Calvinism, Predestination, and Proper Bible Interpretation

Someone once told me that if I wanted to know if a teaching was true, look at what it asks you to do. If it asks you to do something that Scripture also commands, you can probably trust the teaching.

If it asks you to do something different than Scripture commands, throw it out; it’s false.

I heard that 25 years ago. It has served me well for 25 years.

Predestination According to Calvin

I have a lot of problems with the Calvinist version of Predestination.

Since I haven’t read Calvin’s Commentaries or Institutes myself, I’m relying on what I’ve heard from people who call themselves Reformed or Calvinist.

I am also responding to what is known as the 5 points of Calvinism, which make the anagram TULIP. TULIP is:

  • Total depravity
  • Unconditional election
  • Limited atonement
  • Irresistible grace
  • Perseverance of the Saints

Really, I doubt I agree with a single one of those things, but let’s start our short series on Calvinism with the most offensive and ridiculous one …

Limited Atonement

There are at several Scriptures that sound like they were written specifically to refute Calvinism’s Limited Atonement:

  • God our Savior … wants all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Tim. 2:3-4).
  • We trust in the Living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe (1 Tim. 4:10).
  • He is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world (1 Jn. 2:2).
  • The Lord is not slow concerning his promise … but is patient toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to a knowledge of the truth (2 Pet. 3:9).

Okay, so a guy comes along 1500 years after these things are written and argues–for the first time in history–that “all men” means just the people who will be saved and that “not any” means not any of the elect.

There’s nothing to argue here. This Limited Atonement teaching is unscriptural nonsense, and the man who teaches it teaches falsehood. Maybe John Calvin had a bad childhood, or maybe he was overly influenced by Luther’s over-reaction to monasticism, or maybe he’s just evil and influenced by the devil. Whatever the cause, if John Calvin taught limited atonement and that God only wants some people to be saved, as people say he did, then he taught error.

Calvinism and Predestination in General

We’ll go into this subject more in the next few days. Maybe we can do each point of Calvinism one by one. Total Depravity seems to be the only one, in my opinion, that has even a small Scriptural basis. However, taking human depravity so far that a person can’t even choose to be saved is taking it too far.

(It also is having too much confidence in your own Bible interpretation; nothing is ever as sure as it seems. “Can’t” and “never” are big words when you start applying them to God and man.)

The rest seems like nonsense to me that disagrees with everything taught by the apostles’ churches.

I mentioned at the start of this post that we ought to see what a teaching tells us to do in order to test it, and we’ll do that as we look at the other points of TULIP.

About paulfpavao

I am a church historian and pastor, but I do occasionally play APBA baseball for fun.
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2 Responses to Calvinism, Predestination, and Proper Bible Interpretation

  1. Shammah says:

    If there were one Scripture saying God wants all men to be saved and several saying he wants only some to be saved, I’d buy their argument. But it’s the other way around.

    There’s zero verses that say God only wants some to be saved. There is one that *suggests* that God might not have wanted Pharaoh during Moses’ time to be saved.

    Even that’s not clear, however; there’s several ways to understand God’s hardening of Pharaoh’s heart besides “from the day that Pharaoh was born, God wanted him to be an object of wrath.”

    In light of all that, it’s simply foolish to argue around so many Scriptures that clearly say God wishes all would be saved and is delaying the end so that more will be saved.

    By the way, I’ve never heard that origin of the predestination-free will debate. Some day, I’m going to have to read Augustine’s words on predestination directly instead of reading historians secondhand. Augustine believed in some version of double predestination, according to people I’ve read, which means he believed some were predestined for hell.

  2. Britt Mooney says:

    I read a good article once on where this idea came from … the whole “predestination – free will” debate, according to this article, was to serve as an explanation for who could be saved even though they did not attend services or do sacraments or whatever.

    And I’ve pointed out how, in context, this particular argument is just plain silly when you look at the scriptures you listed. They clearly state, at the very least, God’s desire for all to be saved. But strict Calvinists have some very convoluted arguments to justify how “all men” isn’t “all men” or “the world” isn’t “the world.”


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