In the pages under this topic, I will mark the problems, abuses, error (heresy), and refutation of Calvinism. Over the years I have come to increasing see Calvinism taking the exact form of a cult, and this is very serious. In contrast to being the mark of fidelity, it is the mark of error. Although most people who are Calvinists simply won’t consider anything else as being true to God, please read my arguments against Calvinism and compare them with the reality of church life and the truth of God, and you will see in a Calvinist church, there are grave problems.
What’s your beef with Calvinism?
I grew up in a church that had a “good Calvinistic pastor”. I respected him greatly, and I truly think that he is saved. I am no judge, but I remember him going across state to visit the sick just to witness to them because they were in jeopardy of dying. Unfortunately, today, Calvinism has gone into a more advanced form where it is aggressively attacking true Christianity, and to even “offer the plan of salvation” is being attacked as “decisional regenerationism”, a horrible heresy in their eyes. While some aspects of Calvinism seem to fit with what the Scriptures teach, the hard-liners of today are taking things way far from any biblical norm that it must be denounced and attacked as a false cult. Ministers who are true to God and the Word of God have no other option here.
What I see as my major “beef” with Calvinism is a hell-bent desire to attack and destroy the very foundation of Christianity, true salvation.
The Schizophrenic Calvinist
Calvinism is truly a weird belief system. I have never studied any cult or false religion that is as strange as Calvinism. If you confront a Catholic, and he says that he doesn’t believe in the spiritual authority of the Pope and Roman, but he does go to a priest to confess, and he worships the Virgin Mary with images, and partakes of Mass, what would you say to him? “Well, you have separated yourself from a grave error of Catholicism, so you must be okay.” No. You would say, “Even though you have seen the true error of the Pope in Catholicism, and you have denounced that, you do not understand that it is all connected into a big ball of heresy, one thing depending on another, and one doctrine coming from another. Mary worship is asserted from the spiritual authority of Rome. Rome’s authority is associated with its particular doctrines and practices. The pope is a priest, just like every other Catholic priest, and he just sits at the top of pyramid, while the local priest is pretty much at the bottom.
You would insist with the Catholic that you must take the whole system, or reject the whole system, and a Catholic that holds to 7 of 10 principle doctrines of Catholicism is just as wrong as a 10 pointer.
But when you come to Calvinism, this identification with error coming from John Calvin apparently makes no impression on Calvinists. I rarely find hard liner Calvinists (5 pointers), and the vast majority of Calvinists hold to something less than the full 5 points of Calvinism.
So you know where I am coming from, I denounce all 5 points and a lot more in Calvinism. Calvinism uses a bate and switch method, proclaiming one thing, and then redefining that to suit them, and if anybody attacks one of the 5 points of the Tulip (like Total Depravity), all of a sudden we drop total inability, and we are back to talking about no merit in the individual. This is a very sutle deceptive trick of Calvinists, and if you examine what they actually teach on each of the 5 points, a true biblical Christian CANNOT ACCEPT ANY OF THE FIVE FUNDAMENTAL DOCTRINES OF CALVINISM.
What really has surprised me over the years is to look into the ministries and lives of preachers and pastors who are Calvinists. I really think some of them are truly saved (not the die-hard ones though), and they know in their heart and the Holy Spirit working in their conscience what they should be doing (what is God’s will), but they wrestle with their Calvinism and the logical conclusions of that thought processes (where the strong current of calvinistic thought drags them to) and what the Bible truly teaches.
What this produces in them is a kind of schizophrenia where logically their Calvinist teachings and foundations would lead them to give up any kind of effort towards true evangelism, true prayer, true exhortation, or true biblical missions. They know what the Bible teaches and they just cannot go (in their heart) where Calvinism is leading them because their soul begs the truth upon them. They pray, they witness, and they preach, but they don’t know what is the foundation of truth, or what they are any more, and they fight within themselves over where is the Bible’s true line. This is manifested by endless debates between Calvinists over these topics, but in the end, it is simply a confrontation process of truth against the Calvinist error.
The entire Calvinist system drags people away from the truth of Scripture, and even though we can debate all this and never get to any definitive conclusion, I would appeal to Christ and the apostles. Christ witnessed to many a person, presenting himself as the key to eternal life, and ALWAYS the issue is pressed by Christ upon the human sinner, repent (change), and believe in the Messiah. Somehow today in modern Calvinism, that is a great heresy. How? Being like Christ is wrong? This shows you the truth of God against the black heresy of Calvinism. Calvinism drags people into a form of life, conduct, and doctrine that is not Christ-like.
All the Marks of a Cult and Heresy
One of the strong marks of a cult is the way in which they handle Scripture, the way in which they think, and the kind of reasoning that they use. Calvinism is very adapt at twisting, turning, and redefining concepts and biblical words to suit their teaching and doctrines. When the Jehovah’s Witness twists and turns the word “God” in John 1 to make it mean anything but the true and singular real God of heaven, we all attack them for twisting the obvious and most common sense of Scripture to mean something that obviously it doesn’t mean. They (the Jehovah’s Witnesses) themselves denounce a plurality of gods as unbiblical, and yet they propose that God the Father (Jehovah) is somehow different in essence that Jesus, which they denominate “the son of God” as being inferior to Jehovah. This kind of twisting and turning we reject with the cults. So why is it now acceptable when the Calvinist does it?
I have read arguments on why the word “all” doesn’t mean all when it refers to Christ dying for all the world. Salvation for the Calvinist is not for everybody, it is only for the elect.
In the studies below, I will slowly go through as many of these problem areas of Calvinism as time and my energy permit.
Studies on Refuting Calvinism
- What is your Gospel?
- Verses that refute Limited Atonement
- Verses against Calvinism
- Total Depravity: 7. What does the Bible really present?
- Total Depravity: 6. Can a person please God?
- Total Depravity: 5. Righteous men delivering their own souls
- Total Depravity: 4. Counter Example of Daniel
- Total Depravity: 3. Counter Example of Jobs Piety
- Total Depravity: 2. Counter Examples of Noah and Abraham
- The Problems of Calvinism Part 2
I will gradually add more pages to these as I deal with different aspects of Calvinism.
Both Calvinism and Armenianism have a one sided view of the doctrine of election which all their teachings are based on. We should teach election to believers not enquirers and always preach Christ. The statements above however does not give a proper refutation of Calvinism. (It looks like it addresses HyperCalvinism). There is no counter argument to the so called 5 points.
The problem is that Calvinism redefines and changes Scripture’s teaching. I refute the 5 points of Calvinism in other articles, and this one did not have that purpose. I would like for you to comment and defend your statement, about Hypercalvinism. Tell me where is the line between Hypercalvinism and calvinism. I cannot see any difference. I deal with Roman Catholics and Jehovah’s Witnesses all the time, and when a Roman Catholic tells me that they don’t believe the pope is the victor of Christ, or that they don’t worship images, but they still go to the Catholic church, I don’t create a hyperCatholic and a Catholic, and say they are just Catholics, not HyperCatholics. When they go to Mass every Sunday, they are Catholics. It does not matter if they personally refute one or two of the basic Catholic beliefs or practices. Most Catholics have something in their religion that they don’t like and don’t follow. They are still Catholics.
So if you are going to tell me that you can be a Calvinist (good in your sight) and not go to the extremes of hypercalvinism (which is a concept Calvinists dreamt up to hook some that still have problems with obvious Calvinist pillars of doctrine) then I cannot see where you are in any good position. The bottom line is that Calvinism is a false religion. What is your view on election? That it decides whether we are saved or not? This is a false concept according to the Bible. The Bible ALWAYS presents the key to being saved or not is YOUR faith in Jesus Christ as your Savior, and it doesn’t present that what decides if we are saved or not is election. God offers salvation to us on the basis of his plan. Election is a term that refers to the saved, and it means just as much that we are special, as how we were saved. The point is that nowhere in the Bible is our salvation decided without our participation. God chose for purposes and uses, and this is always true of election (or choosing), but this purposes and uses are not always talking about our eternal destiny, but how we fit into the plan of God here on earth.
The bottom line is if it smells like a fish, and looks like a fish, and tastes like a fish, it is a fish. That is a good guide in life. People who see the saved as getting that way only because God had a divine lottery, and their ticket won, these people are Calvinist. My Bible says that whosoever believes will be saved. The promise of God has no reference to election or this divine lottery, so it is a heresy invented by Calvinists to discourage Christians from witnessing, winning the lost, and praying, and to discourage the unsaved that they have no possibility of being saved. These are lies from hell, and they are given life here in people through Calvinism.
Classic 5 point Calvinism” states the following doctrinal beliefs, and uses the helpful acrostic (T-U-L-I-P) to remember them: T=Total Depravity of man; U=Unconditional election; L=Limited Atonement; I=Irresistible grace; P=Perseverance of the Saints. In this case, if classic Calvinism is correct, then the ‘I’ in particular leads to the inexorable conclusion that God creates most to send them to hell. If an individual cannot resist God’s grace (the ‘I’), and God elects only a few to salvation (Matt. 7:13-14), then clearly he elects most to damnation without their ever having a chance to make a genuine choice. This is tight logic with no room for equivocation and the non-contradictory Calvinist is forced to admit this. In addition, the ‘L’ (limited atonement, meaning that Jesus only died for those who are actually saved, and not for all people of all times) is shown to be false by many scripture, not the least of which are John 3:16, or 1 John 2:2.
Due to the fact that the classic 5 point Calvinist position leads to the conclusion that God purposely creates people knowing they will have no choice in avoiding hell (only give/direct His ‘irresistible grace’ to very few), I reject this position since the teachings in the scripture regarding His mercy would contradict this conclusion (Deut. 4:31; Jer. 3:12). It is true that all who pass the age of accountability deserve to go to hell, for all are born in sin and all freely choose to sin and thereby ratify their position as Adam’s rebellious descendants. However, if those who pass the age of accountability are not given the ability to respond to God’s mercy in order to be saved, then the unavoidable conclusion is that God continues to create the vast majority of people knowing they will have no choice but to be condemned to hell, since He will not direct His “irresistible grace” on them (a concept not taught in scripture). This conclusion leads to impugning the three most important characteristics (from man’s perspective at least) of God’s character – His love, mercy and forgiveness. In addition, scripture contradicts this position (2 Pet. 3:9; 1 Tim. 2:3-4). The Calvinistic notion that Adam’s sin is to blame for our inability to be able to respond to God’s mercy is inconsistent with scripture (Ezekiel 18 et al). Adam’s sin affects all who are born after him and gives them a predisposition of pride and unbelief which deserves God’s just condemnation, but God’s abundant compassion makes a Way for all who will choose to respond to it.
No one can come to Me unless the Father calls him.
God does not send anyone to hell. Mankind stands condemned before a holy Judge. Man sends himself to hell. I get so tired of the way my beliefs in an all powerful God get smeared by lies and half-truths on these angry sites. God chooses whom ever He will have mercy on. That is His right as Creator. Who are you to stand in judgment of God? Like Job, you do not have a high enough view of God. Yes He is loving and merciful but His wrath is stored up for millions who have rejected Him through the centuries. You would be right next to them if God had not opened your eyes and given you a new heart. You were born again and then you believed. God’s character – merciful – and God’s will – to be worshipped – are in total harmony. You worship out of gratitude. We witness out of gratitude and obedience because we don’t know who God will save. But it is always God who saves. Then we believe. It’s that simple.
I am a missionary in Mexico. I know of Calvinist Reformed Baptist missionaries. There is a great breach between going to the mission field to give the gospel, and to promote Calvinism. One of these guys wanted fellowship with us, and to meet our people. Our members who were rich or gifted speakers, they tried to bribe them to change over to their church, because only Calvinists preach the true gospel. That was no stumbling block for them to come and spy us out. Although there are outliers among the Calvinists, the majority are very “light” on evangelism. They see “evangelism” (to them) as converting already saved Christians to Calvinism. Indeed, which is most important for you when you meet a new person in a waiting room or something, get the gospel to them or convert them to Calvinism? Can you say all of your Calvinist friends would first and foremost want to discuss the Gospel or Calvinism?
I deal with a lot of different people in different religious groups. The JWs want to stress the end of the world and studying with them will save you from those threats. Jesus never used that approach on any unsaved. The Catholics stress a focus on the Virgin Mary and following the Pope. The Mormons Joseph Smith. But what truly reveals a saved Christian is his/her desire to see the other person saved. Calvinism puts the damper on things, “if they are elected”. Are you elect? How do you know you are elect? Show me one very where Jesus taught unsaved people to seek their election so they can go to heaven. You won’t find any. The point is, you just present the gospel, and the election doctrine is for saved folk. God has been guiding them all along. They were never saved by accident. But where the NT evangelists gave a presentation to unsaved people, they never mention the doctrine of election. It is a doctrine for after you are saved. They always present the gospel. If people believe the gospel as given, they will be saved. That is “in the field” all their doing. But in reality, God is working greatly behind the scenes doing all. Keep the doctrine of election out of your gospel presentation. Although it is mentioned in the Bible, it is not the focus. Faith in Jesus as Savior is the focus. Where is the doctrine of election in that?
Now I would like you to do me a favor. Study the cults. The Disciples of Christ, the Mormons, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, etc. They all are believers in a Reformist theory. The NT disciples had the truth, and the church of Jesus Christ lost it. Then hundreds of years later, they and they alone picked it up, and they are the only true representatives of God on earth. Only they give the truth. Their world view and their perspective is the true NT doctrine.
This is exactly the Calvinist position. They are the revivers, the Reformists, that have finally returned people to NT Christianity. But although the mention of election is in the Bible, it is a minor doctrine and is not persuasive in the entire Bible, coming up constantly over and over again as against the doctrine of the gospel is. SO tell me this, why or how does John Calvin know and teach and emphasize more election than Jesus did? Why is that? Should me where Jesus or any of the NT writers presented a nice five pillars of Calvinism in a single place or emphasizing them over and over in their sermons? I don’t see it. Show me.
Moreover, Calvinism uses the typical cultist bait and switch. Man is sinful. Yes. Definitely. But then you twist that into meaning man is unable to please God in any way, in anything he does in his life or the whole of his life. So I see one thing is how you get into heaven (by believing in Jesus’ work on the cross and resurrection), and a totally different thing how we live our lives. Noah was “chosen” because he lived a godly life. Enoch was taken because his life pleased God. David was special to God because of his overall commitment to God, even though he did sin. Peter, I believed pleased God even though he had his problems. So the doctrine of total depravity is alien to what I understand of the Bible. You can please God with your life. In fact, every Calvinist pastor has to have a good testimony that pleases God or he should be removed. Do you let Calvinist pastors enter your church to take over that are abusers of children, visit harlots, drunks, or otherwise filthy spiritually speaking? Why are there requirements for pastors in your churches? Because you understand that there is a way, though very hard and difficult, to please God with your life. So don’t force total depravity down my throat. Why would I accept it when I understand that you are going off on an extreme that is not biblical. Nobody can do merit and exchange that for salvation. That is different, totally different than total depravity.
My experience with Calvinists is that they are extremely proud that they are the elect. God chose them out of the mass of depravity out there. Great. But then having concluded that they turn around and don’t live for Christ. Their entrance in heaven is a given for them, so any sins that they do are under the blood, and really repentance and turning away from sin is only an option if you want to do it. Some don’t and remain good Calvinists. I am not Methodist or anything like them. But they do have a tendency to denounce strongly sin, and also to seek holiness. Why didn’t the Calvinists form and are the leaders in being holy? Why don’t they put a lot of energy and effort into exhorting people to be holy instead of teaching them the doctrines of the TULIP? The perseverance of the believer is not Baptist. Eternal security is Baptist. I am a Baptist. Calvinists have twisted (bait and switch again) perseverance from eternal security to “I can sin all I want to and God cannot unelect me”. That is the feeling I get when I hear Calvinists. Every pastor has problems with sin as does every Baptist and Methodist pastor and every Christian. But it seems to me to be a lot more valuable to focus on the hot topic of “be holy for God, your Savior” that cold position you stated, “chosen and frozen.” You know this is what typifies Calvinists.
Thank you for writing and exchanging thoughts. I have read a lot of Calvinist works, and I have sat under a lot of Calvinist sermons, Calvinist Pastors, and Calvinist seminary professors. I weigh things, and I find Calvinism is wanting. I am not Arminian nor Calvinist. I think that this is a work of Satan to present only two positions which both are extreme and wrong. I hit on the Holiness and Pentecostal problems just as hard as I do on Calvinism.