It wasn’t long ago that I didn’t have strong feelings about Calvinism. Being a believer that the Bible clearly teaches we have free will, I thought Calvinism was off-base, but it was one of those subjects where I said, “Whatever…” That has changed.
One person who recently contacted me regarding one of my essays also blogs and has similarly written a few articles on the same subjects. It turns out that Heather had a full-blown run-in with Calvinism. It happened when a new pastor came to her church and began subtly espousing Calvinist views, until he eventually came out as an ardent proponent. During that time, Heather began searching the Scriptures and deeply studying the tenets of Calvinism, and from that began her blog called the Anti-Calvinist Rant (https://anticalvinistrant.blogspot.com/). The partial end of the story is that Heather and her family, who had been at that church for twenty years, felt they had no other option except to leave because of the Calvinist doctrine she had come to see as completely un-Scriptural.
If you read her numerous blog entries on this subject, you’ll see that Heather is the expert, and I’m not. Regardless, I think I have something to contribute to this issue.
The argument against Calvinist thinking can be summed up in the idea that Calvinism believes that all actions are caused by God and that no one can do anything unless God makes it happen. It’s encapsulated in the free-will versus predestination controversy. Do we as human beings have the means to make the choice of salvation or is our destiny completely predetermined by God? Are there the “elect” who will be saved and the “non-elect” whom God has destined for destruction?
The problem is that if Calvinism is true, why does the Bible state that God desires all to come to repentance?
2 Peter 3:9 “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”
1 Timothy 2:4 “who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
Does the Lord mean all when he says all, or does this have a hidden implication that really means only the elect? To me and many others, this is a fatal flaw in Calvinist thinking as it certainly appears to contradict what the Lord has plainly stated.
In this Calvinist viewpoint, God ultimately has made and caused not only good, but also evil. If none have free will, then they cannot be responsible for their actions; thus, God caused them to sin in rebellion against Him and live in disobedience. Man, therefore, is not a free-willed entity but simply a puppet of God who will eventually do what He has ordained, whether for good or evil. Apparently, to paraphrase what the Calvinists say, “Like it or lump it.” You can accept it, be angry about it, or simply ignore this basic truth. How about we reject it as un-Biblical?
What got me thinking about this was one of my frequent reflections on what is known as the Deuteronomy 32 worldview. In brief, this concept brings together a number of mostly overlooked Scriptures, that when put together and placed in context help us to better understand the world around us through a Biblical lens.
In summary: Sin came into the world through Adam and Eve’s disobedience in the Garden (Genesis 3). Depravity was heaped upon mankind when the sons of God came to earth and procreated with human woman, causing great anguish to God and the resulting flood from His judgment (Genesis 6). Mankind rebelled against God on the plains of Shinar in the Tower of Babel incident (Genesis 11). God got so fed up with mankind’s rebellion that He temporarily divorced them. He set His divine sons over the nations of the earth after He had scattered the disobedient humans throughout the world and confused their language. It was at this time that God also chose Israel as His inheritance (Deuteronomy 32:8-9). In fact, in the very next chapter after Babel, God calls Abraham (Genesis 12).
God’s divine sons make their assignment all about themselves. Rather than point man to God as they were instructed to do, they became the gods of these nations over which they’d been placed. That royally ticks off God. He judges them so severely that these spiritual beings will have an unheard-of fate: they will die like mere men (Psalm 82).
Jesus is the answer to all these problems. His coming ultimately eliminates sin because of His death on the cross. His resurrection and the sending of the Holy Spirit deals with man’s depravity. As we are saved, the Holy Spirit lives within us, and we have God helping us to live and reject depraved—reprobate—thinking and actions. As Bible prophecy plays out, believers will be Raptured, unbelieving mankind will be judged, Israel will turn to the true Messiah, and ultimately Jesus will reclaim the nations from the usurpers. It’s a great story and a wonderful truth.
So, where does Calvinism fit into all this?
If you believe that God causes every action and that man really doesn’t have free will, what do you do with the sons of God? He created them before the beginning of this world. We know that from Job 38:4-7 where God said to Job:
“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements—surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?”
These divine sons were around at the very beginning in the Garden. What was the serpent, Satan, if not one of God’s spiritual creations?
Did God cause the serpent to entice Adam and Eve to sin? If you believe in Calvinism, that’s the only logical conclusion.
Subsequently, when God placed His divine sons over the nations as His stewards and they rebelled, was their disobedience pre-ordained by Him? In other words, did God’s spiritual creation, His sons in the heavenlies, have free will or not? If they did and mankind didn’t, why would God do that? Why make part of His creation able to choose and thus to rebel, and another part be predestined to one result or another, i.e. to be saved and become a child of God, or be unable to be saved and destined from the beginning by God’s choice to suffer His wrath?
If the Calvinist answer, “That’s what God did and you have to accept it” makes sense to you in this scenario, well…all I can say is that it surely seems inconsistent to me and out of the character of God. More than that, this approach certainly appears to contradict Scripture.
And isn’t that what this is all about? What does the Bible actually say? What does God want? If He loves us, which is clear throughout the Bible, then why in the world would He create a portion of mankind and, from the inception, decree they would be relegated to the Lake of Fire despite declaring otherwise? What kind of sense does that make? What kind of God does that make Him? If we know anything about God, it’s that He is not senseless and wanton in His love and desire for man to be part of His family.
He has a plan and a purpose. Throughout the Bible, He uses family language. We are His children. We are heirs. We are His sons and daughters. Exactly like the language used for His divine family (e.g. sons of God). Eventually, we will be joined to continue the work of God. He wants all of us to be a part of that. He wants none to perish. Calvinism’s foolishness is on display when we see God’s true intent.
We are family. God would never cause any of us harm in any way. All who choose to do so can be part of the elect and part of His glorious plans.
Gary W. Ritter is a lay pastor, Bible teacher, and serves as Missions Director at his church. He is also a prolific author. His Whirlwind Series is comprised of three books: Sow the Wind, Reap the Whirlwind, and There Is A Time. All these books are also contained in the collected volume of the Whirlwind Omnibus. Gary has been given the Christian Redemptive Fiction award for two novels: The Tattooed Cat and Alien Revelation. His intent in all his writings is to bring a strong Christian witness to what people read. You can reach him via his website at www.GaryRitter.com or his Facebook Author page at https://www.facebook.com/gritter3390. You can also see his video Bible teachings on his Gary Ritter YouTube page – look for the fish symbol.