What Is Calvinism?

Calvinism is a system of thought that has been embraced by many since the time of the Reformation. And some of its philosophical concepts go back all the way to Augustine.

The first main concept is a form of soft determinism called “compatibilism.” Simply put, compatibilism teaches that God unilaterally determines every thought, word, and deed of every creature in all of history, and yet this determinism is deemed to be compatible with the idea that each creature is still morally responsible for their thoughts, words, and deeds.

The acronym TULIP sums up the 5 points of Calvinism’s idea about the nature of salvation.

T stands for Total Depravity. This doctrine teaches that each person is so corrupt from birth that they could never respond in repentance or faith towards God and Christ even if the Holy Spirit comes to the person and convicts them of their sin.

U stands for Unconditional Election. This doctrine teaches that God unilaterally chose before the world began whom He would give the gift of faith and repentance to so they could be saved. And it further teaches that He left the rest of mankind without the ability to repent or believe so that He could show His wrath on them forever.

L stands for Limited Atonement. This doctrine teaches that Jesus paid the penalty for specific sinners and their sins. He only died for those whom God unconditionally elected for His own purposes.

I stands for Irresistible Grace. This doctrine teaches that God unilaterally causes a person to be born again, and made into a new creature in Christ, without the will of the sinner being involved. And then, since the person is made new, he then naturally repents and believes unto justification.

P stands for Perseverance of the Saints. This doctrine teaches that God will make sure that those whom He saves, will continue in holiness until the end of their lives and thus inherit eternal life.

The last main perspective in the Calvinistic philosophy is Covenant Theology. This paradigm teaches that God has saved people in history, both in the Old and New Testaments through faith. And that in the Old Testament they had different signs, but the same salvation as those in the New. For example, in the Old Testament, male children were made part of God’s people by being circumcised as babies. In the same way, people are now made part of God’s people through baptism as babies. (Note: Baptist Calvinists have adjusted their view on Covenant Theology for obvious reasons)

Here is a short video on this topic:

God So Loved The World & Hated Esau

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

John 3:16 NKJV

…(for the children not yet being born, nor having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of Him who calls), it was said to her, “The older shall serve the younger.” As it is written, “Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated.”

Romans 9:11-13 NKJV

These 2 passages are often used in the good old-fashioned Free Will vs. Sovereignty debate. Maybe a Calvinist will post the Romans 9:11-13 passage to stump the non-Calvinist, and then the Free-Willer will respond by saying, “Well, what about John 3:16?! Aha!” It would be a humorous exchange if it was not so depressing. First of all, both are setting up one passage of Holy Writ against another, which seems a strange thing for Christians who believe in the inspiration of Scripture to do. But, to be fair, each of them thinks that their opponent is misinterpreting the passage they reference, and so they attempt to give them a clearer passage that they cannot possibly fail to understand. But instead of dealing with the first passage quoted, each side runs to its storehouse of verses with which to respond.

Continue reading “God So Loved The World & Hated Esau”

Romans 9:1-13 – God’s Sovereign Prerogative

1 I tell the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit, 2 that I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh, 4 who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises; 5 of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen. 

– Romans 9:1-5 NKJV

Paul is grieved over the unbelief and spiritual danger of the nation of Israel in general. The New Covenant was specifically promised to the nation of Israel, though it was foretold to include Gentiles as well. But the situation in Paul’s day was that the majority of Jews had rejected the Jewish Messiah and the New Covenant in Him. In these verses Paul expresses his desire for their salvation and rehearses the reason why the promises are for Israelites first and foremost. Continue reading “Romans 9:1-13 – God’s Sovereign Prerogative”

Are You Sure You Wanna Use That Verse? (Ephesians 2:5-6 – Part 4)

Gratefully, this is my last post on Ephesians 2:5-6 for the foreseeable future. We have been considering this passage in order to make one simple point: These verses are not a proof-text for monergistic regeneration. 

Exegesis first & last

I am keenly aware that since Calvinists hold to their particular form of Total Depravity, monergistic regeneration is a logical necessity if anyone is going to be saved. This doctrine is closely tied to other doctrines in their system as well, which is why focusing on one doctrine and one verse at a time can be difficult for my Calvinist brethren. 

They tend to see individual Scriptures through the lens of systematic theology, and often say something to the effect of “The passage cannot say people are saved by choosing to believe, because other verses teach Total Depravity, and therefore they cannot choose to believe.” If we take the bait and go to those passages to look at the context, and find their exegesis is faulty, we will soon find ourselves looking into the context of verses related to Unconditional Election. This will lead to verses on Divine Sovereignty, Limited Atonement and sooner or later back to Monergism. But it is a difficult task to deal with one verse at a time in context.

Continue reading “Are You Sure You Wanna Use That Verse? (Ephesians 2:5-6 – Part 4)”

Are You Sure You Wanna Use That Verse? (Ephesians 2:5-6 – Part 3)

This is the continuation of my last post. We are still addressing the Calvinist argument that Ephesians 2:5-6 teaches monergistic regeneration because the text does not show any action on the part of man. In the last post we brought our first witness against this argument, namely the immediate context. In verse 5 it includes the phrase “by grace you have been saved.” We noted that Paul expands on this phrase in verses 8. In those verses he teaches that we are saved (i.e. justified) through faith. The grace of God saves us, and we receive that grace through believing. The fact that the same phrase is used in verse 5 and verse 8 shows us that the same topic is being taught in both verses.

But we have another witnesses against the monergistic reading of Ephesians 2:5-6. So without further ado, let’s put our second witness on the stand.

Witness #2 – Colossians 2:11-13

The context of Paul’s letter to the Colossians is very similar to his letter to the Ephesians. There are some slight differences, but the topics he covers are basically the same. What is pertinent for us is the parallel passage to Ephesians 2:5-6 found in Colossians 2:11-13. 

Colossians 2:11-13

11 In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 

Continue reading “Are You Sure You Wanna Use That Verse? (Ephesians 2:5-6 – Part 3)”

Are You Sure You Wanna Use That Verse? (Ephesians 2:5-6 – Part 2)

It Teaches Justification, not sanctification

In the first post of this series we went through Ephesians 2:1-10 to show in context why Ephesians 2:5-6 are not valid verses to use as a proof-text for monergistic regeneration. We noted that when Calvinists quote this passage with that in mind they are in error. The passage does not teach that God by grace does an internal work of transformation in the heart of the sinner. 

The passage is not teaching that the sinner is actually taken out of their sin and raised up to the right hand of God with Christ Jesus. Instead the passage is talking about a positional change, from being condemned in sin, to being accepted and blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ Jesus. It is teaching us about the new status we have in Christ Jesus as adopted children. So, though it is talking about regeneration (rebirth), it is addressing the positional aspect of the new birth, not the transformative aspect. To use theological terminology, it is speaking about justification, not sanctification. 

Continue reading “Are You Sure You Wanna Use That Verse? (Ephesians 2:5-6 – Part 2)”

Are You Sure You Wanna Use that Verse? (Eph. 2:5-6 – Part 1)

They Beleive What?

The condition of the lost sinner is termed “total depravity” by Calvinists; not merely moral depravity, but total constitutional depravity; not merely unwillingness to repent and believe, but inability to repent and believe. The work of grace which they say is required is called “monergistic regeneration.” Monergistic means that this work is done unilaterally by God. God does not wait for the sinner to meet any conditions before transforming him, but God does it unilaterally whenever and to whomever he chooses. And regeneration is an old theological word meaning rebirth, or as moderns usually say, “born again.” So, the conclusion is that because sinners are incapable of repenting of sin and trusting in Christ, God unilaterally causes them to be born again. Only after He does this can the sinner genuinely repent and trust in Christ. 

In the next few posts we want to look at the go-to proof-text that Calvinists often cite as biblical evidence of monergistic regeneration. Hopefully we will see very clearly that this is probably not a passage the honest Calvinist will want to use again in the future since it fails on at least 3 major points to confirm their doctrine. The passage we will be considering is found in Ephesians 2:5-6:

5 …even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus…

Continue reading “Are You Sure You Wanna Use that Verse? (Eph. 2:5-6 – Part 1)”

Monergistic Circumcision? Is That Really A Thing?! (Deuteronomy 30:6)

Which Comes First?

Does the Bible teach that people must be born again (i.e. regenerated) before they can repent and believe? This has been debated among evangelicals going back to the Reformation, and can be seen even earlier in the writings of Augustine. Calvinists and Lutherans teach monergism, which means they believe people must be born again before a person can repent and believe. Arminians believe that being born again is a divine gift given to people when they place their trust in Christ. In this post we will look at one of the common proof-texts for monergistic regeneration.

Many broken Microphones

Deuteronomy 30:6

6 “And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.

Continue reading “Monergistic Circumcision? Is That Really A Thing?! (Deuteronomy 30:6)”

Dancing on the Edge of Calvinism

Enticed by Calvinism

There have been times in my life where I desired to accept the Calvinist theological system. Primarily because of the great blessings I have received from sitting at the feet of the puritans, reading their writings. I deeply appreciate their devotional depth and their focus on the glory of God in all things. Calvinism, at least in its classical form, also emphasizes the need for holiness, a need that I have recognized from the first day Christ saved me. This is a basic aspect of the Christian faith that is obviously lacking in our day in which worldliness is rampant among those who confess Christ. Besides these reasons for desiring Calvinism, there is the simple fact that embracing a tradition that already claims to have an airtight logical grid through which to view every verse of Scripture was very tempting to my lazy heart. But I was never able to embrace it, though I honestly tried to accept as much of the system as I could without throwing God’s word under the bus. 

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Died to Save, Died to Gather – John 11:50-52

John 11:47-53

So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the council and said, “What are we to do? For this man performs many signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all. Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.” He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad. So from that day on they made plans to put him to death.

cross nail
Continue reading “Died to Save, Died to Gather – John 11:50-52”