I do not consider five-point Calvinism as a “false gospel.” It does, however, involve unbiblical teaching.
Whether man is totally depraved or can through the wooing of the Holy Spirit make valid moral and spiritual choices; whether God wants only a select few called the “elect” to be saved or whether He wants “all men” to be saved (1 Tm 2:4; 2 Pet 3:9); whether Christ died for the sins of the “elect” only or for the sins of the whole world (Jn:1:29; 1 Jn:2:2)– to discuss these differences we need to remove some common misunderstandings.
First of all, one who rejects Calvinism is not necessarily an Arminian. Many non-Calvinists believe in eternal security but object to Calvinism on other grounds. Next, it is not a question of God’s sovereignty. God is the Potter, we are the clay, and the clay cannot complain about how God uses it. The question is whether God in His sovereignty has given man the power to make genuine moral and spiritual choices or whether man is totally depraved and cannot choose God or good. It is biblical that we cannot come to God or Christ unless He draws us by His Spirit. But when He does draw us, do we truly respond, or is our response in receiving Christ imposed upon us by “irresistible grace”? Do we really love God from our hearts (love requires choice), or are we deluded if we think this is the case?
Nor is the issue whether mankind deserves hell. We all deserve to go to hell and God would be fully justified in sending everyone there eternally. The question is whether God wants anyone to go to hell. The Bible says that God “is not willing that any should perish…” and that He prepared “everlasting fire” not for humans but “for the devil and his angels” (Mt 25:41). In contrast, the God of Calvinism wants many to perish. If He did not, He would extend irresistible grace to all and all would go to heaven. Which is the God of the Bible?
Adam and Eve surely were not “depraved,” much less “totally depraved” as Calvinism asserts for man today. So it was not depravity that caused Adam and Eve to rebel in sin. One wonders why God did not extend to them Calvinism’s “irresistible grace” so that there would have been no ensuing sin, sickness, suffering, etc. One also wonders why Christians who have believed in Christ through irresistible grace don’t live perfect lives. Are some Christians, such as Paul, giants of the faith because God causes them to be that way, and are others failures because God for His own mysterious reasons doesn’t give them sufficient grace? What, then, is the purpose of the judgment seat of Christ, and what are the rewards God gives to believers if He is the one who causes some to live more fruitful lives while withholding that grace from others who then are destined to live less fruitful lives? Is there no responsibility on man’s part? Are we robots?
God is sovereign, always has been and always will be. His sovereignty, however, did not prevent Satan’s rebellion in heaven or Adam’s and Eve’s rebellion in the Garden. Choices were made that were not according to God’s will. It is not God’s will that this world be filled with corruption, abortion, murder, lust, wars, etc. He allows it, but this is not His perfect will. Calvinism, however, seems to overstate God’s sovereignty to the point that all evil must in the end be blamed upon Him. Why? Totally depraved man can do nothing but sin unless God keeps him from it, which He could (if He would) for all mankind with irresistible grace.
Yes, God can do what He desires. He could send us all to hell because that is what we all deserve. However, an innocent reader taking the Bible at face value, giving the words their ordinary meaning, would surely be led to believe that God genuinely wanted to save the whole world and that Christ came to die for the sins of the whole world and to offer salvation to all. This would seem to be stated by multiple verses containing phrases such as “which taketh away the sin of the world ….For God so loved the world …that the world through him might be saved….I came not to judge the world, but to save the world ….to be the Saviour of the world …,etc. (Jn:1:29; 3:16-17; 4:42; 12:47; 1 Jn:4:14). And reading other verses containing such phrases as “ whosoever heareth these sayings of mine… whosoever will come to me…thatwhosoever believeth in him… whosoever committeth sin.. .whosoever believeth on me… whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord…whosoever believeth on him… whosoever will, let him take the water of life…,etc. (Mt 7:24; Lk 6:47; Jn:3:15-16; 8:34; 12:46; Acts:2:21;Rom:10:11; Rv 22:17), the average reader would surely believe that “whosoever” means anyone without limitation, not a special class of people called the elect.
Taking at face value statements such as “Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden…who will have all men to be saved…who gave himself a ransom for all …the Lord is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance…,etc. (Mt 11:28; 1 Tm 2:4-6; 2 Pt 3:9), the same reader, again, believing that “all” means all and that “any” means any, would conclude that God lovingly and freely offers salvation to everyone.
The Calvinist, however, because of his belief in total depravity and irresistible grace, requires that God must not only draw sinners to Himself but make them accept Christ. The Calvinist thus arrives at an esoteric understanding rather than the ordinary one. He concludes that “all,” “any,” “world ,” “whosoever” etc., though these words almost always mean what they say, sometimes mean only the elect. When? Whenever Calvinism requires it.
Isn’t this an artificial view imposed on Scripture rather than derived from it? That it is foreign to Scripture seems apparent from the fact that Calvinism requires the entire Bible to be reinterpreted in a way that does violence to the ordinary meaning of words. Repeatedly God pleads with men, “choose ye this day whom ye will serve,” but no one can make such a choice except God causes them to choose Him through irresistible grace. Over and over God pleads with His people Israel through the prophets to repent and turn from their sin so He won’t have to judge them. He weeps over Israel, defers His judgment, sends more prophets to warn and finally and reluctantly pours out His wrath. But all the time He is pleading with a people to repent who are totally depraved and therefore can’t repent unless He extends irresistible grace to them. Yet He withholds it, all the while condemning them for doing the only thing they can do and which He alone could prevent by extending grace but mysteriously won’t.
Jesus weeps over Jerusalem: “How often would I have gathered you together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but ye would not .” Christ could not state more clearly that He truly wants to bless them and that they have rejected Him. But Calvinism changes the whole picture. If they are totally depraved, then they can’t believe in Him unless He causes them to do so through irresistible grace. So “would I” and “ye would not,” for the Calvinist, really mean “I would not” and “ye could not.” If they could only reject Him because they are totally depraved, why does He weep and plead while withholding from them the irresistible grace they need to obey His pleadings? This is not the understanding that a thinking person would derive from reading the Bible. It is an unnatural imposition to support a dogma.
If I should hold a rope 30 feet above a man at the bottom of a well and plead with him earnestly to take hold of it so that I could pull him out, wouldn’t he think that I was mocking him? And if, in addition, I were to berate him for not grabbing the rope, would he not begin to wish he could grab me by the throat? And how could I maintain to any reasonable persons that I really wanted to bring the man up out of the well but that he was the one who wasn’t willing? So how can God really want to save those to whom He doesn’t extend irresistible grace—that being the only means whereby they can believe the gospel?
Isn’t the doctrine of Calvinism really a libel on the character of God? Does it not present a God who does not love everyone enough to want all to go to heaven, a God who sent Christ to die only for the elect and not for all? Yet no basis can be given for why God (who is impartial) would elect one and not another (nor is there anything in any of us to cause God to elect us at all).
For the Calvinist to take verses which clearly say God loves the whole world, that He is not willing that any perish, that He wants all to come to the truth, etc. and to say that “world” and “any” and “all” only mean the elect is to impose on those verses a view which perverts the meaning of what is being said and conflicts with the rest of the Bible. We have at least one verse where this artificially imposed meaning won’t hold: “And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world ” (1 Jn:2:2). Surely “our”/“ours” must be the elect and the “whole world” must be everyone else.
It could not be said in plainer language that Christ’s blood was shed not just for the elect but for the sins of the whole world. Limited atonement thus collapses and with it much of the rest of Calvinism. God is vindicated as a God who is love , who truly loves all so much that He has done everything needed to save the whole world. Christ paid the penalty for all; the Holy Spirit seeks to convict and draw all. Therefore, anyone who is in hell for eternity is there not because God could have saved them by extending irresistible grace but did not. They are there because they rejected the salvation God provided and freely offers to all.
DAVE HUNT, The Berean Call