i am predestined to not believe in calvinism, part one

Posted: June 21, 2010 in Christianity, Theology
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I don’t know everything and I don’t have a problem admitting that. Historically, I have purposely avoided theological debate because it rarely yields any fruit. But I just can’t shake the fact that something seems really wrong to me about Calvinism. Also called Reformed Theology or predestination, and explained by the TULIP acronym,  it just doesn’t sit right with me.  (By the way, if you don’t have a decent grasp of the reformed tradition, you should really go read about it first or nothing else here will make sense.) Now I know my problems with Calvinism will make a lot of people angry and I can go ahead and save you some time and frustration by telling you that calling me a humanist won’t convert me. Neither do you have that “special verse” that will make it all make sense to me. The theological systems we employ are adopted over time and informed by both our experiences and our theological upbringing. If I was going to convert to this system of thought I would’ve switched over a long time ago. Yes, I’ve read the Bible and yes I’ve seen John 6:44.

Why do I have such an aversion to this doctrine? I gotta admit Calvinism is beautifully constructed. Its perfectly organized, neatly packaged and brings a lot of comfort to its customers. But the same can be said for pork rinds – it doesn’t make them worth eating. If you want an excellent perspective on the theological flaws of Calvinism, my brother has already explained it better than I ever could in a series he wrote called “Come On, Just How Bad is Calvinism” part one, two and three. Please read it. As my older brother, he’s been talking for me since I was born (thanks for the delayed speech there, bro) so I figure why not keep tradition alive.

I’ll post at least three separate blogs and 5 points (irony!) on this so please read all three submissions to get the big picture of what I’m saying. Here are the first two reasons why I am predestined to not believe in Calvinism:

1)The predestination of events is illogical. Most Calvinists believe in the doctrine of predestination. Its the idea that God has predetermined everything that happens in life. The Westminster Confession of Faith says “God from all eternity did by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass.” In other words, all that has happened or ever will happen is the perfect expression of His will. We know this because He’s sovereign and nothing else except an all-powerful God could ever cause anything to happen. Sounds great doesn’t it? Finally a doctrine that gives God the glory He’s due! The problem is that this idea places the blame for all of the godless acts through history squarely on God. Think of the logical consequences of that statement: if everything that has happened up to this point in history was God’s perfect will, then God not only allowed but wanted the Holocaust to happen. Under this construct, rape is part of God’s perfect design as is incest, murder, Down Syndrome, and stillborn births. Now Calvinists, of course, say that God doesn’t ordain sin. The aforementioned Westminster Confession says this as well. But they just say that without providing an explanation as to how. Its kinda like when Obi-Wan uses the force to pull one over on the storm troopers. “God ordains everything, but not sin. *Waves Hand* But He still ordains everything. ” The logical consequence of this system is that God is the author and facilitator of our sin. The problem is James 1:13 says that God is neither sins nor causes anyone to sin. I always wonder why there are so many anti-abortion Calvinists. If God truly predestines everything to happen, then why speak out against abortion? Under this theological system, God obviously desires abortion by the mere fact of its existence. So why get in the way of His perfect will of killing babies?

2) Calvinism’s principle passages ignore context. Now I know I’ll probably hear some howls from this because Calvinists often harp on this very subject themselves. Yet they refuse to apply simple context to their own proof texts. Anytime anyone uses a verse to prove a theological point, you can’t read it by itself and apply it to a predetermined theology. You must ask yourself 1) who wrote it 2) who is it is written to and 3) why was it written. Let me give a few examples:

Ephesians 1 is a commonly used passage to defend the doctrine of predestination and election. Calvinists love it. And its obvious why – its very easy to assume from these verses that God picks and chooses who gets saved and who doesn’t. But the thing about scripture is that when you read a passage with a theological end already in mind, you will always see what you want to see. That’s why context and author’s intent are so important. So what is the context of Ephesians 1? The Jews had been claiming the role of being God’s chosen ones (the elect) for thousands of years. It was now Paul’s self-proclaimed job to ensure that the Gentiles knew they now had been chosen too (elected) through Jesus’ death and resurrection. Could it be that the election these verses speak of is regarding the corporate election of the Gentiles in addition to the Jews? That God now chooses everyone through the blood of Christ to be his children? That the Gentiles have now been grafted into the tree as Romans 11 says? Sorry, but to me that just makes a whole lot more sense than individual election. In writing his letter to the Ephesians, Paul wasn’t writing a theology book explaining the mechanism by which Christians get saved (election). He was encouraging new, non-Jewish believers that they are now accepted and have been chosen by the Hebrew God.

The passage in Romans 9 about Esau is also commonly used by Calvinists as evidence that God in his Sovereignty chooses some over others. And you know what? They’re right. God, by His sovereign choice, chose to preserve the lineage of the Jews through Jacob instead of Esau. I have no problem with that. However, I do have a problem with using this verse which is specific in context to the lineage of the Jews and trying to somehow apply it to the New Testament salvation of individuals. Our salvation is not through lineage. Does this verse say God elects those who are to be saved under the New Covenant? No. It says God elected Jacob over Esau, period. Think of the context – why is this part of Romans being written? Paul is using that OT example of God’s sovereignty to justify why He “changed the rules” on the Jews and allowed the Gentiles in. Again, its about corporate election. Why do the Calvinists insist on making this passage about themselves as individuals?

Calvinists tend to be excellent proof-texters. They’ll make a point and then pull the ol’ rapid fire scripture references ploy to back that statement up. If you ever see that done, I encourage you to look up every single one and ask yourself if their interpretation is being honest with the author’s original intent. Sometimes a verse by itself will sound like it means one thing but when read with the whole passage, it means something totally different. You can’t just pick out verses. I had a friend tell me once that they get their theology from Romans 9. The problem is there is no such thing as Romans 9 – there is only Romans.

More to come…

Advertisements
Comments
  1. “Logic” has nothing to do with predestination. “Logic” does not tell us what is true. An assertion can be “logical” but false. And something (predestination) can be “illogical” and true.

    John Lofton, Editor, TheAmericanView.com
    Communications Director, Institute on the Constitution
    Host, “TheAmericanView” radio show
    Recovering Republican
    JLof@aol.com

  2. Jamie says:

    John, glad you found the blog and thanks for your comment! Feel free to stop by anytime.

    I wholeheartedly agree that logic doesn’t tell us whats true. But of course I’m not trying to disprove predestination since it, by nature, can’t be proven or unproven. Its simply a system of Biblical interpretation. What logic does, though, is help us determine if the system is fit for consumption when weighed against other more or less logical systems. Logic a universally understood God-given gift to help us discover truth. For instance the law of non-contradiction, as I’m sure you know, states that “A cannot be both A and non-A at the same time.” My contention with predestination is that it breaks this logical law. For instance, God plainly condemns adultery in the Bible. However, if predestination is true and He ordained all that happens, then God facilitated every instance of adultery in history. How can God both stand against adultery (a) and cause adultery (non-a)? It’s illogical and one of the several reasons I reject Calvinism.

  3. Preacher Bill says:

    Jaimie,
    Your explanation of Ephesians Chapter 1 was interesting, however, you are guilty of committing the same error you have accused Calvinists of. You have already admitted that you do not like Calvinism. From that point of view, you will never see election in the scripture. You have already determined before hand what the outcome of your exegesis of the scripture is going to be.

    Your ‘sin’ problem, I suggest you look up ‘secondary cause’. It might help you at least understand that. Man is sinful,no doubt, and by the grace of God, we are not as sinful as we could be. God does not have to cause us to commit sin. We will do it. He restrains us. However, God does let evil men do evil deeds, to bring about His Perfect will. Here are some examples:
    Joseph’s brethren sell him into slavery(God didn’t let them kill him) Joseph acknowledges that it was God who meant it for good.
    God sent an evil spirit to trouble Saul.
    God sent a lying spirit into the false prophets.
    The rulers of Israel took it upon themselves to kill Jesus, and they are guilty, but read Isaiah 53, where we find that it was God Himself that bruised him, and that for our sin!!

    Here is a thought, Why put a tree in the Garden, that no one can eat, leave them by themselves, and let the devil in there to tempt them? Seems to me, don’t plant the tree, no problems then. And why let the devil even exist?

    Also many of us were former haters of Calvinism. Be careful what you put in print, you might eventually have to retract more than you want.

    Oh, instead of starting with predestination, start with Total Depravity.
    Are men totally depraved? Tackle that one first.

    Have fun!
    preacherbill

    • Jamie says:

      Preacher Bill, thanks for stopping by!

      I did not arrive at free will and work backwards like the way Calvinism is usually taught. My approach toward Ephesians 1 and all scripture that has been hijacked by reformed theology is a process of redeeming these passages. I have not begun with my end – rather, I have attempted to release these passages from what well-intentioned preachers have preached through the years (usually just repackaging what they already heard) regarding their usefulness to their preconceived notions (like Calvinism). From these fresh readings of scripture, free from a theological system, I have developed an aversion to Calvinism. You are reading the end result of that process in this blog.

      I am already familiar with the idea of secondary cause and I am a firm believer in it. It’s basically where God allows sin without causation and is believed by Arminians as well as Open View proponents (which I tend towards). It is an insertion required to make the doctrine of predestination anywhere near palatable. The problem is, it is not compatible with the way predestination is typically preached. It may work for scholars and books but everyday Christians take predestination to its unintended end of God being a puppet master who controls everything (hyper-Calvinism). This is what I’m addressing.

      For the record I don’t hate Calvinism – I just think it falls short of fully representing the heart of God and if we must employ a system of theology, there are better choices. Thanks for the reminder about what I put in print. I’ve never had a problem admitting when I’m wrong (I actually started out the post saying I don’t know everything!) but neither am I going to be afraid of stirring things up.

      I’d love for you to stick around, read the ensuing posts and let me know what you think!

      Jamie

  4. […] this is why I feel justified bringing up these points in a public forum.  I have already discussed my first two points in part one – 1) the predestination of events is illogical and 2) many of the proof texts used to defend […]

  5. Fisher says:

    Please refer to my blog post here for a response to your criticisms and misrepresentations of the Reformed position:

    http://epagonizesthai.blogspot.com/2010/06/clarifying-reformed-theology-part-1.html

    I would love to dialogue with you on this issue (theology is a passion of mine), so don’t hesitate to hit me back, aight?

    Grace & Peace.

    Fisher.

    • Jamie says:

      Fisher, thanks for reading. I’ll check out your reply. I’d love to start a dialogue with you, and I pray that as we both humble ourselves before God He’ll help us as we learn to interpret His word.

      I hope I don’t disappoint you – I don’t embrace theology for theology’s sake. God seems to have gifted me with a heart to shepard people so I am a very practical theologian. If theology is not useful in conveying the person of Jesus to the creation He loves, I get bored pretty quickly. With that said, I do love discussing His ways and usually can talk about this stuff without getting angry like so many do.

      And For the record, I realize I am characterizing Calvinism from its most extreme perspective and take it to its unintended end. But many years of being on the front lines of ministry have taught me that most everyday people who employ reformed theology adhere to its unintended extreme.

      See you on your site.

      Jamie

      • Fisher says:

        I do not believe either that theology is an end to itself. Ultimately, the goal of theology is to have a better understanding of the God whom we worship and glorify, in order that we may better serve Him and edify our fellow believers.

        That being said, perhaps you’re not familiar with the practical applications of Calvinistic theology. It is highly applicable, as you would learn from studying many of the great Reformed preachers, evangelists in missionaries of history. To give you a few names, there are George Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards, William Carey, Charles Spurgeon and Martyn Lloyd-Jones.

        I don’t know what you mean by “unintended extreme,” but I doubt it’s the same as Classical five-point Calvinism, which is very evangelistic, by the way. Studying the historical figures I just mentioned to you will make that point clear enough.

        When you are able to do so, look up “The Soul Winner” by Charles Spurgeon, as well as “Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God” by J.I. Packer. Both books explore the issue of evangelism from a Reformed perspective, and you will find it highly informative (especially since both books are highly-practical).

      • Jamie says:

        Fisher,
        I posted a response similar to this in answer to your similar part 2 comment but just want to make sure it makes it over here as well.
        To clarify, what I mean by “unintended extreme” is that Calvinism seems to set up a situation – whether intended or not – where God is both A and non-A. When you follow predestination to its logical conclusion, you have a god that condemns adultery yet causes it, who hates homosexuality yet created homosexuals, who instructs us not to murder but pre-ordained each and every suicide. He is seen as unfair and contradictory by the masses and thereby misconstrued as a confusing unappealing Deity instead of the loving God He really is. This is not the intent of Calvinism – I know – but I’ve found that for the average Joe Laymen, this is where Calvinism takes them.

  6. […] I feel are the problems with the Christian doctrine of Calvinism. If you haven’t read parts one or two, please read those first. I hope this has encouraged free will advocates that your position […]

  7. Fisher says:

    Part 2 of my response, where I answer your queries about part 1 of my response:

    http://epagonizesthai.blogspot.com/2010/06/clarifying-reformed-theology-part-2.html

    I’ll respond to your part 2 in my part 3, lol. 😛

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s