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How Calvinism Undermines God’s Justice Part I

March 31, 2010

2416216707_dd28c1e62d1Posting anything about Calvinism can be a frightening thing in the blogosphere, if for no other reason than it could potentially open a torrent of comments from believers with a desire to correct an “erring brother” to the point where my every waking hour could be spent responding to the comments and proof texts hurled my way (in love of course 🙂 ).  This subject used to consume my thoughts and spiritual searching, but living in Thailand (where Christianity is less than 1% of the population) tends to trivialize the need to duke it out.

However, occasionally I will be thinking about the topic (I can’t say I’ve been able to stop thinking about it entirely!), and thoughts will occur to me that I want to share. So here we go. But before we begin a couple of comments are in order:

  1. Feel free to stop by and comment. But here’s the deal. It’s unlikely that I will be able to respond to a flood of postings. I have a hard time even getting back to people’s wall posts on Facebook, and these are some of my close friends! So, I will do my best to respond, but I may not get to everyone.  It’s not a concession; it’s just a fact.
  2. You are also welcome to quote verses if you so choose. However, just because you shoot a quote at me doesn’t mean that you’ve addressed the argument in any meaningful way. If you feel the need to express disagreement, deal with the argument itself.  I’m happy to look at the mountain of texts that is often used in support of Calvinism, but only if they legitimately advance the discussion.  Proof texts in a vacuum will be kindly disregarded.  🙂

Okay, let me begin by outlining Calvinism’s grand triumph: TULIP. I must admit that this system is beautiful in its logicality when it’s explained like this:

T stands for Total Depravity. When mankind fell through the “original sin” of Adam, man became utterly depraved and without God. We lost our ability to respond to God, because we became dead. “Dead men don’t respond” is a quote I hear from my Calvinist brothers a lot. So, needless to say, God must do something. In fact He must do everything.

U stands for Unconditional Election. Now, the original line or reasoning goes like this: Because man is absolutely fallen, God must act to bring salvation. It must be completely God’s own doing because again, man cannot respond. Therefore, God “elects” based on His own sovereign choice—hence the word “unconditional.” God determines who He will save and who He will damn.

Because God elects unconditionally some to salvation and some to damnation, it necessarily follows that Jesus only died for those whom God elects. And thus we have the next logical step in the system: L = Limited Atonement. To summarize quickly, Jesus did not die for everyone; He died for those who have been elected by God. In fairness to Calvinist doctrine,  Jesus’ atonement is not limited in its ability to cover everyone’s sins, only in whose sin it actually does cover.

I stands for Irresistible Grace. I’ve heard it said that it would be better to call it Invincible Grace. What it basically means is that while people may resist the Holy Spirit for awhile, because of God’s unconditional election, and because of the atonement of Christ, those whom God has elected will eventually be saved. They can’t resist the sovereign decree of God concerning them. God wins.

Finally, because of the previous three initiatives by God to secure His elect, from this it follows that those whom God has saved will (again by the sovereign decree of God) persevere to the end. Thus we have the final step in the system: P = Perseverance of the Saints.

These five points form a very logically coherent system outlining God’s salvation. If we start with Total Depravity as Calvinists define it, then this is the only way it could be. God would have to do all of the work.

John Piper agrees:

There is a good rationale for this traditional order: it starts with man in need of salvation and then gives, in the order of their occurrence, the steps God takes to save his people. He elects, then he sends Christ to atone for the sins of the elect, then he irresistibly draws his people to faith, and finally works to cause them to persevere to the end [emphasis mine].[1]

Piper doesn’t follow this order. Instead he follows a scheme that begins with Total Depravity, leads to Irresistable Grace, on to Limited Atonement, then discovering the truth of Unconditional Election, where we can feel secure that we will experience Perseverance of the Saints.

It is my contention, however, that TULIP is the wrong order altogether once we consider the source of all Calvinistic doctrine: the sovereignty of God. While beginning with Total Depravity in the scheme of salvation presents a wonderful salvation message, it is not true to the heart of Reformed theology: “God from all eternity did by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass.”[2]

With this understanding, the more logical and faithful (to the sovereignty of God) system would be ULTIP, and this I propose undermines the very thing Calvinism seeks to uphold with its emphasis on Total Depravity: the justice of God.

So more about ULTIP in the next post.  Stay tuned.


[1]http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/articles/bydate/1985/1487_what_we_believe_about_the_five_points_of_calvinism/

[2]Westminster Confession; <http://www.reformed.org/documents/westminster_conf_of_faith.html&gt;

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Buddy Whatley permalink
    April 3, 2010 4:48

    it’s not that calvin is wrong or that arminius was wrong or that wesley was wrong or that any of them was right… it’s several men’s attempts to talk about a God who can’t be talked about because he can’t be understood… whatever we know about God is like the tip of an iceberg! all we have left is God’s revelation of himself and our interpretation of that revelation… it is a meager meal indeed compared to the awesome reality of a God who with a few words created the universe and everything in it!!!

    Can an ant talk about a man? And there is more distance between us and God than there is between the ant and us…

    • jonathangroover permalink*
      April 5, 2010 2:03

      Buddy,

      Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment. I agree to a certain extent that God is beyond what we can know fully. But surely He has given us ample evidence in His word, the history of His redemptive plan, and in nature for us to come to a solid understanding of who He is. If God were as “unknowable” as you seem to indicate, the idea of relating or communing with him would be incoherent. On the contrary, I think God wants us to know who he is and what he is like for the very reason that the understanding we have (the “picture”) of Him determines if we will be able to trust him or not. That’s why the Calvinism/Arminianism debate is so huge–it goes to the heart of who we understand God to be.

  2. August 24, 2012 3:37

    Reblogged this on You can take everything I have.. and commented:

    I still find this two part post to be one of the most compelling arguments against Calvinism, if I do say so myself. 🙂

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