Calvinism’s View of the Origin of Sin and God’s Offer of Salvation | Part Two

April 8, 2016

Ronnie Rogers | Pastor
Trinity Baptist Church, Norman, OK

Click HERE for Part One.

William G.T. Shedd, writing about God’s choice regarding the origin of sin and allowing sin to continue, says, “The permissive decree as related to the origin of sin presents a difficulty that does not exist in reference to the continuance of sin…. is an inscrutable mystery[i] (italics added). Of course, the origin of sin is a “difficulty” and “inscrutable mystery” only because of Calvinism’s compatibilist view of free will.

I would add to this, their limited meaning, understanding, of the nature and operation of foreknowledge with regard to salvation further influences their retreats to “it is a mystery.” Highlighting the connection of compatibilism and man’s sin and salvation is Calvin’s declaration, “By predestination we mean the eternal decree of God, by which he determined with himself whatever he wished to happen with regard to every man. All are not created on equal terms, but some are preordained to eternal life, others to eternal damnation; and, accordingly, as each has been created for one or other of these ends, we say that he has been predestinated to life or to death”[ii] (italics added). Notice that Calvin takes the distinction between those who go to heaven and those who go to hell back to the wish and purpose for which God created them. He goes on to say “that Scripture clearly proves this much, that God by his eternal and immutable counsel determined once for all those whom it was his pleasure one day to admit to salvation, and those whom, on the other hand, it was his pleasure to doom to destruction. We maintain that this counsel, as regards the elect, is founded on his free mercy, without any respect to human worth, while those whom he dooms to destruction are excluded access to life by a just and blameless, but at the same time incomprehensible judgment.[iii] (italics added)

Again, the Calvinists’ inability to reconcile satisfactorily their view of free will, the origin of sin, God’s election of the saved, and reprobation of the damned with the scripturally revealed character of God forces them to retreat to an “incomprehensible judgment” i.e. “mystery.” Once more, Calvinism creates Calvinism’s mystery. Calvinist’s desire to make salvation monergistic creates a God that is disharmonious with God as presented in Scripture, and once again their understanding of salvation is seen to be inextricably connected to their view concerning the origin of sin. It goes without saying that I am denying the legitimacy of some Calvinists’ response that Calvinism is true even though it is impossible to understand how God is not, in some sense, implicated in at least desiring the origin of sin and mercilessly predetermining some to spend eternity in hell who could have gone to heaven had God desired that for them.

Calvin is unabashed in his defense of his views and says, “Many professing a desire to defend the Deity from an invidious charge admit the doctrine of election, but deny that any one is reprobated….This they do ignorantly, and childishly, since there could be no election without this opposite reprobation. God is said to set apart those whom he adopts for salvation. It were most absurd to say, that he admits others fortuitously, or that they by their industry acquire what election alone confers on a few. Those, therefore, whom God passes by he reprobates, and that for no other cause but because he is pleased to exclude them from the inheritance which he predestines to his children.”[iv]

I maintain that all Calvinists, arguments to the contrary notwithstanding, inevitably believe in double predestination, but most shy from the forthrightness of Calvin. They either believe that God actively predestined some to hell, as Calvin does, or He did so by choosing not to offer what would have surely delivered them from hell to heaven, i.e. selective regeneration. Calvin refers to this cold inescapable reality as “his incomprehensible counsel,” i.e. mystery.[v] This is a disquieting reality of Calvinism.

All of the euphemizing in the world will not purge Calvinism of the harsh reality that people are saved because God desired for them to be and people are in hell for the same reason. This is true even if some Calvinists continue to resist admitting it because according to Calvinism, if God pleased, not only could everyone have been saved, but they would in fact have been saved, which is disquieting reality. Calvinism asks us to believe that God chose eternal torment for the vast majority of His creation (Matthew 7:13–14). They want us to rejoice in a God who desires and chose for the vast majority of His creation to go to hell when He could have redeemed them.

I concede such understanding to indeed be God according to Calvinism, but utterly reject such a portrait being reflective of the Scripture. Where is the plethora of Scripture where God expresses His desire for the vast majority of His creation to perish in eternal torment and this with equal clarity and abundance of those Scriptures that declare His indefatigable, sacrificial love and desire that all repent and be saved? I suggest that they do not exist and for good reason.

Part Three Coming Soon!

 

[i] William G.T. Shedd, Calvinism: Pure and Mixed – A Defence of the Westminster Standards (New York: Charles Scribner’s sons, 1893) online at http://www.archive.org/stream/calvinismpuremix00shed#page/n5/mode/2up, 95.
[ii] John Calvin, Institutes of Christian Religion, translated by Henry Beveridge, (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1997 reprint), Book 3, Chapter 21, page 206.
[iii] Ibid., 210–211.
[iv] Calvin, Institutes of Christian Religion, Book 3, Chapter 23, pages 225–226.
[v] Calvin, Institutes of Christian Religion, Book 3, Chapter 23, page 226.

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John

Thanks

Les

If the mystery for the Reformed is the origin of sin, I look forward to sometime, somewhere in these posts to the answer. I’m supposing maybe a future post will clear this up?

Meanwhile, “Those, therefore, whom God passes by he reprobates, and that for no other cause but because he is pleased to exclude them from the inheritance which he predestines to his children.” Yep, what is the problem here? God acts to save sinners. We all agree. He does not act to save ALL sinners. i.e. if any sinner is going to be saved, God must act. No?

Others who are not saved, God does not act to save them. We agree? Reprobation, as Calvin says, is God passing by some. But He does not have to do anything to leave them in their sin and rebellion.

    Lydia

    “Others who are not saved, God does not act to save them. We agree? Reprobation, as Calvin says, is God passing by some. But He does not have to do anything to leave them in their sin and rebellion.”

    Except give them the ability to choose not to be damned.

      Andrew Barker

      Lydia: To quote Ronnie R .. “the origin of sin is a “difficulty” and “inscrutable mystery” only because of Calvinism’s compatibilist view of free will.” It should not surprise us therefore that those hold to Reformed theology cannot see this. They are in a hole of their own making. If you end up in a hole, it’s best to stop digging. Trouble is, all their leadership does is to keep on providing them with spades and they in turn just carry on digging!

        Ronnie W Rogers

        Hello Andrew

        You said to Lydia, “It should not surprise us therefore that those hold to Reformed theology cannot see this. They are in a hole of their own making….Trouble is, all their leadership does is to keep on providing them with spades and they in turn just carry on digging!”

        Unfortunately, having lived the vast majority of my Christian life in the hole, what you have said is more true of reality in the hole than is recognized by Calvinists and non-Calvinists alike.

          Andrew Barker

          Hello Ronnie, if there was a simple remedy we’d apply it wholesale, but I think experience tells us that explanation by itself will not change minds. It’s down to a personal response on the part of the individual. You have to really want to know the truth and be prepared to change. That’s the key I think. Glad you did, because we’re all learning from it. As soon as we think we’ve got it sorted though …. we’re in danger. The Reformers got it wrong right from the beginning. Reformed and always reforming? …. not good. The word says we are being transformed, hopefully in the way we walk but also in what we think. Perhaps we need to refer to ourselves as the Transformers! (that is a joke by the way) :-)

            Jon

            “As soon as we think we’ve got it sorted though …. we’re in danger. The Reformers got it wrong right from the beginning. ”

            I do not know of any Reformed thinker who will say they have it all sorted out. I am though glad to see you admit you do not either. Sometimes it seems in these back and forth verbal debates — both sides come across as such.

            Keep sorting…

              Andrew Barker

              Jon: The truth has to be the same for all of us, otherwise it’s not the truth. Can’t have one rule for them one for ‘us’.

              Andrew Barker

              Jon: As an additional comment. The danger is not so much in thinking you’ve got it right or not, as staying still. That’s the real danger. As it happens, I do believe Reformed theology has major flaws and these have been in place right from the beginning. The very concept of ‘reformed’, is in my opinion non-biblical. Reformed means that the old is still in place and has just been made, well … better? If you look at this from a biblical point of view, we are called to be ‘new’ creations and we are meant to be transformed. That involves real change, not a rearrangement of the old. This may be viewed as semantic nuance on my part, but I believe these truths are fundamental to the way our theology progresses. The foundational truths are (some of) the most important ones we can lay down, so best get them right. Reformed theology fails the test as far as I’m concerned.

          Scott Shaver

          The insightful explanation by Andrew as confirmed both by the personal testimony of Robbie Rogers and his added insights form the most cogent indictment against the mouse-wheel of Calvinism I’ve heard to this point in my life.
          Thanks guys.

            Scott Shaver

            Sorry Ronnie for misspelled name

Les

“because according to Calvinism, if God pleased, not only could everyone have been saved, but they would in fact have been saved”

Wait. According to Calvinism? Do non Calvinists believe that God COULD save everyone if He so pleased? Of course they do. We all do. So why are only some saved? It must not have pleased Him to save all.

    Robert

    Les,

    {{ “because according to Calvinism, if God pleased, not only could everyone have been saved, but they would in fact have been saved”
    Wait. According to Calvinism? Do non Calvinists believe that God COULD save everyone if He so pleased? Of course they do. We all do. So why are only some saved? It must not have pleased Him to save all.}}

    Les you are intentionally covering up what you know about the two views. In determinism where irresistible grace is present, whomever God gives this grace to must be saved, they have no choice, it is determined. In non-determinism where genuine choice is present, God’s grace can be resisted. So in the first view whomever God desires to be saved, will be saved. Since not all are saved it is evident that He does not desire for all to be saved (if he did, then via irresistible grace all would be saved). In the second view, God may desire for a person to be saved and give that person grace, but they are able to resist the grace given and may choose to reject God.

    So your talk about “COULD” is a bit misleading.

    In determinism there is no “all could be saved” as whomever God gives irresistible grace to will be NECESSARILY saved and he only gives it to some. And in this world some are not saved so if calvinism were true then God is not pleased to save all.

    In non-Calvinism “all could be saved” if they all freely chose to accept the grace of God (but we know both from scripture and experience that some nonbelievers for various reasons reject the grace of God, some end up in hell).

    What it really boils down to is which view corresponds to what God actually planned to do regarding salvation?

    If God planned a reality where there is such a thing as irresistible grace and He also preplans to give it to only some: then calvinism is true. If God planned a reality in which there is no irresistible grace, in which people need to freely choose to trust Him to be saved (without irresistible grace): then non-Calvinism is true.

    There is no evidence of irresistible grace in scripture and scripture even speaks explicitly of the grace of God being resisted. The concept of irresistible grace comes not from scripture (there is none) but from the calvinistic system.

    For those of us who are **Biblicists** (and that is many, many Baptists), wanting to base our conclusions on scripture not a system, calvinism will not be appealing nor viewed as true. This is why discussions with Calvinists so often go to presuppositions rather than actual biblical texts. If there were biblical texts presenting irresistible grace, then everyone would be a Calvinist. But there are none, so arguments develop concerning the presuppositions and system of calvinism.

      Chris

      “For those of us who are **Biblicists** (and that is many, many Baptists), wanting to base our conclusions on scripture not a system,”

      Biblicists seem to be persons who think they are the only ones attempting to base their conclusions on Scripture. Robert, if we knew what you thought on all of these issues, we could write it down and it would be Robertism. It’s myopic for a person to think people with their view are the only ones who base what they believe on Scripture or that they don’t have a system of thought. You just haven’t written all of yours down.

      Chris

      Robert,

      You are not correctly representing Calvinism. God has determined the ends (salvation) and the means (the persons hearing and choosing to believe the gospel). So God chooses and people choose.

      Calvinists also believe that people resist the Spirit and grieve the Spirit. Those in the flesh will always do this until God opens their hearts. At what point can someone in the flesh choose to please God? It must take a supernatural work of God. It’s like a person playing in mud and then their eyes being opened and they want out of the mud and to be cleansed. That’s a work of God.

    Andrew Barker

    Good grief Les. You do come out with some twaddle sometimes. Just where in scripture does it even hint that God would not be pleased to save all! I think everyone enjoys the cut and thrust of argument, up to a point, some more than others, but comments like this are just ridiculous in the extreme. Especially where they are not backed up in any way from scripture.

      Les

      Andrew,

      Sorry that the word “pleased” tripped you up. It came from middle age usage by Calvin. Could say, we all agree that God could have saved all or could save all if He chose to. We all agree He did not choose to. Right?

        Andrew Barker

        Yeah, nice one Les. What an absolute farce. When you start writing in biblical greek, I might just entertain a comment like that has some validity. Sorry chum, you’ve blanked badly there. Plus you’ve simply avoided answering the question which is valid, middle passive or whatever voice you’re going to use. So just where does it say in scripture that God actively does not desire to save all people?

        Les

        Andrew, surely you’re intentionally trying to portray yourself as ignorant here. I cant believe you are really that ignorant.

        Look up the definition of pleased, especially in older usage. But even still, my point was not abut God’s desire since that is not how I interpret Calvin’s use of pleased.

        So, I will rephrase according to my intentions (which so far you have not demonstrated an ability to know)”

        Do non Calvinists believe that God COULD save everyone if He chose to do so? Of course they do. We all do. So why are only some saved? He must have chosen not to save all.

        “So just where does it say in scripture that God actively does not desire to save all people?” My comment was not about that at all.

        I really care not how you entertain my comment. Just try to pay better attention my brother.

          Andrew Barker

          Not interested Les

        Les

        Andrew, surely you’re intentionally trying to portray yourself as ignorant here. I cant believe you are really that ignorant.

        Look up the definition of pleased, especially in older usage. But even still, my point was not abut God’s desire since that is not how I interpret Calvin’s use of pleased.

        So, I will rephrase according to my intentions (which so far you have not demonstrated an ability to know)”
        more…

          Andrew Barker

          Not interested Les.

            Lydia

            Andrew,

            This might help if you continue to read Les’ comments:

            My Dear Wormwood,

            I refer you to my previous epistle on Semantics, specifically the redefinition of words into their diabolical meanings.

            Your Ravenously Affectionate Uncle,
            Screwtape.

              Andrew Barker

              Lydia: I’m sure I’ll continue to read Les’s comments especially those which go through moderation, twice. I can live with disagreement, humour, having my leg pulled but have decided that life is too short to do ‘purile’. It’s a waste of my time, yours and even Les’ if he only knew it. Plus, I don’t think it’s really that edifying either. So I shall continue to contribute no worries, but I may decide to leave Les to his own little world where ancient Greek and olde English are the linga franca. :-)

              Les

              “purile.” Nice. Tell you what. Let’s both see if we can take it up a few notches. Better dialogue. If you want to. If not, that’s fine too.

            Les

            Lydia,

            Ha ha ha. If one could actually demonstrate such redefinitions into diabolical meanings, then you’d have something there. Otherwise, thanks for the laugh.

          Les

          Whew! If you ever decide to deal with the substance, just come on back and try again. We’ve all whiffed like you did, but don’t let that discourage you from trying again.

        Les

        Cont…

        Do non Calvinists believe that God COULD save everyone if He chose to do so? Of course they do. We all do. So why are only some saved? He must have chosen not to save all.

        “So just where does it say in scripture that God actively does not desire to save all people?” My comment was not about that at all.

        I really care not how you entertain my comment. Just try to pay better attention my brother.

          Andrew Barker

          Try appealing to moderation. You usually do

          Les

          No need to appeal to moderation. I finally got thru in one piece. But thanks.

Les

“Except give them the ability to choose not to be damned.”

Never the less your view of their ability, if anyone is going to be saved, God must save them. God must act, right? Or, are you saying His “act” is simply to give them the ability for them to choose.

Robert Vaughn

The origin of sin has been debated by some of the greatest Christian minds in our history, and it is still being debated. Part of the problem, in my opinion, is that we approach it logically and philosophically rather than Biblically. Whether you’re a Calvinist, Arminian or something else, at some point we admit that all things somehow go back to God as the only eternal. But the Bible never indicts God as the author of sin, but to Lucifer (jn general) and Adam (in this world). Most of us aren’t satisfied to leave it at that.

    Dennis Lee Dabney

    Great comment!

    Preach!

    Scott Shaver

    Excellent thought Robert. Well stated.

Les

Robert, I agree. But that sounds like mystery. But Ronnie seems to say that mystery is unacceptable. “I would add to this, their limited meaning, understanding, of the nature and operation of foreknowledge with regard to salvation further influences their retreats to “it is a mystery.””

So I look forward to the solution to a problem that has troubled great theologians for centuries.

    Robert Vaughn

    Les, sorry to be so long responding. Had an out-of-town wedding Fri and Sat, church this morning, so just now have an opportunity to reply. Yes, I am satisfied that it is a mystery. To me the difference in the mystery of what I said and the mystery of what some Calvinists, Extensivists and others say about the origin of sin, determinism, libertarianism and so forth is that it starts with a “mystery” and once they’ve done all their ‘splaining we still have a mystery — and more mysteries that now everyone can’t agree on while we might have been able to agree on the original mystery. I can “get along” with most of them, except ones that posit that God doesn’t know everything, which I consider a heretical position.
    .

    Les

    Robert,

    Thanks for the reply. I agree on the mystery aspect of the origin of evil. Sin. And there is even mystery and wonder I might add in how God operates in saving people. For the compatibilist, mystery is inherent in the view. There is mystery in how God works in answering prayer. In how the writers of scripture wrote in their own styles in unique and different circumstances and with different and unique personalities and yet they wrote not a syllable that was not ordained by God. The incarnation is still somewhat a mystery. When someone comes along and says they have all these kinds of things figured out, well I remain skeptical. As Paul Helm says, “The nature and activities of God are also for Paul inherently inaccessible and must count as mysteries, matters which are “past finding out.”” I’ll stand there.

Ronnie W Rogers

Hello Les

You said to Robert, “I agree. But that sounds like mystery. But Ronnie seems to say that mystery is unacceptable.”

I have stated many times in my writings, as this post does as well, that I do believe in mysteries, but what I reject is “calvinistically generated” mysteries. Of course, there are mysteries (what happened between the Father and The Son on the cross when Christ paid for our sin), but Calvinism’s commitment to compatibilism and determinism creates numerous conundrums that are categorized under “it is an inscrutable mystery” by Calvinists. We know these are calvinistically generated because once you reject determinism they vanish. Thus, to quote me precisely, you need to limit your remarks to this genre of mystery.

You quoted me, “I would add to this, their limited meaning, understanding, of the nature and operation of foreknowledge with regard to salvation further influences their retreats to “it is a mystery.” Then you said, “So I look forward to the solution to a problem that has troubled great theologians for centuries.”

Although, I have addressed this more extensively in other post on this site (I am presently writing a detailed chapter in a forthcoming book, which specifically explains and documents this), you have, possibly missed the point of my brief statement, possibly because of my brevity.

In context it reads, “William G.T. Shedd, writing about God’s choice regarding the origin of sin and allowing sin to continue, says, “The permissive decree as related to the origin of sin presents a difficulty that does not exist in reference to the continuance of sin…. is an inscrutable mystery” (italics added). Of course, the origin of sin is a “difficulty” and “inscrutable mystery” only because of Calvinism’s compatibilist view of free will. I would add to this, their limited meaning, understanding of the nature and operation of foreknowledge with regard to salvation further influences their retreats to “it is a mystery.”

Therefore, what I mean by limited understanding of foreknowledge, as held by Calvinists, is that when all of the flowery language is “de-petaled, God knows what He determined because He could not have known contingencies, (actions of libertarian free beings); since, according to determinism, they do not exist. This is why you see Calvinist’ theologians refer to foreknowledge and foreordination as the same thing.

Thus, the deterministic nature of foreknowledge in Calvinism simply and undeniably reinforces their need to exclaim, “it is a mystery”, which is not an answer. Additionally, I would suggest to you that just because theologians have disagreed through the centuries does not mean that how God can know future events is unknowable. While it may very well be true that knowledge of the kind of being it takes to know such is not knowable exhaustively (a true mystery, finite vs. infinite issue), it does not follow that what kind of knowledge is used is not knowable.

It seems that He either knows the future because He determined that every choice of every person is micro-predetermined to happen as it does—compatibilism. Alternatively, He can predetermine that some things happen in that manner and thereby are known by Him, but simultaneously predetermining to create libertarian beings with otherwise choice, which creates true contingencies; He knows these as accurately as He does the former, only now due to the fact that He is essentially omnificent. This latter perspective including both is reflective of libertarianism, Extensivism, and not Calvinism.

Thus, Calvinism problem with sin, freedom etc., is exacerbated again once people truly understand Calvinism understanding of the causally deterministic nature of God’s foreknowledge; the addition of secondary, tertiary, quaternary, quinary, senary etc., causes assuages such not one wit. This was my point.

Thanks Les

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