Steve Sewell, “Why the Draw to Calvinism?”

, posted by Steve Sewell

I find it strange for a Christian to be drawn to Calvinism — an anomaly, really. I don’t believe that Calvinistic theology is in harmony with who we are as followers of Christ. Christians are all about love and humility and justice and grace and mercy and compassion and righteousness and goodness. That’s who we are because those are the attributes that Jesus Himself is characterized by – inherently so. Yet, when one examines Calvinism closely with an unbiased eye, you can’t help but see a theology that is inconsistent with those attributes, and inconsistent with the life of Christ that is revealed to us in the four Gospels. Furthermore, Calvinistic theology is built upon a foundation of forced meaning and assumptions and out-of-context interpretations. Nowhere is that seen more clearly than in their interpretation of their flagship passages of Romans 9, John 6, and John 10 — to name three.

I want to do a comparison between Calvinism and Arminianism, and by the time we’re done with the discussion, I think the question of “Why the Draw to Calvinism?” will indeed be a real wonder to many Christians reading this.

Calvinism vs. Arminianism:

  1. Calvinism’s deterministic view of God’s sovereignty, ultimately, makes God the planner and fulfiller of sin and evil.

“Divine determinism” leads to the obvious conclusion that all sin and evil is determined by God, that nothing happens in this world that is not by the hand of God — although contrary to the good and holy and just character of God. This logically makes God the author of sin, regardless of how strongly and loudly Calvinists may repudiate this (hard determinists have no problem with this idea). Calvinists may deny this all day long, but it’s a denial that refuses to see it for what it really is. To see it any other way is contrary to sound reasoning. They’re calling a black sky blue in hopes that it really is blue.

Arminianism:  

Arminians view of God’s sovereignty is based on how God has revealed Himself in His glorious attributes and in the names that represent and describe Him. God has revealed Himself as a God of love, who is good and holy and righteous and just and merciful and gracious and kind and gentle and pure and compassionate and without partiality. God is completely without sin and darkness. He is full of light and truth. He hates sin and evil, and requires us to do the same. We’re commanded to be (and live) as He Himself is.

Therefore, based on this understanding of God’s character, we don’t believe God plans or brings about sin and evil. We believe God permits and uses, rather than determines. We don’t deny God’s sovereignty. On the contrary, we believe that God does indeed govern the whole universe, but as it relates to the world, He does so within the sphere of man’s free will. Calvinists believe that God is limited by free will. But that reveals an inferior viewpoint of God and His power. Arminians believe that God is greater than the freedom of will that He gives us.

If you get God’s character right, you’ll get His sovereignty right. Calvinists have this completely backwards. It’s God’s character that must lead if we’re to have a proper understanding of God’s sovereignty, not the other way around.

Christians need to stay clear of any theology that is even in the same ballpark as one that makes God the cause of sin and evil. Whether it’s a theology that expressly states it, implies it, or leads to the logical conclusion of it, Christians need to put as much distance between that and themselves as possible.

The reality is, none of us know exactly how God carries out His sovereign plan for this world. He’s chosen not to reveal that to us. So we have two options. We can either embrace a theology that has God determining all things, from every specific sin and act of evil to who believes in Christ and who doesn’t. Or we can embrace a theology that has God carrying out His plan for the world within the sphere of man’s free will. While God hasn’t revealed how He carries out His sovereign will, He has revealed who He is in all of His glorious attributes. Therefore, a true biblical theology is one that is completely in harmony with those attributes. Determinism strongly brings the harmony of God’s attributes into question. Any theology that brings God’s character into question should be passionately rejected.

Click here to read “Election and the Character of God.”

  1. Calvinism’s deterministic view of God’s sovereignty provides the basis for interpreting Scripture.

Because of their deterministic view of God’s sovereignty, Calvinists see all Scripture through that lens. Their view of God’s sovereignty provides the foundation for their whole theological system, regardless of opposing, plainly stated passages. A case in point: the large number of verses and passages that clearly present the provision of salvation to be for all mankind.

Arminianism:

The foundation of Arminian theology is the character of God. We interpret God’s Word according to the ways which He has revealed Himself; through all His attributes and the names that describe Him. That’s our starting point. That’s what our theology is characterized by. If we’re to have a correct understanding of God’s Word, our foundation must be God Himself. Truth is based on the truth of who God is.

  1. According to Calvinism’s deterministic view of election, God chooses to leave the “non-elect” without any hope.

This teaching is absolutely contrary to the heart and love of God that is revealed to us in His Word. Calvinists have their ways of explaining this, but one cannot escape the fact that the “non-elect” are no more than pawns for God to use for “His glory,” as Calvinists say – as if God cares nothing about them. That God cares NOTHING about them is the only conclusion one can honestly come to, if this theology is correct.

Think about that. Based on everything the Bible teaches about God and His character and about the kind of life we’re called to live as His children, does that understanding line up with the idea that God brings people into this world only as a thing to use for His glory, and then to discard into the pits of hell once He’s done with it? Is this the heart and character of God that is revealed in our own hearts as the Holy Spirit conforms us to the image of Christ? Is this not a contradiction of monumental proportions?

Arminianism:

The “non-elect” are those who refuse to respond to the light that God provides. They refuse to respond in the humility of faith to the work of the Holy Spirit as the gospel message is being administered to their hearts. God has chosen to save those who come to Him via faith in His Son. Those are “the elect.” Those who try to come to God via any other way or any other religion, God refuses. They are the “non-elect.”

 

  1. Calvinism’s deterministic view of God’s sovereignty,  encourages blasphemy among the unsaved of the world.

Blaspheme is to speak against God, to slander, to revile, to rail against, to attribute things to God that aren’t true, to speak with malicious intent. Vines: “The word ‘blasphemy’ is practically confined to speech defamatory of the Divine Majesty.”

When disasters strike or when evil people commit evil acts, Calvinism is right there to attribute these things to God. As already discussed, their view of God’s sovereignty logically and “biblically” (in their view) requires that all things are done according to the eternal and irresistible decree of God. If God determines it, then it cannot but come to pass. If God governs with meticulous control of all things and of all people, then there’s no way around it — God necessarily must be the cause of all things that occur. With such a theology, is it any wonder that the unsaved have such a dim view of Christianity? Of course, that is not their only reason, but it doesn’t help when Christians attribute the evils of this world to the eternal decree of God. It’s a tragic testimony for Christ. It’s a theology that encourages the unsaved to blaspheme God and the Christian faith, to speak maliciously against God and His Son, Jesus. Calvinistic determinism gives them reason to. If they see God as the one who orchestrates all the evil acts and disasters of the world, how are they to have a positive opinion about God and the Christian faith?

Arminianism:

We don’t attribute the disasters and sin and evil acts of the world to God — not directly or indirectly. We believe that because God is absolutely holy and and pure and righteous and good and loving and merciful and just, he keeps Himself separate from the sins and evil of the world. He hates sin and evil, and He loves the people of the world. Therefore for God to involve Himself in the atrocities and evil things of the world, would violate His glorious attributes. For God to be the planner and orchestrator of the wicked things of the world would require God to work against Himself.

Therefore, since we don’t attribute these terrible things to God, we don’t give the people of the world reason to speak against Him – as it relates to this subject. Arminianism, indeed, presents God as absolutely sovereign, but also as One who carries out His will within the sphere of man’s free will – to live and be and do — separate from “exhaustive deterministic” control.

ISIS is currently wreaking havoc all over the world. What a sad testimony before non-Christians for a follower of Christ to explain this horror according to Calvinism’s view of God’s Sovereignty. Granted, not all Calvinists will be so blunt and detailed in how they explain it, and will talk about the compatibility between God’s sovereignty and the choices people make, but it doesn’t make the reality of their deterministic position disappear. Other Calvinists – known as hard determinists – are not so careful about explaining these events. They believe that God operates as a “puppet-master” and have no problem attributing the cause of these things to God. But whether a hard determinist or a soft determinist (compatibilist) they give the world an unnecessary reason to malign God and the Christian faith.

  1. Calvinism’s doctrine of determinism dishonors the good and holy name and character of God.

To attribute sin and evil to God, is evil. To ascribe things to God that are not true, is to speak against His glorious character. It presents a false picture of God. This is an extremely serious matter, and Christians do not want to be guilty of doing this. Granted, not all Calvinists acknowledge that God is the author of sin. For those who don’t, the doctrine they support does – as already discussed. Christians should have nothing to do with this position on the sovereignty of God. Indeed, we should vigorously oppose it.

Arminianism:

At its core, what separates Arminianism from Calvinism is how we view the character of God. The foundation of Arminian theology is the majestic attributes of God, allowing His attributes to lead in our understanding of His sovereignty. We never allow anything into our belief system that violates or contradicts who God is, neither by direct teaching nor by implication. We believe that this is the foundation upon all truth rests. We elevate God’s attributes above all things. Deterministic theology doesn’t do that. Instead, it elevates God’s sovereignty at the expense of His character. God’s sovereignty is completely and always in perfect harmony with His inherent attributes.

  1. All scriptures relating to the atonement of Christ are seen through the lens of “unconditional election.”

Since Calvinists believe that God has selected specific individuals to believe the gospel message (determinism), their theology requires them to change all the “all” and “every” and “world” and “whoever” verses to “all the elect” and “every elect” and “the elect of the world” and “whoever the elect are.” That’s a lot of scriptures that has to be changed to fit into their theological system. That’s a lot of assuming.

Arminianism:

The Arminian position on the atonement is one that flows naturally from the great many passages that plainly state and teach that Christ died for all and that salvation is available to all and that Christ draws all. We don’t have to change the obvious meaning of these verses, as Calvinism does. The blood of Christ was shed for all the people of the world, that all might receive forgiveness of  their sins.

  1. The individualistic election of Calvinism doesn’t follow the biblical pattern.

Calvinism sees election as the choosing of specific individuals. However, that position is contrary to the pattern that we see in the Old Testament with the election of the nation of Israel. It’s unreasonable to suggest that the believing Jews of the early church would have understood election as anything but corporate. Individualistic, unconditional election must be assumed, because the Bible does not clearly present it as such. The evidence that the Bible teaches corporate election is abundant.

To learn more about Corporate Election, click on the link here.

  1. Calvinism’s view of regeneration is contrary to verses that plainly indicate that faith precedes regeneration.

For Calvinists to see regeneration as something that precedes faith, they have to do the same thing they do with the verses that say Jesus died for all:  they have to deny what key verses teach to the contrary. They need to do this in order to get them to conform to their theology.

Click here to read what the Bible teaches about faith and regeneration.

  1. Calvinism’s view of regeneration is refuted by God’s law of humility and grace.

Here’s a point that doesn’t get the attention it deserves. In my opinion, this is one of the most blatant biblical inconsistencies of Calvinism. To read about this, click here and here.

  1. Calvinism’s doctrine of “unconditional election” encourages pride.

Calvinism/Arminianism:

Arminianism holds the position that salvation is through the faith of a will that has been freed by the Holy Spirit. Calvinists claim that this position allows for boasting — simply because our view of faith in Christ is not of the “irresistible” sort. This is nonsense, because it’s Christ who provided for our salvation, and it’s only through the Holy Spirit that we’re able to see the truth and respond in faith. Salvation is a gift of God that He Himself ordained to be received — as with any other gift. Gifts aren’t earned, only received. All glory goes to God. The claim that this plan of God sets us up for boasting is without warrant.

In reality, it’s Calvinism’s doctrine of “unconditional election” that sets one up for “boasting.” Let’s be honest. If you know that the God of the universe chose you out of all the people of the world – along with the other few – would this not cause you to feel pretty special? We all know human nature. We would all have that tendency. Realistically, how does one go through life without the constant thought that “I’m one of the elect few of God?”

On the other hand, we as Arminians are simply thankful for our salvation. We know that this is the same salvation that Christ offers to all, that He is not drawing merely a select few to Himself, but all mankind. This awareness doesn’t allow us to feel that we’ve been given special treatment. God’s true plan of salvation/election puts all the people of the world on the same level.

  1. Calvinism doesn’t allow pastors or individuals to present the gospel of Jesus Christ the same way the Bible does.

Since Calvinism teaches “unconditional election,” Calvinist pastors (and individuals) can’t honestly use the same language the Bible does when presenting the gospel message – as to whom it applies. For example, they can’t quote any of the scriptures that say Jesus died for “all” or for “everyone” or for the “world” or for “whosoever,” and then apply it to the unsaved people sitting in front of them. That would give them the impression that those verses are talking about them….when these pastors don’t know if any of them are “the elect.” A Calvinist pastor can’t present those verses or the gospel of Jesus Christ in that manner, and still be true to their theology.  

Calvinist pastors might respond by saying, “that’s how the Bible reads.” That’s true, but to quote God’s Word in a manner that you know may give false hope, is flatly unethical. For Calvinists to quote Scripture in a manner that gives the appearance that they believe “all” really means “all,” is being disingenuous.

That’s not to say that there aren’t Calvinist pastors who are careful about how they word the gospel message. I had a Calvinist pastor who, it was evident to me, went out of his way to make sure that he presented the gospel in a manner that was consistent with his theology. For example, he would present the gospel message something like this: “Jesus died on the cross for sinners and rose from the dead. He died so that people could have forgiveness of their sins and eternal life. If you receive Him as your Lord and Savior, He will forgive you of your sins and give you eternal life.” Not once did I ever hear him present the plan of salvation in a manner that was inconsistent with his theology. I respected him for that.

Arminian pastors, on the other hand, can just let it fly! They don’t have to be concerned about presenting the gospel of Jesus Christ in a manner that is not consistent with their theology. They can freely use the same language the Bible does. They can boldly proclaim that God loves all, and that He sent His Son into the world for the purpose of paying the price for the sins of all. They can boldly and happily proclaim that Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead for the sins of everyone who comes into this world. They can assure each and every person sitting in front of them that Jesus is alive and waiting to be their Lord and Savior and King.  

Conclusion:

When one considers Calvinism and Arminianism side by side, it certainly should make one wonder why a Christian would be drawn to Calvinism. The Calvinist will be quick to say that it’s because it’s Biblical. They like to cry “straw man!” when reading Arminian arguments against Calvinism. But the reality is, the theology of Calvinism is blatantly offensive to the holy character of God and to His plan of salvation, and it’s tragic that so many of God’s people are being led astray by it.

I believe the reason why so many Christians have become followers of Calvinism is because it’s represented by so many big name leaders — like John MacArthur, John Piper, Matt Chandler, James MacDonald, Tim Keller, James White, Wayne Grudem, etc. Christians have become disciples of these men. But that doesn’t make their theology the truth.

When the theologies are considered side by side in detail, Calvinism is demonstratively unsound. I would put the top leaders of Arminian theology against the top leaders of Calvinist theology any day. There shouldn’t be such a draw to Calvinism when there is a better choice, a more reasonable and honest interpretation of God’s Word. But again, Arminian teaching doesn’t get the exposure that Calvinism does.

I’m convinced that if Christians were to read all the articles on SEA (Society of Evangelical Arminians), most would walk away rejecting the theology of Calvinism. On this website you will find an abundance of articles and studies that reveal Calvinism for the false theology that it is. Even on my own website, The Arminian Files, there is plenty of biblical evidence that disproves their theology. Click here for a list of studies and articles that provide a strong case against Calvinism.

I’m convinced that if Christians knew what both sides of the fence actually taught, “the draw” would be to Arminianism.

Original Article:  The Arminian Files