SOME QUOTATIONS FROM THE BOOK
Most of those today, including evangelical leaders, who hold Calvin in great esteem, are not aware that they have been captivated by the writings of a devout Roman Catholic newly converted to Luthers Protestantism only two years previously (in the early part of 1533). Oddly, in spite of its paramount importance and his voluminous writings, we have no clear testimony in Calvins own words concerning his salvation. He refers only to a sudden conversion which subdued his over-much hardened heart, but gives no description of how or what happened.
By any standard, this young man, though unusually bright, was far from mature in the Christian faith.
Unquestionably, his Institutes could not possibly have come from a deep and fully developed evangelical understanding of Scripture. Instead, they came from the energetic enthusiasm of a recent law graduate and fervent student of philosophy and religion, a young genius devoted to Augustine and a newly adopted cause.
At the time of writing his Institutes Calvin, far from being an apostle like Paul, was a brand-new convert to the faith who had scarcely begun to walk with the Lord. Therefore, it could not have been spiritual maturity under the guidance of the Holy Spirit that brought forth the Institutes, but the power of Calvins brilliant legal mind. (pp. 38, 39, 40)
Calvins almost complete agreement with Augustine is nothing short of astounding. Calvin called himself an Augustinian theologian. Of Augustine he said, whom we quote frequently, as being the best and most faithful witness of all antiquity. It is Calvinists themselves who insist upon the connection between Calvin and Augustine. McGrath writes, Above all, Calvin regarded his thought as a faithful exposition of the leading ideas of Augustine of Hippo.
How could one of the principal leaders of the Reformation embrace so fully the doctrines of one who has been called the first real Roman Catholic and the principal theological creator of the Latin-Catholic system as distinct from
? (p. 51)
Calvinism offers a special definition of human depravity: that depravity equals inability -- and this special definition necessitates both Unconditional Election and Irresistible Grace.
There is not a verse in the Bible, however, which presents Calvinisms radical idea that the sinner is incapable of believing the very gospel which offers him forgiveness and salvation and yet he is condemned by God for failing to believe.
To say that God commands men to do what they cannot do without His grace, then withholds the grace they need and punishes them eternally for failing to obey, is to make a mockery of Gods Word, of His mercy and love, and is to libel His character. (pp. 93, 94, 96)
Why does God waste His time and effort and the time and effort of His many prophets pleading with those who, allegedly, cannot hear Him and who, even if they could, being totally depraved, would never respond to His appeal by believing and obeying Him? Why create this elaborate fiction of mourning and weeping over multitudes who God knows will not only refuse to repent but who, unless He regenerates them, cannot repent because of their total inability to do so? (p. 107)
Take a human understanding of dead, mix it together with the young John Calvins immature understanding of Gods Word, tainted by Augustinian philosophy, stir it up and out comes the theory of Total Depravity. (p. 119)
Yes, man is totally unable to contribute one iota to his salvation. It does not then follow, however, that he therefore cannot receive the salvation freely offered in Christ. (p. 121)
It is clear that Calvinism rests upon a mistaken view of what it means for God to be sovereign.
The basic problem for the Calvinist is a failure to see that God could sovereignly give to man the power of genuine choice.
Giving man the power to make a genuine, independent choice need not diminish Gods control over His universe. Being omnipotent and omniscient, God can so arrange circumstances as to keep mans rebellion from frustrating His purposes. In fact, God can and even does use mans free will to help fulfill His own plans and thus be even more glorified. (pp. 128, 129)
Suggesting that God would be lacking in power (and thus His sovereignty would be denied) if He made a genuine offer of salvation, and some rejected it, is to frame the proposition wrongly. Power has no relationship to grace and love, which provide salvation. In fact, as we shall see, there are many things which God cannot do, and a lack of power is not the reason for any of them, nor is His sovereignty mitigated in the least. (p. 136)
There is no escaping the fact that in Calvins entire Institutes of the Christian Religion there is not one mention of Gods love for the lost! (p. 151)
So once again, rather than looking to men, no matter how great their reputations, we are driven to come to our own conclusions on the basis of Scripture alone. (p. 162)
Of course salvation is not our doing; but that we cannot earn salvation does not prove that we cannot freely choose to receive salvation as a gift of Gods love. (p. 182)
The Calvinist insists, however, that salvation cannot be conditioned upon any act or belief on mans part
This declaration is made repeatedly: To reject [Calvinistic] election is to reject salvation by grace and promote salvation by works. Yet if anything is clear in Scripture it is the undisputable fact that faith is not work but its very antithesis. By grace are ye saved, through faith
not of works (Ephesians 2:8-9). Nothing could be clearer than the fact that, by believing, one is doing no work. In fact, faith and work are contrasted. (pp. 190, 191)
in contrast to the literally hundreds of places where Gods love is clearly expressed for all of Israel (most of whom rejected Him) and for the whole world (most of whom also reject Him), nowhere does the Bible declare that God doesnt love and desire the salvation of all. (p. 206)
Gods sovereignty would no more be undermined if some accepted the offer of salvation and others rejected it than for billions of humans continually to disobey the Ten Commandments. (p. 206)
Furthermore, would it not be a misrepresentation of the worst sort to offer salvation to whosoever will, when in fact it was only intended for a select few?
to claim that all means only a select group called the elect does violence to the plain meaning of language and impugns the character of God; and it does this in order to force upon the Word of God a system of religion which cannot be derived from it. (p. 208)
One of the sad features of Calvins Institutes is the demeaning language he continually employs (much like Luther) to vilify all who disagree with him. (p. 233)
There is no way that Christs death could be limited to paying only for the elects sins. To deliver even one person from eternal punishment, no matter how few or many the sins he may have committed, Christ had to pay the penalty demanded by His infinite justice for sin. By very definition, then, the death of Christ on the cross paid the penalty for sin itself which hangs over the heads of the entire human race. (p. 251)
At times, Calvin himself seemed to be ambivalent on this subject. He made statements both supporting unlimited atonement and at other times in favor of limited atonement. Referring to Isaiah 53:12 he said, on Him was laid the guilt of the whole world. Concerning Mark 14:24, This is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many, Calvin said, The word many does not mean a part of the world, but the whole human race. On 1 John 2:2, Calvin declared, Christ suffered for the sins of the whole world, and in the goodness of God is offered unto all men without distinction, his blood being shed
for the whole human race.
Calvin is quoted as the authority when it suits todays Calvinists, and at other times he is ignored. Yet this confusing doctrine [limited atonement] upon which its adherents do not agree among themselves or even with Calvin is still called Calvinism by everyone. (p. 262, 263)
As we shall see when we come to Perseverance of the Saints, a major problem for Calvinists is how to be certain that one is among that select group for whom alone Christ allegedly died. We see this uncertainty in Calvin himself. In his will, drawn up shortly before his death. Calvin wrote, I humbly seek from God
to be washed and purified by the great Redeemers blood, shed for the sins of the human race
How is it that this greatest of exegetes seemed uncertain in spite of Scriptures promise of absolute assurance: these things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life
(1 John 5:13)? Such assurance comes not by a special revelation that one is among the elect, but by simple faith in Christ. (p. 253)
Tragically, Calvinisms misrepresentation of God has caused many to turn away from the God of the Bible as from a monster. (p. 287)
Indeed, just as God himself cannot force anyone to love Him (a coerced response is the opposite of love), so it would be the very opposite of grace to force any gift or benefit of grace upon anyone who did not want to receive it. (p. 291)
God truly and powerfully works within the believer and we can do nothing but by the leading and empowering of the Holy Spirit. At the same time, however, we must give ourselves willingly to the work of God through us. Most Calvinists admit this cooperative effort when it comes to living the Christian life, but insist that there can be no such willingness in believing the gospel and accepting Christ. (p. 298)
Surely the continual disobedience both of unbelievers and believers proves that Gods grace is not irresistible. Nor does mans disobedience diminish Gods sovereignty in the least. Obviously, freedom of choice itself is part of Gods plan! (p. 299)
If Paul did not want a single Jew to go to hell and was in continual agony of soul for their salvation, willing even to be accursed of God if that would save his kinsmen according to the flesh (Romans 9:1-3), would God, who surely put this selfless love in Pauls heart, be any less loving and concerned for lost humanity on its way to hell? Surely not the God of the Bible!
Could Paul have been wrong in his continual agony over the lost sheep of the house of Israel (and indeed all men), and Calvin right in his lack of concern for the lost? (pp. 301, 302)
my firm disagreement with Calvinism is not over Gods sovereignty, which I fully embrace and to which I submit. The issue is whether God loves all without partiality and desires all to be saved. Unquestionably, Calvinism denies such love; but the Bible, in the clearest language repeatedly declares Gods love to all and His desire that all should be saved and none should be lost. (pp. 301, 302)
We consider TULIP to be a libel against our loving and merciful God as He reveals himself both in His Word and in human conscience. (p. 304)
The very fact that Paul, Apollos and the other early evangelists expended so much time and energy in persuading men to believe the gospel is completely contrary to the concept of both Total Depravity and Irresistible Grace. (p. 324)
the Calvinist has boldly changed world to mean elect in no fewer than twenty scriptures. He has changed whosoever and all into elect at least sixteen times each. In addition, the phrase every man has been turned into elect six times and everyone into elect three times. In every instance where these changes have been made there is nothing in the text to justify elect as the meaning of the word for which it must be substituted. The change has been made for one reason only: to accommodate Calvinism! (p. 332)
No one naturally seeks the Lord; we all seek our own selfish desires, and no one can come to Christ except the Father draw him. But the Holy Spirit is in the world to convict all of their sin and need (John 16:8-11), the gospel is being preached, the Father is drawing everyone (even through the witness of creation and conscience). (p. 339)
Rather than any natural brilliance, Calvins arguments reflect a bias toward the sacramentalism he learned as a Roman Catholic from Augustine, which he elaborated upon and thereafter was compelled to defend. His logic often betrays a spiritual immaturity. Incredibly, Calvin argued:
But if baptism was of God [referring to the Catholic infant baptism he received as a child], it certainly included in it the promise of forgiveness of sin, mortification of the flesh, quickening of the Spirit, and communion with Christ. These astonishing statements reflect a sacramentalism which maintains that the physical act of baptism has spiritual power and imparts regeneration. To be baptized by Roman Catholic priests who were not even Christians but held to and promoted a false gospel, was perfectly acceptable to Calvin because they used the name of God when they administered it! (p. 341)
Why doesnt Gods irresistible grace that is so powerful toward sinners create perfectly obedient lives after sinners are saved? (p. 354)
Who would say that man can come to God unassisted by the Holy Spirit? Not even the rankest Arminian! But Calvinism makes that false charge against those who disagree with its extremism. (p. 369)
Moreover, it is foolish to suggest that receiving a gift means we deserve it.
A drowning man who yields himself into the hands of his rescuer has nothing to boast about, nor has he done any work to assist in his rescue. So it is with the lost sinner. (p. 370)
Before beginning what turned into an urgent and in-depth study of Calvinism, I had thought that I was at least a one-point Calvinist. Surely my belief in eternal security, the assurance of salvation eternally in Gods presence, must be the same as Calvinisms Perseverance of the Saints. That turned out, however, not to be the case. Why? Biblical assurance of salvation does not depend upon ones performance but upon the gospels declaration that Christ died for the sins of the world and upon His promise that whosoever believes in Him receives the gift of eternal life. In contrast, the Calvinists assurance is in God having predestined him to eternal life as one of the elect -- and his performance plays a large part in helping him to know whether or not he is among that select group. (p. 377)
Doubts even assail leading Calvinists. Zane C. Hodges points out that the result of this theology is disastrous. Since, according to Puritan belief, the genuineness of a mans faith can only be determined by the life that follows it, assurance of salvation becomes impossible at the moment of conversion. And, one might add, at any time thereafter as well, for reasons we will show.
No wonder, then, as R.T. Kendall has commented, that nearly all of the Puritan divines went through great doubt and despair on their deathbeds as they realized their lives did not give perfect evidence that they were elect. Arminius, on the other hand, contrary to the false label attached to him by his enemies, had perfect assurance and said that the believer can depart out of this life
to appear before the throne of grace, without any anxious fear
Congdon writes, Absolute assurance of salvation is impossible in Classical Calvinism.
Since works are an inevitable outcome of true salvation, one can only know he or she is saved by the presence of good works. But since no one is perfect
any assurance is at best imperfect as well. Therefore, you may think you believed in Jesus Christ, may think you had saving faith, but be sadly mistaken
and because unsaved, be totally blind to the fact you are unsaved
SI Moderator - Greg Gordon