General Studies

The Five Points of Calvinism Examined

Introduction:

In this study, we are going to examine the five points of Calvinism, as developed by John Calvin. This is a topic that is extremely important to understand since most denominations hold these points as truth. What we will notice about these five points is that they are a house of cards. If the first point is true, then the rest of the points must be true. If the first point is not true or invalid, then the rest of the points are false as well. We are going to look at these points and not only show the first tenet to be false, but disprove all five tenets to Calvinism. You will see the logic in his methods, but even though logical, it is still contrary to God’s word.

Total Heredity Depravity

The tenet and points

Calvin began by stating that man’s nature is corrupt, perverse, and sinful throughout. This corruption extends to every part of man. The natural man is totally unable to do anything spiritually good. The sinner is so spiritually bankrupt that he can do nothing pertaining to his salvation. This tenet also states that originally Adam’s will was free from the dominion of sin. Adam was under no natural compulsion to choose evil, but through his fall he brought spiritual death upon himself and all his posterity. He thereby plunged himself and the entire race into spiritual ruin and lost for himself and his descendants the ability to make right choices in the spiritual realm. The Westminster Confession of Faith gives a clear, concise statement of this doctrine: "Man, by his fall into a state of sin, hath wholly lost all ability of will to any spiritual good accompanying salvation; so as a natural man, being altogether averse from good, and dead in sin, is not able, by his own strength, to convert himself, or to prepare himself thereunto." As a result of Adam’s sin, all people are born in sin. The two main texts used to prove these points are Romans 5:12 and Ephesians 2:1-3.

Romans 5:12

"Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death came through sin, and so death spread to all because all have sinned–" Often in quoting this passage, the whole verse is not quoted but just three-fourths of it. Does this verse say that we are born in sin or that we inherit sin from Adam? If the verse stopped at "and so death spread to all," then the tenet would be valid and the argument would be sustained. But that is not at all what the verse says. The text clearly tells us that death has spread to all. Why has death spread to all? Paul clearly says, "because all have sinned." Not because Adam sinned, but because all have sinned.

Ephesians 2:1-3

"You were dead through the trespasses and sins in which you once lived, following the course of this world, following the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work among those who are disobedient. All of us once lived among them in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of flesh and senses, and we were by nature children of wrath, like everyone else." This is also one of the most used passages by those who hold this belief. Calvinism uses this verse to show that man is born totally in sin and totally depraved because we are by nature children of wrath.

But there are problems with making the phrase "by nature children of wrath" mean this. Paul did not use the word "nature" to mean from birth. Consider two texts that Paul wrote to prove the point. First, look at 1 Corinthians 11:14, "Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair, it is degrading to him,". Here Paul says nature should teach a man that wearing long hair is degrading to him. Is Paul referring to being born with that nature? Are men born inherently knowing that long hair is degrading? No, but what one’s acquired nature through habitual, regular practice.

Even better, notice Romans 2:14, "for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves,". Here Paul says that Gentiles by nature did the things of the law. If you take that nature as what one is born with, then there is a contradiction. Paul said in Ephesians that all are by nature children of wrath, but now says that Gentiles by nature did the things of the law. We cannot inherently sin and inherently do the things of the law. The word "nature" has been misdefined. When Paul speaks of nature, he is not talking about things by birth or given genetically. Instead Paul is talking about environment, one’s acquired nature learned by habit and practice.

Disproving the tenet

Let us make sure we disprove this tenet thoroughly. If this point stands then so do the rest. But if this one falls, then so do the others as we will see. Consider 1 John 3:4, "Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness." Sin is an act, it is an action. How can one inherit an act? If sin is inherited, then how is Jesus the Son of God sinless on the earth? It is not possible. This is why Catholics make Mary sinless and perfect also, otherwise Jesus would be born in sin. Well, let us remove the problem, that sin is not inherited.

Let us show further how the tenet is total hereditary depravity is false. Look at Ezekiel 18. This is a chapter devoted to the point that the sins of the father do not pass to the son and the goodness of the father does not pass to the son. The reverse is also true. The sins of the son do not pass to the father and the goodness of the son does not pass to the father. See specifically verse 20, "The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself." Sin cannot and is not transferred upon others.

Let us leave no loose ends. If we are born in sin then why did Jesus say in Luke 18:15 17, "Then they also brought infants to Him that He might touch them; but when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them to Him and said, "Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it." Jesus said that the one like a child would receive the kingdom of heaven. Children must be sinless for that to be true.

Further, total hereditary depravity leaves us with a horrible consequence: children who die, go to hell. But sin is defined as lawlessness. What law has an infant broken? Absolutely none, for infants are not given law. Therefore, infants do not have sin and are not born with sin.

Unconditional Election

The tenet and points

The doctrine of election declares that God, before the foundation of the world, chose certain individuals from among the fallen members of Adam’s race to be the objects of His undeserved favor. These, and these only, God purposed to save. God could have chosen to save all men (for He had the power and authority to do so) or He could have chosen to save none (for He was under no obligation to show mercy to any)–but He did neither. Instead He chose to save some and to exclude others. Thus election was not determined by, or conditioned upon, anything that men would do, but resulted entirely from God’s self-determined purpose. Let us look at two of the passages used to try to prove this point: Romans 8:28-30 and Ephesians 1:4.

Romans 8:28-30

"We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family. And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified." This is one text used to prove this, but this text proves nothing. The text says that we are predestined, but it does not say how we are predestined. Everything else is simply an assumption.

Ephesians 1:4

"just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love,". Again the passage tells us that God chose us but does not refer to how God chose us. The fact that God has chosen us does not establish that the selection was unconditional. Calvinism wants us to assume that the election made by God was unconditional. Yet nothing in either text declares that the choosing was unconditional. Romans 8 and Ephesians 1 simply declare that we have been chosen. To this point we agree: we have been chosen by God. Let us look at some other texts to see how we have been chosen.

Chosen by God

Galatians 3:26-27, "For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ." Here Paul tells us that we are chosen on condition of being baptized in Christ. Mark 16:16 makes it condition that the one that believes and is baptized will be saved. These passages tell us that our election is conditioned upon being baptized.

Notice 2 Thessalonians 2:13, "But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth," Here we see the same statement that God from the beginning chose us. But notice the conditions: sanctification by the Spirit and belief. We must do our part to meet the conditions God has made for us to be His elect.

One of the most well known passages in the Bible tells us that our election is conditional. John 3:16, "for God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life." Here the condition given to us is that we believe. As we have seen there are many conditions that God has placed upon men and women to be His elect.

God is not willing for any to perish

This tenet also violates other passages. Unconditional election teaches that God only chose some people to be saved and others he excluded. He could have chosen all, but he did not. But this theory contradicts 1 Timothy 2:3-4 which says, "For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth." God desires all men to be saved. 2 Peter 3:9 says the same, "The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance." Unconditional election clearly violates these passages. God did not choose to make some people lost. God wants all to come to Him and has laid out the conditions so that we can respond to Him. The gospel call is universal and for everyone. Romans 1:16, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek." Salvation is not for the chosen few, but is the call to all people. Finally, it is not a just God who arbitrarily chooses some to be saved and some to be lost. God shows no partiality (Romans 2:11; Ephesians 6:9; Acts 10:34).

Limited Atonement

The tenet and points

Calvinism states that since only a certain number of people were elected by God for salvation, then Jesus died only for those who God predestined to save. Jesus did not die for everyone. Christ’s redeeming work was intended to render complete satisfaction for certain specified sinners and that it actually secured salvation for these individuals and for no one else. Christ’s saving work was limited in that it was designed to save some and not others, but it was not limited in value for it was of infinite worth and would have secured salvation for everyone if this had been God’s intention.

Jesus died for all

We should know that this tenet is contradictory to the scriptures. Who would dare say that Christ came to save only certain individuals? Consider 1 Timothy 2:5-6, "For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time,". To me, it just does not get any clearly than that. Hebrews 2:9, "But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone." These passages say that Jesus died for every person. Jesus did not love the world that he died for only a few! That is not what John 3:16 says! Jesus died for the world, for everyone. We cannot limited his atonement to just a few people.

Irresistible Grace

The tenet and points

The doctrine asserts that the Holy Spirit never fails to bring to salvation those sinners whom he personally calls to Christ. The special inward call of the Spirit never fails to result in the conversion of those to whom it is made. Listen to this tenet and tell me if you hear a problem in this statement: "His will is renewed through this process so that the sinner spontaneously comes to Christ of his own free choice. The renewed sinner freely and willingly turns to Christ as Lord and Savior." The Westminster Confession of Faith on this point ends this way: "Renewing their wills, and by his almighty power determining them to that which is good, and effectually drawing them to Jesus Christ; yet so as they come most freely, being made willing by his grace."

Do you see the contradiction? They come most freely, being made willing by his grace. Sinner comes to Christ of his own free choice. The first point of Calvinism, total hereditary depravity, says that we cannot choose God. God must choose us, but we suddenly now are freely choosing him, yet you cannot resist the Holy Spirit’s call. Within this own belief system there is contradiction.

We can resist the call of God

The Bible says that we can resist the call of God. We do have a choice as to our salvation. Acts 7:51, "You stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you." Apparently the people were resisting the Holy Spirit and his work. Stephen tells the Sanhedrin that they were resisting the Holy Spirit as well as their ancestors. Hebrews 10:29, "Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace?" Here the writer of Hebrews says that we can insult the Spirit of grace. Nothing in the scriptures says that we cannot reject the Holy Spirit.

Perseverance of the Saints

The tenet and points

This tenet of Calvinism teaches that nothing can separate the elect from the eternal and unchangeable love of God. Many who profess to believe fall away, but they do not fall from grace for they were never in grace. True believers do fall into temptations, and they do commit grievous sins, but these sins do not cause them to lose their salvation or separate them from Christ. Let us look at what the Bible says on this topic.

One can fall away

Not falling from grace is conditional upon individual faithfulness and obedience. Notice 2 Peter 1:10, "Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble;". Also 1 John 1:7, "But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin." Conditions are set to keep the grace given to us. We must continue to be obedient to the will of God to receive His grace.

The Bible gives many warnings to the believers of falling away or falling into apostasy (Matt. 24:4-5, 11-13; John 15:1-6; Acts 11:21-23; 14:21-22; Col. 1:21-23; 1 Cor. 15:1-2; 1 Tim. 6:10-12; 2 Tim. 4:2-5; James 5:19-20; 2 Pet. 1:8-11; 3:16-18; Jude 19-21; 1 John 2:23-25; Heb. 2:1-3; 3:1,6-8, 12-14; 10:25-39.)

The clearest example is in Galatians 5:4 where Paul tells the Christians "you have fallen from grace." It does not get any clearer than that. We can fall away from the grace given us. We can overthrow the faith (2 Tim. 2:18), we can cast faith off (1 Tim. 5:12), we can depart from the faith (1 Tim. 4:1), we can turn aside from the faith (1 Tim. 1:5-6), and we can deny the faith (1 Tim. 5:8).

Conclusion:

We see that none of the points of Calvinism can be verified by scripture. Yet most of the religious world accepts these points as fact. They write their creeds and follow them instead of the word of God. Let us follow the word of God and accept what He says about salvation.

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