Friday, February 5, 2016

Some Thoughts Against Calvinism

Some Thoughts Against Calvinism

Calvinism is a set of teachings held on to by a lot of Christians, which I believe, is contrary to the Word of God. Here I am trying to show from the Scriptures how those teachings are contrary to the Word.

God loves everyone, not just the elect

When Calvinists say that God does not love everyone but only the elect (that is, those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ), the Bible says God loves everyone. Here are some verses to prove that:

1John 2: 2 clearly says Jesus died not only for the sins of the church, but for the sins of the whole world.

John 3:16 says "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life”. Obviously ‘the world’ includes believers and unbelievers.

Jesus loved the rich young ruler (Mark 10: 21), although he turned away from Him.

Jesus taught us to love our neighbours as ourselves (Mark 12: 31) and to love even our enemies (Luke 6: 27, 28). Of course, our neighbours and enemies include unbelievers as well. If God wants us to love unbelievers, how can we allege that God Himself does not love them?!  Jesus taught only what He already did (Acts 1:1). So if Jesus taught us to love our neighbours as ourselves and to love even our enemies, it is clear that before He taught us to do that, Jesus loved all including unbelievers.

We read in Matthew 9: 36 and Mark 6: 34 that Jesus had compassion (which is an attribute of love) for the multitude which, of course, included many who never came to true salvation.

Calvinists say that God has plans of welfare for the elect only. But we read in Luke 7:30 says the Pharisees and lawyers rejected God's purpose for themselves, which makes it clear that God had a good purpose for them also which they rejected.

Calvinists say that God desires only the elect to be saved. But 1 Tim 2:4 says that He desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. Calvinists then cleverly interpret that the term ‘all men’ denotes only the elect. To nullify that argument, let us look at another verse written by the apostle Paul (who also wrote 1Timothy) in Romans 5: 18. There the Word says that “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”.  No Calvinist can say the condemnation of sin came only on the elect, but it is obvious that it came on the whole world which includes believers and unbelievers. So if all men in the former part of the verse denotes the whole world, it means the same thing when the term all men occurs in the latter part of the same verse. That means that justification of life also is open to the whole world, and not just to the elect. 
Another verse which Calvinists misinterpret is 2 Pet 3:9: “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance”.  If "all" in this verse refers to only the believers, about whom the Calvinists say that they will never perish, then why should apostle Peter warn them of perishing if they don't repent?? It is crystal clear from the verse that the Lord wants everybody to repent and come to Himself.

Man has Freedom of Choice

Calvinists say that if God wants to save somebody, that person will definitely be saved because no one has a free will. But we read in Matthew 23: 37 that although Jesus wanted to save the Jews, they were not willing, and obviously they were not saved.

Calvinists argue that Rom 9: 13 says that God hated Esau to send him to hell. But it does not say like that. If you read the verse in the context, verses 11 and 12 just say that God, in His sovereignty, chose Jacob to inherit the blessing of Abraham, before they did anything good or bad. God hated Esau because He foreknew Esau’s attitude and choices even before he did anything good or bad. It was a divine hatred towards Esau’s sins. God does not send anybody to hell, but rather people choose to go there despite the numerous warnings by the God of love.

Calvinists take Rom 9:16 and argue that man has no free will. Let us look at what that verse really says: “So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy”. What it implies is that by our self efforts we can never please or come to God, but we, sinners, are dependent on God’s mercy. But we need to respond to God’s mercy when it is available.

And on whom does God have mercy? Rom 9:18 says “So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires.” Then one will ask whom does God desire to have mercy? The answer is that He desires to have mercy on ALL, including the Pharaoh.  See Acts 13:47: "For so the Lord has commanded us, 'I have placed you as a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the end of the earth.'".

But Pharaoh rejected the mercy of God and hardened his heart. And so God also hardened his heart, but ‘raised him up to demonstrate God’s power’ (Romans 9: 17) even through such a hardened man by sending plagues in the land of Egypt and finally turning his heart (Proverbs 21: 1) to send the Israelites to the promised land of Canaan.

One another verse that Calvinists misinterpret is Romans 9: 22 by alleging that God prepared the vessels of wrath for destruction. Let us look at Romans 9: 22, 23 without any preconceived ideas: What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory”. The contrast here is pretty clear. When it is about vessels of wrath, the Word does not say who prepared them for destruction. But it is about vessels of mercy, the Word clearly says that they were prepared beforehand by God Himself. So we can infer that the vessels of wrath prepared themselves for destruction by their own sinful choices.

God’s grace works on the hearts of all unbelievers also by Jesus knocking at the door of their hearts (Revelation 3: 20)
a)    through “His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature” (Romans 1: 20) evident in the nature and the creation,
b)   through their conscience which has the Law of God (Romans 2: 15),
c)    through various circumstances,
d)    through seeing the lives of godly Christians,
e)    through hearing of the gospel etc.

But one person works it out and receives salvation as a free gift and another person hardens his heart. (Compare this with the working in of God and working out of man in Philippians 2: 12, 13). As he hardens his heart, God also hardens his heart and allows him to be deceived till he loves the truth. See 2 Thessalonians 2: 10,11 which reads “and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false”.

Calvinists say that sinners cannot come to a holy God. But the Bible says sinners can, of course, can come to God because He is the One who is calling. Jesus says: “I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5: 32). Again He says: "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest (Matt 11:28). He is the One who has given them the power of choice to choose Him or not, even while there is nothing good that dwells in the flesh (Romans 7: 18). Power of choice is either to choose God or not. So power of choice in itself is not good or bad, but is something neutral which God has given us in our will power (decision making capacity).

Some people ask that if the Lord Jesus has died for the sins of the whole world, why there is judgment. The answer is although Jesus has died for the sins of the whole world (which includes believers and unbelievers), one can receive forgiveness only if one repents of his sins and believes in the Lord.  If somebody offers me ten million rupees freely, and I go and just receive it, I will not go around boasting that it was earned by my work of ‘receiving’! Of course, it was a free gift. Likewise, salvation is a free gift offered to everybody, but received by some. With the same power of choice given to everyone, some receive and vast majority do not (Matthew 7: 13, 14).

Receiving the free gift of salvation is not a work, because it is the Lord who has given us the power of choice to receive it or not. He does not barge into anyone's life. He gently knocks at the door of our heart and comes in only if we open the door of our heart (Rev 3: 20). If we human beings are courteous enough not to barge into anyone's room or house, how much more gracious our Saviour would be?

Salvation Can Be Lost

Calvinists say that once somebody is born again, he cannot lose his salvation. But the Word of God repeatedly says that we are eternally secure only if we hold on to the Lord till the end:

“For we have become partakers of Christ, IF we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end” (Hebrews 3: 14).

“yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, … IF indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard…” (Col 1:23).

"But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved” (Matthew 24: 13).

“The master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces, and assign him a place with the unbelievers” (Luke 12:46).

Many quote John 10: 28, 29 to try to prove that the salvation cannot be lost. But if you read the full sentence from verse 27, it is pretty clear that eternal security is for only those who hear and know and follow the Lord. Even when no one can snatch us away from the hand of the Lord (as is promised in John 10: 28, 29), one can choose to jump away from His hand, because He never takes away our free will.

If He takes away our free will, we will be like robots. Just as a man will any day prefer to have a living child (who has a choice to obey him or not) to a robot (which is programmed to always obey him), our heavenly Father also does not want any robots in heaven but only those who have chosen to receive Him  and obey Him.

Hebrews 6: 4-6; 10: 26-29; 1Timothy 1: 19, 20; John 15: 6 and 2Thess 2: 3 are some of the clear warnings in the Scriptures that salvation can be lost if one continues in sin without repentance.

Just read 2 Pet 2:1- “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves”. The false prophets described here were once children of God who were bought by the Master, but now they have denied that Master and have secretly introduced destructive heresies and will finally end up in swift destruction eternally. So it is clear that somebody, who has once been bought by the Lord, can perish eternally if he does not continue in the Lord till his death.

It is true that God's love never fails (1 Cor. 13: 8). But it is the vast majority of people who have failed the love of God. His love involves His strictness and justice in punishing an unrepentant sinner (Romans 11: 22).

If a believer dies without repentance, that means he has fallen away from faith (because true faith is associated with repentance (Mark 1: 15; Acts 20: 21)– faith without works is dead –James 2: 26), and he will have to face the eternal punishment for his sins.

In the sovereignty and mercy and justice of God, He allows a time period after a conscious sin in a person’s life for him to repent. God in His mercy has a long rope, and at the end of the rope, the person has to face the eternal consequences.

Predestination According To God’s Foreknowledge

God predestined those whom He foreknew would choose Him (Romans 8: 29; 1 Peter 1: 1, 2). Otherwise He would have to be blamed as partial. But the Bible says:

 “Opening his mouth, Peter said: "I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him” (Acts 10:34, 35).

“For there is no partiality with God” (Rom 2:11).

“…God shows no partiality…” (Gal 2:6).

God is sovereign in election, but His election is according to His foreknowledge (1 Peter 1: 1, 2). 'Prognosis' is the Greek word used there for ‘foreknowledge’. 'Proginosko' (meaning ‘knew beforehand’), the related word is used in Romans 8: 29 for 'foreknew'. Both verses clearly tell us that His choice was not random, but that He chose some people because He knew beforehand that they would choose Him at some points in their lives.

The Bible does not say that God predestined anybody to go to heaven or hell. But the Bible does say that God predestined (set the destination beforehand for) His children to become totally like Jesus Christ (Romans 8: 29). So our destination is not heaven, but it is ‘total Christlikeness’, to which we need to press on every day (Heb. 6: 1) by the power of His grace, as Br Zac Poonen elucidates ( .  

Some people ask since the Bible says in Acts 2: 23 that Jesus’ crucifixion was according to the predetermined plan of God whether it was God the Father or man who crucified Jesus on the Cross. For the answer, let us look at Acts 2:23 itself:  "this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, YOU nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death".

See, it is clear from the underlined part that it was the people who nailed Him, and not God. Of course, God knew it even before the foundation of the world (Rev. 13: 8). Of course, Pilate could have no power over Jesus unless he was permitted by the Father (John 19: 11). So, of course, there is the overarching sovereignty of God.

But what we have to understand is that those who crucified Him were instigated by the devil and not by God. But they could do to Him only what the Father in heaven permitted them to do. God knew it beforehand, but He didn’t make them do that. That is why Acts 2: 23 says it was according to the foreknowledge of God that Jesus was crucified.

The Balance In The Scriptures

The devil quoted to Jesus saying: "It is written". Jesus answered him back saying "It is also written". You'll get the whole truth when you compare Scripture with Scripture. One sided truth is like a bird with one wing which can fly only in circles and finally it will fall off to the ground. And even then, only when you humble yourself like a child and passionately want to do the will of God, will the Lord reveal the truth of the Scripture to you!

See Matt 11:25: "At that time Jesus said, "I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants".
John 7:17: "If anyone is willing to do His will, he will know of the teaching, whether it is of God or whether I speak from Myself.”

Of course, there is the overarching sovereignty of God even while He allows the freedom of choice to man. But that does not mean that God is a sadistic drama director who directs the ‘drama’ by making man a robot without any choice, to result in millions going to hell.

And let me quote from one article: "God is more sovereign this way because He can still work through and do what He wants in spite of all oppositions. God's sovereignty is not undermined because of the demonstration of His power in creating man who can exercise the power of choice".

Having written all these, let me add that the doctrines about the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man are not THE foremost teaching of the Bible. The most important thing is to truly repent of all our sins, trust in the Lord Jesus for the forgiveness of sins, love God with all our heart, die to yourself and let the Lord live through you and thus to become like Christ more and more, and to be a pure testimony for the Lord in our land as part of a local church which is a pillar and support of the truth of God. Doctrinal purity is, of course, important (Titus 2: 7), but is only secondary to the supreme importance of a Christlike victorious life. 

I wrote this article just because of the pain and concern after seeing numerous young believers around me being deceived by a 'one sided coin which is nothing but counterfeit'. So let us not waste time majoring on the minors, but fix our eyes on our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ and run this race with endurance so that we can finish it by the end of our lives and be closest to the Lord Jesus all throughout the eternity!....

May the Lord bless you and guide you!

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