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Discussion Forum : Articles and Sermons : Calvinism Critiqued - by a Former Calvinist , by Steve Jones

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 Calvinism Critiqued - by a Former Calvinist , by Steve Jones

here are some [b]out takes[/b] from this book if anyone would be intrested of reading the whole thing --->[url=http://www.auburn.edu/~allenkc/openhse/calvinism.html]calvinism Critique[/url]



Introduction

For many years, Calvinism was at the heart of my belief system. It was unquestionable that man could not believe the gospel. He had a latent and inborn aversion to all things spiritual, even the gracious gospel that the common people heard gladly in Jesus' day (Mark 12:37). Man, I held, was totally unable even to cry out for mercy.

The Fall had rendered him incapable of receiving its remedy. Even his best acts were filthy rags, detestable before God. What was needed was a work of Efficacious Grace - a miracle, in fact - that would remove the heart of stone and bestow saving faith.

This I deemed "sound doctrine." I elevated above the rabble of non-Calvinists all writers and theologians who championed it. They were somehow more worthy of respect. They had an inherently greater demand on my attention and belief. Clark Pinnock describes a similar attitude he developed in the course of his faith-journey:

"Certainly most of the authors I was introduced to in those early days as theologically 'sound' were staunchly Calvinistic....Theirs were the books that were sold in the Inter-Varsity bookroom I frequented. They were the ones I was told to listen to; sound theology was what they would teach me." 1

Any Christian who dissented from my soteriology was "an Arminian," regardless of whether that person subscribed to the issues of the Remonstrance (or even heard of them). As with many Calvinists, my spiritual autobiography had two distinct peaks: my conversion to Christ and my subsequent enlightenment into "sovereign grace."

This faith was highly attractive because of the men who had held it over the centuries. My spiritual pedigree contained some of the brightest lights the faith has ever known: Bunyan, Spurgeon, Edwards, Whitefield, Brainerd and the Puritans. I was in good company. Years later, however, I seriously re-examined my beloved "five points."

The main point at which I first questioned Calvinism was the nature of man in his sinful state. To question this point of the system is to question all of it. The last four points of Calvinism rest squarely upon the first, Total Inability. Once that dogma is removed, the entire superstructure crashes under its own weight.

For those unfamiliar with the five points, I will here briefly define them:

I. Total Inability. Man has sunk so far through the Fall that he is no longer capable of believing the gospel. He can no more repent and believe than a dead man can rise up and walk. This is all the result of the sin of Adam, who communicated th is absolute inability, this loss of free will, to all his posterity.

II. Unconditional Election. God has, before the creation of the world, selected a portion of humanity to be saved. This election is irrespective of any foreseen merits or faith. It is only according to the good pleasure of His will.

III. Particular Redemption. Jesus on Calvary bore the full punishment due his elect, ensuring their final salvation. He did not die for the non-elect, who are excluded and hopelessly reprobated.

IV. Efficacious Grace. God moves upon the helpless sinner before he has a single thought of responding to the good news. Grace renews the spiritually dead will, imparts a new nature and infallibly draws the sinner to Christ. Regeneration, or the new birth, occurs before belief in Christ. Faith, in fact, is a gift imparted to the sinner, who is entirely passive in this act.

V. Final Perseverance. Everyone regenerated by God's grace will persevere and be finally saved. No one who truly begins the life of faith will ever fall away and perish.

This, I believe, is an accurate portrayal of the system, free of caricature. Throughout this paper, many quotes from Calvinist authors should bear this out.

Total Inability and the Gospel

The Total Inability passed to us makes it impossible for us to comply with the command to believe in Christ. The most obvious fault with this doctrine is that it makes the gospel an unreasonable demand. How can God, who is perfectly just, "command all men everywhere to repent" (Acts 17:30), knowing the command is impossible to obey?

This is a vexing problem for Calvinists. They will often assert that a command does not necessarily imply the ability to keep it. But the statement is certainly not self-evident. If God gives a command and threatens to punish as responsible agents those who do not comply, it certainly does imply the ability to obey. Orville Dewey writes: "...it would follow that men are commanded, on peril and pain of all future woes, to love a holiness and a moral perfection of God, which they are not merely unable to love, but of which, according to the supposition, they have no conception."9

That puts the Calvinist in a conundrum. Man is so corrupt, he will not and cannot obey even the slightest spiritual command - nor can he appreciate or even understand it. Yet, God orders him to believe; He punishes him for not believing. As Judge of the Universe, he justly condemns the sinner for not doing what he from birth cannot do. This seems to many of us to be at loggerheads with God's revealed character.

The Old Testament demands never seemed to be presented as impossibilities for the hearers. Moses said, "Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach" (Deut. 30:11). What of Total Inability here? Are we to assume that all of the hearers had received the miracle of Efficacious Grace? Moses adds, "See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in his ways and the commands, decrees and laws..." (v.19).

Moses sets life and death before the Israelites for their consideration. There is no intimation there that he was speaking to people utterly incapable of complying with the commands. He presents the prospects of life and death as genuine options for them to ponder.

Joshua urged the Israelites, "choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord" (Josh. 24:15). There is nothing in Joshua's entreaty that suggests the Israelites were all unable to choose the Lord unless they first experienced an inward miracle.

Joshua did say that the people were "not able to serve the Lord" in their present sinful state (v.19). Repentance was in order. They were called upon to make a choice of the heart and turn from their evil ways. Joshua said, "throw away your foreign gods that are among you and yield your hearts to the Lord, the God of Israel" (v.23). Nowhere are we left with the impression that these people were all in a state of Total Inability from birth, innately incapable of yielding as Joshua commanded. Such an idea must be read into the text.

The New Testament uses the same language. On the day of Pentecost, Peter preached before thousands who had gathered in Jerusalem. Luke writes, "With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, 'Save yourselves from this corrupt generation'" (Acts 2:40). Was Peter "pleading" with these people to do something they were impotent to do? He certainly gives no hint of it. Furthermore, Peter's admonition "save yourselves" would probably be viewed as less than orthodox by many Calvinists.

Jesus himself did not seem to have been a believer in Total Inability. We read in Mark 4:11,12 that he spoke in parables as a judgment against the obstinate Jews. The purpose of parables was to keep his message from entering their ears, "otherwise they might turn and be forgiven" (v.12). Had those stiff-necked people been allowed to hear the truth straight out, they might have turned to receive it. But how? Calvinism tells us that no one can turn and receive the forgiveness of sins because of Total Inability passed from Adam. There must first be an inward miracle of the heart, an "effectual call."

Calvinist preachers will sometimes say that they can never persuade natural men of the gospel no matter how openly, clearly and earnestly they may preach it. It is like presenting a sermon to a corpse - there is no response. Jesus, however, felt it necessary to obscure his message in parables to keep certain people from responding to it. Had he preached the truth openly they would have turned and been forgiven. This fact alone is fatal to the Calvinist dogma, for it contradicts the notion that all men have a native inability to believe.

Jesus sometimes "marvelled" at the unbelief of his hearers (Mark 6:6). But if he subscribed to and taught Total Inability, it would have been no marvel at all that men would disbelieve God.


'

The Hardened Heart

Total Inability also seems to oppose the Bible teaching concerning hardness of heart. The Scriptures warn us that those who repeatedly trifle with sin may sear their consciences (1 Tim. 4:2), render themselves "past feeling" (Eph. 4:19) and enter into a hardening of the heart toward God and His truth. This is not a condition of birth, but seems to be a consequence of repeated sin.

Isaiah speaks of this condition: "Why, O Lord, do you make us wander from your ways and harden our hearts so we do not revere you?" (Isa. 63:17) The hardening of the heart which precludes reverence of God is here described as a condition that has come upon these people, probably as a judgment for rebellion. But Calvinists tell us that this condition - an invincible anti-God bent - is the birth-condition of all human beings.

In Romans 1, Paul writes of men who are "without excuse" because of the manifest presence of God in the creation. He says, "For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened" (Rom. 1:21). Here we see men who became futile in their thinking and were given over to a darkened state of the heart. The apostle is not speaking of a condition of birth, but a judgment that came upon them because of willful refusal to acknowledge the Creator.

The Calvinist is hard-pressed to show how this judgment condition of darkness differs from their notions of Total Inability - a state they deem universal. Their doctrine states that everyone is born hardened toward God, unable to believe or take the slightest step toward Him. But if this is true, why do the Scriptures seem to say this only about some people?

Again, Zechariah says of rebellious Zion, "They made their hearts as hard as flint and would not listen to the law or to the words that the Lord Almighty has sent by his Spirit through the earlier prophets" (Zech. 7:12). Here, people made themselves insensible to the truth of God, indicating that they were not in this condition from the womb.

There is no denying that all people are born with sinful tendencies and are apt to go astray. This can be established by Scripture and experience. But it is one thing to say that all men have such tendencies and quite another that they are unable to respond to God. General human sinfulness differs from Total Inability. To prove the first is not necessarily to prove the second.



Alleged Scripture Proofs:

Romans 3:10-12

There are several passages of Scripture Calvinists employ to support Total Inability. One of the prominent proof-texts is Romans 3:10-12: "There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one." The Calvinist's main emphasis is on the fact that "there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God." This is supposed to be speaking of a literal condition in which all human beings are born. They cannot so much as seek God or understand Him.

This poetic "outburst," a quote from the Psalms, has been beaten and shaped on the anvil of theology to give us a notion of Total Inability. But what is the point Paul is here making? Is he erecting the doctrine of human nature and its relation to soteriology? Not at all. His point is clearly set forth in verse 9: Jews and Gentiles alike are "under sin." Sin is not peculiar to lowly Gentiles, but also afflicts the favored Jews. He proves his point by quoting Psalm 14, which at the outset tells the readers it is dealing with "the fool."

As a poet, the Psalmist frequently bursts into hyperbole, especially when hot with righteous indignation. David is teaching the sinfulness of men, but he does so in an extravagant Hebrew idiom to get the point across powerfully. This is a common poetic device. In verse 4, he says evildoers "devour my people as men eat bread." That, of course, is not literal. David is not laying down a metaphysical doctrine that all men enter this world with a propensity for cannibalism.

This is poetic exaggeration, a common figure of speech not to be read with a slavish literalism. Other Scriptures tell us there are righteous men who do good (contrary to a literal reading of Rom. 3:10). Job is a perfect example: "This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil" (Job 1:1). The Bible also tells us of men who sought after God and found Him. In 2 Chronicles 11:16, we read: "Those from every tribe of Israel who set their hearts on seeking the Lord, the God of Israel, followed the Levites to Jerusalem to offer sacrifices to the Lord, the God of their fathers."

This is fulfillment of the oft-stated promise that "the Lord is good to those who hope in him, to the one who seeks him" (Lam. 3:25). The theme runs through the Bible without the disclaimer that such "seeking" is impossible without an inner miracle.



1 Corinthians 2:14

Total Inability is supposed to be taught in 1 Corinthians 2:14: "For the man without the Spirit [or 'natural man'] does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned."

Calvinists will sometimes say, based on this text, that the unregenerate cannot even grasp biblical truths. But is that the idea Paul is articulating? The context does not seem to be dealing with man in his state of birth, but of the various spiritual obstacles Jews and Greeks face. It is particularly those who are "natural men," men who relate to all things outside of a spiritual reference point. The words of 1 Corinthians 2:14 must be understood within the flow of 1:18 through 2:16.

Gentiles esteem the gospel as foolish because of their penchant for philosophical wisdom (1:22). Jews are repelled by the stumbling block of the cross and their need for signs (1:22,23). Both groups generally have problems that render them spiritually obtuse, driving them to the conclusion that the gospel is foolish.

All of these problems, of course, grow out of human sin. No one would deny that. But Paul is not here making a sweeping theological statement about a Total Inability in every human being. He speaking generally of those "perishing" opposers - both Jews and Greeks - of the message. The context would certainly favor this interpretation.

Paul in other places makes general statements that we would never make absolute and theological. For example, he writes to Titus: "Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons" (Titus 1:12). The assessment is a quote from "a prophet of their own," but the apostle concurs in verse 13: "This testimony is true." Is it really the nature of every Cretan who enters the world? Wouldn't all agree that Paul is speaking generally and not absolutely about Cretans?

But what of the mention of the term "natural man" (lit. "soulish man") in 1 Corinthians 2:14? The Calvinist assumes that which remains to be proved. He insists that Paul means man in his natural-born state. The New International Version bolsters this view by paraphrasing "natural man" as "the man without the Spirit." But commentators are not agreed on this. William Barclay, for example, writes:

"So in verse 14 Paul speaks of the man who is psuchikos. He is the man who lives as if there was nothing beyond physical life and there were no needs other than material needs, whose values are all physical and material. A man like that cannot understand spiritual things. A man who thinks that nothing is more important than the satisfaction of the sex urge cannot understand the meaning of chastity; a man who ranks the amassing of material things as the supreme end of life cannot understand generosity; and a man who has never a thought beyond this world cannot understand the things of God. To him they look mere foolishness."10

"Natural man," then, need not mean "man in his native state." The Calvinist here allows his theological presuppositions to drive his exegesis. The term can very easily be understood to mean "that man who relates to life apart from a spiritual paradigm." Nothing in the text demands that this is a description of every person who enters the world.



John 6:44

The words of Jesus in John 6:44 are often appealed to as a proof of Total Inability: "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him." This is supposed to teach that man is in a state of inability, one that only a miracle can overcome. The "drawing" here is assumed, without any exegetical necessity, to be the work of Efficacious Grace renewing the sinner so he can - and ultimately will - believe the gospel.

Just what is the "drawing" of which Christ speaks? Calvinists make much of the Greek word, helkuo, which conveys the idea of "dragging." That seems, however, to run counter to what they often make pains to teach: that the sinner, once renewed, comes willingly.

John 6:44 must be understood in the light of verse 45: "It is written in the Prophets, 'They will all be taught by God.' Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me." Here the sinner comes to Christ by listening to the Father, not by passively experiencing "Efficacious Grace."

Look for a moment at the parallels in these two verses. Verse 44 says that no one can come to Christ unless drawn by the Father. Verse 45 says that all who listen to the Father and learn from Him come to Christ. It would seem clear that the teaching ministry of God through His gospel and word is the means by which men are brought to Jesus. There is nothing in the text that necessitates an "effectual call" on a totally disabled unbeliever. This is confirmed by Peter (1 Pet. 1:23) and James (James 1:18), both of whom declare that the Word of God is an agency of the new birth.



Ephesians 2:1

Another classic proof-text is Ephesians 2:1, where Paul says that we were "dead in transgressions and sins." The reasoning goes like this: Man is born spiritually dead. He, accordingly, cannot receive spiritual truth. Calvinists frequently will refer to man as a "walking spiritual corpse." You can no more get a spiritually dead man to respond to the gospel than you can get a literal corpse to learn Euclidian geometry. One Calvinist author writes about Ephesians 2:1: "Now it will surely be admitted that to be dead, and to be dead in sin, is clear and positive evidence that there is neither aptitude nor power remaining for the performance of any spiritual action."11

But Paul is not necessarily speaking of "spiritual death" in Ephesians 2:1. Edward White makes an excellent observation:

"An almost universal custom has affixed to these expressions what is termed a spiritual sense; namely, that of alienation from God, who is the highest life of the soul, 'the strength of our life, and our portion for ever.' Hence have arisen the phrases, 'spiritual death,' and the 'spiritually dead,' both of them without example in apostolic usage.

"For there seems little doubt that the mode in which the Scripture terms here referred to are handled in the 'apostolic fathers,' more fully represents their real meaning than the modern application. That there is a figure in the Scripture use of the term the dead, cannot be disputed. But the question is: Are we to trace the figure in the tense, or in the radical signification of the terms? We submit that the figure is in the tense. The unregenerate men are described as the dead, and dead in sins, because they are certain to die, because they are under sentence of destruction, as men of mere soul. Thus the figure of prolepsis is employed in Gen. xx. 3: 'God said to Abimelech, Thou art a dead man, for Sarah, Abraham's wife.' 'The Egyptians said, We be all dead men' (Exod. xii. 33). 'All my father's house were dead men before the king' (2 Sam. xix. 28). The figure in each of these instances is that of using the present instead of the future tense. The unregenerate are 'as good as dead.'"12



Faulty Application

One great exegetical fault of Calvinism is its tendency to take specific applications of Scripture and make them universal. For example, Isaiah says, "Your whole head is injured, your whole heart afflicted. From the sole of your foot to the top of your head there is no soundness - only wounds..." But the prophet is addressing apostate Israel, not making a theological statement about all men everywhere.

The same is true of the reference to "filthy rags" (Isa. 64:6), the "leopard" incapable of changing its spots (Jer. 13:23) and the antediluvians whose hearts were "only evil all the time" (Gen. 6:5). To take these texts out of their specific, contextual application and make them props for Reformed theology is proof-texting of the worst sort - an unworthy hermeneutic.

The doctrine of Total Inability is not necessitated by the Scripture and should be discarded. Any tenet that portrays God as exacting impossible demands of His creatures and punishing them for not complying is a slander against heaven. William Ellery Channing notes: "It will be asked with astonishment, How is it possible that men can hold these doctrines and yet maintain God's goodness and equity? What principles can be more contradictory?"13

It is this obvious contradiction between God's just character and revealed principles of justice that forced me to abandon Calvinism.


_________________
CHRISTIAN

 2007/9/6 13:33Profile
hmmhmm
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Joined: 2006/1/31
Posts: 4991
Sweden

 Re: Calvinism Critiqued - by a Former Calvinist , by Steve Jones

thought i bump this


_________________
CHRISTIAN

 2008/1/16 3:55Profile









 Re:

I'm so glad you did...Thank You!

How difficult it must be for Calvinists to reconcile Acts 5:32....that the Holy Spirit is given to those who OBEY.

Therefore repentance comes before the Gift.

We are saved by Grace...(Calvary and the Finished work of Christ ) through Faith. NOT by faith through Grace as Calvinists have totally twisted this scripture.

We also see through Cornelius's life, that Peter first preached the Gospel and afterwards the Holy Spirit fell on Cornelius....not the other way around.


Jesus said in John 14-17....Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up..that whoso ever will.

When those in the wilderness stricken with Leprosy were told to look upon the serpent it would be out of their own will to do so....they were not forced. Jesus uses this example just before the Great John 3:16 is stated.

Again, if Calvinists believe that perseverance is a guarantee of a promise to endure to the end there upon receiving their salvation, they must not believe they are saved the moment they receive Jesus Christ being Baptized into His Body AKA: the work of the Holy Spirit identify the believer in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ , being raised a New Creation, and that our New Creation is the very spirit of the Life of Christ in you, setting you free from the law of sin and death. This is called the Security of the Believer..and Jesus Christ the “Surity” of our Security. Hebrews.

Jesus said COME TO ME, all you who labor and are heavy laden ( the Law) and I will give you REST.

When we are IN CHRIST, we Enter into His REST…His finished work! Now our life becomes HIS work in is, conforming us to His image.



Love in Christ
Katy




 2008/1/16 8:08
crsschk
Member



Joined: 2003/6/11
Posts: 9192
Santa Clara, CA

 Re: Calvinism Critiqued - by a Former Calvinist , by Steve Jones

... "[b][i]the system[/i][/b]" ...

Enough said.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

[b]Election a Mystery[/b]

Divine election is clearly a Bible doctrine. It no more belongs to the Calvinist than to anyone else. It is really a part of the larger Scriptural theme of the Sovereignty of God, found everywhere in both Testaments. God sets up and deposes rulers (Ps. 75:6,7), operates the forces of nature (Job 37), overrules evil for good (Gen. 50:20) and has "determined the times set for them [the nations of men] and the exact places where they should live" (Acts 17:26).

Dewey makes no metaphysical distinction between the election of grace and the election of mundane affairs of life. All are the result of divine sovereignty, which is past finding out.

"...the apostle says, that Christians are 'predestinated according to the purpose of him, who worketh all things, after the counsel of his own will.' If this be true, then everything is a matter of divine counsel; everything is disposed of by election. And men are as much elected to be philosophers, merchants, or inhabitants of this country or that country, as they are elected to be Christians. If this is election, I believe there will be found no difficulty in it; save what exists in that inscrutableness of the subject, which must forbid our expecting ever to fathom it."14

Election is true, but is shrouded in deep mystery. It is one of the secret things that belong to the Lord our God (Deut. 29:29). Calvinists and Arminians both err when they make precise statements about the nature of election. God has not told us whether or not there are conditions attached to it and we should not venture into it with such bold assertions.

The Calvinist, however, does need to temper his view of election with the clearly revealed truth in Ezekiel 18:23: "Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign Lord. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?" Too often, we hear Calvinists say that the damnation of the non-elect is "the good pleasure of His will." But here, God states explicitly that He takes no pleasure in damning anyone but prefers that they turn from sin and live. How this idea fits into the Calvinist scheme is not at all clear.

Nor is it clear, from a Calvinistic standpoint, why Jesus should weep over Jerusalem in Matthew 23:37: "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing."

This poses a thorny difficulty for the Calvinist. First of all, he must assume that the reprobation of Jerusalem was "the good pleasure" of the Father. If that is so, why was it so displeasing and heart-rending to Jesus, who was always in agreement with the divine will? Shouldn't Jesus have also been "pleased" with the Father's reprobation of these people?

Secondly, Jesus is here attributing the lost condition of Jerusalem to her own unwillingness, not the want of election. Jesus was willing to receive them but they were unwilling. This seems to contradict the confident assertions of Calvinists about Unconditional Election.

So what doctrine do we put in the place of the Calvinist's Unconditional Election? Do we opt for one of the many Arminian forms of election? Tempting as that may be, I must now settle on the mysterious Biblical Election, the details of which have not been fully disclosed as we look into our "glass, darkly." Perhaps further theological works by thoughtful Christians will reveal a more satisfactory resting place for our convictions.

~~~~~~~~~~~

[i]All are the result of divine sovereignty, which is past finding out.

... save what exists in that inscrutableness of the subject, which must forbid our expecting ever to fathom it."

Election is true, but is shrouded in deep mystery. It is one of the secret things that belong to the Lord our God (Deut. 29:29). Calvinists and Arminians both err when they make precise statements about the nature of election. God has not told us whether or not there are conditions attached to it and we should not venture into it with such bold assertions.[/i]

How much of this comes full circle back to either our "right" or demand to know ...[i]the secret things that belong to the Lord our God[/i]. How many applications beyond even these systems ...


_________________
Mike Balog

 2008/1/16 8:10Profile









 Re:

What is the MYSTERY?

The Mystery is "CHRIST IN YOU"......the Mystery is the "Body of Christ".

Anyone during this Church Age who receives Jesus Christ ,baptized into His Body, raised a New Creation In Christ Jesus, IS GOD'S ELECT, whom He now will and has been given complete authority over your life...because you gave it to Him out of your own free will to do so,(Romans 6 when you surrendered your members to HIM ) will be changing you from Glory to Glory, even by the Spirit of the Lord.

Praise God!!

Katy

 2008/1/16 8:21





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