Calvinism and Its Problems

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Calvinism and Its Problems

 The easiest way to understand the system of doctrine known as Calvinism is by the acronym, "TULIP." Each letter stands for one of the 5 major points of Calvinism, and spells the word Tulip:

 

1. "T" stands for Total Depravity, which says that man is totally depraved, and unable to respond to God, unless the Lord Himself acts to save someone. While it is certainly true that man is a sinner, and completely unable to save himself, Calvinism goes farther than that. It says that God has decreed and decided (from eternity past), who He is going to save, and who He is going to send to hell. Because of man's total depravity, God alone can truly act in salvation and decides who He is going to save, and who He is going to send to hell. This He has decreed from eternity past, according to the Calvinists.

However, Paul, when speaking to the people of Athens, said this in God's Word:

 

"The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead." Acts 17:30-31 (ESV)

 

God "commands all people everywhere to repent." God would not mock His creation, by commanding people to do something they are unable to do. If they are not of the elect, then they are unable to repent, according to Calvinism. The truth is that God desires all people to be saved (1 Tim. 2:4), and He commands all people everywhere to repent. Yes, God must help people to repent, by His grace. But the command goes out to "ALL PEOPLE." God would have to be untruthful, a liar, to command all people everywhere to repent, if they were in fact unable to do so and if God had already decreed who was going to heaven and who was going to hell, from eternity past.

 

2. "U" stands for Unconditional Election. Unconditional Election says that God has "Elected" who He is going to save and who He is going to send to Hell, according to His unchangeable Decrees, from eternity past. It is God's decision, God's Decree, as far as who gets saved and who gets sent to hell. This presents a completely unscriptural view of God, which contradicts the plain Word of God. God in fact desires ALL PEOPLE to be saved. Paul wrote to Timothy to encourage (among other things) that we PRAY for ALL PEOPLE. Then he clearly states: "This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior,  who desires all people to saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,  who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time."1 Tim 2:3-6 (ESV)

God's love reaches out to all, and His Word says, "Say to them, ‘As I live!', declares the Lord GOD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways! Why then will you die, O house of Israel?" Ezekiel 33:11 (NASB).

This is confirmed also in 2 Peter 3:9, "The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance." (NIV).

The love of God thunders forth with incredible power, to all people everywhere, "Turn from your sins and live! Turn from your sins, turn to Christ, and be forgiven!" His command of love goes forth to all people everywhere (Acts 17:30).

 

3. "L" stands for Limited Atonement. Limited Atonement says that Christ did not in fact die for all, He only died for the ELECT. While it is true that in eternity only the saved will truly benefit from Christ's death on the cross, the clear and undeniable teaching of the Word of God is that Christ died for ALL: " My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 2 And He Himself is the propitiation (payment) for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world. 1 John 2:1-2 (NKJV).

God's love is so wonderful, so awesome, that He expressed His love for ALL MANKIND by sending His SON to die for all: " For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16). This love of God is not limited to "the elect." When God loves, He loves a world - He loves the entire world of sinners, and desires their salvation. He gave His Son for ALL. Anything less is an attack upon the love of God. The character of God is distorted by saying that Christ only died for the elect. 

 

4. "I" stands for "Irresistible Grace" This says that God, when He decrees that He is going to save someone, will certainly do so, and His grace is "irresistible." In other words, the person who God has decreed to save, is going to be saved, and will not be able to resist the grace of God. This idea is also false, because God in fact desires all to be saved (1 Tim.2:4, 2 Peter 3:9). If He desires all people to be saved, and if He could save them by His irresistible grace, then in fact all people would be saved. The Bible, of course, is clear that there will be many people who will not be saved. The clear truth is that GOD's grace is resistible, and many people do in fact resist His grace. The Word says:

"For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people.." Titus 2:11 (ESV).

The grace of God offers salvation to ALL PEOPLE through the gospel, not just some; since all are not saved, it is obvious that people can resist God's grace. The Gospel by it's nature is an offer of salvation for all people everywhere; Christ died for all. But God's grace can be resisted, as is evidenced by those who refuse to accept Christ.

 

 

5. "P" stands for "Perseverance of the Saints." This idea says that if you are saved, you will certainly persevere to the end; no one can ever "lose" their salvation. If God has decreed from eternity past that you are one of the Elect, then you will be saved; no one who is saved could ever lose their salvation. However, the Word of God teaches that it is possible for people to believe for awhile, but in time of temptation fall away. In the Parable of the Sower, Jesus explained: “Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. Those by the wayside are the ones who hear; then the devil comes and takes away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved. But the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, who believe for a while and in time of temptation fall away" (Luke 8:11-13 NKJV). The idea of "once saved, always saved" comes from Calvinism, but there are clear warnings in the Word of God, not to presume upon God's grace and continue in sin. 

To illustrate this further: Jesus sat down on the mountain, and "His disciples came to Him" (Matt.5:1). And in the message that followed He taught the crowd which included the disciples, and gave them this warning: "You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.'  But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell.

And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell." Matt.5:27-30 (ESV). 

Jesus was the truth incarnate, and He spoke a warning of sober truth. If it wasn't possible for anyone to lose their salvation, why did Jesus give his disciples this warning? Sin, if it is persisted in over time, without repentance, darkens the human heart to where it can actually reach the point that it no longer truly believes in Jesus Christ as Lord & Savior! Head knowledge alone won't save. We believe with the heart (Rom. 10:10). The warning of Hebrews 3:10 is clear "Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God." God wouldn't warn His people, about something that could never happen.  

Yes, there is a place of security for the child of God. We can be assured of God's love, walking in a deep peace and security, trusting in the loving sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Trusting what Christ has done for us brings assurance. We can experience the peace of God, that surpasses all understanding (Phil.4:7), and the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge (Eph.3:19). But we must never "change the grace of our God into a license for immorality, and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord." (Jude 1:4). 

 

The word "predestined," as it is used in the Word of God, does not mean that God Decreed from eternity past who would be saved and who would be damned, as the Calvinists claim. The meaning of the word "predestined" is clearly brought out in Romans 8:29: "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 among many brothers."(ESV). God predestined those He "foreknew" would believe in Christ for salvation. God, who knows all things past, present, and future, knows ahead of time who will believe. He doesn't force it to happen, He just knows it ahead of time. And so God, in His wisdom, instituted the plan that whoever believed in Christ would become changed by the power of the Holy Spirit through the new birth, and become conformed to the image of His Son. Yet, because He is a God of genuine love, He offers this salvation to all people. In fact He commands all people everywhere to repent (Acts 17:30) and believe in His Son.

 

Calvinism, as a system of doctrine invented by man's reason, goes beyond what the written Word of God says, and so it is in error in each of it's five main points. Calvinism also distorts the character of God: by saying that Christ only died for the "Elect," they limit the love of God and limit the death of Christ. When Jesus died, He died for the whole world; His arms were outstretched to the whole world, and His sacrifice is available to ALL. He TRULY died for the whole world.

 

One question remains: Dear reader, have you surrendered to Christ? His arms of love are stretched out towards you, to forgive your sins and receive you as His child. Will you wholeheartedly turn from your sins, and turn to Christ? No matter what your past may have been like, He is willing to receive you, cleanse you, and make you a new person. Turn from your sins, and receive Christ today!

 

 

by Mark A. Erickson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Three Crosses, by Rembrandt