“In conformity, therefore, to the clear doctrine of the Scripture, we assert, that by an eternal and immutable counsel, God has once for all determined, both whom he would admit to salvation, and whom he would condemn to destruction.” – John Calvin
Would anyone dare adopt or seek to defend this most “terrible” and troubling doctrine* if not for the three main proof texts most often cited by our Calvinistic brethren?
Ephesians 1: Where it speaks not of individuals being predestined to faith, but those of us “in Him” being predestined to holiness and adoption (sanctification and glorification). And how are we to become “in Him?” Verse 13 answers, “And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit.”
John 6: Where Jesus, while here on earth in the flesh, is actively and judicially blinding Israel by means of parables, a spirit of stupor, and provoking language, while only drawing to himself (while on earth) a remnant of preselected Israelite messengers (to carry out the purpose for which Israel was elected from the beginning: to bring the light to the rest of the world). In other words, Jesus’ audience in John 6 is made up of his preselected apostles from Israel and the rest of the Israelites who are being judicially blinded by God from seeing the truth (John 12:39-41; Acts 28:27-27; Mark 4; Matt. 13; Romans 11).
And the most famous, most quoted and most debated text of them all…the only passage that provides any measure of explanation for adopting such a terrible* teaching:
Romans 9: Where Paul is answering the same objector carried over from Romans 3:1-8: a judicially blinded Jew being used by God at this crucial time in history to accomplish His plan of redemption for the world. A Jew who is cut off but “may be grafted back in if he leaves his unbelief” (Rom 11:23); a Jew who is hardened but “may be provoked to envy and saved” (vs. 14); a Jew who is stumbling but “not beyond recovery” (vs. 11). “For God has bound everyone over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all” (vs. 32).
Serious Question to Ponder:
If the objector Paul is answering in Romans 9 is not the non-elect reprobate of Calvinism, does that system have a theological leg to stand upon? In other words, if it can clearly be shown that the objection Paul is answering is not the objection against the Calvinistic claims, should anyone still adopt and defend those claims?
Who is the objector the apostle has in mind? Here are your two options:
According to Calvinistic Scholars: The objector is anyone who questions the doctrine that God has, in eternity past, preselected some individuals for salvation and others for damnation. The objection, according to the Calvinist, is against the idea that God has determined for some to be unable to ever respond to His revelation while others are determined to respond favorably to His revelation.
According to Non-Calvinistic Scholars: The objector is the same Jew who said, “If our unrighteousness brings out God’s righteousness more clearly, what shall we say? That God is unjust in bringing his wrath on us?” (Rom. 3:5) The objection is against Paul’s teaching regarding God sovereign choice to temporarily blind (cut off) most of the Jews in their rebellion in order to use them to carry out God’s redemptive plan. The Jews are the ones who were predetermined by God to crucify the Christ (Acts 2:23). They are cut off for a time to allow the Gentiles to be established in the church (Rom. 11).
Which one do you think the apostle is answering and why? What evidence supports the idea that God not only has judicially and temporarily blinded most of the Jews at this time in history, but that God has judicially blinded (totally disabled) all men from birth only to irresistibly reveal Himself to a preselected few?
It is one thing for us to swallow the pill of Israel’s judicial hardening, which is difficult enough to accept even with the apostle’s explanation and rebuke against those who question it. It is a whole other thing for us to swallow the Calvinistic pill of double predestination when it is probable the apostle never had that doctrine in mind when writing this text.
If a Calvinist is asked why God would predetermine to seal most of humanity in a condition of total inability from the time they born to the time they die (a teaching I find no where in the pages of scripture), they often quote this passage:
“What if God, although choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction? What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory— even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles?”
But who are “the objects of wrath-prepared for destruction” in the mind of the apostle? Who is the author’s intended objector in this infamous diatribe?
In Romans 3:5, the objector asks, “Is God unjust to bring wrath on us?” And in that context it is very clear who is making this objection. The “object of wrath fitted for destruction” is a Jew who God “held out his hand to all day long” (Rm. 10:21) but who has “grown calloused…otherwise they might see, hear, understand and turn,” (Acts 28:27). The one “under wrath” in this context is being cut off, hardened, and is described as stumbling, but has “not stumbled beyond recovery.” The “object of wrath” here is NOT, I repeat, IS NOT someone born hated, unchosen, and sealed in a totally disabled condition from birth until death. That is completely foreign to this or any other passage in scripture.
Must God’s glory be pit against His choice to put man’s need above even His own pleasure? Is not God’s glory best displayed by his loving selfless sacrifice on Calvary? Why do Calvinist object to the teaching that God’s glory is best reflected in His love and provision for all people?
Scripture does not say, “God so loves Himself that he gave…” It does not say, “God demonstrates his own love for Himself in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for His own glory.” God’s glory is best reflected in the foundational truth of Christianity: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Mt. 7:21). This is the manifestation of LOVE. LOVE, FORGIVENESS, and MERCY is the greatest means to manifest GLORY not only for the image bearers, but for the One we are reflecting!
Do we, as Christ followers, have a Leader who actually models what He teaches? Is Jesus a hypocrite? Does He tell us to love our enemies and then turn around and hate His? Does He tell us to be kind to those who hate us and then turn around and torture those who are born hating Him by His own unchangeable decree? I think not.
Calvinists seem convinced that God’s glory is best reflected in predetermining most of humanity to certain eternal torment. And many will accuse me of misrepresenting them by saying so, all the while not being able (or willing) to define what about that statement is actually misrepresentative of their claims. Instead, they typically resort to the “you too fallacy” which attempts to show that a criticism or objection applies equally to the person making it.
For example, suppose I swatted a dog for misbehavior and then you shot it between the eyes. Then, upon my objection to shooting the dog you reply by saying, “You hit the dog too,” as if the objection is equal.
Calvinists often do this to non-Calvinists. We object to their troubling claims and they attempt to make the case that our claims are just as terrible. How can they make such an argument? They appeal to a philosophical presumption, not an actual affirmation of our doctrine. They say something to the effect of, “If God knows everything before creating it, then He must have predetermined it to be, so you have the same problem.”
See the fallacy? We object against an actual claim of their doctrinal system (see Calvin’s quote above) and they object to a linear philosophical presumption imposed upon a divinely infinite characteristic of our mysterious Creator (i.e. no quote from our scholars). Do non-Calvinistic scholars ever actually claim that God’s infinite knowledge necessitates determinism? Of course not. That is their view, not ours. We affirm the mystery of infinite knowledge while accepting that our finite limitations prevent us from drawing hard conclusions in regard to the causality of that which is merely known. In other words, they are objecting against a conclusion we never draw…a conclusion they FEEL is necessary based upon their own finite calculations.
So, philosophically they attempt to claim we have the same problem that they have while imposing their linear presumptions unto us. And biblically they attempt to claim their problem is the one Paul is anticipating and answering in Romans 9, when in reality the problem Paul is answering is a much, much less troubling doctrine than “double trouble = more glory” imposed by TULIP’s systematic.
You be the judge. What do you think?
*Calvin himself called this doctrine “terrible,” and any objective adherent would likewise concur. Many Calvinists attest that they were troubled by the claims of unconditional predestination when first confronted by the TULIP systematic, but came to adopt them due to what they felt was the clear revelation of scripture.