The Westminster Confession – a scholarly critique
After some serious study of that belief statement much beloved and much quoted of calvinists – the Westminster Confession – I have concluded that it is quite contradictory and encourages confused thinking. This is to be expected, seeing as it is based upon those likewise contradictory and confused teachings of Calvin.
Calvinism teaches that sin and evil are perfect and therefore good.
In “Calvinism is madness itself”, I pointed out that calvinists are forced by their doctrines to believe that all things in this world must be perfect, including sin and evil.
Yet sin can only be by the free will of man
Calvinism teaches that man has no free will to choose to sin. Spurgeon (that preacher much-loved-and-quoted by calvinists) said: “It has already been proved beyond all controversy that free-will is nonsense.” (“Free will – a slave”) Yet, Spurgeon was unable to provide any scriptural evidence to support this.
Free-will proves calvinism to be a lie.
Calvinism stands or falls on whether or not such free will exists. In particular, calvinists strongly oppose any freedom of will to choose to obey or disobey God. They teach that God created a class of people who could never seek after God and could never be saved.
Man sins by his free will alone.
The issue of who created sin is a much-argued subject, even between calvinists. The Bible teaches that man chooses to sin (to disobey God’s will) of his own free will. This alone is biblical; any option that takes man’s free will from him when sinning is to make God a sinner against His own will. God cannot sin against His own will; he cannot disobey Himself, nor will He cause or incite someone to sin against His will. He doesn’t even permit sin – He can only permit the free will of others to choose to sin in disobedience to His will.
The Westminster Confession teaches that God cannot be responsible for sin.
The Westminster Confession says: “the sinfulness thereof proceedeth only from the creature, and not from God; who being most holy and righteous, neither is nor can be the author or approver of sin.” (Ch.5 Part 4) This on its own is biblical.
It also says that “Every sin” is “a transgression of the righteous law of God”. (Ch.6 Part 6) That is, disobeying God’s will (as enshrined in His law) is sin. This, too, is biblical.
The Westminster Confession also teaches that God ordered sin for his own glory.
But this document also says “Our first parents, begin seduced by the subtlety and temptations of Satan, sinned in eating the forbidden fruit. This their sin God was pleased, according to his wise and holy counsel, to permit, having purposed to order it to his own glory.” (Ch.6 Part 1)
That is, God has not only permitted them to sin, but has ordered it for his glory. Note that Calvin clearly stated that “God is the author of all evils.“
The calvinist God orders sin for his glory while also condemning it?
How can God “purpose to order” sin “for his glory” if he is not “the author or approver of sin”?
God cannot ordain, decree, nor even permit sin.
God cannot ordain or decree sin, ever. It would be the equivalent of decreeing that He disobey Himself. Nor can God even permit man to sin, for permission itself assumes approval of such action. Thus permitting man to sin would require God to approve of disobedience against Himself. Holy God cannot do this. In Genesis 2:16 God gave Adam permission to eat of all the trees in the garden, but denied him that same permission to eat of the forbidden fruit (Genesis 2:17).
Sin is an act of disobeying God’s will.
Sin is defined as man disobeying God’s will. God is holy and cannot have anything to do with sin. Even the Westminster Confession admits this much: “Every sin” is “a transgression of the righteous law of God”. (Ch.6 Part 6)
Because God neither orders nor approves of sin (Ch.5 Part 4), it was impossible for Him to make Adam sin, or even to influence him in any way to cause him to sin. When Adam sinned, he was committing an act of disobedience by his will alone against God’s will. God told him to not eat the forbidden fruit; this was God’s law to Adam. Therefore, to eat of it was disobedience against God’s law and therefore sin. It could only be an act of Adam’s free will to choose to sin against God.
Everything God does must oppose sin.
It could never have been God’s will in any way that Adam should sin because then God would be inciting sin against Himself, and holy God cannot do that, ever. Adam’s sin was opposed to God’s will, and therefore an independent act of a will other than God’s holy will. God will at all times oppose disobedience against Himself. Everything God does must oppose sin (which is disobedience against Himself) or else He is no longer holy.
God did not create Adam with a sin nature.
Some calvinists, recognising that Adam has to have chosen to sin by his own free will, then say that it was Adam’s nature that caused him to sin. But this would require God to have created Adam with a sin nature that had to sin of necessity. And that would also require God to incite disobedience against Himself, thereby committing sin against His own will.
The calvinist “free-agency” makes man do only that which God has decreed that he do.
Others say that while Adam had no free will, he had a free agency to sin. But free agency merely says that while Adam was free to choose, he could only choose that option which God had already provided for him to choose, and no other. Effectively free agency is no freedom at all; free agency would still require God to provide the sinful option that Adam would be required to choose. And that would still make God a sinner against Himself.
The Westminster Confession says that man has liberty to choose between good and evil.
The Westminster Confession says: “God hath endued the will of man with that natural liberty, that is neither forced, nor by any absolute necessity of nature determined to good or evil.” (Ch.9 Part 1)
The Westminster Confession also says that God foreordained all things that will ever happen.
It also says: “God from all eternity did by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass” (Ch.3 Part 1)
Therefore it teaches that man has free will to choose, yet only what God has foreordained that he choose.
Literally, therefore, God has given man free will to choose between good or evil, yet God has also ordained all things that will happen, including all good and evil. Thus, God has given man free will to choose whatever God has already ordained that he should choose. This is the classic definition of the calvinist “free agency”.
Salvation is a free gift offered to all mankind.
God has offered a free gift of salvation and eternal life to all mankind. To reject such a gift would be to disobey God whose will is that all mankind be saved (1 Timothy 2:3-4). Calvinists say that man does not have the free will to make such a choice; that God has ordained from the beginning who will obey and who will not obey God’s will here. Those who do not obey will be sent to hell for eternity for their disobedience against God’s will. However, according to calvinism, their disobedience can only be the consequence of not being ordained to obey.
Calvinism makes God complicit in man’s sin.
This makes the calvinist God at the very least a co-sinner alongside those whom he will send to hell for their ordained disobedience. And, at worst, the calvinist God is the only wilful sinner in the universe! The true God cannot make anyone sin, nor will He ever set up circumstances that inevitably send people to hell without any option of being able to obey Him.
The Westminster Confession teaches that God has predestinated most of mankind to hell without man having any say at all.
The Westminster Confession says: “By the decree of God, for the manifestation of his glory, some men and angels are predestinated unto everlasting life, and others foreordained to everlasting death.” (Ch.3 Part 3) Not only does this teach double predestination, but in Ch.3 Part 5 it states that this was decided “before the foundation of the world”.
The Westminster Confession teaches that the calvinist God randomly selects who will go to heaven.
Ch.3 Part 5 also states that God’s decision regarding predestination was “out of his free grace and love alone, without any foresight of faith or good works, or perseverance in either of them, or any other thing in the creature, as conditions, or causes moving him thereunto”, that is, unconditional. It doesn’t matter who you are or how you behave, for every single person has just as much chance of being chosen as anyone else (or else a condition would exist). And, noting Westminster Confession Ch.10 Parts 3 & 4, even Hitler could have been one of the elect. Or Judas (oh, that’s right, according to the Bible, he was one of the elect!). Unconditional election equals random selection.
Therefore in calvinism eternal life or death rests upon a celestial lottery of all mankind.
But if the election is unconditional, then all mankind is in this celestial lottery, and theoretically everyone has an equal chance of being drawn. But no, it does appear that white Caucasians are far more likely to be chosen than any other racial group. Maybe the calvinist God stacked the draw, or rigged it somehow so that those people were favoured? But then it wouldn’t be unconditional! Or, perhaps, unreached nations could actually have the elect among them too, only they do not produce the works and therefore we aren’t counting them, but maybe we should? Note that Tim Keller (a co-founder of the new calvinist Gospel Coalition), believes (along with C S Lewis) that God may have a back door somewhere for such unreached peoples to access heaven. And maybe many of those who claim to be of the elect because of their good works may not actually be saved! ………
The Westminster Confession teaches God’s foreknowledge doesn’t really exist.
Note that God’s foreknowledge is discounted in the Westminster Confession Ch.3 Part 5 (“without any foresight of faith”) as a means of selecting his election. Calvinists hate foreknowledge to mean God’s perfect knowledge of the future because it demands the free will of man to choose salvation which would then be known by God according to His foreknowledge. Genuine foreknowledge demands future decisions to be foreknown!
Even Calvin taught that foreknowledge was irrelevant for God.
…… or to just state that discussion of foreknowledge (or prescience) is futile because God would already foreknow all things by reason of having appointed them from the beginning. (eg Calvin – “If God merely foresaw human events, and did not also arrange and dispose of them at his pleasure, there might be room for agitating the question, how far his foreknowledge amounts to necessity; but since he foresees the things which are to happen, simply because he has decreed that they are so to happen, it is vain (irrelevant) to debate about prescience, while it is clear that all events take place by his sovereign appointment.” – Institutes, Bk 3, Ch.23, Section 6) Yet the Bible says (in 1 Peter 1:2) that our election is by that “irrelevant” foreknowledge!
If God’s foreknowledge is true, then calvinism is heresy.
Therefore, prove foreknowledge to be God’s perfect knowledge of the future and you destroy calvinism’s “no-free-will”. If foreknowledge exists as such, then the free will of man to choose salvation must also exist.
Holy God will never have anything to do with sin.
God is holy, and can have nothing to do with sin at all, ever. All sin therefore is a free-will act against the will of holy God, an act that God condemns. If man has no free will to choose to obey or disobey, then the responsibility falls back upon God who must therefore be effectively making man’s choices for him. Either man has free will to choose to obey or disobey God, or God has made that choice for him. Whoever makes such a choice is responsible for the consequences of that choice. If man makes that choice to disobey, then he deserves God’s condemnation. If that choice were by God’s decree (as calvinism clearly teaches) then God has put himself into the awkward situation of putting himself on trial and being found guilty. God can neither ordain (decree) nor approve (permit) sin.
The Westminster Confession teaches that those without works can still be saved.
Please note that the Westminster Confession has a few more problems. Apparently there are those who live their lives without any outward evidences of salvation because of some alleged incapability who are also among the elect. This obviously would cover those calvinists who turn up to church when required but otherwise have no works to demonstrate their faith!
“Elect infants, dying in infancy, are regenerated and saved by Christ through the Spirit, who worketh when, and where, and how he pleaseth. So also are all other elect persons who are incapable of being outwardly called by the ministry of the Word.” Ch.10 Part 3)
And others who show evidences of being called by the ministry of the Word are not actually saved.
“Others, not elected, although they may be called by the ministry of the Word, and may have some common operations of the Spirit, yet they never truly come to Christ, and therefore can not be saved: much less can men, not professing the Christian religion, be saved in any other way whatsoever, be they never so diligent to frame their lives according to the light of nature, and the law of that religion they do profess; and to assert and maintain that they may is without warrant of the Word of God.” (Ch.10 Part 4)
This rests upon Calvin’s doctrine of a temporary faith.
Of course, Calvin taught the same: that by “an inferior operation of the Spirit” … “by Christ himself a temporary faith, is ascribed to them.” (Institutes Bk 3, Ch 2, Section 11) Some who were chosen for hell from the beginning could be made to think they were saved, and would even have the works to demonstrate to others that they were saved, yet would be dropped from God’s grace before they died.
The Westminster Confession is irrational, contradictory and unbiblical.
People can be of the elect even though they have no supporting works, and others can be not of the elect even if they do have supporting works. Sounds like none of them can actually know if they are saved or not until they die and stand before God. In fact, according to the Westminster Confession no-one can really be sure what their God has chosen for them until they stand before him in the judgment. So, which Westminster Confession set of options do you choose? And what if you choose the wrong options? And stand before God one day and be told to depart from Him because you were never one of His!
Matthew 7:22-23 – 22Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? 23And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.
If you have any questions or comments about this information, please feel free to say it or give advice, by using the Contact page. Genuine comments may be recorded on the Comments page. However, I may choose to reply to reasonable comments via email.