Richard Coords, “Mystery”

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The general perspective of Calvinists is that since we know that God is sovereign, who determines whatsoever comes to pass, and since we know that man is free, we must simply accept the mystery in that.239 Hence, “mystery” is made into a convenient theological tool to escape contradictions, to make one immune to having to provide logical answers and to make one’s arguments ultimately unfalsifiable. This can be observed in Calvinism in a number of ways. Calvinists affirm that God is the ultimate cause and origin of everything that happens, including sin, and yet is not the author of sin, while mankind is deemed solely responsible. How? It’s a mystery. Calvinists affirm Ezekiel 18:23, in that God desires that the wicked turn from their sins and repent. How is that congruent to special election? Transcendence.240 It is only reflective of a “revealed will,” in contrast to a “secret will” in which only some are effectually made to become believers.241 Calvinists affirm that the fallen angels, as well as Adam and Eve, were originally made free agents, but yet fell according to an eternal and unchangeable design, by which they could not do otherwise. How? We don’t know. It’s a mystery.242

What do Calvinists believe?

John Calvin: “If anyone object that this is beyond his comprehension, I confess it. But what wonder if the immense and incomprehensible majesty of God exceed the limits of our intellect? I am so far from undertaking the explanation of this sublime, hidden secret, that I wish what I said at the beginning to be remembered, that those who seek to know more than God has revealed are crazy. Therefore let us be pleased with instructed ignorance rather than with the intemperate and inquisitive intoxication of wanting to know more than God allows.”243

John Calvin: “But now, removing from God all proximate causation of the act, I at the same time remove from Him all guilt and leave man alone liable. It is therefore wicked and calumnious to say that I make the fall of man one of the works of God. But how it was ordained by the foreknowledge and decree of God what man’s future was without God being implicated as associate in the fault as the author or approver of transgression, is clearly a secret so much excelling the insight of the human mind, that I am not ashamed to confess ignorance. Far be it from any of the faithful to be ashamed of ignorance of what the Lord withdraws into the glory of His inaccessible light.”244

Our reply:

When a person is determined to reject the truth, the first step is the muddy the waters. That is the net effect of Calvinists frequently appealing to mystery, transcendence and a secret will. True biblical mystery awaits revelation, such as the mystery of Genesis 28:14, ultimately being revealed in the welcoming of the Gentiles according to Ephesians 2:11-22, or such as the mystery of the Messiah Himself, who first came to suffer and later to return in glory. These are not necessarily contradictions, but rather function as a plot twist, being somewhat unexpected. Certainly, the triune nature of God, His omniscience and His eternal nature are complex matters, but that is because God Himself is complex, and which merely awaits His own revelation, and is not necessarily a contraction.


239 Also see the post on Logic.

240 Calvinist John MacArthur: “Now, having said that you believe all of that, you now have a problem. And that is that your brain can’t handle all of that information and bring complete resolution. But that’s okay; because if you could, you wouldn’t be human. There are things that only God can understand. And I really do believe that. I’m very content with that. That’s one of the reasons I know the Bible is written by God, because men would fix it. If I wrote a book that had those contradictions, Phil would edit them all out. One of the bench marks of divine inspiration is the fact that you’re dealing with transcendence.” (Election and Predestination: The Sovereignty of God in Salvation,

241 “The revealed will was that all men be saved, but the hidden will was that the greater part of mankind be damned.” Erwin Lutzer, The Doctrines That Divide (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1998), 195.

242 “But Adam and Eve were not created fallen. They had no sin nature. They were good creatures with a free will. Yet they chose to sin. Why? I don’t know. Nor have I found anyone yet who does know.” R.C. Sproul, Chosen By God (Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1986).

243 Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 1997), 123.

244 Ibid., 123-124.

[This post has been excerpted with permission from Richard Coords, Calvinism Answered Verse by Verse and Subject by Subject, © 2020.]