Repentance versus Total Depravity or Inability
Total Inability is the core principle of Calvin’s TULIP. It is actually what the ULIP rests upon. This is really surprising to me because it is the easiest thing to refute. Here is what they say: “unsaved man is dead in his sins (Romans 5:12). Without the power of the Holy Spirit, the natural man is blind and deaf to the message of the gospel (Mark 4:11).” -Reformed.org This means to them that we do not have the ability to enter into any part of our salvation. We do not even have the capacity for repentance. If we do not have the ability to repent then why are we told to do so? Over and over and over again we are instructed to repent (1 john 1:9, Luke 13:3, Acts 3:19…). So many scriptures that it would be too time-consuming to list them all. But Total Depravity/Inability teaches that you cannot repent, you are too evil, too dead. Calvinism defines “dead” in their own way, “the dead can do nothing, they are dead.” But that assumes a very humanistic view of death: that death is a stopping or end. On the contrary, the bible very consistently defines death by example as “separation” (Gen 3:7-15, Luke 15:24, Mk 12:27). Nowhere else in the bible does God give us instructions without also giving us the power to obey them. There are lots of examples where the person does not obey but none where they lacked the ability. If you give a dollar to a poor man on the street, then he has done nothing for the dollar but accept it. He did not work for that dollar and there is nothing in which he can take pride in or boast about. This is our situation clearly defined in Eph 2:8 “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” We are all instructed to repent and therefore we all have the ability to repent. So….REPENT!
Open Election and Atonement versus Unconditional Election and Limited Atonement
I have combined the U and L of TULIP because they are pretty much the same thing. The Calvinistic idea is that God elects us at his pleasure and allows others to go to hell with no chance of redemption and therefore Jesus only died for the elect and not everyone. “God has elected, based solely upon the counsel of his own will, some for glory and others for damnation (Romans 9:15,21).” and “Christ died for those whom God gave him to save (John 17:9). Christ died, indeed, for many people, but not all (Matthew 26:28)” –reformed.org In contrast, the bible says that Jesus died for all (2 Cor 5:15). And God also tells us that he does not want anyone to go to hell (1 Tim 2:4). If he saves whom he wants and wants all to be saved then the Calvinist is caught between universalism (all will be saved) and a God which is not sovereign by their own definition. There is a simpler explanation, of course, and that is that God does want all to be saved and it is possible for all to be saved but we have the ability to accept or reject that possibility. Acceptance is not a work to gain salvation, it is merely the surrender to that salvation. It is called in the bible “repentance”. Therefore, God’s election is open to all that believe (John 3:16) just as is his atonement (1 John 2:2).
Specific Rejection versus Irresistible Grace
Again let us look first at what they say: “all whom God has elected will come to a knowledge of him (John 6:37). Men come to Christ in salvation when the Father calls them (John 6:44), and the very Spirit of God leads God’s beloved to repentance (Romans 8:14)” – Reformed.org This means that we as mere humans cannot resist or reject God when he calls us to be Christians. But Mt 10:33 says that some of us will deny the call. And Luke 10:16 says when people reject the gospel message from us they are rejecting God. 1 Thes 4:8 also tells us that we can reject God who is trying to give us the Holy Spirit. Even after we are saved we have the ability to suppress truth (Romans 1:18-32) and quench the Holy Spirit (1 Thes 5:19). In the end, we cannot reject the judgment of God but we can in the specific case of grace reject his offer of forgiveness.
Eternal Security versus Preservation of the Saints
On the surface this one sounds like something like the Baptist doctrine of “once saved always saved” but it is not. Let us look a little closer: “when a person truly has been regenerated by God, he will remain in God’s stead. The work of sanctification which God has brought about in his elect will continue until it reaches its fulfillment in eternal life (Phil. 1:6).” -Reformed.org This is actually teaching that you cannot reject God after you are saved. If you slip out of the sanctification process for a time then you were never saved, to begin with. So you can never know if you are going to slip and that slip then proves that you are not saved at all. How secure is that? The bible does not teach this. The bible says we can KNOW that we are saved (1 John 5:13). David was so secure in his salvation that he said, “Even if I make my bed in hades, you are with me.” And this teaching does not match the reality of any Christian at all. We all go through tough times. Maybe it’s confusion during military service, or a time of anger after a divorce or losing a child to cancer, or maybe you get sucked into a false teaching for a while in college. We can enter a time in our lives where we are not participating in the sanctification process. Does that mean are not Christians during that time or that we were never Christians? No, we are sealed by the Holy Spirit at the time of our salvation (Eph 1:13) and none can snatch us from the hand of God (John 10:29). And we as Christians go before Christ to have our sanctification completed (2 Cor 5:10) we will receive rewards and suffer loss (1 Cor 3:15) but we will remain saved! Hallejula! (sorry I get carried away).
Summary: Disturbing but Respected
Calvinism really comes down to one idea that leads to a list of ideas that necessarily must flow. Are we sinners because we sin or do we sin because we are sinners? The problem is that it’s a trick question. It produces a false dichotomy that doesn’t actually have to be one or the other. For instance, is it possible that sometimes we sin because we are sinners and yet we can certainly be called sinners because we sin. But Calvinism takes this to the extreme and claims we are sinners from birth, even before we actually sin. The bible clearly states we are fallen and under the curse of sin in our flesh but we are not sinners until we sin (Rom 5:13). Calvinists are forced to say that babies that die before a profession of salvation must go to hell. That doesn’t seem to match the biblical character of God. Plus (Ex 32:33, Rev 3:5) shows us that names are not added to the book of life but instead are blotted out. This seems to imply that our names start off from birth written in the book of life. I find Calvinism disturbing and mostly a product of man and humanistic thinking and not biblical discernment. That said, I also think Calvinists are Christians and I have high respect for them. I have learned much from R.C. Sproul and Albert Mohler and John MacArthur and C. Van Till and many others. It gives me great pause to think I am writing contrary to such great theologians but I must stand on the bible and earnestly pray that if I am wrong that God will enlighten me through his word.
Calvinism, Arminianism, or somewhere in the middle it really doesn’t matter. Regardless of your take on God’s sovereignty, free will, election, or predestination; the Word of God is very clear what our role is:
1. We are to seek God. (Mt 6:33, Due 4:29, 2 Chro 30:18-20, Heb 11:6, Acts 17:27-28)
2. We are to share our faith in Jesus Christ with others. (Mt 28:19, Rm 1:16, Rm 10:13-14, 2 Tim 4:1-2)
So even if Calvinism is absolutely true, we are still to be obedient and seek God and call others to do the same. These two directives fulfill the two principles that the bible is based upon. Love God and Love others. (Mt 22:36-49)