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Intimacy with God


Part 2

John Aziza


John Calvin (1509–1564) was a French theologian, pastor, and reformer noted for his prominent role in the Protestant Reformation. He is credited with the development of Calvinism, a system of Christian theology that includes the doctrines of election and predestination. The five points of Calvinism or its five main doctrines are represented by the acronym TULIP and are as follows: Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace, and the Perseverance of the Saints.

The purpose of this article is to expose the significant issues within Calvinism and to highlight its divergence from the Bible's portrayal of God's character and love for humanity. In the following sections, I'll present key quotes from Calvin's writings and outline a few of the troubling FACTS of the Calvinist belief system, accompanied by my commentary. 


God the Author of Evil: 

"From this it is easy to conclude how foolish and frail is the support of divine justice afforded by the suggestion that evils come to be not by [God’s] will, but merely by his permission. Of course, so far as they are evils, which men perpetrate with their evil mind, as I shall show in greater detail shortly, I admit that they are not pleasing to God. But it is a quite FRIVOLOUS refuge TO SAY that GOD PERMITS them, when Scripture shows Him not only willing but the AUTHOR OF THEM.” - The Eternal Predestination of God, pg. 176


On the fall of Adam:

“HE SINNED BECAUSE GOD SO ORDAINED, because the Lord saw good.” - Inst. 3:24:8

On Limited Atonement:

“…salvation is freely offered to some while others are barred from access to it.” - Inst. 3:21:5

"Whence it comes about that the whole world does not belong to its Creator except that grace rescues from God’s curse and wrath and eternal death a limited number who would otherwise perish. But the world itself is left to its own destruction, to which it has been destined. Meanwhile, although Christ interposes himself as mediator, he claims for himself, in common with the Father, the right to choose. ‘I am not speaking’, he says, ‘of all; I know whom I have chosen’ (John 13:18). If anyone ask whence he has chosen them, he replies in another passage: ‘From the world’ (John 15:19), which he excludes from his prayers when he commends his disciples to the Father (John 17:9). This we must believe: when he declares that he knows whom he has chosen, he denotes in the human genus a particular species, distinguished not by the quality of its virtues but by heavenly decree." - Inst. 3:22:7

"Through Isaiah he still more openly shows how he directs the promises of salvation specifically to the elect: for he proclaims that they alone, not the whole human race without distinction, are to become his disciples (Isa. 8:16). Hence it is clear that the doctrine of salvation, which is said to be reserved solely and individually for the sons of the church, is falsely debased when presented as effectually profitable to all." - Inst. 3:22:10

On the Arbitrary Damnation of Mankind for God's Glory:

“God arranges all things by his sovereign counsel, in such a way that individuals who are born are doomed from the womb to certain death, and are to glorify him by certain destruction.” - Inst. 3:23:6


FACT #1: According to Calvinism, God ordained (intended) evil to exist. He decrees all sinful actions and wills them to happen.


FACT #2: Calvinism claims that sin, death, and suffering are all intentionally designed to bring glory to God’s name. Instead of viewing these elements as a result of human failure that providentially serve to glorify God and demonstrate His loving character, Calvinism views them as the objects of God's divine purpose.


FACT #3: Calvinism makes God out to be a cruel and egotistical "god" who cares more about His glory than about the salvation of human souls. Roger E. Olson has this to say about it:


“If Calvinism is true, then God is monstrous and barely distinguishable from the devil. The only difference in character is that the devil wants everyone to go to hell and God only wants some, many, to go to hell.”


But unlike Calvinism, the Scriptures teach that God is love (1 John 4:8) and that His chief desire is for all men to repent and receive eternal life:


For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that *whosoever* believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life (John 3:16).


And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself (John 12:32).


Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time (1 Tim 2:4-6).


The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that *any* should perish, but that all should come to repentance (2 Pet 3:9).


The above verses clearly refute the third point of Calvinism or “limited atonement”, which teaches that God's atonement was only ever for the elect, not the whole world. 


FACT #4: According to Calvinism, God controls all of our actions and thoughts, including those that are wicked. Even so, God finds fault with the human race and maintains justice by arbitrarily forgiving some and condemning others to hell. Yet the Bible demonstrates otherwise. It shows that God is constantly pleading with man to repent from his sinful ways and to choose good rather than evil. Man’s freewill choices, therefore, may result in negative consequences that God did not desire to come about. The fact that man alone is responsible for the negative consequences of his bad choices is evident throughout Scriptures:


The Lord said to Cain, Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it (Gen 4:6-7).


I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them (Deut 30:19-20) .


And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord (Jos 24:15).


But when I speak with you, I will open your mouth, and you shall say to them, Thus says the Lord God. He who will hear, let him hear; and he who will refuse to hear, let him refuse, for they are a rebellious house (Ezek 3:27).


Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, declares the Lord God. Repent and turn from all your transgressions, lest iniquity be your ruin. Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord God; so turn, and live (Ezk 18:30-32).


Ah, stubborn children, declares the Lord, who carry out a plan, but not mine, and who make an alliance, but not of my Spirit, that they may add sin to sin (Isa 30:1-3).


Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon (Is 55:6-7).


O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not! (Luk 13:34)


Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If *anyone* hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me (Rev 3:20).


FACT #5: Calvinism claims that since God is absolutely sovereign, He must directly control or puppeteer everything man does. However, God does not need to sacrifice His sovereignty in order to allow men to exercise their inherent freewill. According to the Bible, God is still completely sovereign even while granting us the right to choose. If we cannot accept this fundamental truth, then we are forced to believe that God is engaged in a cruel game of charades when “pretending” that humans have choice while they really don’t.


FACT #6: Calvinists claim that since God can save whomever He wants; He does so unconditionally (unconditional election). Conversely, Arminians believe that God desires ALL to be saved, but will only save people on the condition that they use His grace and their freewill to cooperate with His salvific program. Although completely sovereign, God refuses to save men unconditionally and has empowered them with the ability to choose Him over everything else. Therefore, His expectations are fair and His punishment for disobedience is equitable.


FACT #7: Calvinism’s belief in the “perseverance of the Saints” promotes the idea that Christ only died for the elect (true Christians) and that the elect can never lose their salvation. But when looking at the following passages, we can easily see that this claim is false:


But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that BOUGHT them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their DAMNATION slumbereth not. For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment (2 Pet 2:1-4).


Peter warns that false teachers would soon creep into the Church. But notice that he doesn't pretend as though these teachers were never “saved” to begin with. Instead, he affirms the fact that these men had disowned the “Lord who bought them”. Now we know that only Believers are redeemed and blood purchased by Jesus, though He died for all: For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's (1 Cor 6:20). The unregenerate are not Christ’s “purchased possession” (Eph 1:14). So if the false teachers about whom Peter warns were once bought by Christ, yet now disown Him, they were originally “saved”. However, in verse 4, we discover that they are now condemned as a result of their negative choices.


These are spots in your feasts of charity, when they feast with you, feeding themselves without fear: clouds they are without water, carried about of winds; trees whose fruit withereth, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots. Raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame; wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever (Jude 1:12-13).


Before conversion, all of us were spiritually dead on account of sin (Eph 2:1). But after conversion, we received spiritual life through faith. But while our faith may have been firmly rooted initially (Mat 13:3), it is possible to fall back into our old sin habits and suffer a second death (twice dead). Consequently, we will be "plucked up by the roots" and committed to eternal damnation (v. 13).



Like Calvinists, Arminians affirm and support the doctrines of election and predestination. Yet the difference between them is in the way they interpret these two divine principles. Arminians believe that God’s unmerited grace and the influence of the Holy Spirit is extended to everyone so that even the vilest sinner is enabled to choose God and respond to the universal call of salvation. This unmerited grace is also known as common or prevenient grace. While man can do nothing apart from God, God has already provided the means necessary for man to forsake evil and choose what is good. Election and predestination, therefore, are governed by man’s response to God's grace and the Spirit's influence. If man yields to the work of the Holy Spirit and avails himself of God’s grace, he voluntarily enters into a relationship with God and becomes a member of God’s Kingdom. If not, God has no choice but to reject him. Predestination, according to Arminians, has been decided for all individuals based on God’s foreknowledge of their choices and actions long before they complete their life.


Another set of doctrines common to both Arminianism and Calvinism is total inability and total depravity. Total inability states that man is unable to please God or do good apart from His sovereign work of grace (Rom 7:15-25). And total depravity refers to the fact that man is totally depraved or evil, and naturally disinclined towards God (Mat 7:11; Jn 15:16). 


Perhaps the most significant difference between Arminians and Calvinists is in their understanding of divine sovereignty and human freewill. Arminians strongly uphold the doctrine of freewil or man's right to choose, which allows God to evaluate us on the basis of how we respond to His offer of salvation. Calvinism, on the other hand, denies this, and claims that God operates according to an arbitrary model. And that He predestined some people to salvation and others to hell, not based on any merit or action of their own, but because of His sovereign design. Man, therefore, is imprisoned by God’s sovereignty and enslaved to His control.



The following proof texts are most often used by Calvinists in support of their theological system:


The Lord has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble (Prov 16:4).


Comments: This verse simply means that God permits wicked people to exist in order to serve their purpose in God’s overall program. It does not imply that God intended people to be wicked or wills them so, but rather that He will use wicked men to serve His purpose.


Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots? Then also you can do good who are accustomed to do evil (Jer 13:23).


Comments: Here is a verse that must be interpreted in combination with all of Scripture. Can man become good apart from God? No! The Bible informs us that we must avail ourselves of God’s power in order to effect positive change or do good (John 15:5; Phip 4:13).


I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the Lord, who does all these things (Isa 45:7).


Comments: This verse is used to demonstrate that God is responsible for all things— good or bad. But this interpretation is not the intended meaning of this passage. While it's true that God brings calamity upon sinners, He does not desire to do so (Eze 33:11). Also, when God punishes, He simply withdraws His hedge of protection from around a nation or individual, as in the case with Job (Job 1), allowing Satan to carry out His destruction.


But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God (John 1:12-13).


No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day (John 6:44).


Comments: The above verses only demonstrate that man’s spiritual regeneration is God’s work, not ours. Indeed, our salvation is always enabled and sustained by God's grace. Yet this does not negate our responsibility to respond to God’s work by placing our faith in Christ. 


Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you (John 15:16).


Comments: We don't choose Christ. He chooses us. But He does so upon the condition that we respond to His invitation of salvation. While that invitation is extended to everyone, not all respond favourably and for this reason they are rejected:

And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me (Jn 12:32).

For many are called, but few are chosen (Mat 22:14).

God has chosen to reveal Christ to ALL men and part of how He does so is by commissioning Believers to take the Gospel to every corner of the world (Mat. 28:19-20). God's desire is that none would perish but that all would receive eternal life (Jn 3:16-17). So His choosing of us, as mentioned in John 15:16, is not arbitrary or randomized. It is based upon human action.


And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed (Acts 13:48).


Comments: The doctrine of predestination is clearly expressed in this verse. Yet this does not force us to filter it through the arbitrary standard of Calvinistic sovereignty. Instead, the Gentiles were predestined to be part of God's elect only because He already knew they would accept the Gospel. 


Though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God's purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— she was told, The older will serve the younger. As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated. What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid. For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy. For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth. Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth. Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will?Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory (Rom 9:11-23).


Comments: At face value, Romans 9 appears to champion Calvinism. Yet when examined further we discover that a Calvinist interpretation is not the most appropriate. Thankfully, the passages in Romans 9 correspond well with similar ones in Jeremiah 18, where we find matching language relating to God's sovereignty and man's responsibility. Notice:


The word which came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying, Arise, and go down to the potter's house, and there I will cause thee to hear my words. Then I went down to the potter's house, and, behold, he wrought a work on the wheels. And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter: so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it. Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying, O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? saith the LORD. Behold, as the clay is in the potter's hand, so are ye in mine hand, O house of Israel. At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, and to pull down, and to destroy it; If that nation, against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them. And at what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it; If it do evil in my sight, that it obey not my voice, then I will repent of the good, where with I said I would benefit them. Now therefore go to, speak to the men of Judah, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, saying, Thus saith the LORD; Behold, I frame evil against you, and devise a device against you: return ye now everyone from his evil way, and make your ways and your doings good (Jer 18:1-11).


After reading the preceding verses, the way in which God deals with mankind is much more apparent. IF (denotes a condition), I (God) proclaim judgment against a nation and they do not repent, I will carry out my judgment against them. But IF they turn and repent, I will “change my mind” about the judgment intended. And IF I proclaim blessings over a nation and they become evil, then I will “change my mind” and revoke the blessings. After reading these passages, it is impossible to deny the open-choice language in these passages. This type of language clearly points to man’s cooperation in God’s salvific program!!


So by viewing Romans 9 from the position expressed in Jeremiah 18, we may confidently conclude that Esau, Pharaoh, and numerous other Bible individuals, who were “fashioned for God’s wrath” or used as “vessels of destruction”, were thus used simply because God already knew that they would never cooperate with His wishes (even though they had the power to). Hence, God further bolstered their hardened hearts and utilized their rebellion for His predetermined constructs.


He predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will (Eph 1:5).


For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast (Eph 2:8-9).


And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved (Eph 2:1-5).


Comments: Arminians, like Calvinists, do not detract from the importance of God’s saving grace. However, we also understand the important role of faith, as demonstrated in the preceding verses. And we realize that God’s part is providing His grace to mankind, while our part is exercising faith in God’s redemption. It is not God who must use faith on our behalf, but rather we who are called to place our faith in Him.


Let the evildoer still do evil, and the filthy still be filthy, and the righteous still do right, and the holy still be holy. Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay everyone for what he has done (Rev 22:11-12).


Comments: These verses can be misconstrued to intone that God forces evil men to exist within a perpetual cycle of doing evil. However, that is not the intended meaning here. Instead, the purpose of this verse is to show that those who refuse to turn away from their evil deeds will be allowed to persist in doing evil. God will not force them to change.

Pt. 3 How do You Respond to Romans 9?

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