Predestination, Calvinism, and Bible Interpretation: Part Three

We have been looking at Calvinism’s TULIP a little bit. I considered going point by point through TULIP–and I still want to do that–but there’s something more important than that.

Does the Scripture ever really bring up Calvinism?

Are the 5 points of Calvinism ever a central discussion of Scripture at any point? In any of the letters? In any of the Gospels?

There’s only one place that Calvinists can make any claim that the Scriptures purposely discuss their 5 points, and that is in Romans 8 through 11.

So today, rather than addressing what Scriptural predestination is not, let’s look at what it is.

Let’s begin with the key Scripture in Romans:

For whom [God] foreknew, these he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, so that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.

In addition, those he predestined, he also called. Those whom he called, he also justified. Those whom he justified, he also glorified. (Rom. 8:29-30)

Foreknowledge

The question we then have to ask is whom God foreknew. It is the foreknown who are predestined to be conformed to the image of the Son.

The problem is, the Scriptures really don’t address whom God foreknew, nor even what he foreknew of them. All it tells us is that he predestined the ones he foreknew, then called, justified, and glorified those who are predestined.

What we do know, however, is that foreknowledge cannot be the same thing as predetermination. Foreknowledge is simply knowing something in advance, not making it happen in advance.

The reason we know this is because the Scriptures uses foreknowledge (epignosko in the Greek) of things we humans know in advance. We know in advance that this age will come to an end.

That foreknowledge, according to 2 Pet. 3:17, should move us to remain steadfast in following Christ.

So we have a tiny bit of information here. The predestined ones are the ones God foreknew. With this Peter agrees, as he tells us in 1 Pet. 1:2 that we are “elect according to the foreknowledge of God.”

Predestination

The other thing we know about God’s choice–about the things God has predetermined–is that he hardened the Israelites so that mercy could be shown to the Gentiles.

We know that he had every right to do that because the potter can make from the clay whatever he wishes to make. God, then, can harden whomever he wills and show mercy to whomever he wills.

And he has willed to show mercy to the Gentiles and harden the Israelites, so that the Israelites may be provoked to jealousy, be confined under unbelief, and wind up obtaining mercy themselves.

Why? Because God wants to show mercy to all (Rom. 11:32).

Calvinism

Where does this leave the 5 points of Calvinism? How does this address Total depravity, Unconditional election, Limited atonement, Irresistible grace, and Perseverance of the saints?

It doesn’t. This whole passage from Romans 8:29 to the end of Romans 11 never mentions any of those things. It never touches on them, nor does it say anything at all that addresses them.

With two exceptions.

  • Romans 8:29-30 does say that the ones he foreknew are predestined to be conformed to the image of Christ. He calls, justifies, and glorifies them. So it does address the Perseverance of the Saints–positively.
  • Romans 11:32 says that God wants to show mercy to all, so it addresses Limited Atonement–negatively.

But no other point of Calvinism’s TULIP is even addressed in Romans, and even on these two subjects, they are not central.

Paul’s concern in Romans is his Gospel. He is explaining why the Gentiles are being admitted to God’s people and why salvation is by the Spirit through faith and not by the Law through works.

He is not discussing any of the points of Calvinism.

Calvinism Must Stand on Its Own

Thus, Calvinism has to stand on its own, pulling verses from here and there to establish its new and unusual view of God. It cannot make any claim to be being brought up or purposely discussed in even one passage of Scripture.

And it has a terribly difficult time standing. The Scriptures state repeatedly that God wants all to be saved and all to come to repentance (Rom. 11:32; 1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Pet. 3:9, and many others). Thus, Calvinism is chopped down at the knees before it really ever gets started.

About Paul Pavao

I am married, the father of six, and currently the grandfather of two. I run a business, live in a Christian community, teach, and I am learning to disciple others better than I have ever been able to before. I believe God has gifted me to restore proper foundations to the Christian faith. In order to ensure that I do not become a heretic, I read the early church fathers from the second and third centuries. They were around when all the churches founded by the apostles were in unity. I also try to stay honest and open. I argue and discuss these foundational doctrines with others to make sure my teaching really lines up with Scripture. I am encouraged by the fact that the several missionaries and pastors that I know well and admire as holy men love the things I teach. I hope you will be encouraged too. I am indeed tearing up old foundations created by tradition in order to re-establish the foundations found in Scripture and lived on by the churches during their 300 years of unity.
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