvinism because of the guilt of original sin. Augustine softened the issue by saying that unbaptized infants (he believed in baptismal regeneration) suffer, if at all, the least degree of punishment. Calvin got around this issue by stating that all infants that die are among elect and therefore, Christ’s atonement is applied to them. Unfortunately this is very presumptuous and there aren’t any Scriptures to support this doctrine. The issue: if Calvinism is taken in its totality, then infants and unborn babies who die, and are not among the elect will suffer eternal damnation.

2) Man has lost his ability to choose God for salvation: Calvinism appeals to John 6:44 “No one can come to Me, unless the Father draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.” Ephesians 2:1 “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins.” Calvinism often uses the analogy of a corpse attempting to respond to the call of God in trying to demonstrate that man can not accept Christ prior to being regenerated or born again. This is to demonstrate that it is an issue of man’s inability versus his will. Calvinism also states that a man can not convert himself.

Doctrine refuted: in John 12:32 Jesus said “And if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Myself.” Jesus made it clear that His saving grace will be available to all men. Joshua 24:15 and if it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the river, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” This is a Biblical example of Joshua speaking to individuals who are in a fallen state and asking them to make a choice for God. In fact all of the Old Testament believers were in a fallen state and did not have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit or spiritual regeneration, and yet they were still able to choose God. Justin Martyr who is known as the first apologist if the church in 150 AD in defense of man’s free-will and culpability wrote in his first apology chapters 43 & 44: “The Holy Prophetic Spirit taught us this when He informed us through Moses that GOD spoke as follows to the created man: "Behold, before your face, the good and the evil. Choose the good.” God must draw men unto Himself; therefore, God initiates salvation and will draw all men somehow at some point in time. Jesus said in John 5:39 “You search the Scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is these that bear witness of Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me, that you may have life. Here the Lord is rebuking the Jews for not coming to Him because of their unwillingness, not their inability. And again in Romans 2:5 “But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgement of God,” Romans 10:17 “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” God’s word is so powerful that it can speak to the soul of man. The analogy of fallen man being a corpse isn’t appropriate because man is made up of body soul, and spirit. Even though man is spiritually dead (separated from God – Isa 59:2) he still has a soul that is still very much alive and the living word of God calls man through his soul to offer salvation to him. Even Adam & Eve were able to hear the voice of God after they died spiritually. Hebrews 4:12 “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”

All of mankind is endowed with faith. Saving faith is simply the response to the call of God that is accompanied by the Holy Spirit. Why some people hear the gospel and don’t get saved can be explained in these passages. Hebrews 4:2 “For indeed we have had good news preached to us, just as they also; but the word they heard did not profit them, because it was not united by faith in those who heard.” And Jesus explains why some people hear the word of God and don’t get saved in the parable of the sower. Luke 8:11 “Now the parable is this: the seed is the word of God. And those beside the road are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their heart so that they may not believe and be saved. And those on the rocky soil are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no firm root; they believe for a while, and in time of temptation fall away. And the seed, which fell among the thorns, these are the ones who have heard, and as they go on their way they are choked with worries and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to maturity. And the seed in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance.” Man does not convert himself, all he does is respond in faith to God’s call which is proclaimed through the preaching of the word of God, which is alive and able to pierce through to the heart, thus, receiving the gift of salvation.

Testimony of the Early Church Fathers: Clement of Alexandria in 195 AD wrote “We…have believed and are saved by voluntary choice.7Choice depended on the man as being free. But the gift depended on God as the Lord. And He gives to those who are willing, are exceedingly earnest, and who ask. So their salvation becomes their own. For God does not compel.”8 Tertullian who is considered the “Father of Western Theology” in 210 AD wrote, “As to fortune, it is man’s freedom of will.”9 Origen in 225 AD wrote, “It seems a possible thing that rational natures, from whom the faculty of free will is never taken away, may be again subjected to movements of some kind.10 Hyppolytus in 225 AD wrote, “Christ passed through every stage in life in order that He Himself could serve as a law for persons of every age, and that, by being present among us, He could demonstrate His own manhood as a model for all men. Furthermore, through Himself He could prove that God made nothing evil and that man possesses the capacity of self-determination. For man is able to both will and not to will. He is endowed with the power to do both.”11 Cyprian in 250 AD wrote, “The liberty of believing or of not believing is placed in free choice. In Deuteronomy, it says: ‘Look! I have set before your face life and death, good and evil. Choose for yourself life, that you may live.’ Also in Isaiah: ‘And if you are willing and hear Me, you will eat the good of the land’.”12 Justin Martyr in 150 AD wrote “if the human race does not have the power of a freely deliberated choice in fleeing evil and in choosing good, then men are not accountable for their actions, whatever they may be. That they do, however, by a free choice, either walk upright or stumble, we shall now prove... The Holy Prophetic Spirit taught us this when He informed us through Moses that GOD spoke as follows to the created man: ‘Behold, before your face, the good and the evil. Choose the good.’” Deut 30:15,19.12b

3) Man is Totally Depraved to the point that he is unable to believe in God and must be regenerated or born again before he can have the ability believe the gospel and be saved: Ephesians 2:1 “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins.”

Doctrine refuted: John 7:39 “But He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.” Ephesians 1:13 “In Him you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation-having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise.” Galatians 3:2 “This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?” 2 Corinthians 3:16 “but whenever a man turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.” Acts 19:2 “and he said to them, ‘Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?’ And they said to him, ‘No, we have not even heard whether there is a Holy Spirit’.” Romans 4:3 “And what does the Scripture say? ‘And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.’

Note the order of events in each Scripture passage: John 7:39: the believers had not yet received the Spirit, none the less; they still had the ability to believe in God. Ephesians 1:13: they believed; and then were sealed (received) with the Holy Spirit. Calvinism teaches the opposite, which is receiving the Holy Spirit and then believing. In Galatians 3:2: they received the Spirit by faith. Calvinism teaches that you receive faith by the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:16: man turns to the Lord then the veil is removed. Calvinism teaches that the veil is removed then man turns to the Lord. Acts 19:2: Paul had assumed that the believers had received the Holy Spirit upon their believing not prior to. If it were the way Calvinism teaches the Scripture would read like this “did you believe having received the Holy Spirit?” And in the case of Abraham in Romans 4:3: under Calvinism it would have to be restated “Abraham being made righteous, then believed.” The Bible clearly shows that regeneration by the Holy Spirit is simultaneous or immediately after the act of faith and; therefore, conditioned upon faith. This is the complete opposite of what Calvinism teaches which states that man is first regenerated and then believes, otherwise stated, faith is conditioned upon regeneration.

2. Unconditional Election

The Election Scriptures:

1 Peter 1:1-2 “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, who are chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, that you may obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood: May grace and peace be yours in the fullest measure.” Romans 8:29 “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren;” Ephesians 1:4-5 “just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will,” Romans 9:11-12 “for though the twins were not yet born, and had not done anything good or bad, in order that God’s purpose according to His choice might stand, not because of him who works, but because of Him who calls, it was said to her, ‘the older will serve the younger’.” Romans 9:16 “So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.” Romans 9:17-18 “For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, ‘for this very purpose I raised you up, to demonstrate My power in you, and that My name might be proclaimed throughout the whole world’. So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires.” 1 Thessalonians 1:4 “knowing, brethren beloved by God, His choice of you;” 2 Thessalonians 2:13 “But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth.” 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.” 2 Timothy 1:9 “who saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity,

Calvinism states: the Westminster Confession:God from all eternity did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass.”1 Based on this premise God has predetermined who will go to heaven and who will go to hell. "By the decree of God, for the manifestation of His glory, some men and angels are predestinated unto everlasting life, and others foreordained to everlasting death. These angels and men, thus predestinated are foreordained, are particularly and unchangeably designed; and their number is so certain and definite, that it cannot be either increased or diminished.1.5 Those of mankind that are predestined unto life, God, before the foundation of the world was laid, according to His eternal and immutable purpose, and the secret counsel and good pleasure of His will, has chosen in Christ unto everlasting glory, out of His mere free grace and love, without any foresight of faith or good works, or perseverance in either of them, or any thing in the creature, as conditions, or causes moving Him thereunto; and all to the praise of His glorious grace.”2 The rest of mankind, God was pleased, according to the unsearchable counsel of His will, whereby He extends or withholds mercy as He pleases, for the glory of His sovereign power over His creatures, to pass by, and to ordain them to dishonor and wrath for their sin, to the praise of His glorious justice.”3

Doctrine stated: Unconditional election; God has predetermined who will go to heaven and who will go to hell, without any foreknowledge of faith or good works on man’s behalf, but strictly for His good pleasure in the secret counsel of His will. Calvin himself taught a double predestination whereby God doesn’t merely pass by a portion of mankind, but actually predestines them to eternal damnation.

Pivotal scriptures in the Calvinistic system: Ephesians 1:5b “according to the kind intention of His will,” Romans 9:11 “for though the twins were not yet born, and had not done anything good or bad, in order that God’s purpose according to His choice might stand, not because of him who works, but because of Him who calls,” Romans 9:16 “So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.” Romans 9:18 “So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires.
Question; What does chosen mean? Jesus is called the Chosen One in Luke 9:35 and the Chosen One or the Elect in Isaiah 42:1; does this mean that God singled Him out from many to do His will? Chosen means: Object of divine favor. Could this not be said of all who freely come to Christ through faith that they become the objects of divine favor? When we come to Christ we are considered the elect or chosen? Does this not answer the questions such as the entire city of Nineveh repenting without regeneration of the Holy Spirit; without any element of unconditional elect?

Now let’s assume that it is God’s will to save all men: Isaiah 45:22 “Turn to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth, for I am God, and there is no other.” 1 Timothy 2:3-4 “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.” 2 Peter 3:9 “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some men count slackness, but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Romans 11:32 “For God has shut up all in disobedience that He might show mercy to all.

And God calls all men: Mathew 11:28 Jesus said “Come to me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” John 7:37 “Now on the last day of the great feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying ‘if any man is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink’.” John 12:32 Jesus said “And if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Myself.” Acts 17:30 “Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now commanding all men everywhere to repent.” Revelation 22:17 “And the Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come’. And let the one who hears say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who wishes (wills) take the water of life without cost.”

Let’s revisit the election scriptures with the knowledge that chosen one or elect means object of divine favor...

1 Peter 1:1-2: Those who are objects of God’s divine favor (Chosen) were foreknown by God. God’s foreknowledge of the future has no more influence on those events than does His knowledge of the past and present.

Romans 8:29: Those whom God foreknew He predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son. This is speaking of God’s ultimate pan for His children viz. holiness. Note this makes no reference to salvation.

Ephesians 1:4-5 are correct, it was according to the kind intention of God’s will to save the believers in Ephesus. However, in the proper context this is describing His desires that we be holy and blameless before Him and that when we place faith in Christ we would be adopted as His children

Romans 9:11-12, 16: these Scriptures are discussing God’s sovereignty; however, the twins are an allegory representing two nations and nothing is mentioned about their eternal destinies. Genesis 25:23 “And the Lord said to her ‘Two nations are in your womb; and two peoples shall be separated from your body; and one people shall be stronger than the other; and the older shall serve the younger.’God was, in His sovereignty dealing with His preferential treatment of nations, not individuals nor the eternal salvation or damnation of two unborn babies. Romans 9:13 “Just as it is written ‘Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated’.” It should be understood that the word hate means favored less. Luke 14:26 Jesus said “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.” Jesus was saying that anyone who favored his family members more than Him was not worthy of being His disciple.

Romans 9:17-18: these Scriptures are not dealing with Pharaoh’s salvation nor can it be applied to the salvation of individuals, but rather God’s sovereign dealings with Israel and Pharaoh. Note that Pharaoh hardened his own heart five times before God began to harden it and God only hardened his heart four out of the eleven instances. Exodus 7:13, 7:22, 8:15, 8:32, 9:7, 9:12, 9:17, 9:35, 10:20, 10:27, 11:10. This is consistent with Romans 1:24 “Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, that their bodies might be dishonored among them.” In Exodus 7:3 God was speaking in light of His foreknowledge that He was going to harden Pharaoh’s heart. Often God doesn’t need to do anything to harden a man’s heart but merely withholds His divine intervention as stated in Romans 1:24. God in His decretive will shall bring about His purposes. His exalting one nation over another is part of His decretive will and nothing can thwart it. The descendants of Jacob were to rule over the descendants of Esau and nothing could prevent it. God had decreed to set Israel free from the Egyptians and nothing could have stopped it. This does not preclude the fact that Pharaoh could have mitigated his damages by obeying the Lord; however, the Lord foreknew that Pharaoh would not be willing to obey Him.

1 Thessalonians 1:4: Here is a general statement for those who have become the chosen through faith in Christ – no reference to unconditional election.

2 Thessalonians 2:13: General statement that God’s plan of salvation was one of synergism i.e. through His sanctifying works of the Spirit and the cooperating faith of man.

2 Timothy 1:9: Again, God’s purposes of justification – sanctification – glorification were determined in Christ in eternity past. No mention of man’s unconditional election.

Acts 13:48 Luke does not say fore - ordained. He is not speaking of what was done from eternity, but of what was then done, through the preaching of the Gospel. He is describing that ordination and that only, which was at the very time of hearing the message.
meaningless, and make God a mocker of His creatures if He does not will for all men to be saved and if men do not have the ability to obey or disobey His voice. It is impossible to restrict these passages to a particular class of people without doing violence to the grammar and context. The only way of escape is by the distinction between a revealed or declarative will of God, which declares His willingness to save all men, and a secret or an unsearchable will of God which means to save only some men. He has an effectual call for His elect and a general call or an insincere call for the non-elect. But this distinction overthrows the system which it is intended to support. A contradiction between intention and expression is fatal to veracity, which is the foundation of human morality, and must be an essential attribute of God. A man who says the reverse of what he means is called a hypocrite and a liar. The qualities of a righteous man as well as a good, righteous, just, holy, and loving God are clearly set forth in the Scriptures and this judgment of character is not of man’s wisdom but of God Almighty. Unconditional election also presents some problems in the area of assurance of salvation. If an individual’s salvation is based on God’s unconditional election, this individual cannot have 100% assurance that he is saved until he faces God on judgement day. On the other hand if one knows that it is God’s promise that whosoever comes to Him in faith will be saved, this individual can make sure his election and calling and know that God’s promise is for him.
Testimony of the Early Church Fathers: Hermas 150 AD: “To those whose heart He saw would become pure and obedient to Him; He gave power to repent with the whole heart. But to those whose deceit and wickedness He perceived, and seeing that they intended to repent hypocritically, He did not grant repentance.13 Justin Martyr is considered the church’s first apologist wrote in 160 AD: “…For the people foreknown to believe in Him were foreknown to pursue diligently the fear of the Lord.”14 Clement of Alexandria in 195 AD wrote: “Therefore, all having been called, those who are willing to obey have been named ‘the called’. For there is no unrighteousness with God…to these, prophecy says,’ If you are willing and hear Me, you will eat the good things of the land,’ proving that choice or refusal depends on ourselves.”15

3. Limited Atonement see appendix for a more complete discussion on the nature of the atonement

The Westminster Confession “…Wherefore they who are elected being fallen in Adam, are redeemed in Christ, are effectually called unto faith in Christ by His Spirit working in due season; are justified, adopted, sanctified, and kept by His power through faith unto salvation. Neither are any other redeemed by Christ, effectually called, justified, adopted, sanctified, and saved, but the elect only.16 In essence Calvinism teaches that Christ died only for the elect and God’s plan was so perfect that not one extra drop of blood would be shed for any but the elect. The Scriptures used to support this is John 10:14-15 “I am the good shepherd; and I know my own, and My own know Me, even as the father knows Me and I know the father; and I lay down My life for the sheep.

Doctrine refuted: the question is, for whom did Christ die? The answer is He died for all; however, His death only benefits those who appropriate it. God in His foreknowledge knew that if He atoned for the sin of the world and provided for a universal redemption, many would accept the free gift and many wouldn’t. Looking at the Passover story the Israelite family was to kill a lamb and sprinkle the blood upon the doorposts and the lintel of their home and then they were to abide in the house. God was not looking out in the backyard where the lamb was slain; He was going to look upon the doorposts of each individual home. So too Jesus who is our Passover Lamb, we must personally appropriate His blood through faith. God is not looking at all of the blood shed on Calvary just the blood that is appropriated. Again in John 3:14 “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; that whosever believes may in Him have eternal life.” Here is a good example of the conditional atonement made for all mankind, effectual only for those who appropriate it. Jesus did die for His sheep; however, he also died for the world; including the heretics. 2 Peter 2:1 “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves.” This passage clearly teaches that Christ’s death was sufficient to redeem even the heretics. Jesus paid the price for everyone who has went astray – all mankind: Isaiah 53:6 “All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him.” Hebrews 2:9 “But we do see Him who has been made for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone.” 1 John 2:2 “and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.” 1 Timothy 4:10 “For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers.” Titus 2:11 “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men,” John 1:29 “The next day he saw Jesus coming to him, and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!’” 1 Timothy 2:6 “who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony borne at the proper time.” 2 Corinthians 5:19 “namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.” Romans 5:18 “So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men.”1 Corinthians 15:22 “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive.

The writings of the Early Church Fathers prove that there was what we would call unanimous consent among them with regards to clearly teaching universal atonement. Here are just a couple of the many writings on universal atonement: Justin Martyr in Dialogue with Trypho cp. xcv in 160 AD wrote: “The whole human race will be found to be under a curse…The Father of all wished His Christ, for the whole human family, to take upon Him the curses of all, knowing that, after He had been crucified and was dead, He would raise Him up…His Father wished Him to suffer this, in order that by His Stripes the human race might be healed.” Irenaeus Against All Heresies bk v. 180 AD “This very thing was proclaimed beforehand: that a new thing should come to renew and quicken mankind.”

4. Irresistible Grace

The Westminster Confession “This effectual call is of God’s free and special grace alone, not from anything at all foreseen in man, who is altogether passive therein, until, being quickened and renewed by the Holy Spirit, he is thereby enabled to answer this call, and to embrace the grace offered and conveyed by it.17

Doctrine stated: if God elects a man for salvation he first is regenerated by the Holy Spirit, then he has the ability to believe and he can not and will not resist God’s calling of salvation.

Doctrine refuted: this doctrine is a product of the logical progression of Calvinism. If God has elected someone to eternal life and God’s will can not be thwarted, then His effectual call must be irresistible. However, Scripture show us that His grace is resistible. Luke 7:30 “But the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected God’s purpose for themselves, not having been baptized by John.” Acts 7:51 “You men who are stiff necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears are always resisting the Holy Spirit; you are doing just as your fathers did.” Mathew 23:37 “Oh Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling.” Romans 2:5 “But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgement of God,” John 5:39 “You search the Scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is these that bear witness of Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me, that you may have life.” Romans 10:21 “But as for Israel He says, ‘All the day long I have stretched out my hands to a disobedient and obstinate people’.”

V. John Wesley on election and predestination

In 1765 John Wesley gave a sermon titled Free Grace that dealt with what he called ‘the horrible decree’ of predestination. Here is an excerpt from that sermon: let it be observed that this doctrine represents our Blessed-Lord ‘Jesus Christ the righteous’, ‘the only-begotten Son of the Father, full of grace and truth’- as a hypocrite, a deceiver of the people, a man void of common sincerity. For it cannot be denied that He everywhere speaks as if He was willing that all men should be saved. Therefore, to say He was not willing that all men should be saved is to represent Him as a mere hypocrite and dissembler. It can’t be denied that the gracious words which came out of His mouth are full of invitations to all sinners. To say, then, He did not intend to save all sinners is to represent Him as a gross deceiver of the people. You cannot deny that He says, ‘Come unto me, all ye that are weary and heavy laden.’ If then you say He calls those that cannot come, those whom He knows to be unable to come, those whom He can make able to come but will not, how is it possible to describe greater insincerity? You represent Him as mocking His helpless creatures by offering what He never intends to give. You describe Him as saying one thing and meaning another; as pretending to love which He had not. Him ‘in whose mouth was no guile’ you make full of deceit, void of common sincerity. Then especially, when, drawing nigh the city, ‘He wept over it’, and said, ‘Oh Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee, how often I would have gathered thy children together … and ye would not’. Now if you say, ‘They would’, but ‘He would not,’ you represent Him (which who could hear?) as weeping crocodile’s tears, weeping over the prey which Himself had doomed to destruction.

Such blasphemy this, as one would think might make the ears of a Christian tingle. But there is yet more behind; for just as it honors the Son, so doth this doctrine honor the Father. It destroys all His attributes at once. It overturns both His justice, mercy, and truth. Yea, it represents the most Holy God as worse than the devil; as both more false, more cruel, and more unjust. More false; because the devil; liar as he is, hath never said he ‘willeth all men to be saved’. More unjust; because the devil cannot, if he would, be guilty of such injustice as you ascribe to God when you say that God condemned millions of souls to everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels for continuing in sin, which for want of that grace He will not give them, they cannot avoid. And more cruel; because that unhappy spirit ‘seeketh rest and findeth none’; so that his own restless misery is a kind of temptation to him to tempt others. But God ‘resteth in His high and holy place’; so that to suppose Him of His own mere motion, of His pure will and pleasure, happy as He is, to doom His creatures, whether they will or not, to endless misery, is to impute such cruelty to Him as we cannot impute even to the great enemy of God and man. It is to represent the most high God as more cruel, false, and unjust than the devil. This is the blasphemy clearly contained in ‘the horrible decree’ of predestination.

Vl. Summary

· Man’s participation in Adam’s sin is of inheriting a sinful nature and he is not held personally responsible for the guilt of Adam’s sin.

· Man is incapable of saving himself; however, he still possesses the ability to choose God when called for salvation and the Scriptures and the early church are witnesses to this.

· Regeneration is shown in the Scriptures to be simultaneous or immediately after faith and not prior to the act of faith.

· Saving faith is not meritorious and man’s cooperation in salvation is essential in responding to God’s call and passive in regeneration. All men are endowed with the capacity to believe, and answer the call of God.

· God’s will is to have all men come to repentance and be saved, even though in His foreknowledge    He knows or doesn't know that not all men will repent and believe the gospel.

· God sincerely calls all men to salvation and His written word is alive and able to pierce through the hardest heart assuming the recipient is willing to receive it.

· God’s sovereignty is based on control, not causation as taught by Calvinism, and He often limits the exercise of His sovereignty.

· God’s election is based on His foreknowledge and not His foreordination. The Scriptures and the early church are witnesses to this.

· God’s grace and call for salvation can be resisted.
 Atonement is universal and Christ shed His blood for all men, even the heretics and unbelievers.

Footnotes

1. Westminster Confession: chapter 3, section 1
1.5. Westminster Confession: chapter 3, section 3 & 4
2. Westminster Confession: chapter 3 ,section 5
3. Westminster Confession: chapter 3, section 7
4. Westminster Confession: chapter 6, section 6
5. Westminster Confession: chapter 7, section 3
6. Westminster Confession: chapter 10, section 2
7. Clement of Alexandria: The Instructor, book 1, chapter 6
8. Clement of Alexandria: Salvation of the Rich Man, chapter 10
9. Tertullian: A Treatise on the Soul, chapter 20
10. Origen: De Principiis, book 2, chapter 3
11. Hyppolytus: The Refutation of All Heresies, book 10, chapter 29
12. Cyprian: The Treatises of Cyprian, chapter 52
12b Justin Martyr First Apology chapters 43 & 45
13. The Pastor of Hermas: book 3, chapter 6
14. Justin Martyr: Dialogue with Trypho, chapter 70
15. Clement of Alexandria: The Stromata, book 1, chapter 18
16. Westminster Confession: chapter 3, section 6
17. Westminster Confession: chapter 5, section 2

References of the Church Fathers were taken from The Writings of the Fathers Down to AD 325 Ante-Nicene Fathers, edited by Alexander Roberts, DD & James Donaldson, LLD (Peabody Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., reprint 1995 [orig. 1885]). References of the Westminster Confession were taken from The Westminster Confession of Faith, Free Presbyterian Publications, Gaslow Scotland, reprint 1990 [orig. 1646].

Appendix A

The Atonement

The atonement or the mystery of redemption as the apostle Paul describes it is just that – a mystery which none of the leading theories can fully explain. Most theologians acknowledge the speculative nature of the views on the atonement and openly refer to them as theories. All of the theories seem to go well beyond the pages of Scripture and are constructed on logic and philosophy more so than the plain and simple Scriptural truth that Christ died for sinners and His death was an acceptable sacrifice; and satisfied God’s need to deal with the sin issue once and for all.

The early church didn’t fully develop any formal dogma regarding the nature of the atonement until the 11th century when Anselm promulgated his Theory of Satisfaction which weighed heavily on logic versus Scripture. Anselm viewed the nature of the atonement from a feudalistic paradigm. Up to his time many of the great Church Fathers believed that Christ’s death was a ransom paid to Satan. Anselm claimed that the ransom was paid to God in satisfaction of His honor. The Calvinistic view or Penal Substitution theory is a modification of Anselm’s theory in that it was not God’s honor that needed to be satisfied but rather His justice. The other leading view which most Arminians hold to is called the Governmental theory which states that Christ was not a substitute in punishment but in sufferings; and God was able to accept His sufferings as satisfaction of His justice and can now freely pardon all who accept Christ through faith.

As mysterious and speculative is the nature of the atonement, there are Biblical truths that God has decided to reveal to us that are adequate so far as saving faith is concerned. Most orthodox theologians will agree on the following Biblical truths regarding the nature of the atonement:

1. Vicarious – Whether the Penal Substitution or Governmental theory both schools of thought agree with the explicit Biblical view that Christ died for us. Whether He died in place of us as an absolute substitute in punishment (Penal Substitution) or as a provisional substitute in sufferings (Governmental), all will agree that He died for sinners.

2. Real Atonement – All will agree that the atonement was necessary and had intrinsic value regarding the forgiveness of sins.

3. Reconciliation – The death of Christ reconciled man with God.

4. Redemption – Christ’s death was a ransom and redeemed us from the demands of the law, the curse of the law, sin and Satan. It was a ransom to God on behalf of His honor, moral government, retributive justice, rectoral justice, and an appeasement of His wrath.

5. Satisfaction – The death of Christ was acceptable to God for the salvation of man evidenced by His resurrection. God was satisfied with His atoning death as the grounds for the forgiveness of man.

We must not forget that while the death of Christ is the grounds of our justification we are saved by our union with His resurrected life. Romans 5:10 “For while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.”

The Governmental theory maintains elements of substitution and satisfaction in a different sense than that of the Penal Substitution theory. The Governmental view holds to a substitution in sufferings and emphasizes God’s satisfaction in a rectoral sense while acknowledging an element of His retributive justice. The Penal Substitution theory lays much of its emphasis on God’s obligation to punish sin because of His holy nature and punitive justice while acknowledging an element of His rectoral justice. The Governmental theory lays its emphasis on God’s punishing sin to uphold His honor and the integrity of his moral government as the moral ruler of the universe. The Penal Substitution theory maintains that Christ in His life of obedience (active righteousness) and sufferings and death (passive righteousness) provided a substitution in penalty for the elect. God’s nature and divine justice demands that sin be punished and God is obligated to punish sin because of its intrinsic demerit. This punishment is not remissible as it is what provides satisfaction to God and divine justice. Christ was imputed with the guilt of the elect, therefore; sin was fully punished in Him. These are the theories in a nutshell.

Problems with the Calvinistic View of the Atonement:

  1.  Justification by works: Christ’s active righteousness or obedience to the Law fulfilled the obligations to the Law. This righteousness was then imputed to the elect. This is what the Penal Substitution theory maintains – but this is justification by works, though it is done vicariously through Christ. Yes, Christ lived a sinless life and He could do nothing else because of His divinity, but no where in the Bible does it declare this concept active righteousness. In Romans 5:18 Paul writes “So then as through the one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through the one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men.” NASB. This one act being Christ’s death.
  2. 2. Is God required to punish sin: “God is determined, by the immutable holiness of His nature, to punish all sin because of its intrinsic guilt or demerit; the effect produced on the moral universe being incidental as an end.” – Dr. A.A. Hodge Reformed theologian. God is not required or obligated by any law or by His nature to punish sin; though He does punish sin for both rectoral and retributive purposes. There is no Scriptural proof that God is obligated by His nature or law to punish sin. Additionally if God requires that sin be punished in the sinner or a substitute as the grounds for forgiveness; then this is not gratuitous forgiveness. To exact the punishment from the sinner or substitute and then declare them forgiven is not true biblical forgiveness. The judge either pardons or punishes but not both. Jesus gives us a good example of forgiveness in the parable of the unmerciful servant in Mathew 18:23. In this example the servant’s master forgave him his debt without any retribution or punishment. Psalm 103:10: …He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.
  3. Satisfaction is impossible: The Penal Substitution theory asserts that the judicial infliction of the punishment of sin is on the grounds of personal, intrinsic demerit. Those that hold to this theory maintain that the guilt of sin was imputed to Christ but not the moral turpitude or personal demerit. This raises many questions: Can you separate guilt from personal demerit or the sinner in any real sense? No, guilt cannot exist apart from sin—guilt is not sin. You cannot transfer or impute moral character. Therefore if satisfaction demands that sin be punished solely on the grounds of its intrinsic demerit, then satisfaction by substitution is absolutely impossible. Even if it were possible to separate guilt from sin in any real sense (versus the abstract), sin would still not be punished in Christ but merely the guilt! Nothing could be punished in Christ that was not transferred to Him. Divine justice demands that “the soul that sins shall surely die” and “the wages of sin are death”; therefore the actual sinner must be punished accordingly—eternal death.
  4. Acquittal and justice: Most who hold to the Penal Substitution theory maintain that justice demands that when the payment is made for the sin the sinner is acquitted. This would imply that all the elect were saved at Calvary. So accordingly, when someone gets saved; they are actually just waking up to the fact that they have been saved all along. According to this theory it would be unjust for God to hold the elect accountable for sin when it has already been paid for by Christ. 
  5.  Equality of punishment: If the punishment of sin is eternal damnation, can Christ provide satisfaction though He didn’t suffer eternal damnation? Again the answer is no. Advocates of the Penal Substitution theory maintain that since the substitute is of much greater value, the punishment can be reduced. This is sort of like trading gold for silver. The Penal Substitution theory is very strict in that it maintains that God is obligated and justice demands that sin is fully punished according to its demerit, the wages of sin being eternal death. Can the temporal death of a substitute fully punish sin? Adherents to the Penal Substitution theory are very strict with regards to God’s obligation to punish sin in its totality to its fullest measure.
  6. Absolute or provisory nature: The Penal Substitution theory maintains that since Christ substituted for the sinner in punishment; if God were to condemn someone for their sins that Christ had already paid for; He would be guilty of double jeopardy; therefore Christ had to die for the elect and only the elect and couldn’t possibly pay the penalty for the non-elect. This is the essence of limited atonement. This raises more questions: To charge God with double jeopardy is a misunderstanding of God’s justice. This same reasoning would also charge God with injustice when He had His Angel of Death kill 70,000 innocent Jews when He punished David for taking a census; yet none would dare make any such accusation.  
The Old Testament sacrifices required the sinner to appropriate the sacrifice to their lives. The Passover lamb is an excellent example of this. Though the sacrifice had been made, it was of no benefit to the individual unless the blood of the lamb was applied to the door posts of his house. So this sacrifice had a provisory nature and not an absolute nature as proffered by the adherents of the theory of Penal Substitution. The atoning benefits of the sacrifices had to be appropriated to the individuals much like the serpent in the wilderness had to be appropriated by faith of the individual.


7. Christ died on behalf of sinners, not as an absolute penal substitute: Christ compared the nature of His atoning death to that of the serpent that Moses lifted up in the wilderness John 3:14-15. Here Jesus clearly shows us the provisory nature of His death. Only those who looked to the serpent in faith were healed, yet it was raised up on the pole for all who were bitten; just as only those who look to Christ’s atoning death in faith shall be saved. This picture of the atonement clearly shows us that Christ died on behalf of us not as an absolute substitute in punishment. No one would argue that the serpent was not functioning in the office of a substitute. Of the 29 scriptures in the New Testament regarding the atonement of Christ; only 1 employs the word Anti which means for or instead of (substitute) and the other 28 employ the word Huper which most commonly means for or in behalf of or for the benefit of. Mat 20:28 the word Anti is used to describe Christ’s death as a ransom for (anti) many. In Lk 22:19, 20, Jn 6:51, 10:11, 15:13, Rom 5:6, 5:8, 8:32, 14:15, 1 Cor 1:13, 15:3, 2 Cor 5:14, 15, 5:21, Gal 1:4, 2:20, 3:13 Eph 5:2, 5:25, 1 Thes 5:9, 10, 1 Tim 2:6, Tit 2:14, Heb 2:9, 1 Pet 2:21, 3:18 4:1, 1 Jn 3:16. In all of these scriptures the word Huper is employed where the word for is used. Examine each scripture and as you read them instead of the word for replace it with the phrase in behalf of, for the sake of, for the benefit of. Christ dying on behalf of mankind is much different than Christ dying for the elect.


Conclusion: Christ’s death was not an absolute penal substitution but did have an element of substitution in it. Moreover it is truer to the Scriptures to say that Christ died on behalf of sinners and was a substitute in sufferings; this isn’t to say that there wasn’t an element of retribution (but more of a collateral issue and quite undefined). The atonement was essential and satisfied God which was proven by the resurrection. Each theory has some elements of truth but not to the exclusion of the other theories. What God has revealed to us in His Bible is sufficient for salvation. Let’s accept the simple fact that Christ died for sinners, His death reconciled us to God and redeemed us from the Law, sin and Satan; and it was absolutely necessary for Christ to die for us; God was completely satisfied by His death.


 Appendix B

Free Agency


Strictly from a philosophical view Reformed theology is contradictory and incoherent. Let’s begin with the eternal decree: “God from all eternity did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass: yet so, as neither is God the author of sin…In essence Reformed theology is one of “Hard Determinism” and a system of necessity which precludes any free agency (or Liberty) and therefore, free will (or Ability) is impossible as well.

Yet Reformed theology claims that men are free agents and after the fall and suffer from the inability to turn unto God without His unconditional election. The theology also teaches “Second causes” which is an attempt to remove God as the author of sin. Four major philosophical problems with Reformed theology shall be discussed. Since there arises much confusion over the definition of terms; allow me to be verbose.

1. The Eternal Decree precludes any free agency whatsoever; and free agency is absolutely essential to moral accountability: According to Reformed theology “God ordained whatsoever comes to pass” - absolutely every single event in history….Hard Determinism – a system of necessity. “Yet so, as neither is God the author of sin…” here Reformed theologians attempt to relieve God from and distance Him from the responsibility of sin. But if God has ordained whatsoever comes to pass: He has ordained whatsoever comes to pass – He is responsible for sin…period! Some theologians attempt to devise and interweave obscure schemes such as “Second causes” to get around this issue - again incompatible with the Eternal Decree. This is their definition of second causes; man’s choices are free and at the same time predestined by God. This is not free agency this is necessity; actually it’s double talk! The Eternal Decree precludes any so-called second causes. I can stop here with the incompatibility of the Eternal Decree and free agency and rest the case against Reformed theology; but let us continue…

2. Reformed theology teaches that men are free agents with a fallen nature resulting in an enslaved will or the inability to do any spiritual good such as turning himself unto God. “Man has liberty to do as he pleases…” so they teach. Here again the concept of free agency is incompatible with the Eternal Decree; if God decrees every human decision, desire, motive and event; this is Hard Determinism which precludes any free agency.

Secondly, power over the will is an essential element of free agency; an enslaved will or inability negates true free agency. Liberty and inability can not co-exist. Free will is a condition of free agency; other wise stated: ability is a condition of liberty. Reformed theology teaches that individuals are free to do as they please; but their motives are governed by their fallen nature. Their actions or will are products of antecedent causes viz. strongest motives. Otherwise stated - Motives causally determine the will. Reformed theology teaches Motive is the efficient cause of all actions of the will – the Principle of Causality; at least according to Edwards. True free agency demands that the agent is the efficient cause, the self-determining cause of his effects, actions or will; not motive. To deny this to man is to deny his personality.

Free agency is not possible in Reformed theology. In order to be a free agent one must have power over their faculties of reason, emotions, and will; power over their motives and the capacity of reflection and judgment of their choices. Otherwise stated the intrinsic power of rational self-movement; the ability to exercise reflection and judgment over motive and ends. One can not be a free agent and lack power over the will due to some inability to fully exercise the will. Free agency or Liberty can not exist without the agent having power over the will. Native depravity or inability results in necessity and negates any free agency. Free agents have power over their motives and desires. By whatever means the Reformed theologian wishes to re-define free-will; they will never make the concept truly compatible with the Eternal Decree. Soft Determinism or Compatiblism is illogical. Even Dr. Hodge will agree that if the faculty of reason is severely impaired, free agency can not exist; this holds for the faculty of the will as well.

3. Free agents are endowed with the power of efficient cause over their actions. This ability of “Self determination” is intrinsic to the free moral agency of man, not the will. Mankind is created in the image of God and is the first cause of their actions. The Eternal Decree precludes this concept. Reformed Theology denies that the agent is efficient cause of all his actions; rather they believe that motive is the efficient cause of all his actions – this is the fundamental of their view. Free agency requires that acts of the will, choices and volitions are determined by the sovereign power of the agent; Reformed theology holds that these choices, volitions and acts of the will are caused by the objective motive or strongest motive; closer to the Principle of Causality. In short man, then, is a free agent when, if, in the identical circumstances in which he does put forth given acts of will, he might put forth different and opposite acts from those which he does put forth; also known as power to the contrary; and he has full power over his reason, emotions, motives, an will; and the ability to exercise reflection and judgment over his motives and choices.
  

4. Reformed theology teaches that God has ordained whatsoever comes to pass and therefore, He has perfect foreknowledge; the future is certain because He ordained it and what He knows must come to pass. Reformed theologians equate this certainty with the necessity of the Eternal Decree. Actually God’s foreknowledge is perfect but not in a causative sense. God knows the past, present and the future and of course the free choices made by free moral agents. Whatever I freely choose God knows it; but not in the causative sense that He ordained it. You might say that God’s foreknowledge of my actions is contingent on my free choices – and yet He is still God! This certainty from God’s perspective does not negate the contingency of man’s free will choices nor equate to the necessity of the Eternal Decree. God’s knowledge of the future has no more impact on the course of the future than does His knowledge of the past.

This truth of free agency explains why unregenerate man throughout the entire Old Testament was able to repent and come to faith in God without being regenerated by the Holy Spirit; this is also applicable to the New Covenant as well. The enabling grace or prevenient grace is to assist man in his struggle with the blinding powers of darkness a.k.a. Satan; appose to his fallen nature, inability or loss of his will. Without true free agency; man cannot be held morally responsible. God can not hold man responsible for some natural, physical inability such as original sin.
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