One of the most influential concepts of Calvinism is spiritual deadness.97 Whereas non-Calvinists speak of humanity as being lost and in need of a Savior, Calvinists speak of humanity as being dead and in need of a resurrection. While non-Calvinists treat Christ as the solution for a lost world, Calvinists treat Irresistible Grace as the solution for redeeming only a portion of humanity—the elect—in which God never intended for everyone to spend eternity with Him in Heaven. So, a rather influential maxim in Calvinism is this:
I was dead and in need of a resurrection.
Calvinists believe that it is impossible for anyone to turn to Christ apart from the regeneration of an Irresistible Grace. The key verse in the Bible that Calvinists cite as evidence of the total inability of humanity to receive the gospel is Ephesians 2:1-2: “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.” Ironically, though, the text never mentions that mankind is unable to believe in the gospel. For that, Calvinists turn to other texts such as Romans 3:9-13: “What then? Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin; as it is written, ‘There is none righteous, not even one; there is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God; all have turned aside, together they have become useless; there is none who does good, there is not even one.’” The solution given by Calvinists is an Irresistible Grace, which regenerates Calvinism’s elect, for whom it is alone designed.
There are at least five primary areas in which the Calvinist view ultimately withers:
- Culturally, being dead in sin simply meant being lost.
- Contextually, being dead in sin means separation.
- Practically, being dead to sin does not imply an inability.
- Eternally, spiritual death does not mean unconsciousness.
- Evangelistically, the apostles never used the Calvinist maxim.
Culturally, at Luke 15:24, regarding the Parable of the Prodigal Son, the father declares: “‘…for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.’ And they began to celebrate.” So, being dead meant being lost, which did not prevent the son from returning home in pursuit of reconciliation. Being dead, culturally speaking, simply meant being alienated.
Contextually, at Ephesians 2:11-13, being dead in sin is illustrated as follows: “Therefore remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called ‘Uncircumcision’ by the so-called ‘Circumcision,’ which is performed in the flesh by human hands–remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” The contextual concept of deadness, according to Ephesians 2:1-13, was not an inability to receive God’s gift to return to Him, but rather separation. While it is true from Romans 3:9-12 that fallen humanity does not seek God, the good news is that God seeks humanity, and has positioned Himself as “not far away,” according to Paul’s sermon to the Athenians at Acts 17:27, specifically so that people can and will seek Him: “‘…that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us….’”
Practically, the Bible speaks of Christians as being dead to sin: “Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 6:11) So, if being dead in sin means that one cannot respond to God, then does being dead to sin mean that Christians cannot respond to sin? Clearly, that doesn’t mean that Christians cannot sin, or cannot respond to sin, or that we aren’t affected by sin and don’t face the temporal consequences of our sin. Calvinists need for spiritually deadness to mean more than it does.
Eternally, Revelation 20:6 speaks of the second death: “‘Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years.’” Do Calvinists wish to say that the “second death” means unconscious, inability? Or, will Calvinists agree that it simply means a conscious, separation from God?
Evangelistically, no apostle ever presented Irresistible Grace as the gospel’s “good news” for the solution to the spiritual deadness of humanity. In Calvinism, Irresistible Grace is the only solution to stand against a works-based salvation, or that which negates boasting. Yet, the Calvinist imperative is completely absent from Scripture. It’s made-up.
97 See also the discussion on Total Depravity. Will be put up on SEA at a later date.