The Five Points That Led Me Out of Calvinism | Part Two
**This article was previously posted by Leighton Flowers on his website www.soteriology101.com and is used by permission.
Leighton is: teaching pastor in his local church, an adjunct Professor of Theology at Dallas Baptist University, and the Youth Evangelism Director for Texas Baptists.
The Five Points That Led Me Out of Calvinism | Part Two (Click HERE for Part One)
Point #2: I came to understand the distinction between the doctrine of Original Sin (depravity) and the Calvinistic concept of “Total Inability.”
Calvinists teach that “the natural man is blind and deaf to the message of the gospel,” but I learned that is the condition of a judicially hardened man, not a natural condition from birth (Acts 28:27-28; John 12:39-41; Mark 4:11-12; Rom. 11). Instead, God’s gracious revelation and powerful gospel appeal is the means He has chosen to draw, or enable, whosoever hears it to come. Thus, anyone who does hear or see His truth may respond to that truth, which is why they are held response-able (able-to-respond).
At the time while Christ was on earth the Israelites, in John 6 for example, were being hardened or blinded from hearing the truth. Only a select few Israelites, a remnant were given by the Father to the Son in order for God’s purpose in the election of Israel to be fulfilled. That purpose was not referring to God’s plan to individually and effectually save some Jews, but His plan to bring the LIGHT or REVELATION to the rest of the world by way of the MESSIAH and HIS MESSAGE so that all may believe (John 17:21b).
The vine the Jews are being cut off of in Romans 11 is not the vine of effectual salvation, otherwise how could individuals be cut off or grafted back into it? The vine is the LIGHT of REVELATION, the means through which one may be saved that was first sent to the Jews and then the Gentiles (Rom. 1:16). The Gentiles are being granted repentance or “grafted into the vine” so as to be enabled to repent. The Jews, if provoked to envy and leave their unbelief, may be grafted back into that same vine (Rom. 11:14, 23).
KEY POINT: God DOES use determinative means to ensure His sovereign purposes in electing Israel, which includes:
- (1) the setting apart of certain individual Israelites to be the lineage of the Messiah, and
- (2) the setting apart of certain individual Israelites to carry His divinely inspired message to the world (using convincing means like big fish and blinding lights to persuade their wills)
- (3) temporarily blinding the rest of Israel to accomplish redemption through their rebellion.
However, there is no indication in scripture that:
- (1) all those who DO believe the appointed messenger’s teachings were likewise set apart by such persuasive means (especially not inward effectual means).
- (2) all those who DO NOT believe the appointed messenger’s teachings were likewise hardened from the time they were born to the time they died.
As a Calvinist I did not understand the historical context of the scriptures as it relates to the national election of Israel followed by their judicial hardening. When the scriptures spoke of Jesus hiding the truth in parables, or only revealing Himself to a select few, or cutting off large numbers of people from seeing, hearing and understanding the truth; I immediately presumed that those were passages supporting the “T” of my T.U.L.I.P. when in reality they are supporting the doctrine of Israel’s judicial hardening.
Point #3: I realized that the decision to humble yourself and repent in faith is not meritorious. Even repentant believers deserve eternal punishment.
Calvinists are notorious for asking the unsuspecting believer, “Why did you believe in Christ and someone else does not; are you smarter, or more praiseworthy in some way?” I asked this question more times than I can remember as a young Calvinist. What I (and likely the target of my inquiry) did not understand is that the question itself is a fallacy known as “Begging the Question.”
Begging the question is a debate tactic where your opponent presumes true the very point up for debate. For instance, if the issue being disputed was whether or not you cheat on your taxes and I began the discussion by asking you, “Have you stopped cheating on your taxes yet?” I would be begging the question.
Likewise, in the case of the Calvinist asking “Why did you make this choice,” he/she is presuming a deterministic response is necessary thus beginning the discussion with a circular and often confounding game of question begging. The inquiry as to what determines the choice of a free will presumes something other than the free function of the agent’s will makes the determination, thus denying the very mystery of what makes the will free and not determined.
The cause of a choice is the chooser. The cause of a determination is the determiner. It is not an undetermined determination, or an unchosen choice, as some attempt to frame it. If someone has an issue with this simply apply the same principle to the question, “Why did God choose to create mankind?” He is obviously all self-sustaining and self-sufficient. He does not need us to exist. Therefore, certainly no one would suggest God was not free to refrain from creating humanity. So, what determined God’s choice to create if not the mysterious function of His free will?
In short, whether one appeals to mystery regarding the function of man’s will or the function of the Divine will, we all eventually appeal to mystery. Why not appeal to mystery BEFORE drawing conclusions that could in any way impugn the holiness of God by suggesting He had something to do with determining the nature, desire and thus evil choices of His creatures?
What also must be noted is that the decision to trust in Christ for our salvation is not a meritorious work. Asking for forgiveness does not merit being forgiven. Think of it this way. Did the prodigal son earn, merit or in any way deserve the reception of his father on the basis that he humbly returned home? Of course not. He deserved to be punished, not rewarded. The acceptance of his father was a choice of the father alone and it was ALL OF GRACE. The father did not have to forgive, restore and throw a party for his son on the basis that he chose to come home. That was the father’s doing.
Humiliation and brokenness is not considered “better” or “praiseworthy” and it certainly is not inherently valuable. The only thing that makes this quality “desirable” is that God has chosen to grace those who humble themselves, something He is in no way obligated to do. God gives grace to the humble not because a humble response deserves salvation, but because He is gracious.