Wednesday, December 23, 2009

What does the Bible say about Calvinism?

Question from Evan:

Hi Pastor Bob- I've got another question for you!
... I came to believe in the doctrines of grace, or some-what Calvinism. I don't venture to take it as far as some people will when they claim that God will take care of saving people, so we can just take it easy- i believe that is contradictory and ridiculous for many reasons. I also believe that humans have free will. But I also believe God is totally sovereign. The only way I was able to reconcile these 2 beliefs was with the doctrines of Irresistible grace (and total depravity). I came to be pretty convinced of these, but I do want to ask you your thoughts about it in case I discover any irrationalities in my own beliefs (don't want that!).
I don't dare to venture into "hyper-Calvinist" territory, where there is arrogance among the "chosen" but i do believe that God is in control of nature. Just wanted to know your thoughts on the subject.

Answer from Pastor Bob:

Calvinism is often explained with the acrostic TULIP: total depravity, unconditional predestination, limited atonement, irresistible grace, and perseverance of the believer. Evan, I read your website where you posted your beliefs, and you appear to be a four-point Calvinist. From what I gathered on the blog you sent me, you believe in four of these points, but you do not believe in limited atonement.
I believe in total depravity and perseverance of the believer, but I do not believe in two-sided, unconditional predestination, I do not believe in limited atonement, and I do not believe in irresistible grace, so I guess I am a two-point Calvinist. This is a complex subject, and I only have space for a brief explanation here. For more detail, visit our church website at and listen online to the sermon on predestination preached on 05.03.09.
Predestination in the Bible always refers to those chosen for salvation (Romans 8:29; Ephesians 1:11). The Bible never says anybody is predestined to go to hell. Hell was prepared for the devil and his angels (Matthew 25:41), because God does not desire any to perish (1 Timothy 2:3-4; 2 Peter 3:9). God's knowledge is beyond time, and He already knows what is going to happen, so He can speak of our salvation as predestined; in fact, in 1 Peter 1:1-2 scripture links these two concepts together, saying the elect are "chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father."
Limited atonement: I agree with you that atonement is not limited to the elect; in other words, Jesus did not only die on the cross for those who will be saved, He died for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2).
Irresistible grace means we cannot resist God's grace if He calls us. Evan, I agree with you that man still has free will-- thus I cannot accept the doctrine of irresistible grace. Also, it contradicts scripture. Luke 7:30 says the Pharisees rejected God's purpose for themselves and 2 Peter 1:10 urges brothers to make their election sure and Romans 1:24 says God gave over the wicked to their will.
If predestination was unconditional and grace was irresistible, I would see no need to send missionaries or preachers, yet Jesus told His disciples to urge people to respond (Luke 14:23) the Apostle Paul said "we try to persuade men" (2 Corinthians 5:11) and he asks how can people believe if preachers aren't sent (Romans 10:13-15).
Again, this subject is too complex for a detailed discussion here. I refer you to my sermon posted at on 05.03.09.

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