Object Lesson in Why Some Hate Calvinism, part I
Mike of the Finding Bliss blog demonstrates why some people hate Calvinism. They hate a strawman caricature of it, and they don’t understand what the five points really teach. This is why I plan to make my musings on the topics of the five points of Calvinism available as an e-book.
Let’s look at what Mike got right, and what he got wrong. Mike writes, “I’ve attempted to present the 5 points as a Calvinist might present them which is not easy to do, I don’t agree with it and what’s worse I find it spiritually abusive.” It’s important to note that Mike is attempting to present these points accurately. He failed in a few places.
The first point of Calvinism is total depravity, the complete bondage of the will to sin. Of this, Mike says:
[Total depravity] means that each and everyone of us are hopeless sinners who have no chance of redemption at all from our own actions. We choose hell we choose death by choosing to sin daily. There is not a good thing in any of us for we have all turned away from God through our sin
This is a pretty good understanding of total depravity, but it is better understood as a radical corruption of our true and good natures. Our own actions amount to relativistic good, which means that it is good in comparison with worse sinners, but the heavenly standard is perfection. God is perfectly good, which is the standard he will judge everyone by, and only by being perfectly good can a person “earn” heaven.
We have now established that the perfection required by God is definitionally impossible. Which means that the next point of Calvinism follows naturally from total depravity: unconditional election, which Mike defines thusly:
This means that those that are saved are saved because of God’s sovereignty alone. There is nothing that we humans could have done and thus there is nothing that we have done in order to earn our salvation
Well, sort of. Election from eternity past is a biblical doctrine, but is traditionally understood in very different ways by Calvinists and Arminians. Arminians understand either a corporate election or a conditional election, which means either the Christian church itself is elect without respect to individual members, or else individuals are elected based on God’s foresight that they will come to him.
Calvinists understand an unconditional election, which recognizes God’s sovereignty in election and posits no understanding as to how the elect are selected–just a simple note that they are not selected based on anything in the creature itself.
The third point is limited atonement. Of this point, Mike says:
This means that the work that Jesus did on the cross was not done for the world entire but for the Elect. Those which God has chosen to save thus it was a direct atonement. Calvinists believe that the work of the cross COULD be enough to save the world but God has chosen in his sovereignty to only save the few
I fail to see how the Calvinist or Arminian points of view are very different here. For either school of thought, Christ’s work on the Cross will be limited to the Christian church, i.e. the elect. The only question is whether God limited the scope of the Atonement by his sovereignty, or if mankind limits the scope by his free will ability to choose God. In either sense, the Atonement is limited to the elect alone.
Since the Mosaic sacrificial system prefigures Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross, it only makes sense that the Atonement wasn’t a general atonement for the entire world, since the offering made on Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement, Lev 16) was only for the nation of Israel. The idea of particular redemption is logically sound.
The fourth point is irresistible grace, and Mike completely jumps the shark with his restatement:
Irresistible Grace means that those whom God has elect will indeed be saved in Gods timing and his grace will override their resistance to it. They do not yeild because of their own desire to do so but because Gods will overrides their own
No, no, no, no, no. There is a general call made to all the world, which puts the duty of repentance squarely on the shoulders of everyone in the entire world. But, there is an effectual call that goes out only to the elect, and once the elect receive it, they are regenerated and become a new creation in Christ Jesus. The only valid, free will response to this effectual calling and subsequent regeneration is to turn in repentance to a saving faith in Christ.
The desire to turn to God follows the regeneration, and there is no override of the human will. Stating this tenet of Calvinism in this way creates the picture of a regenerate sinner being dragged kicking and screaming into heaven when he really wants nothing to do with God. Once the call is received, the sinner repents of his own free will.
The fifth point, “Perseverance of the saints. states that those who are elect cannot lose their election. Not from anything they do or anything anyone else does.”
Stated well, and I would like to point out that Calvinism isn’t the only systematic theology that teaches this point. There is some pretty good biblical evidence to support this view.
I noted that there was biblical precedent in total depravity, unconditional election, and perseverance of the saints. Anticipating this, Mike writes, “the Calvinist, as any other belief system would, will use scripture to back up their idea’s” and “I think it has done entirely too much harm for it to ever do any good for anyone.” The problem is that Mike doesn’t build a Scriptural case against Calvinism, nor does he provide any examples of how this theology has done more harm than good. That is a tell for someone who hasn’t tried to understand a point of view, instead parroting what others have said about it.
In the next post, I’ll consider some of the objections that he raises in the latter portion of his post and see why he need not even consider them since he didn’t get the core tenets of Calvinism right.