CALVINISM REVISITED: CRITICAL CORRECTIVES
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One of the Five Points of Calvinism, is IRRESISTIBLE GRACE.
Since there is no allowance for free will in Calvin’s erroneous system, there must be some mechanism to take the “elect” from their inert state of being mere sinners, into the place that they recognise that they are automatically—without repentance and faith—of that elect group with no reason or response required. It is a cold robotic move by proxy. And they have no choice.
In order to achieve this move—without any action of free will—Calvin had to invent two extra non-biblical concepts in order to explain his error. He invented two forms of “grace”: “prevenient grace” and “irresistible grace”.
“Irresistible Grace” is supposedly prefaced by PREVENIENT - or predisposing - grace. Man cannot choose, and therefore God manoeuvres him to salvation. Apart from this grace, no man can believe. God is a type of “puppet-master”.
“… whatever favours God bestows in reference to the spiritual life, flow from this one fountain, because God chose whom He would, and before they were born had the grace which He designed to bestow upon them set apart for their use”.
Calvin 1979, Vol. II, Book III, Chapter 22, #2.
This is a fine statement, but it has no premise—certainly not in Scripture. Grace is not stored in deposit and “set apart”. Like sin, it is not a commodity. God is a God of grace, but He gives grace in specific circumstances as appropriate. He does not provide a stockpile of grace as a commodity—nor does He need to.
Prevenient grace supposedly predisposes an elect person to recognize that he may in fact be a candidate predestined to heaven. There is nothing he can do about it—and he can never be sure. Even Calvin had to admit that he had no certainty that he was necessarily saved. But he had to live as if he was just in case! Hence the “judgment of charity” which Calvin projected—again, without foundation.
Having been drawn to God—apart from their wills—and predisposed by “prevenient grace”, an elect person as a mere robot is further drawn—with or without his will—by “irresistible grace”.
Irresistible grace, means that that person has no choice—he is compelled irresistibly—but simply acknowledges that he must be on the way to heaven! He cannot resist God. There is no choice—there is no free will. And he assumes that he has got it right.
This is a seriously flawed position, and leads to the demise of Calvinism.
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In critiquing Calvinism, one of the considerations, is its DELUSIONS OF GRANDEUR.
It is the sheer power complex and delusions of grandeur of Calvin himself that betrays this religion as not only a sect, but as an expression of Calvin’s own assertive authoritarian personality.
This is most clearly seen in his establishment of the Church State in Geneva.
“No one in Geneva was allowed to think for himself, and heresy of every sort was ruthlessly suppressed. Calvin was a thorough-going theocrat, and he ruled with a rod of iron.
Under this grim rule it can easily be imagined that there was no place for liberty of conscience. Calvin had marked out the path of truth, and any deviation from it was visited with severe penalties. A kind of spiritual Gestapo existed, people were fined, imprisoned, banished or executed, and, except for Calvinists, Geneva was a somewhat uncomfortable place.”
Cook 1964, 196.
There was no place for grace or compassion in Calvin’s dictatorship, and this reflected his concept of the sovereign God—as he saw Him—a veritable dictator with no flexibility even within the parameters of His Own determination (as perceived by Calvin).
And contrary to his ostentatiously parroted assertions concerning grace, there is none in Calvinistic actual belief, let alone in practice—certainly as practiced by Calvin himself.
He refused to allow for secular authority. As distinct from Luther and Zwingli—who firmly believed in a close connection between Church and State, and were satisfied with a State Church— Calvin’s aim was to establish a Church State.
By contrast, we see
- Jesus’ attitude toward the oppressive Roman rule of His day, even in the matter of paying taxes:
21 … Then he said to them, “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”
Matthew 22:21, emphasis added.
- Paul’s instruction:
1Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.
Romans 13:1-2, emphases added.
Paul had a correct perspective of all earthly authority in subjection to God.
- Peter is equally clear in his instructions:
13Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, 14 or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right.
1 Peter 2:13, emphasis added.
Both Paul and Peter—as well as Jesus—recognised the authority of God through human agencies. But Calvin stood above the biblical order, posturing with his superior singular interpretation.
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Concerning assurance of salvation—PERSEVERANCE OF THE SAINTS—Calvin had to admit that he could have no assurance of his own salvation—baptised or not. So in fact, he may not be of the elect at all! No one can be certain in the Calvinistic system—unless it is related to the mechanical “works” of man—viz. baptismal regeneration, which has nothing to do with God—let alone a sovereign God. This is precisely the opposite to what Calvin was trying to establish, but of course he had no biblical criteria for any of it.
Indeed, there is no sure sign that Calvin was himself saved, if one judges by the dictatorial attitudes he practised, and the harsh and judgmental way he conducted his whole operation. It was quite ruthless, and completely lacking the love and compassion of Christ. In fact, Cook reports on a Sebastian Castellio, who challenged Calvin in the face of the burning at the stake of Servetus for his views—and to which Calvin wrote in stout justification of his action. Castellio said:
“I ask you … whether Christ Who forgave those who went astray and commended His followers to forgive until seventy times seven, Christ Who is the final Judge of all, if He were here, would command a person like that [Servetus] to be killed? O Christ, Creator and King of the world … dost Thou command that those who do not understand Thy ordinances as those over us require should be drowned, or drawn and quartered, or burned at the stake?” (Castellio)
To which Calvin replied by calling Castellio “a monster full of poison and madness”.
Cook 1964, 197.
The actions and reactions are hardly those of a true Christian.
In the absence of certainty concerning the identity of the saved and the damned, there is an attempt by Calvin to present an evident difference between the saved and the lost:
“He (Calvin) observes that the separation of the elect from the reprobate is effected by God, but that as far as we are concerned, we cannot clearly distinguish the elect from the reprobate in spite of some “sure signs” to that effect given us in Scriptures. We must therefore be content to exercise a “judgment of charity”, and count as elect and as members of the Church all those who by their words and conduct “profess one and the same God and Christ with us”. From that moment, then, Calvin had adopted as his own the doctrine upon election which was common to the reformers”.
Wendel 1965, 266, emphasis added.
The “sure signs” are quite inadequate to either establish who are in fact Christians—given that all are often in a state of sin—or to eliminate those who are not yet “saved”, and who could well be included in the future. And certainly Calvin himself would fall foul of his own criteria. He lacked the “sure signs”. He would be depending upon a “judgment of charity”!
But that is cold comfort, when we can in fact be sure of our salvation.
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SEE CONTENTS PAGE: CALVINISM: OUTLINE of CONTENTS