Favourite excuses used by calvinists to defend any indefensible doctrine.
1/. Ignoring Scriptural context, consistency and original word meanings.
When defending a particularly indefensible doctrine, calvinists will often quote a verse, often just by its chapter and verse, sometimes adding their own words about what they would like it to mean. They conveniently ignore Scriptural context and consistency and original language (generally Hebrew and Greek) word meanings. Often one will hear a calvinist quote a verse and say that this proves one of their doctrines, without much evidence to support it. And if they do happen to add some “evidence, often it will be to say that a particular Greek word means such and such when its actual meaning cannot admit to such liberties! Or to say that because the election is unconditional (an assumption in the first place), therefore anyone who believes in atonement for all mankind must also be universalists – that is, they must believe everyone will be saved. (MacArthur likes that last one – Eg The Doctrine of Actual Atonement Part 1) And so on and so on!
(a) Ignoring context in order to “establish” their “truth”
Calvinists often ignore such necessary information as the context of the passage. (Eg. Piper claiming that Romans 14:23 proves that it is a sin not to have faith; however, look at the context which clearly shows this to be false!
Romans 14:23 says, “Whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.” This is a radical indictment of all natural “virtue” that does not flow from a heart humbly relying on God’s grace.
(What We Believe About the Five Points of Calvinism, 1998. John Piper)
An example of contextual misrepresentation of a Bible verse is 1 John 2:2 where calvinists will say that the atonement for the whole world here was only for those who believe. Various reasons will be given. For example, they often say that the gospel was written only to Jewish Christians and so the whole world in 1 John 2:2 refers to all the other Christians for all time. But this would mean that only the Jewish Christians, or the Christians of John’s day, could be the recipients of other promises in 1 John, such as Jesus being our Advocate (1 John 2:1) and God being faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). That is, if the whole world in 1 John 2:2 refers only to all Christians of all time!
From this and many other examples, we may see that calvinists often ignore the context of many verses that they like to quote. If they took context into account, 1 John 2:2 could never be used to support limited atonement. Also see 1 John 2:2.
Another example of not taking context into account may be found in Acts 13:48. Most calvinists seize upon this verse as definitive proof of the doctrine of unconditional election. However, the fact that (a) the word used (“appointed” – and not “ordained” as the KJV has it) means to be put into place or ranks – as soldiers are placed in ranks – and that, (b) from the context, the Gentiles were being appointed to the ranks of life instead of the Jews who had rejected eternal life, then (c) the verse quoted almost certainly has little to do with election itself! Try reading the whole passage! Also see Acts 13:48.
(b) Failing to apply Scriptural consistency to their “interpretations.
Calvinists rarely seek to cross-reference their verses because this would show up inconsistencies in their interpretations, and any inconsistencies between verses means there’s a lie somewhere! They will take one verse and claim that it proves beyond doubt that such a doctrine of theirs is true, yet often ignoring other Scriptural verses which clearly state the opposite. It matters little if other verses oppose their doctrines; they will focus on the one (or few) verse(s) and seemingly completely ignore those that don’t agree with them.
For instance, in attempting to explain how one must be born again before one can believe (in Christ), they might use John 3:3 (a verse I’ve had thrown at me quite a few times defending their erroneous view that it proves you cannot believe until after you have been born again). Of course, some will teach that being born again means being regenerated, and that being saved is something that happens later. However, those that believe this cannot justify this at all! It can be proven false with very little effort, as it would separate being born again and being saved. If a person died after being born again yet before being saved, could they still go to heaven if they died? And if Jesus is the way, the truth and the life, how could they enter heaven without being saved through Christ? That is why many calvinists are forced by such logic to accept that being born again must be the equivalent of being saved, and that both concepts are included in their doctrine of regeneration. (In spite of this, there are yet many calvinists who teach clearly that you must be born again (regenerated) before you can believe in Christ and be saved.)
However, if being born again equates to being saved, salvation (according to the calvinist) now has to exclude belief in Christ, for they claim salvation takes place when being regenerated, yet belief in Christ (according to their teaching) must follow on after regeneration. This is why such as Boettner say that A man is not saved because he believes in Christ; he believes in Christ because he is saved. (The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination – L Boettner)
Because calvinists believe (quite incorrectly) that faith is a gift of God, they will use John 3:3 to demonstrate that regeneration must precede faith. In order to do so, they must “establish” that seeing the kingdom of heaven is the same as believing or having faith in the kingdom of God. To do this, they must “establish” that “see” can mean “believe” or “have faith in”. Note the following:
Further, Christ places regeneration by the Spirit as a requirement before one can “see,” i.e., believe or have faith in the Kingdom of God. He states quite emphatically that a sinner who is born of the flesh cannot believe the good news of the Kingdom until he is born by the Spirit. Thus according to the teaching of Christ, we believe because we are “born again.” We are not “born again” because we believe!
(P 8, Studies in the Atonement, Robert A. Morey)
Of course, this makes a quantum leap in assuming something that doesn’t exist in the first place: that the word used for “see” in John 3:3 (oida) can mean belief or having faith. The Greek word oida can mean to physically see, or even mentally see, that is, with understanding, or even to be skilled in something. It cannot, however, be used in the sense of someone believing or having faith in something that they “see”. There is absolutely no sense of belief or faith in the use of this Greek word! So, they make an assumption, state it as a fact, and hey presto, their statement is proven true!
Note that according to Hebrews 11:1 faith is the evidence of things not seen, yet calvinists would have us believe that faith is actually the seeing of things! And how may we walk by faith, not by sight, if seeing is the same as having faith?
Still others will quote John 3:3 with comments such as a man must be born again first before he can repent and believe. In this super clear verse our Lord and saviour himself tells Nicodemus that he cannot even see the kingdom of God unless he is born again first, surely that puts to rest that regeneration must take place first and foremost. (letter on file) But without any clear Scriptural analysis as to why this view is assumed, the statements mean little or nothing in any reasonable discussion on this issue. Nothing here may put to rest any such thing! This sort of logic is confused and leads nowhere. Also see John 3:3.
However, if calvinists were to seek consistency with the rest of the Bible, they would have to find agreement between their interpretations and other verses on the same topic. Eg. Many verses clearly state that belief comes before salvation.
Acts 16:30-31 – 30 And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? 31 And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.
Romans 10:9 – That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
Just find a verse which says the opposite!! I know there are a few verses which may be “interpreted” by calvinists to mean the opposite, but not one clearly states that you must be saved before you believe. Yet there are many more than the above two verses that teach believing before salvation. In order to teach that believing follows salvation (what they term regeneration) calvinists must disprove these verses above that clearly state that belief comes before salvation! That is, if John 3:3 is so clear a statement demonstrating that belief follows on from regeneration, then they must explain the inconsistency of this belief with the above verses. (And many other verses such as Mark 16:16; Luke 8:12; John 3:16; John 5:24; Hebrews 10:39 etc)
(c) Calvinists often misquote or conveniently ignore the Greek (or Hebrew) word meaning.
Often calvinists will misquote (that is, give incorrect meanings for) certain Greek words that otherwise might create a problem for their doctrines. For example:
(i) the Greek word for “see” (oida) in John 3:3 is misquoted to mean “believe” or “have faith in”.
(ii) to the calvinist the Greek word for “foreknowledge (prognosis) cannot mean what it really means: God’s perfect knowledge of the future. Instead they’ll try to make it mean a relationship between God and His people or to claim, like Piper, that “foreknew” in Romans 8:29 is really the equivalent of choosing or elect!
As C.E.B. Cranfield says, the foreknowledge of Romans 8:29 is “that special taking knowledge of a person which is God’s electing grace.” Such foreknowledge is virtually the same as election: “Those whom he foreknew (i.e. chose) he predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son.”
(What We Believe About the Five Points of Calvinism, 1998. John Piper)
Then why didn’t God use the word “choose” in Romans 8:29? Is it perhaps that He didn’t want people like Piper to confuse foreknowing with choosing?
However, the word prognosis is a medical term (and was used as such 400 years before Luke – a physician – used it). Doctors use prognosis to make their assessment of your future; they give you a prognosis concerning your health. If this were to mean having a relationship with your patient, then they’d probably be struck off the medical register!
(iii) People like MacArthur use statements such as (cf. Acts 2:23—an inviolable rule of Greek grammar, called the Granville Sharp rule, equates [pre]determination and “foreknowledge”; see notes on 1 Pet. 1:1–2, and cf. with Rom. 1:20—the term must be interpreted the same in both verses) (from his notes on Romans 8:29, MacArthur Study Bible)
If anyone cared to do their homework, they would find out that MacArthur has misquoted this rule, seemingly even deliberately. Many other people online in turn quote such as MacArthur’s above statement as irrefutable evidence that foreknowledge is predetermined by God. But MacArthur (along with others who also misuse this rule) is wrong, and so are all those who quote him, blindly accepting that MacArthur just cannot be wrong, and yet he is indeed wrong! See MacArthur is Wrong.
2/. Naming calvinist “heroes” to back up their doctrinal heresies.
Rather than do their own research, or maybe to blind the opposition with scholarly mastery, calvinists often prefer to quote these people as proof that the Bible supports calvinism. Often they won’t even quote from these people (possibly having never really researched them in the first place) but merely name those famous heroes of the calvinist faith who, according to the calvinist, should be taken seriously and therefore the naming of such people is more or less final proof of the accuracy of calvinist teachings.
Many of these teachers have questionable beliefs. Calvinists often accept teachings in general from their calvinist heroes, without having tested all things first. Eg. those who quote MacArthur on the Granville Sharp rule without even checking to see what it’s about, nor if his application of it is correct, which it very much isn’t! I also get told by calvinists that Calvin didn’t teach baptism as necessary for salvation, yet research shows otherwise.
Calvin’s Institutes Bk IV Ch 15 Section 3 – We ought to consider that at whatever time we are baptised, we are washed and purified once for the whole of life. Wherefore, as often as we fall, we must recall the remembrance of our baptism, and thus fortify our minds, so as to feel certain and secure of the remission of sins. For though, when once administered, it seems to have passed, it is not abolished by subsequent sins.
Note also that Augustine also believed baptism was necessary for salvation.
“Baptism washes away all, absolutely all, our sins, whether of deed, word, or thought, whether sins original or added, whether knowingly or unknowingly contracted.” [Against Two Letters of the Pelagians, A.D. 420, 3:3:5.]
Far too many calvinists will name people to back them up, yet without having read much if any of their works. Rarely will they quote anything from them, but if they do, it is often out of context and not necessarily true anyway – why don’t they test all things (and people, especially those claiming to be teachers) as the Bible commands us?
Many of the quoted calvinist teachers are not as supportive of calvinist teachings as the calvinists would like them to be. For example, John Newton would have preferred to be a dissenter pastor, yet became a Church of England cleric because it was unlikely his wife’s family would have agreed to their marriage otherwise! Spurgeon, often quoted by calvinists, said that preaching the gospel to the regenerated was a waste of time; it was the lost that needed to hear the gospel, not the saved! And yet the calvinist says that believing in Christ can only happen after a person is regenerated!
Augustine not only believed that baptism and communion were necessary for salvation:
“Whence, however, was this derived, but from that primitive, as I suppose, and apostolic tradition, by which the churches of Christ maintain it to be an inherent principle, that without baptism and partaking of the supper of the Lord it is impossible for any man to attain either to the kingdom of God or to salvation and everlasting life?” [On Forgiveness of Sins and Baptism, 1:34 in Nicene & Post-Nicene Fathers Series 1, V, 28.]
He also believed that a literal six-day creation was idiocy:
In his book, The Literal Meaning of Genesis, Augustine stated that Christians who understood the creation story literally were a laughingstock and appeared as idiots in the eyes of non believers. [Augustine Volume 1: The Literal Meaning of Genesis (Ancient Christian Writers), ed. James H. Taylor.]
It is too disgraceful and ruinous, though, and greatly to be avoided, that he [the non-Christian] should hear a Christian speaking so idiotically on these matters, and as if in accord with Christian writings, that he might say that he could scarcely keep from laughing when he saw how totally in error they are.
And Augustine believed that Mary (mother of Jesus) remained a perpetual virgin, and sinless to her death. If he can get this much wrong, why quote him at all?
Many calvinist teachers have questionable lifestyles, such as Sproul, Driscoll (better known as “Potty-mouth”), Rick Warren (who claims to be a calvinist yet is a member of the one-world-government organisation CFR) etc. It’s true that we all have problems somewhere in our lives, but to claim such people as perhaps better support for their doctrines than the Bible itself is going too far.
Ultimately, if these “experts” are correct, then Biblical Christians should have no problems accepting their doctrines. However, if these experts are into heresies, then they should be rejected. All said and done, every one of them has to be assessed according to their adherence to the truth of the Bible, and therefore, why not just make the Bible the main source of reference, not these “teachers”?
It doesn’t matter how many you can get to agree with you, even those with “qualifications”, but the majority isn’t necessarily right, especially when dealing with people! If majority meant being right, then why is the majority going to hell?
3/. Accuse the non-calvinist as being less spiritual or less qualified.
If claiming the support of allegedly qualified Bible scholars doesn’t sway the non-calvinist objector from his path of testing all things, then the next step for the calvinist is to question his spirituality or his level of qualification. If you don’t agree with the calvinist, you are likely to be labelled as less spiritual than those who know, that is, the calvinists!
Al Mohler claims that if you are an evangelical on-the-ball Christian, then you are going to be a (New) calvinist. He says that no matter what you call it, if you are a good Christian, what you believe in will be calvinist! Sounds like arrogance to me!
If you’re a theological minded, deeply convictional young evangelical, if you’re committed to the gospel and want to see the nations rejoice in the name of Christ, if you want to see gospel built and structured committed churches, your theology is just going end up basically being Reformed, basically something like this new Calvinism, or you’re going to have to invent some label for what is basically going to be the same thing, there just are not options out there
Or the fact that you don’t have as many qualifications from colleges and seminaries means that you are less qualified to know Biblical doctrines correctly! Of course, this isn’t necessarily logical, for Peter in the Bible was an unlearned fisherman, yet on the day of Pentecost he amazed listeners because of his apparent “learning”. Also note Jesus whom observers noted was the son of Joseph the carpenter, so where did He get His learning, they asked? (See Mark 6:2-3)
MacArthur is held up by many calvinists as the epitome of biblical scholarship and learning, and to such he is seen as more or less perfect in his doctrine, not able to make any serious error of judgment anywhere. Yet he makes mistakes, as noted in the Granville Sharp rule, and in other areas. But his supporters just do not see his error here; there must be truth in what he says, they say, even though it appears to be in error! Talk about rose coloured glasses!
4/. Too-difficult questions written off as “mysteries”.
As noted earlier, calvinists use John 3:3 to somehow “prove” that we may only believe in Christ after we are saved. Yet many other verses clearly state that belief comes before being saved. Calvinists often don’t want to know this, and prefer to have no opinion, claiming that it is a mystery of God that we are not meant to know the reason why!
Another case in mind is using John 6:44 to prove that only those whom the Father draws might come to Christ, yet when it is pointed out that the same word “draw” is used in John 12:32 (where Jesus says “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all [men] unto me.”), many will back off here and claim mystery, yet others say that it’s a different use of that word. In fact, it’s the same use of the same word, yet John 12:32 says that Jesus will draw all to Himself. How about some consistency? And don’t tell me that “all” means only the Christians! That’s even more illogical!
Even MacArthur says in his notes on Romans 8:29 (Study Bible) to do with foreknowledge, that the term must be interpreted the same in both verses.
Neither he nor other calvinists should be now saying that another term must not be interpreted the same in both verses!
And, Calvin said that ignorance on certain subjects was “learning”!
Calvin’s Institutes Bk 3, Ch 21, Section 2 – Let us not be ashamed to be ignorant in a matter in which ignorance is learning. Rather let us willingly abstain from the search after knowledge, to which it is both foolish as well as perilous, and even fatal to aspire.
That is, Calvin considered certain things to be mysteries when he had no satisfactory answer to give. And yet, whenever the word “mystery” is used in the New Testament, it is always with respect to making such a mystery known! Please check this out and test all things!
Every time you raise a logical point demonstrating error in their consistency, such as listed above, then they will claim that they are right, yet they cannot explain it because there are just some things we are not meant to know. It’s a mystery!! (It’s a mystery to me why they just cannot see how illogical they are! If they were in a debating team, their team would struggle to win any debating contest!)
5/. The silent treatment!
However, if even the mystery excuse doesn’t make the objector back down, if they are unable to bully him into subjection to their beliefs, or at least to agree to disagree, then they’ll refuse to go any further. They’ll go silent on you, refuse to talk to you any further on the matter. It means they haven’t been able to convince you of their truth, and yet they know they haven’t a rock-solid foundation underneath their own argument (or else they’d use it for ever and a day!).
That is, if the calvinist sees that he cannot prevail against genuine Scriptural proofs, he will go back into his shell and refuse to talk to you any further. He might say that it is not productive to continue the discussion, or he might not even say anything, but just back off and treat you as if you no longer exist. Probably he is embarrassed at not being able to answer your objections to his heresies, not having any logical support to back them up. The refusal to discuss matters further, therefore, has to be seen for what it really is: a refusal to face up to the reality that they just do not have the answers at all! Their silence is an admission that they ultimately cannot defend their heresies!
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