Calvinism

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Calvinism (also called the Reformed tradition, Reformed Christianity or the Reformed faith) is a major branch of Protestantism that follows the theological tradition and the forms of Christian practice associated with John Calvin and other of the Reformation-era theologians.

Should we try to follow Christ or Calvin?

Are these theologians of that era and the ones who have come after them in agreement or does Calvin stray from Christ and His Doctrines?

The term Calvinism can be a misleading. The religious tradition and ideology it suggests has been diverse. There is a wide range of ideas connected with Calvin's original ideas that have both expounded and have redirected his original reforms. Rather than a single founder modern Calvinism has taken many turns and and reformed itself more than once in different ways.

Lutherans who opposed it were the first to call the movement "Calvinism". Reformed and Modern Reformed Protestants often disagree about the definition and dogmas, the parameters and priorities of their traditions and beliefs.

  • Reformed theologians believe that God communicates knowledge of himself to people through the Word of God. People are not able to know anything about God except through this self-revelation.
  • God is infinite, and finite people are incapable of comprehending an infinite being.

Most objections to and attacks on Calvinism focus on the "five points of Calvinism," also called the doctrines of grace, and remembered by the mnemonic "TULIP."


TULIP points

The central assertion of these TULIP points are that God saves every person upon whom he has mercy, and that His efforts are not frustrated by the unrighteousness or inability of humans. I am sure there can be reason to argue this presentment of the TULIP points but it is only a general explanation.

  1. "Total depravity," also called "total inability," asserts that as a consequence of the fall of man into sin, every person is enslaved to sin. People are not by nature inclined to love God but rather to serve their own interests and to reject the rule of God. Thus, all people by their own faculties are morally unable to choose to follow God and be saved because they are unwilling to do so out of the necessity of their own natures. This doctrine appears to be derived from Augustine's explanation of Original Sin. While the phrases "totally depraved" and "utterly perverse" were used by Calvin, but not found in the Canons of Dort or the teachings of Christ. It is true that none is good but God but the idea of "totally depraved" is a long way from that. Certainly we can not save ourselves from sin but that is because we have no means to pay that debt. Phrases like "total depravity" would negate any reason to say Repent nor Seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness nor use words like strive and love and forgive, all of which Christ did.
  2. "Unconditional election" asserts that God has chosen from eternity those whom he will bring to himself not based on foreseen virtue, merit, or faith in those people; rather, his choice is unconditionally grounded in his mercy alone. Certainly forgiveness and salvation must be the end result of grace. But the idea that we have no choice seems to argue against not only Repent but all the instructions given by Christ. If their is no choice or no ability to choose then why discuss the matter or even preach to anyone? Certainly Christ and God makes their own choices as we see in John 15:16 "Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and [that] your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you."
  3. "Limited atonement," also called "particular redemption" or "definite atonement", asserts that Jesus's substitutionary atonement was definite and certain in its purpose and in what it accomplished. This implies that only the sins of the elect were atoned for by Jesus's death. Calvinists do not believe, however, that the atonement is limited in its value or power, but rather that the atonement is limited in the sense that it is intended for some and not all. Some Calvinists have summarized this as "The atonement is sufficient for all and efficient for the elect." All Calvinists would affirm that the blood of Christ was sufficient to pay for every single human being IF it were God's intention to save every single human being. This idea does not seem to take into consideration the statement John 3:17 "For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved." Admittedly some Calvinists also teach that the atonement accomplished certain benefits for all mankind, albeit, not their eternal salvation.This doctrine seems to be driven by the Calvinistic concept of the sovereignty of God in salvation and their understanding of the nature of the atonement.
  4. "Irresistible grace," also called "efficacious grace", asserts that the saving grace of God is effectually applied to those whom he has determined to save (that is, the elect) and overcomes their resistance to obeying the call of the gospel, bringing them to a saving faith. This means that when God sovereignly purposes to save someone, that individual certainly will be saved. The doctrine holds that this purposeful influence of God's Holy Spirit cannot be resisted, but that the Holy Spirit, "graciously causes the elect sinner to cooperate, to believe, to repent, to come freely and willingly to Christ." This all seems to end any idea of free choice and seems to make Christs plea for repentance and keeping the commandments to obtain eternal life superfluous.
  5. "Perseverance of the saints" (or perseverance of God with the saints) (the word "saints" is used to refer to all who are set apart by God, and not of those who are exceptionally holy, canonized, or in heaven) asserts that since God is sovereign and his will cannot be frustrated by humans or anything else, those whom God has called into communion with himself will continue in faith until the end. Those who apparently fall away either never had true faith to begin with (1 John 2:19), or, if they are saved but not presently walking in the Spirit, they will be divinely chastened (Hebrews 12:5–11) and will repent (1 John 3:6–9).

TULIP reexamined

While this TULIP approach seems to be very and may be an attractive ideology for several reasons there are numerous questions that may set new boundaries for the beliefs that are accompanying these doctrines. One is that does the rhetoric associated with TULIP teachers coincide with the terminology and spirit of the Gospel of Christ.

Total depravity

Does this idea of total depravity sound like Jesus? Certainly no man is good in the sense that God is good but Jesus attitudes does not seem to be asserting what often is suggested by the Total depravity approach. Why does this idea have appeal at all?

One can excuse a life of debauchery if not the general practice of sin as something that could not have been avoided by any personal choice you you could have made. It really be letting us off the hook to easily. Repentance and Baptism is always associated with confession which requires us to admit what we did wrong. Accepting the idea that we are automatically Total depravity from birth seems to alleviate if not terminate the process of personal confession which is an examination of where we went wrong.

By accepting the TULIP you are no longer accountable and are off the hook in your own mind for any part of your personal sins. Certainly many of the evil things we have done we could not have stop ourselves of our own personal power or strength. Does this mean we have no choice at all? Is there more than one place or manner of making choices?

We are often truly given over to sin on one level of our existence and certainly cannot save ourselves. We certainly need help, even divine intervention, as we are not self created but dependent creatures.

Christ took the time to tell us to "repent" which is to change and seek the kingdom as if we had some element of choice to go one of two basic ways. But where is the real choice of seeking righteousness made? From the beginning God gave instructions as we have had a choice. If our fathers chose to go a certain way to go and did curse their generations by that choice the call to repentance certainly suggests that there is still a choice to seek to go another way or turn around and go back.

Clearly Christ talks about the importance of divine revelation.[1]

We make choice based upon our own mental capacity for reasoning out what is true and what is false or we make those choices based on revelation. Is it in our flesh and blood minds where we are to make the choice of our salvation or is that choice made deeper within our own souls? Are we supposed to decide good and evil it in the Dendritic tree of our own imagination? We have made a choice in our spirit to eat of the Tree of Knowledge or the Tree of Life. Once we began to use the Tree of Knowledge as a source we are lost from the Tree of Life which is Spirit. Is the only choice we really have is the spiritual choice of the soul to eat from one of two Trees.

We must fast from the Tree of Knowledge. The ways of the World, our own flesh and the evil spirits of the world are often the antitheses of righteousness and we may only be given eyes to see and ears to hear if we truly pray and waiting upon the spirit of the Lord.

You may have fallen into darkness away from the Tree of Life and you may need to return to that spiritual source by grace but if you imagine that you have changed you may believe that you are counted amongst the "elect". This idea may alleviate the pain of conscience you need to feel. There is little humility in such a view and the potential of a great deal pf pride. This seems to be an exercise in personal vanity and void of any personal responsibility for your actions and detrimental to the process of Repentance.

To repent is to change your choice of directions or way. If you have no power to make the choice to repent then why tell people to do so. You certainly will not be able to follow that path of repentance if you do not have the assistance of the Holy Spirit [2] but it is in the process of striving that you may continuously persevere in your walk. If you love God more than yourself and your neighbor as much as yourself that is evidence of your choice but if you truly love God you will keep His commandments.[3]

There must be choice if there is to be love. The problem with the Calvinist is that they do not understand where the choice is made. It is true that the mind is incapable of righteous thinking and choice by its own volition. That is because the mind is flesh and blood. But man is not just flesh and blood but also spirit.

The Calvinist is deep within his own mind studying to find all the answers. He thinks that the Bible is telling him to Study. Even figuring out what the Bible is saying, what the word of God is telling us, cannot be merely a product of our flesh and blood minds. What we think, what we accept or reject is dependent upon the spirit that dwells with in us. If our spirit opens up to the spirit of God and His ways in love then we may receive spiritual revelation. We will have eyes to see and ears to hear.

With God and His presence comes truth and with the truth we see our selves. To depend on our own minds and reject the truth, the light of God and his revelation is to eat of the Tree of knowledge.

Christ is clear that the key to the kingdom is not flesh and blood but spirit.[4] It is that faith in the revelation of the Spirit of God rather than faith in our own vain mental imagination, the images constructed in our minds, which provides the real faith upon which Christ builds His Church.[5]


Unconditional election

How do you know when you are listening to the Spirit and when you are just imagining that you know God's will?

There are plenty of guidelines given us in the Bible about what we should be doing and not doing. If we cannot keep the commandments that sin is evidence that we do not love God with our whole hearts, mind and souls.

If we are not bearing the fruits of righteousness then we are likely not listening to the tree of life e.g. the Holy Spirit. If we will not listen then we clearly do not believe so our actions are telling us of our lack of faith and the results are calling us to repentance. But again the choice is made deep in our souls and not in our minds.

Romans 11:32 "For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all."


Limited atonement

1 Timothy 2:4 "Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth."

God wants all to repent and believe but if we will not believe in the spirit of God which is reaching out to all then you are literally blaspheming the Holy Spirit.[6] You are rejecting the tree of life? Are you trying to figure out righteousness by your flesh and blood mind or are you learning to still your mind and listen for the Lord's Spirit?

Irresistible grace

Since the Calvinist has divided Grace into two types it is difficult to even discuss the idea. Grace is charity. The Greek word is charis from which we get the word charity. It means charity in the sense of showing favor. We see this with the Father of the prodigal sons return to serve in his fathers house and with the lost sheep and the 99. There is a blessing for those who have turned away and repented to return.

It would seem that speaking of Irresistible grace has little purpose because who would resist such grace in any form. It appears to be a part of the idea that there is no choice or free will. The idea that there is no freewill is only true for those who will only see their own vain tree of knowledge as the totality of the human experience.

  • Mark 2:8 And immediately when Jesus perceived in his spirit that they so reasoned within themselves, he said unto them, Why reason ye these things in your hearts?
  • Luke 10:21 In that hour Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes: even so, Father; for so it seemed good in thy sight.
  • John 16:13 Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, [that] shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.
  • Acts 18:25 This man was instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in the spirit, he spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord, knowing only the baptism of John. 26 And he began to speak boldly in the synagogue: whom when Aquila and Priscilla had heard, they took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly.

27 And when he was disposed to pass into Achaia, the brethren wrote, exhorting the disciples to receive him: who, when he was come, helped them much which had believed through grace: 28 For he mightily convinced the Jews, and that publickly, shewing by the scriptures that Jesus was Christ.

Perseverance of the saints

One of the biggest problems with the doctrines floating around the idea of the Perseverance of the saints is the identification of what is a saint and what is not a saint. The Church was doing what the Pharisees failed to do. The Pharisees had fallen back into the tree of knowledge and were also eating of the tables of Kings and Benefactors with their Corban that made the word of God to none effect.

The Saint of His Church were tending to the Weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith which include caring for the needs of our neighbors and the widows and orphans of our society through Pure Religion in matters of health, education, and welfare. We are NOT to do so by the Covetous Practices of modern governments.

The Way of Christ was like neither the way of the world nor the governments of the gentiles who depend on benefactors who exercise authority. Christ's ministers and true Christians do not depend upon systems of social welfare that force the contributions of the people like the corban of the Pharisees which made the word of God to none effect. Many people have been deceived to go the way of Balaam and the Nicolaitan and out of The Way of Christ.

The Christian conflict of the first century Church appointed by Christ was because they would not apply to the fathers of the earth for benefits but instead relied upon a voluntary network providing a daily ministration to the needy of society through Faith, Hope, and Charity by way of freewill offerings of the people, for the people, and by the people through the perfect law of liberty in Free Assemblies according to the ancient pattern of Tuns or Tens.

The modern Christians are in need of repentance.


"Follow me!" —Jesus the Christ.


Over the years we have met many Calvinists or professing Calvinists that are not far from the kingdom but we have also met many zealous Calvinists that have need of repentance but think they are the elect.

There should be no doctrines of the Church but the Doctrines of Jesus.

Determinism

Determinism is defined, "the doctrine that all events, including human action, are ultimately determined by causes external to the will. Some philosophers have taken determinism to imply that individual human beings have no free will and cannot be held morally responsible for their actions."

Theological determinism "is the view that God determines every event that occurs in the history of the world." [8]

The concept is based extensively on Calvinist or Reformed theology. While some think “God’s decree covers and controls all things” [9] others imagine that God’s providence is “extended to all that He has created”[10] The problem may arise in determining what they actually mean by these indeterminate views of Determinism. Just because God may foresee events and allows them to occur does not mean there is not some choice on the part of the individual man or woman.

Does God allow or cause sin? If there is no choice can there be any blame? if no blame then there is no real sin. Has determinism become a popular concept because there is not choice and therefore no fault and therefore no guilt?

If there is no choice why tell us to "repent"?

Are we merely a cosmic puppet show in which we are just pawns to entertain a bored deity?

Can there be any love without choice?

Can there be sacrifice or even sin without choice?

Every mention of Freewill offerings in the Bible becomes a lie without choice.

Every commandment, instruction or directive becomes superfluous.

Every suggestion that we are sons or should repent and seek the kingdom of God becomes theocratic hypocrisy and every minute of anguish and strife becomes torture to the helpless victims of God's theatrics if we have no choice.

But the question may remains as to how choice is made and in what capacity we may choose.

If the determinist is right then all the world is a stage and we are but players locked in a prison of performance where we cannot even choose the manner in which we will deliver our lines.


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Footnotes

  1. Matthew 10:26 Fear them not therefore: for there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; and hid, that shall not be known. Matthew 11:25 At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Matthew 16:17 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. Luke 2:26 And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. Romans 1:17 For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.
  2. Matthew 3:11 I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire: Acts 2:38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
  3. Exodus 20:6 And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments. Deuteronomy 7:9 Know therefore that the LORD thy God, he [is] God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations; Deuteronomy 11:1 ¶ Therefore thou shalt love the LORD thy God, and keep his charge, and his statutes, and his judgments, and his commandments, alway.Deuteronomy 11:22 For if ye shall diligently keep all these commandments which I command you, to do them, to love the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, and to cleave unto him; Deuteronomy 19:9 If thou shalt keep all these commandments to do them, which I command thee this day, to love the LORD thy God, and to walk ever in his ways; then shalt thou add three cities more for thee, beside these three: Deuteronomy 30:16 In that I command thee this day to love the LORD thy God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commandments and his statutes and his judgments, that thou mayest live and multiply: and the LORD thy God shall bless thee in the land whither thou goest to possess it. Psalms 119:47 And I will delight myself in thy commandments, which I have loved. Mark 12:30 And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. Mark 12:31 And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these. John 13:34 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. John 14:15 If ye love me, keep my commandments. John 14:21 He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him. John 14:31 But that the world may know that I love the Father; and as the Father gave me commandment, even so I do. Arise, let us go hence. John 15:10 If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love. John 15:12 This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. John 15:17 These things I command you, that ye love one another.
  4. Matthew 16:17 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed [it] unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.
  5. Matthew 16:18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 19 And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
  6. Matthew 12:31 Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy [against] the [Holy] Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men.
  7. Matthew 20:25-26 But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister;
    Mark 10:42-43 But Jesus called them to him, and saith unto them, Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them. But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister:
    Luke 22:25-26 And he said unto them, The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors. But ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve.
  8. >© Copyright Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy and its Authors
  9. John Feinberg
  10. Paul Helm

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