Calvinism’s Inconsistency Revealed

John Calvin wrote:

“…how foolish and frail is the support of divine justice afforded by the suggestion that evils come to be, not by His will but by His permission…It is a quite frivolous refuge to say that God otiosely permits them, when Scripture shows Him not only willing, but the author of them…Who does not tremble at these judgments with which God works in the hearts of even the wicked whatever He will, rewarding them nonetheless according to desert? Again it is quite clear from the evidence of Scripture that God works in the hearts of men to incline their wills just as he will, whether to good for His mercy’s sake, or to evil according to their merits. ” (John Calvin, “The Eternal Predestination of God,” 10:11)

 Yet, as Albert Mohler testifies, John Calvin does not avoid using the word “permit” in his pastoral ministry to those who suffer great loss. Is this an inconsistency of Calvinism? I believe it is.

John MacArthur, a notable Calvinistic pastor, wrote:

“But God’s role with regard to evil is never as its author. He simply permits evil agents to work, then overrules evil for His own wise and holy ends. Ultimately He is able to make all things-including all the fruits of all the evil of all time-work together for a greater good (Romans 8:28).”

John Piper, another notable Calvinistic pastor, has written:

“God has established a world in which sin will indeed necessarily come to pass by God’s permission, but not by his “positive agency.” God is, Edwards says, “the permitter . . . of sin; and at the same time, a disposer of the state of events, in such a manner, for wise, holy and most excellent ends and purposes, that sin, if it be permitted . . . will most certainly and infallibly follow.”

Contrast the statements of Edwards, Piper and MacArthur with the one from Calvin above and the inconsistency becomes quite clear.

Calvinistic theologian, RC Sproul, addresses the heresy of “equal ultimacy” by giving this warning:

“[Equal ultimacy is the belief that] God works in the same way and same manner with respect to the elect and to the reprobate. That is to say, from all eternity God decreed some to election and by divine initiative works faith in their hearts and brings them actively to salvation. By the same token, from all eternity God decrees some to sin and damnation and actively intervenes to work sin in their lives, bringing them to damnation by divine initiative. In the case of the elect, regeneration is the monergistic work of God. In the case of the reprobate, sin and degeneration are the monergistic work of God. This distortion of positive-positive predestination clearly makes God the author of sin who punishes a person for doing what God monergistically and irresistibly coerces man to do. Such a view is indeed a monstrous assault on the integrity of God. This is not the Reformed view of predestination, but a gross and inexcusable caricature of the doctrine. Such a view may be identified with what is often loosely described as hyper-Calvinism and involves a radical form of supralapsarianism. Such a view of predestination has been virtually universally and monolithically rejected by Reformed thinkers.”

Is Calvin’s first quote in support of “equal ultimacy” or not? If not, how are they different in any meaningful way? And what practical difference is there with the Calvinistic claims and that described above as “equal ultimacy?” Can anyone clearly define a distinction with a difference between a world where God is said to hate one brother and love another before the creation and the world described by Dr. Sproul under the label of “equal ultimacy?” Is God merely permitting or allowing anything according to Calvinism’s teaching?

For a Calvinist to affirm divine permission in any sense of the word is for them to affirm contra-causal (or autonomous) creaturely free will, for what is there to permit in a deterministic worldview except God’s own determinations? Likewise, for Calvinists to speak of God restraining evil is also an affirmation of autonomous freedom, for what is there to restrain outside of God’s own determinations? Is God restraining that which He determined? If not, then there must exist something that He did not determine, which is itself an affirmation of creaturely autonomy.

As most theologians regularly acknowledge, the doctrine of the fall of man is quite complicated and mysterious. The root question boils down to this:

If mankind was created good and not inclined to evil, then how could he choose to do other than what is good?

The Calvinist has to appeal to mystery on this question, as evidenced here in the words of John Piper:

“I have not removed a mystery, I have stated a mystery. God hardens unconditionally and those who are hardened are truly guilty and truly at fault in their hard and rebellious hearts. Their own consciences will justly condemn them. If they perish, they will perish for real sin and real guilt. How God freely hardens and yet preserves human accountability we are not explicitly told. It is the same mystery as how the first sin entered the universe. How does a sinful disposition arise in a good heart? The Bible does not tell us.”  (

The answer for those of us who do not affirm meticulous divine determinism is relatively simple: Free will: The albeit mysterious function of the moral creatures will to refrain or not refrain from any given moral action (CLICK HERE for more on free will). So, do not be fooled, both camps appeal to mystery on this point. “Our side” just does so while affirming contra-causal freedom and determinists leave God “holding the bag” (so to speak.) (CLICK HERE for more on the weakness of compatibilism)

The inconsistency of  the theist determinist is evident in the quotes above and in examining of writings from their scholars, such as Jonathan Edwards.

On the one hand, Edwards argues that mankind always chooses according to their greatest inclination which is ultimately determined by their God given nature, yet on the other hand Edwards preached that Adam “was perfectly free from any corruptions or sinful inclinations,” and that he “had no sinful inclinations to hurry him on to sin; he did it of his own free and mere choice.” (Edwards, ‘All God’s Methods Are Most Reasonable’, in Sermons and Discourses: 1723-1729, ed. by Kenneth P. Minkema, Works 14 (1997): 168.)

How does this not violate Edwards own definition of human will and choice? For Adam to choose to sin he must violate the law of his own nature, as defined by Edwards. Thus, the determinist rejects the mystery of contra-causal freedom only to adopt another even more difficult mystery. One that arguably brings into question the holiness, righteousness and trustworthiness of our God….i.e. the theory that God is actively involved in the determination of moral evil (see Calvin’s original quote).

For more on this topic listen to Dr. Albert Molher illustrate the inconsistency of Calvin himself: HERE.

328 thoughts on “Calvinism’s Inconsistency Revealed

  1. People make choices but God is in control of everything He has total autonomy in all of creation. There is nothing that happens that he did not predestine. He is either omniscient or He is not. He created evil Isaiah 45:7 as well as good. He preordained every choice a persom makes for His glory. We are all just pieces of clay some made for wrath some righteousness. He choses you, you can’t chose Him. He has to give you grace and faith and if He doesn’t you are left totally depraved on your original state. All the world is His stage.

    1. Lisa,

      That’s a fallacy that God is in control of EVERYTHING. He can be, but he isn’t.

      OK, so now you mention Romans 9, the clay. That potter/clay thing, it has to do with God revealing himself, USING people as pawns in order to do it. It has NOTHING to do with what you are trying to portray.

      The PHARAOH is a SHADOW of the devil. Egypt is a SHADOW of SIN, and MOSES is a SHADOW of Jesus, the REDEEMER. The Pharaoh wants us to REMAIN in bondage to sin, but Jesus sets us free from bondage. Hence the Pharaoh as CLAY to tell a story about God. It’s prophesy by way of a shadow, using people as pawns. Nothing more.

      GOD is USING people as PAWNS to tell a story about HIMSELF. That’s all Romans 9 is about, to show his power, not as a means to discuss who he chooses to save. And guess what? God shows MERCY to those who he has USED as pawns, and that is what Romans 9-11 is all about…MERCY.

      WHY did Paul get mercy? Because he did things in ignorance in UNBELIEF, and so Romans 11 states that those in UNBELIEF will get mercy…uh, dats da Jews.

      Those Jews that are in SLUMBER are gonna get MERCY. And that Pharaoh, GOT MERCY “after” he died. God will show mercy on who he pleases, and it tells us in Romans 9-11 not only who, but why.

      Ed Chapman

    2. Lisa
      People make choices

      In Theological Determinism (aka Calvnism) people’s choices are made for them at the foundation of the world.
      People do not exist at the time their choices are made – so they don’t have a say in the matter.
      Not one choice is ever “up to them”.

      There is nothing that happens that he did not predestine.

      There you go – you are confirming what I last stated.

      He is either omniscient or He is not.

      Omniscience does not require Theological Determinism (aka Calvinism)
      Calvinism is simply a tradition of interpretation that embraces divine omniscience.

      He created evil Isaiah 45:7 as well as good.

      In Augustine’s mind – (which was carried forward by Calvin) the THEOS is both good and evil.
      In that view of god – both good and evil are CO-EQUAL and CO-NECESSARY
      The glory of evil is needed to show the glory of the good.

      As Calvinist Jon Edwards states:
      The shining forth of God’s glory would be very imperfect both because the parts of divine glory would not shine forth as the other do, and also the glory of his goodness, love and holiness would be faint without them; nay, they could scarcely shine forth at all.

      He preordained every choice a persom makes for His glory.

      In Calvinism this is correct!
      But in order for him to pre-ordain them – those choices must be FIRST-CONCEIVED in his mind
      As John Calvin states it:

      It is a quite frivolous refuge to say that God otiosely permits them, when Scripture shows Him not only willing but the *AUTHOR* of them. Author in the Old French of Calvin’s day is the word: Auctor – which means Originator, Creator, Instigator

      you are left totally depraved on your original state.

      In Calvinism you’re original state is the state in which he designed you.
      Remember – in Calvinism the MANY are designed as vessels of wrath.
      Also according to Calvin he deceives people into believing they are saved.
      Calvin called this a -quote LARGE MIXTURE
      He gives them a temporary taste of salvation.
      And then Calvin says he -quote “Strikes them with greater blindness”
      And the “elect” within the fold are INVISIBLE
      So no Calvinist knows whether or not he or she is still TOTALLY DEPRAVED or not.

      All the world is His stage.

      In Calvinism this is correct – people are designed to function robotically.

  2. From the article:
    For a Calvinist to affirm divine permission in any sense of the word is for them to affirm contra-causal (or autonomous) creaturely free will, for what is there to permit in a deterministic worldview except God’s own determinations?


    It is only LOGICAL that Calvin’s god must PERMIT what he DECREES and what he RENDERS-CERTAIN

    However, anything that would falsify or negate what is DECREED or RENDERED-CERTAIN is LOGICALLY excluded.
    And Calvin’s god would be LOGICALLY inconsistent to PERMIT his DECREES to be falsified or negated.

    This is why Calvin calls the conception of Calvin’s god doing so “otious” (i.e. repulsive)

    The Calvinist will expressly reject “MERE” permission at any moment.
    Only to later attempt to SMUGGLE it back in – in camouflaged form – a minute or two later.

    The fact that Calvinists manifest DOUBLE-SPEAK on this issue shows the love-hate relationship they have with their own doctrine

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