Objections to Calvinism Simplified for the Average Person

Let me take a minute to share my heart. I have been engaged in discussions concerning a theology that I both do understand and do not understand. I understand WHAT Calvinism says; I do not understand how anyone can be a Calvinist. I really in all honesty cannot understand how anyone can read the Bible and come away from it believing the 5 points of Calvinism. I am not trying to be disrespectful to anyone; I am simply stating a fact.

I have tried to the best of my ability and I am sure I have failed at times, to discuss the theological differences as I see them with respect to the perspectives as others see them. I have tried to keep personalities out of the discussion but there are times when I have probably not been successful in doing that either. I believe the issue of Calvinism in the SBC is a very important issue because how we see conversion taking place is vitally important to me. I read people saying, Calvinism is a secondary and tertiary issue. I hear them saying, we all believe the same gospel, that Jesus was the sinless sacrifice that willingly went to the cross to pay the penalty for my sin with His blood and He died, was placed in a borrowed tomb and 3 days later was resurrected and He rose from the dead and is now seated at the right hand of the Father and He ever lives to make intercession on our behalf and because He lives, we can live for Him today and with Him forever. That is the Gospel! I preach it and share it every opportunity I get. My hope is maintained in that message.

God did NOT send His Son to die for EVERYONE

For the follower of Calvinism this is not quite so simple. First of all, for the Calvinist, God did NOT send His Son to die for EVERYONE; He sent His Son to die for a select group of people they maintain the Bible calls “the elect.” Jesus did die for the elect. However, I John 2:2 clearly says Jesus “Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.” (see also John 3:16-18) Jesus did not just die for a select group of individuals; He died for the sins of the whole world. God’s provisions were to be made available to those who would believe. This group may be identified as “the elect.” For me, “the elect” are those who believe in Christ. For the Calvinist, “the elect” are those whom God chooses to believe in Him. And so, taking these two positions, we have two very different pictures of what actually took place on the cross. Did Jesus die for everyone? Yes He did; Jesus died to pay the penalty for the sins of the whole world; His provisions were made available to the elect. The question is, “how does the lost man come to be included in the company of ‘the elect’?”

Unless an individual believes in universalism and that God is a God of love and as such everyone is going to go to heaven when they die, everyone believes in some form of Limited Atonement. So, even though there are those who do believe that Jesus DID die on the cross for everyone’s sin, there is no demand that he necessarily believes in universalism. Most believe Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross was sufficient to save all men but was only efficient to save those who believe. This is what I believe and this is what MOST Calvinists believe as well. So, what is the problem?

Well, the problem is seen in why some believe and others do not. I believe God has chosen to reveal Himself through His Word and that is why the Bible says that through the foolishness of preaching men will be saved. The Calvinist can and does say a hearty AMEN here as well! Remember the central issue is, who did Jesus die for? He died for the world so that anyone could believe in Him and in believing would become “the elect”; He died for those who believe in The provisions He established at the cross. I believe those who believe are those who repent and through faith are saved. The Calvinist believes the same thing. So once again, what is all the fuss about? Well, that which differs and divides us is right here and about to be discussed.

“We believe according to our respective natures.”

The Calvinist says, “We believe according to our respective natures.” The lost person has a nature that is enslaved to sin. We are all born in sin; all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23) and “the wages of sin is death.” (Romans 6:23) No one is arguing this point. It is black ink on white paper. The Word tells us “if we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” (I John 1:8) A term that is closely associated with this is depravity. Man is depraved; he is marked by corruption or evil. He has a nature that is corrupt and brings sin. Here is where the Calvinist and I part company, theologically. The Calvinist says, “man is totally depraved and therefore incapable of choosing God because God is the ultimate good and man’s nature will only allow him to choose evil.” Man MUST sin: he cannot not sin. He is enslaved to his sinful nature; he is dead spiritually and does not have eyes to see or ears to hear. He is incapable of being able to respond positively to God or the gospel message. He does respond; his response is always rejection. “The message of the cross is foolishness to them that are perishing.” (I Cor. 1:18) “14 But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” ( 1 Cor 2:14-15 NKJV )

Ok, man is depraved, how does God save this lost person who is dead in his trespass and sin? I believe the Holy Spirit convicted me of my sin and my lost condition with respect to what I believe is the purpose for God’s creating me in the first place, my position with Him. God’s remedy for my lost condition is Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross and His invitation is for me to hear His provisions and trust His promises and place my life into His control and through repentance and by faith trust Him. I believe the individual who does this will find a God who loves Him and will forgive Him and make that person a part of His forever family.

The Calvinist will argue God, who is sovereign must first change the lost person’s sinful nature that is dead spiritually BEFORE that person can or will repent and respond positively to God’s provisions of His grace to save him. The Calvinist will say God MUST change the dead heart of stone into a heart of flesh before it is even possible for that person to repent and exercise faith and be saved. This is a critical theological position. This is what is commonly referred to as regeneration in the salvific process. It is here that I find my biggest problem with Calvinism, more specifically the issue of regeneration prior to repentance and the exercise of saving faith in the person who is born again.

God’s decree and His predetermined will the most important aspects of conversion.

This process posited by Calvinism makes God’s decree and His predetermined will the most important aspects of conversion. God must regenerate the lost individual who is dead spiritually and bound by sin so that he will be able to respond to the gospel message and the convicting work of the Holy Spirit in his heart and repent and be saved. A person, who has not been regenerated, will not repent and believe and therefore remains lost and cannot be saved. Let me say a couple things here. First of all, God is responsible for every man, woman, boy and girl who is saved. Period. When an individual passes from death unto life, it is not by anyone’s crafty choice of words, it is not the product of a system; it is solely the responsibility and result of the Savior and what He did on the cross. He and He alone is the author and finisher of our faith. Apart from His provisions secured at Calvary, salvation would not be even remotely possible; it would in fact be impossible.

However, salvation in the mind of God is available because of all that He has done for those who believe and respond to His provisions by faith. Individuals are responsible to God for their decisions and the consequences of those choices are eternal. Calvinists will acknowledge man’s responsibility to repent and by faith believe God’s promises and provisions. It is important to understand what the Calvinist means as he acknowledges man’s responsibility to choose. Understand, the Calvinist contends that man always chooses according to his nature. The lost person who is enslaved to sin will always make sinful choices because those choices are according to his sinful nature. God through the process of regeneration changes the lost person’s nature and that person is then able to make choices according to this “new nature.” So, in this way, the Calvinist believes in man’s responsibility to repent and believe God to be converted. For the Calvinist, regeneration and conversion are two separate and very different aspects of salvation or conversion. In the Calvinist framework, regeneration brings about repentance and faith and those who believe are born again. I believe regeneration and being born again are one and the same, and not two separate events, no matter how closely related they may be.

There is a third aspect of seeing salvation in God’s predetermined will and His decrees or His effectual calling of specific individuals to salvation and that involves a term called “reprobation.” Reprobation refers to those rejected by God who are predestined for hell. It is argued that those who see salvation as being God’s choice and His choice alone must also accept the fact that they are saying God is solely responsible for those who die without repenting and believing and therefore God is directly responsible for everyone who goes to hell. It seems that this is an undeniable consequence of Calvinistic doctrine. Most Calvinists disagree with this charge. In all fairness, most Calvinists do not believe God predestines people to hell. So, how does the Calvinist answer this charge?

What about those Jesus did not come to save?

Calvinists understand that all men are sinners and the wages of sin is death. Jesus came to save sinners. (I Tim 1:15 Since He obviously came to do something, He is going to accomplish what He came to do. It would seem true that if Jesus came to save sinners, which He has obviously done and since He has not saved all sinners, which seems to be equally true, then He must have come to save some sinners and not all sinners. Ok, that is a good point. What about those He did not come to save? John 3 answers that: “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” (John 3:18 NKJV) Sinners deserve death. Those who die without Christ get what they deserve. God does not condemn or predestine anyone to hell. Some argue that the definition of grace itself settles this question since grace is God’s giving to man “what he does not deserve.” Some have even argued that the question to be asked is, “Not why has God saved some; the real question is why did God save any?”

The reality of it all is this: if God and God alone is indeed solely responsible for all who are saved and He must regenerate someone so that they can believe and be saved, then He is also responsible for every person who dies in his sin because God did not give him the ability and opportunity to repent that He gave to the elect. Reprobation is a necessary component of Calvinism. It is an inescapable consequence to any concept of predestination. To simply dismiss any such suggestion that the unregenerate simply gets what he deserves and God is just in giving His grace to whoever He chooses, is an incitement against the nature and character of God that is nowhere expressed in his Word.

This is NOT good news.

I want to close this article with the following illustration that as I see it, describes how a Calvinist views the sharing of the “good news that Jesus Christ saves.” For the Calvinist, sharing the gospel is like preaching to prisoners chained to their chairs and inviting them to come to dine at your table KNOWING that there are only a limited number of plates set for them and only those few are going to be released to eat; this is NOT good news for the rest. The limited atonement view pictures let’s say 5 plates set; food prepared for 5… the preacher and the 4 prisoners and no more…

And when the preacher gives the invitation, the warden goes to the 4 or any 4… and releases their chains and brings them to the table and sets them down and they eat. I suppose one can claim that this is gracious good news… for those 4 and no more… but that is not the gospel message that the Bible portrays… Christ’s sacrifice was sufficient to save them ALL… God’s provision is intended for ALL who will repent, believe and by faith TRUST Him and come unto Him and BE SAVED. The invitation to “come and dine” is for all who will hear His invitation and come to Him in repentance and find a place set for them at the table by faith!

God does not save ANYONE in order to believe; He saves EVERYONE who does believe.

><>”

Advertisements

About sbcissues

Interested in bringing the issues facing The Southern Baptist Convention to light.
This entry was posted in Calvinism, Gospel Project, SBC and Calvinism, SBC Issues, Southern Baptist Convention, Transformed Theology and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to Objections to Calvinism Simplified for the Average Person

  1. Randy says:

    I appreciate your well thought out and detailed post. I am sure you have noticed the same thing I have – Calvinists are a highly intelligent, and often highly educated, group of believers. I think that is what confounds me most. I wish I could do a Vulcan mind meld with a Calvinist so I could really understand how their theology becomes an acceptable system of belief. Several of my favorite authors and preachers are Calvinists and it makes me scratch my head when I read some of their brilliant work then see them elsewhere defend Calvinistic theology. A good friend of mine, and somewhat of a spiritual mentor, is a solid “4-pointer.” You know, in view of that, I get sort of confused on those that clock in under 5 points on Calvinism. To me the whole system seems to fall apart if you pull out any one of the points.

    As to your closing, let me warn you, any Calvinist is going to say that is a fallacious argument. That seems to be a pretty canned response. Any example I have ever offered to explain the way I veiw this theology is written off that way. Ultimately, I believe the only person who will be able to be blamed for a person ending up in Hell is the person in Hell himself. I’m sure the Calvinist would chime in with a hearty “Amen!” but they sure look at it alot differently than I do.

    Randy

    • sbcissue says:

      Randy,

      The 4 pointers dodge the bullet of Jesus dying on the cross for the elect by saying He died for everyone but only makes the provision available for the elect. So, it is really a small slide and more or less a semantic move to make their position more “Scripturally acceptable.” In the end, there is really very little difference in a 4 and a 5-point Calvinist.

      It will be interesting to hear the objections to the illustration at the end; No straw-man argument this time! It is a fair illustration and I understand the Calvinist position probably better than most Calvinists.

      Appreciate your comments!

      ><>”

  2. Hello SBCIssues, I was wondering if you’ve read theologian Roger Olsen’s blog over at Patheos about this discussion. Also, have you read his book, Arminian Theology: Myths & Realities?

    • sbcissue says:

      Adam,

      I have read some of Olson’s most recent statements concerning the Statement on Salvation. I have not read the book you are referencing. What is interesting is this continued insinuation that there are two theological poles: calvinism and arminianism. Obviously Olson represents the latter. The statement on salvation clearly establishes the fact that many Southern Baptists do not consider themselves to be either. I am one of those.

      ><>”

    • Max says:

      Adam – I haven’t yet looked at the book you reference, but will consider picking up a copy. However, I am currently reading Dr. Olson’s book “Against Calvinism”, which addresses what many evangelical Christians are concerned about – the so-called “New Calvinism” movement of the young, restless and reformed.

  3. Don Arndt says:

    “Well, the problem is seen in why some believe and others do not”

    I think you are correct that this is what all of this boils down to.

    Some are saved and some are not.

    You seem to be saying, feel free to correct me if I am assuming too much, that a person’s final state is up to them, If they believe, they will be saved; if they resist and reject, they will go to eternal punishment.

    I am certainly calvinistic.

    Here’s how I understand it. I think it is ultimately in God’s hands. I don’t know why some are saved and some are not. I hear the argument against a God that chooses and rejects based on His own will, many say that kind of God is a monster. The problem with that is that it is not the God pictured in the Bible.

    God is Good.
    God is Love.
    God is Holy
    God doesn’t always operate in a way that humans understand.

    But, I trust His heart. I trust God’s inherent goodness, grace and mercy completely over and against my ability to choose him.
    I cringe when people describe God as a monster. That is a dangerous thing to assert.

    But, I preach to all Admit, Believe, Confess(insert your favorite vbs song here)

    • sbcissue says:

      Don,

      I understand and appreciate your statement above. You are indeed right; “I hear the argument against a God that chooses and rejects based on His own will, many say that kind of God is a monster. The problem with that is that it is not the God pictured in the Bible.”

      I do not believe “a person’s final state is up to them” as if God has no part in it. God is 100% responsible for the provisions for salvation and 100% responsible for the consequences of our decisions but given those parameters, we are 100% responsible for what we do with what He has told us to do. Just like Pilate, we must answer the question, “What am I going to do with this man who is called the Christ.” We do not have to be like Agrippa who said to the Apostle Paul, “I am almost persuaded to become a Christian.”

      If they believe, they will be saved; if they resist and reject, they will go to eternal punishment. This is basically what we read in John 3.

      You wrote, “I trust His heart. I trust God’s inherent goodness, grace and mercy completely over and against my ability to choose him.”

      I challenge your own words. You said “I trust” God’s goodness, grace and mercy… the question is, why do you trust these things?

      Do you trust them because God gave you the ability to do so or because of His promises given to us in His Word and the redeeming work accomplished on our behalf on the cross?

      The calvinist position is that we trust God because He effectually called us to be His own… He basically made the decision for you because you could not make it yourself. The problem with that is that it is not the God pictured in the Bible.”

      While it is true none of us could go to Him, He came to us so that by trusting Him would could go to Him.

      Praise the Lord, that is the God pictured in the Bible.”

      ><>”

      • Max says:

        sbcissue writes “While it is true none of us could go to Him, He came to us so that by trusting Him would could go to Him.”

        I recently purchased a tattered copy of “What Baptists Believe” at a yard sale for a quarter. Written in 1934 by O.C.S. Wallace, this book was published by the SBC Sunday School Board. If you want to know what SBC “Traditionalist” belief and practice were 80 years ago, see if you can locate a copy. I’ve already got my 25-sense worth! Actually, it would make a good companion document to the recent “Statement” on God’s Plan of Salvation.

        In reference to your above quote, Brother Wallace stated “Salvation comes to the soul that comes to salvation. Forgiving Saviour and penitent sinner meet.” Great words!

  4. jimmiedon says:

    I remember how I came to the Sovereign Grace view point piecemeal, a point here, one there, until the whole was understood and accepted. I had heard this theology as a child, but all I could remember was the old coutnry farm preacher saying in his quavery voice, “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou mt.” Then during my first year in college at East Texas Baptist College, I was introduced to Calvinism, and not long after my ordaining pastor (1962) was self-professed Supralapsarian hyper calvinist (his words) with a Ph.D., a favored preacher boy of Dr. R.G. Lee (he would be the only one among all the preachers who was named in Dr.Lee’s will to preach his funeral, and he was a soul winner, a caring pereson; he pleaded with qa relative of mine until tears ran down my relative’s face. He would be name in Who’s Who in Religion as the founder of the American Race Track Chaplaincy (Who’s Who in Religion.2nd edn. Chicago: Marquis Pubs, 1977). During my first year as pastor, I came to the conclusion that the Bible did teach that man was total depraved, suffering from total disability. A Puritan, David Clarkson, persuaded me to that end with his piling up of the verses that taught such tyruth. E.g., No man can come to me. Jn.6:44,65. Iknew from childhood that can referes to ability, Hence no man can means no one is able to respond unless God gives him or her the grae to do so,. That led next to the doctrine of unconditional election/choice. God had to choose to save a sinner, and that meant grace was irresistible. A friend would win a lady to Christ who explained, “O it was so wonderful taht I could not resist it.” He would take 40 years to accept what I said and what she said, and he would find out that he was actually kin to C.H. Spurgeon. Eventually I would come to the conclusion that redemption was by the will of God, by His purpose to save particular souls for His own purposes. It would take until my first year in semonary before I would learn that these truths are really invitations to sinners to be saved, being like therapeutic paradoxes; they meet sinners in their deepest need for salvation, and the results are spelled out in the most famous of all hymns, Amazing Grace. I would do 6 years of research in churh history, especially Baptist, and I would find out that Sovereign Grace was the theology of the Reformation, the First Great Awakening, the SEcond Great Awakening, the theology of the American Republic, and the theology that launched the Great Century of Missions.

  5. Chase says:

    My reply to God being responsible for people going to hell is simple Romans 9:18-23. I will let you read it instead of typing it out. Thats black and white just like man’s depravity. Dead in sin means dead, unresponsive. Without regeneration(new life) you cant respond. You cant say yes. Ezekiel 36 says better than i who calls and who gives. Job thought he could change Gods mind. 42:2 says no one can. Isaiah 46:10 says he does as he pleases. So how can man stop God from having mercy on whom he wants.

    • sbcissues says:

      Chase,

      A couple of comments. First of all, the passage you cite does not say that God determines who goes to hell and who does not; no one would argue that He is not responsible for judging men’s choices. In addition to that, the passage you cite deals specifically with the Jewish notion that Christianity cannot be replacing Judaism and it is not a proof text for calvinism.

      Here is a challenge for you to consider. Where in the Bible does it EVER say that man is NOT created in the image of God? Adam did not lose that. You are created in the image of God. The whole notion of total depravity and inability is terribly flawed. It is not that we are not depraved because of our sin so do not read more into my statement than was intended. God gave provisions for us to be saved. He gave us choices to make. He also set the consequences of our choices. I do not see the difficulty there.

      As for your last question, man cannot stop God from doing ANYTHING; He says He will forgive those who repent and believe; He NEVER says He determines who those individuals are going to be. Calvinism is a DOG that will not hunt.

      Happy New Year.

  6. At the end of your article you mentioned prisoners that are chained to their chairs and how some are going to be left behind because there are only a limited number of plates. Have you not read the Bible? Romans 1 to 3 is very clear that all of the prisoners are God-haters and rebels who want absolutely NOTHING to do with the true God. They are not chained to their chairs. They are chained to their sin!

    When God offers them a place at His table they flat out refuse Him and spit in His face! You seem to have no understanding of God’s holiness and man’s depravity. If it were not for the fact that God elects some to salvation then absolutely NO ONE would ever come to Him. Romans 3:11 tells us that NO ONE seeks after God. Why, like all arminians, must you twist Calvinistic beliefs and give yourself something to boast of before God? Your example falls ridiculously short and is senseless in light of the greatness and sovereignty of our holy and gracious God!

    • sbcissues says:

      Comprehension seems to be a rare commodity in the 21st century.

      The illustration you cite is a good illustration dealing with total depravity and this general call and effectual call as posited by calvinism. You may not like it but that is not a real factor in its accuracy.

      The chained prisoners are totally depraved and fully incapable of being able to unchain themselves. So is it the case in the “general call” calvinism allows. The general call has NO POWER to save the unregenerate just like the general call to come to the table and eat offers no ability for the chained prisoner to come to the table.

      The effectual call is tantamount to unlocking the shackles allowing the prisoner to get up and come to the table. Regeneration has NOTHING to do with the individual; that is the whole point of monergism.

      Regeneration and conversion are the sole result and response to effectual call; the gospel invitation has NOTHING to do with conversion in the calvinist salvific process and that is horribly errant.

  7. Thank you for responding. Your last 2 sentences are the Gospel! If regeneration had anything to do with the individual then we would all go straight to hell which is exactly what we deserve. In God’s word Romans 3:11 clearly states, “There is none that understands, there is none that seeks after God.” That verse is very clear that no human being has ever been born with an understanding of the true God or a desire for the true God. The Bible is very clear that we are all God-haters prior to salvation. If you were to identify yourself with any of the people that the Bible speaks of who were eyewitnesses to the cross who would it be? Perhaps the thief, perhaps the Centurion, perhaps Peter? The truth is that we can all identify ourselves with the angry mob that was yelling “Crucify Him, Crucify Him!” That is biblically who we are prior to salvation.

    You made a very accurate statement when you typed in above “Regeneration and conversion are the sole result and response to effectual call.” I know you do not believe that yet, but I pray that the Lord will reveal this to you. He was very patient with me all of the years that I believed such things and gave the glory to men for making decisions for Him. He has opened up His Doctrines of Grace to me and I am forever grateful. I never realized the depths of His love for me until I was brought by Him to understand that Salvation is completely of Him.

    • sbcissues says:

      You skirted over the next sentence… “the gospel invitation has NOTHING to do with conversion in the calvinist salvific process and that is horribly errant.”

      My point is God’s initiative is revelation and reconciliation and man is required to respond to both and that response to God’s initiative determines his eternal destiny. In my position the gospel IS the power of God unto salvation; to the Jew first and THEN to the greek.

      In YOUR view God effectually calls someone to new life and THEN the gospel becomes the power of God unto sanctification… NOT conversion. So wrong.

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