10 Questions for Calvinists

10 Questions for Calvinists

1. Can God genuinely desire the salvation of those whom He, from eternity, unconditionally determined not to save, and is, in the words of Calvin, “pleased to exclude” and “doom to destruction”?  Or in the case of those who eschew the more passive doctrine of preterition and opt for the more active doctrine of reprobation, I ask: can God genuinely desire the salvation of those whom He has specifically created for the express purpose of destroying, who are, to quote Calvin, “doomed from the womb to certain death, whereby God is glorified by their destruction”?

2. If God has indeed causally determined and decreed all that comes to pass, isn’t it incoherent to think that our prayers influence God’s answers to our prayers?  Further, wouldn’t prayer be like someone putting on a sock puppet, and then having the sock puppet ask him to do something?  And to extend the analogy even further, wouldn’t God’s answer/s to prayer be like someone answering a request that he had his own sock puppet ask himself?

3. Regarding the Parable of the Sower (Luke 8:4-18), is the Calvinistic doctrine of Irresistible Grace compatible with Satan actively stealing away the Word of God (the ‘seed’) from people to prevent them from believing (Luke 8:12)?  In other words, wouldn’t it be pointless for Satan to steal the Word from people, when these very people whom he is attempting to prevent believing cannot believe anyway, due to Total Depravity, and indeed, cannot believe until after they are already regenerated?

4. Regarding Luke 22:14-23, is the Calvinistic doctrine of Limited Atonement compatible with the fact that Judas Iscariot – who would have been better off had he never been born (Mark 14:21), and whom Jesus called a ‘devil’ (John 6:70) – was among those for whom Jesus Christ said He gave His body and shed His blood?  If so, wouldn’t that mean that Judas Iscariot is among the elect?

5. God specifically states that there were sins that He “did not command or decree” (Jer. 19:5).  Indeed, these sins did not even “come into my [God’s] mind” (Jer. 19:5; cf. Jer. 7:30-31; 32:35).  If God has indeed causally determined and decreed all that comes to pass, isn’t it incoherent to believe that He has causally determined and decreed sins that He did not command or decree, indeed, sins that did not even come into His mind to command or decree?  Further, does the fact that these sins occurred without God first decreeing them mean that the sins were not under God’s sovereign rule?

6. In 1 Samuel 23, David learned that Saul was plotting harm against him (vv. 7-9), and so inquired of God as to 1) whether the people of Keilah would surrender him into Saul’s hand, and 2) whether Saul would indeed come to Keilah.  Regarding both inquiries, God answered in the affirmative: Saul would come to Keilah, and the people of Keilah would surrender David into Saul’s hand (vv. 10-12).  David and his men swiftly fled from Keilah (v. 13), and even though Saul sought David every day, God would not surrender David into his hand (v. 14).  According to this passage, it would appear that God had foreknowledge of events that, in fact, never came to pass.  Doesn’t this passage contradict the Calvinistic tenet that God can foreknow the future only if He has already causally determined said future?  On the Calvinist view, if the above-stated events never came to pass, then surely God did not foreordain (or even permit) them to come to pass, so how then could God have foreknowledge of events that never came to pass?

7. The Apostle Paul states that “those who are perishing… refused to love the truth and so be saved” (2 Thes. 2:10; emphasis added).  Even the Hyper-Calvinist John Gill said of this passage, “the reason therefore of these men’s perishing is not the decree of God, nor even want of the means of grace, the revelation of the Gospel, but their rejection and contempt of it” (emphasis added).  Isn’t the obvious implication that those who are perishing, in spite of the fact that they do ultimately perish, had a legitimate chance of being saved?

8. In the Bible, Christians are described as having “died to sin”(Rom. 6:2; cf. Rom. 6:7, 8, 11; 7:4-6; Gal 2:19; Col. 2:20; 3:3; 2 Tim. 2:11).  Before conversion, the unregenerate are obviously described as being “dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1; cf. Col. 2:13). Calvinists (eg., Boice and Ryken) describe the spiritually dead as having “all the passive properties belonging to a corpse” in that “like a spiritual corpse, he is unable to make a single move toward God, think a right thought about God, or even respond to God”.  If being dead in sin entails not being able to make a single move toward God or even respond to God, does being dead to sin entail not being able to make a single move toward sin or even respond to sin?

9. Regarding the Apostle Paul’s warning to be sober-minded, watchful, and to resist the devil (1 Pet. 5:8-9), is the Calvinistic doctrine of the Perseverance of the Saints (which entails ‘inevitable perseverance’, ‘once saved, always saved’, and if anyone apostatizes, they were ‘never saved to begin with’) compatible with Satan actively prowling around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour (1 Pet. 5:8-9)?  In other words, wouldn’t it be pointless for Satan to seek to devour people whose salvation cannot possibly be put in jeopardy?  And even if he actually does successfully ‘devour’ someone, wouldn’t that be sure proof that the person was never saved to begin with, and thus render the act of ‘devouring’ futile?

10. John Calvin taught what is known as ‘evanescent grace’ (Institutes, 3.2.11).  Calvin thus taught that God bestows grace on the reprobate (or non-elect) and implants faith in them that is “so similar to the elect” that sometimes, there is virtually “no difference” between the elect and the non-elect.  Calvin further taught that, “In the elect alone he implants the living root of faith, so that they persevere even to the end”.  In other words, true saving faith only proves to be truly saving if it perseveres to the very end. In light of this, is it possible for a Calvinist to have true assurance of salvation?  Doesn’t this doctrine actually undermine the Biblical markers for assurance?  How can someone know that his present faith is genuine, if genuine faith only proves to be genuine if it perseveres to the very end?  How can a person be sure that the inner witness of the Holy Spirit is not an “inferior operation of the Spirit” which “afterwards proves evanescent,” the “better to convict them, and leave them without excuse”? Can a person even have assurance by producing fruit, considering that Calvin taught that the reprobate, through evanescent grace, “may for several years… produce fruit”?

Advertisements

15 thoughts on “10 Questions for Calvinists

  1. blogginbaldguy April 29, 2014 / 1:03 am

    Greetings,

    While the other points deserve due consideration [refutation?] I believe that question #10 might offer the best opportunity for continued discussion.

    You assert that Calvin says: “God bestows grace on the reprobate (or non-elect) and implants faith in them” however this is not at all what Calvin says in this section of the Institutes. There is no implantation of faith, rather as Calvin notes they have a glimpse of his grace. He anticipates the misunderstanding of this premise and writes:

    “Not that they are partakers of the same faith or regeneration with the children of God; but because, under a covering of hypocrisy they seem to have a principle of faith in common with them.”

    Furthermore, it completely disingenuous to assert that there is “virtually” no difference between the reprobate and the elect. The differences are manifold and are different in every sense. It does not follow that because someone can dimly observe the efficacy of the gospel and that they perhaps have a *form of godliness* that they are in fact, elect. This puts words into the mouth of Calvin and perverts the message of the chapter.

    Countless contemporary examples of *supposed* godly men who tasted of the Lord’s goodness have fallen away and in some cases are now antithetical to Christianity. This follows naturally from the premises of this chapter in the Institutes.

    Regards,

    BBG

  2. Arminian May 3, 2014 / 4:08 pm

    BBG,

    “You assert that Calvin says: “God bestows grace on the reprobate (or non-elect) and implants faith in them” however this is not at all what Calvin says in this section of the Institutes. There is no implantation of faith, rather as Calvin notes they have a glimpse of his grace.”

    No, Calvin did say that “by Christ himself a temporary faith, is ascribed to them.”

    “Furthermore, it completely disingenuous to assert that there is “virtually” no difference between the reprobate and the elect.”

    Hardly. This line of thought comes straight from the chapter: “the reprobate are sometimes affected in a way so similar to the elect, that even in their own judgment there is no difference between them.”

    Calvin’s ‘evanescent grace’ is stronger than merely “someone dimly observing the efficacy of the gospel”. As Calvin said, through this temporary faith and evanescent grace, “the reprobate are sometimes affected in a way so similar to the elect, that even in their own judgment there is no difference between them.” Not only that, but “the reprobate believe God to be propitious to them, inasmuch as they accept the gift of reconciliation, though confusedly and without due discernment”.

    Regards,
    Arminian

  3. blogginbaldguy May 5, 2014 / 8:20 pm

    It seems odd to me that this is a source of consternation. Pray tell, why would such a premise militate against election? Scripture is replete with examples of men that seem to sense God’s common mercy and yet are not among the elect. Simon Magus being a prime example. Many so-called Christians have de-converted, assuring their hearers that they were in fact once saved, more than a few of these are now engaged in attempting in their own power and might to undermine the faith.

    I see no difficulty in asserting an inferior work of the Spirit, such common providence is open to all, however you would have us believe that every person that seems to be saved, must be saved if reformed theology is to be correct. The perseverance until the end, which you seem to want to belittle is not predicated on the believer, rather this is the sealing of the Holy Spirit, keeping them in the faith until the end. in fact, Arminian theology the perseverance is dependent upon a human decision, and since you can decide to follow Christ, the power is still in your hands. This leaves you with an insoluble difficulty, i.e. you could decide tomorrow that you no longer believe is some defeater is found for your faith.

  4. Dee May 10, 2014 / 12:27 pm

    Hi, I am NOT a Calvinist, and I do NOT like the idea of it all! However, your point in question #4, which reads,

    “4. Regarding the Lord’s Supper (Luke 22:14-23), is the Calvinistic doctrine of Limited Atonement compatible with the fact that Judas Iscariot – who would have been better off had he never been born (Mark 14:21), and whom Jesus called a ‘devil’ (John 6:70) – was among those for whom Jesus Christ said He gave His body and shed His blood? If so, wouldn’t that mean that Judas Iscariot is among the elect?”

    appears to be FALSE. It appears that Judas Iscariot did NOT partake of the first ever Christian communion since he was already gone by then! He did of course partake of the Last Supper/Passover, but this is NOT the same as when Jesus Christ instituted the bread as His body and the wine as His blood! These statements from Jesus did not occur until after Judas had left the room!

    The other two gospel accounts in which the Lord’s communion is mentioned besides Luke 22:14 are Matthew 26:26 and Mark 14:22. These other two accounts place the occurrence of Judas leaving BEFORE the first communion ever took place! The gospel of Luke also seems more thematic than chronological in its placement of events! If Judas did not partake of the Lord’s communion, it is possible that Jesus did not die for him! This is making me wonder if the atonement is limited after all!

    Source:
    “Did Judas Take Communion Before Betraying Jesus? A Few Say That He Did But What Do the Scriptures Reveal?”
    http://www.ukapologetics.net/11/judascommunion.htm

  5. Dee May 10, 2014 / 1:00 pm

    A problem I am having right now with unlimited atonement is this: did Jesus die for Judas Iscariot, AFTER Judas had already betrayed Him and hung himself, and was lost eternally in his sins? This question relates to my comment above. If Jesus did die for the sins of Judas, it must have been symbolic of His mercy only and not practically real, since Judas was already dead and lost by the time Jesus would have died from the crucifixion? What do you think of this, Arminian?

  6. Arminian May 11, 2014 / 12:10 pm

    Dee,

    Maybe I’m misinterpreting your (2nd) comment, but wouldn’t the logical conclusion of such a view be that no one who was dead before the crucifixion could be saved?

  7. Arminian May 11, 2014 / 4:31 pm

    BBG,

    “Pray tell, why would such a premise militate against election?”

    I never said it did. The question was not about election, but about assurance of salvation.

    “… you would have us believe that every person that seems to be saved, must be saved if reformed theology is to be correct.”

    Not so. I fail to see where you got this idea from. The question was whether a Calvinist can have true assurance of salvation, given Calvin’s doctrine of evanescent grace.

  8. Arminian May 11, 2014 / 4:36 pm

    Blog Owner’s Note:

    The 10 Questions are not set up as “10 Unanswerable Questions” or “10 Refutations of Calvinism”, or the like. They are simply genuine questions that I have regarding the Calvinistic worldview.

  9. Dee May 12, 2014 / 11:28 pm

    Thanks for your reply, Arminian. :)

    I didn’t mean for my 2nd comment to come across that way. I know that others like Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, etc. died before the crucifixion, but unlike Judas, they were right before God by faith when they passed. Therefore, Christ’s sacrifice should definitely still apply to them, regardless of whether Calvinism is true or not.

    My question was only concerning those who had already died before Christ’s crucifixion who were NOT right before God, with Judas Iscariot being a good example. I guess the real issue is, would Christ “waste” His blood on people He knew were already damned for sure, having already been lost eternally in their sins for rejecting God before their deaths?

    I think due to God’s nature it is possible Christ’s blood was “wasted,” in order to prove that He indeed wanted to save all men, even though He knew they never actually would be. I am not having as much trouble with this concept as I was the night I asked you this question, but of course, my interpretation could be wrong.

    Just because Judas Iscariot likely didn’t hear Jesus say, “I give my body for you,” doesn’t mean that He didn’t go ahead and die for Judas anyway, even as proof of His desire for all to be saved, or perhaps He even died for Judas as a judgment against him for rejecting Christ, who really did desire to save him.

    I have been a little redundant in my words, but I am trying to make my meaning clear here. Again, thank you for your comment! Dee

  10. Arminian May 13, 2014 / 11:56 am

    Hi Dee,

    Thanks for the clarification.

    I’m actually in the process of editing a feedback blog post on the very question of whether Christ’s blood was wasted if He died for all, knowing that not all would be saved. Two inter-related questions relevant to the issue are, 1) Why did Christ shed His blood in the first place?, and 2) Who does God intend to save?

    I believe a very simplified answer to the first question would be that Christ shed His blood as a means of providing the redemption of those whom God has intended to save. This then raises the second question, to which I would reply that even though He desires that all would come to faith and repentance, God has only ever *intended* to save those who believe (cf. 1 Cor. 1:21, Gal. 3:22, 1 Tim. 4:10). Does Christ’s blood accomplish the salvation of those who believe? If so (and I believe it does), then the blood is not wasted, insofar as it accomplishes exactly what it set out to achieve: the salvation of those who believe.

    Just as the blood of the Passover Lamb was intended to be effectual only for those who applied it to their doorposts, so the blood of Christ (our Passover Lamb – 1 Cor. 5:7) was intended to be effectual only for those who apply the blood. Just as the serpent in the wilderness, lifted up, was only ever intended to be effectual for those who looked to it in faith, so Christ (our Serpent in the wilderness – Jn. 3:14), lifted up, was only ever intended to be effectual for those who look to Him in faith. Christ’s blood accomplishes exactly what God intended: it saves those who by faith and repentance believe the Gospel (cf. 1 Cor. 1:21).

    Another point worth making is that it’s not as if *part* of Christ’s blood saves one person, and another *part* of the blood saves another person. Christ’s blood, in its entirety, saves every person who repents and believes the Gospel. The same blood that saved the Apostles is exactly the same blood that saves you and me. The same blood that saves one repentant sinner is exactly the same blood that is sufficient to save billions upon billions of repentant sinners, and then some more. This same blood is available to anybody who will turn to Christ. If anyone does not look in faith to Christ and in so doing be saved, it is that they have wasted the opportunity for salvation. It is not as if Christ’s blood was wasted, for if just one person was to be saved, the same amount of blood would have to have been shed as it would for the entire world to be saved.

    Kind regards,
    Arminian

  11. Ando May 15, 2014 / 4:40 pm

    Wow Arminian, you sound like John Piper at the beginning of your last post. Good for you. Anyway, I wanted to address the issue of Old Testament saints being saved. I would argue that saints in the OT were saved by Christ just as we are… by grace through faith. We look back to Christ and trust him to redeem us. OT saints looked forward to the promise of Christ and trusted in being redeemed by him.

  12. Arminian May 16, 2014 / 9:49 pm

    Agreed.

    Kind regards,
    Arminian

  13. Ando May 21, 2014 / 7:02 am

    Wonderful brother!

  14. Arminian July 3, 2014 / 4:04 pm

    Blog Owner’s Note:

    Re: Question 4. It is interesting to note that in his commentary on Luke 22, even the Hyper-Calvinist John Gill conceded that Judas was among those for whom Jesus Christ said He gave His body and shed His blood.

  15. Dee October 31, 2014 / 11:23 am

    Hi Arminian, I know it has been awhile since I commented on this. I was reading Psalm 41 just now, and verse 9, an ancient prophecy concerning Judas Iscariot, said the following: “Yea, mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, which DID EAT OF MY BREAD, hath lifted up his heel against me. (KJV)”

    I know it does not directly say the bread of communion here, but I believe that is exactly what this is referring to. So, I am thinking now that Luke 22 indeed had the events in chronological order, while the other gospels, Matthew and Mark, may have skipped around, placing the deliverance of the communion later than it actually occurred. Or, perhaps Jesus delivered the communion twice, instead of once, first when Judas was present, and then after he had left, to emphasize its importance. What do you think?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s