The Oxymorons of Calvinist Doctrine
In the following, calvinism may also be known as “reform belief” or “the doctrines of grace”; calvinists often try to avoid being labelled as “calvinists”. Note also that while calvinists teach unconditional election, Biblical election is conditional upon the foreknowledge of God.
If you are a calvinist by doctrine, then you will certainly believe in doctrines that literally oppose each other. You will also have been taught that when apparent contradictions occur, you should consider such contradictions as “mysteries” that are not yours to understand right now. (Calvin taught that there were certain truths that were better to remain as mysteries.) And, if a non-calvinist were to use Scripture to challenge you on your doctrines where you had no clear understanding concerning how to refute it, then you should (a) declare the other person uneducated, (b) declare the other person non-spiritual, (c) quote some well-known and approved calvinist “authorities”, (d) declare the contradiction to be a mystery, or (e) determine that you should leave the other person alone, thus avoiding the inevitable conflict. However, there is another option: you could actually read the Bible thoroughly for yourself, testing all things as we are commanded to (1 Thessalonians 5:21). But, no, that might be a truth just too confronting to face!
I know that, to the purist, the plural of “oxymoron” is actually “oxymora”, but I’ll use it in its more common plural form of “oxymorons”. And what is an oxymoron? While it can mean something similar to a paradox, it is generally accepted to mean a statement that openly contradicts itself. The word itself comes from two Greek words meaning “sharp or keen” and “dull, stupid or foolish”, thus “sharp-dull” (or “intelligent moron”!). An oxymoron can be merely the putting together of two words that oppose each other (Eg. the living dead), but can also be a phrase or sentence with two separate yet opposing ideas. Oxymorons are generally seen as illogical or impossible.
A number of calvinist doctrines involve the fusion of two logically impossible ideas while teaching both as scriptural truths. (They will generally teach opposing “truths” separately in order to avoid people seeing the conflict.) Here are some examples:
Oxymoron No.1 – God created sin and then punished Adam for it!
Firstly, an accurate definition of sin should cast some light on this. gotquestions.com (a calvinist website) says Sin is described in the Bible as transgression of the law of God and rebellion against God. In the Bible, transgression means the disobeying of the law of God, and rebellion means the wilful opposing or resisting of the ruling authority, in this case, God. Therefore, sin is clearly an act of the will in opposing the will of God, for sin is rebellion against God. Sin is an act of the will in attempting to gain what we desire (that is, our wills) when God has ruled otherwise. We are to be holy as God is holy, yet we are not holy because our rebellious natures desire unholy things, especially when we are lost (unsaved). However, we can still be guilty of rebellion even if we are Christians. Sin is the placing of our wills ahead of the will of God for our lives.
Calvinism teaches that man does not have a free will. However, some will teach that man does have limited free will, but only according to his nature: if he is lost, then he may only choose evil things; if he is “saved”, he may only choose good things (although it is clear that those who are saved from their sins can and do sin at times). But, calvinists generally agree on one point: that lost man cannot (or does not) have the free will to choose to be saved, even when he hears the gospel. This is often defined as “free will but not unto salvation”.
This oxymoron arises when we start looking at the sin of Adam. Adam was created perfect, without sin, but, as we all know, he (along with Eve) was tempted and ate the forbidden fruit. The Bible calls it sin, an act of rebellion against a holy God who made the rule that the fruit was not to be eaten. The penalty for this disobedience was death. So, did Adam choose to sin of his own free will, or did God foreordain that he should sin? Calvinists all must agree that Adam could not have sinned of his own free will! Otherwise all we who are descended from Adam would also have some measure of free will concerning the choice between good and evil. And calvinists will not accept that man has any free will concerning the choice between good and evil.
Some teach that Adam had to be made to sin because the plan of redemption had already been put in place; and what would be the point of a plan of redemption if Adam just happened to choose to obey God? Others teach that while sin was not necessarily good, God considered it good that He should permit it. Yet others (including Calvin) teach that while God created sin, it was only bad when man carried out the sin. And yet others again teach that God created sin without any extra verbal justifications. But all calvinists agree that in some way or other and for some reason or other, God created (authored or decreed) that sin should enter this world, and that Adam just had to be the fall guy who would take the blame for it! Adam didn’t author the sin, yet he is to be accused of it!
So, here’s the oxymoron. (If you disagree, as no doubt calvinists will, then please demonstrate your views from the Bible.) If Adam effectively had no free will to choose to obey God, then neither can his disobedience be considered an act of his free will against God! Remember, to the calvinist, Adam has no free will to choose between good and evil. And, if sin is an act of rebellion against God’s commandments (backed up by His authority), Adam must have chosen (by his free will) to disobey God, because rebellion is an act of the will against authority. But, how can Adam choose to disobey God when he has no free will in the first place to choose? Without free will, Adam can only do what the calvinist God decrees that he should do. The calvinist God had effectively ordered Adam to sin, and then blamed Adam for his disobedience!
Adam is originally commanded not to disobey God by eating the forbidden fruit, yet Adam is then commanded by God to sin (rebel against God) by now eating that forbidden fruit. If Adam refuses to eat the fruit because God has previously forbidden it, then he becomes guilty of disobeying God’s command to now eat the fruit. On the other hand, if Adam now obeys God’s command to eat the forbidden fruit, then he is doomed by his disobedience to God’s original law that forbade him to do so. Poor Adam! He just can’t win! The deck is literally stacked against him! What an oxymoron!
Of course, if they teach that Adam did choose to sin by his own free will, then the flood gates are opened to teach that all who are descended from Adam must also have the same options of free will concerning good and evil. But the teaching of free will for mankind would destroy calvinism at its very roots. Man just cannot be permitted to have a free will! The calvinist God is sovereign, so sovereign, in fact, that no other will may exist anywhere in the universe. What the calvinist God wills, he gets. No-one may argue, for no-one has a free will to permit argument against the calvinist God. Thus, all things in the universe are willed by the calvinist God, and nothing exists except by his sovereign will. But, the sovereign calvinist God refuses to take responsibility for his creation of sin, so he blames his creation for getting it wrong, even when creation can have no independent will to oppose the will of the sovereign calvinist God. What an oxymoron!
However, because man was given free will to choose between good and evil, man then has to take responsibility for his rebellious act of his will against the law of a holy God. The God of the Bible is truly sovereign, yet He permits free will, for one day He will judge every act, every work of man; not one free will decision will escape God’s judgement!
Oxymoron No.2 – Merciful, loving and gracious God predestined most of mankind to go to hell without any other option! (Sometimes termed “Double Predestination”)
While Calvin taught that God predestined the elect to heaven and the non-elect to hell, many calvinists today try to side-step this issue because it makes their God out to be an ogre who creates most of mankind to go to hell without any chance of escape at all. So, they teach that while God predestined the elect to heaven, they maintain, quite illogically, that the non-elect go to hell because they choose to do so! They totally ignore the fact that the calvinist non-elect person hasn’t any option at all other than eternal condemnation in hell, for the calvinist Jesus never died for any of the sins of any of the non-elect. The calvinist God refuses any option to forgive them!
MacArthur says of Judas that he went to hell because he chose to pay the dreadful price, yet also says that Jesus didn’t die for the sins of Judas, so what choice did Judas really have? Clearly this is another oxymoron!
“Judas was not created by God to occupy hell. ….. Judas went there because Judas chose to betray Christ, chose to reject the truth, chose to pay a sad, sad price.” https://www.gty.org/resources/print/questions/QA183
“Jesus didn’t pay for the sins of Judas because when Judas died, he went to his own place to pay for his own sins.” https://www.gty.org/resources/print/sermons/62-10
Obviously the calvinist God only has sovereignty over the elect; he doesn’t want to know anything about the non-elect at all! Like Pontius Pilate, he washes his hands of the whole sorry mess! It’s not his fault that those miserable sinners have to go to hell! (In spite of the fact that he created them without any options for heaven!) What an oxymoron!
Oxymoron No.3 – Calvinism is the gospel!
Calvinism teaches that no man may respond positively to God until after he is “regenerated” (born again). Regeneration is the first step in the salvation of the calvinist. (That is, assuming he is actually one of the elect!) Only the elect (those chosen by God for salvation) will be regenerated; not one of the non-elect can ever be regenerated (or saved, or born again, or whatever term you care to use to demonstrate salvation). And, until a person is regenerated (born again), he just cannot respond to the gospel at all. A person needs to be made alive again before he can actually hear and understand the gospel, believe in Christ and be saved.
Without regeneration, man cannot ever hear and understand the gospel. The non-elect (those not chosen by the calvinist God for salvation) will never be regenerated, and thus can never respond to the gospel and be saved. The calvinist Jesus never died for any of the sins of the non-elect, either. The gospel is therefore absolutely irrelevant to the vast majority of mankind, those non-elect who are destined for hell without any hope of redemption.
And the elect? Until they are regenerated, they likewise cannot respond to the gospel. Yes, that’s right folks, even those chosen by God for salvation cannot respond to the gospel until after they have been born again! It’s only after the calvinist God has given the elect a new heart (= regeneration) that they can respond spiritually to God with faith and repentance. The gospel is irrelevant to the elect until after they are born again. So, how can they be regenerated (born again) yet not yet saved by the gospel? What an oxymoron!
Yes indeed, what an oxymoron! Why do the calvinists bother preaching the gospel? The non-elect can never respond, ever, and the elect can only respond after they have been born again! No wonder most calvinists in the past have avoided traditional evangelism. Even MacArthur mocks traditional evangelism (“Doctrine of Actual Atonement, Part 1”), and Todd Friel teaches that those who call upon the name of the Lord to be saved are not actually saved; they’re going to hell!
Why bother preaching the gospel? Those of the election cannot miss out on heaven, and those who are not of the election can never get to heaven. The calvinists teach clearly that these lists are settled before the start of time; the calvinist God has chosen you either for heaven or hell from before you were born, and that settles it. Heaven or hell? God has chosen already! You have absolutely no say in the matter! Get used to it! It is your destiny! What an oxymoron!
Oxymoron No.4 – Be born again before you can believe on the Lord Jesus Christ!
Many people assume quite correctly that being saved is the same as being born again. However, this is not necessarily so in calvinist doctrine. To calvinists, you are born again in order that you might believe (have faith) in Christ and then be saved.
This is an oxymoron in its own right, for it presents the born-again Christian with the gospel in order for them to believe in Christ, repent, and be saved. Calvinists teach that you must be born again first, before you can have faith in Christ, before you can repent of your sins, and be saved. Of course, calvinists do prefer the term “regenerated” rather than “born again”, because too many people might think that being “born again” is the same as being “saved”. (Both “regenerated” and “born again” mean the same thing; they are synonyms.) Calvinists are very good at hiding the real truth of their doctrines behind “verbal gymnastics”!
Some calvinists, upon seeing the extent of this oxymoron, try then to equate being born again with being saved. But then, because calvinism teaches that you cannot have faith (believe) in Christ until after you are regenerated (born again), they are then forced to teach that you must be saved before you can believe in Christ.
A man is not saved because he believes in Christ; he believes in Christ because he is saved. (The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination, P 75, Loraine Boettner)
But the Bible teaches that you must believe before you are saved (Acts 16:31, Romans 10:9).
What an oxymoron! They are caught between two impossible “truths”: (a) you have to be born again before you can believe on Christ and be saved, or (b) you have to be saved before you can believe on Christ! But that’s not all, folks! While the Bible teaches that godly sorrow worketh repentance that results in salvation (2 Corinthians 7:10), and that a man’s faith is counted for righteousness (Romans 4:5), the calvinists teach that we must be born again before we are able to repent, and before we can have faith in Christ. This is why the calvinist can never reach the lost through the gospel. They cannot preach their gospel to the lost, for their God must “regenerate” the lost before the gospel, before faith, and before repentance. What an oxymoron! But then, what can you expect from a doctrine that is based upon lies!
Oxymoron No.5 – Evangelize the world without the gospel?
The scriptural evangelist preaches the gospel of the word of God; that if you call upon the name of the Lord, you shall be saved. Of course, that also includes godly sorrow, faith, repentance and believing in Christ in order to be saved (2 Corinthians 7:10). However, how do you preach the gospel of salvation to which the sinner cannot respond until after he is saved?
Calvinism teaches that, because you have no free will to ever choose to call upon the name of the Lord to be saved, then you cannot ever make a personal decision to be saved unless you are already regenerated (born again). They teach that people who ask Jesus into their hearts are not saved and are going to hell, simply because it’s God who makes that decision, not them. Calvinism denies all people the right to choose, unless God has already chosen them first and then regenerated them.
Brace yourself for this one: with very few if any exceptions, anyone who asked Jesus into their hearts to be saved…is not. If you asked Jesus into your heart because you were told that is what you have to do to become a Christian, you were mis-informed.
People who ask Jesus into their hearts are not saved and they will perish on the Day of Judgment.
(Ten Reasons To Not Ask Jesus Into Your Heart, by Todd Friel)
So, how do calvinists preach their gospel? Or, should I say, their non-gospel, for the calvinist God has to regenerate his elect before they are permitted to respond favourably in any way. Until they are regenerated, even the elect (the chosen ones of God) are unable to respond favourably at all. They are no different to the non-elect until God causes them to be regenerated (born again). It is only after they are born again that they are able to be evangelized with the gospel! What an oxymoron!
Even Spurgeon (whom the calvinists love to claim as one of their own) said of this particular oxymoron (he called it “unnecessary”, “ridiculous” and “absurd”):
“If I am to preach faith in Christ to a man who is regenerated, then the man, being regenerated, is saved already, and it is an unnecessary and ridiculous thing for me to preach Christ to him, and bid him to believe in order to be saved when he is saved already, being regenerate. … So, then, I am only to preach faith to those who have it. Absurd, indeed! Is not this waiting till the man is cured and then bringing him the medicine? This is preaching Christ to the righteous and not to sinners.” (The Warrant of Faith)
The Biblical gospel produces a harvest of saints, born again at the cross of Jesus. The calvinist gospel, being empty of salvation until after the person is already “saved”, cannot produce a harvest of saints but instead produces puritans. (Many calvinists delight to call themselves “puritans”, modelling themselves upon the good works patterns of those puritans that have gone before them.)
Like all reproduction, religious converts are of like kind to those who bring them to their faith. And so, Christians produce more Christians, and calvinists produce more calvinists (also known as puritans). The gospel you preach determines the converts to your doctrines. Christians produce those with new life in Christ as per 2 Corinthians 5:17. But calvinists do not acknowledge any personal decision to be saved; thus, they are compelled to assess their converts according to the works they produce. Therefore, the converts of calvinism are measured by their works: they attend church and do good deeds, and don’t do so many things that are associated with “sinners”. They cannot be assessed by their testimony, for a calvinist can have no testimony of salvation at the cross of Jesus. As one calvinist has said, It’s the life we live, not the words we speak, which determines our eternal destiny.
Oxymoron No.6 – Calvinists claim to be Christians yet are not saved by Christ.
A Christian is someone who has determined that Christ is the way, the truth and the life, and that no one may come to the Father except through Christ (John 14:6). Thus, no-one may be saved unless he comes to the cross of Christ and calls upon the name of the Lord to be saved (Romans 10:13). Jesus said, “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved” (John 10:9) Our salvation is through Christ alone. The Bible therefore teaches clearly that our only point of access to the Father is through that door of salvation which is Christ.
So, what an oxymoron to teach that a person must be regenerated (born again) by the power of the Holy Spirit before he may hear the gospel of salvation and believe in Christ. That’s right, the calvinist must believe that coming to the Father through Christ may only occur after he has been firstly been born again by the Holy Spirit! The calvinist door of salvation is through the regeneration of the Holy Spirit before he may come through door of Christ! Of course, the calvinists will claim that the regeneration is through Christ, yet illogically teach that the one who is born again cannot know the Christ who saved them until after they have been “saved”!
Christians are those who come to the Father through Christ! Calvinists do not come to the Father through Christ! Therefore, calvinists are not Christian! What an oxymoron to claim to be Christian when you cannot be one!
Oxymoron No.7 – The calvinists cry “Christ Alone”, yet leave Him out of the picture until after a person is “saved”.
As already noted above, calvinists are not saved by Christ, but are born again (regenerated) by the Holy Spirit before they may have faith in Christ. It does rather make a mockery of Romans 10:13 – For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. And, how may one call upon the name of the Lord to be saved when they do not yet have faith in the one who allegedly saves them? According to calvinist teaching, they cannot have any understanding of the gospel, nor of the Christ who saved them, until after they have been born again!
How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? (Romans 10:14)
That defines their cry of “Christ alone” as an oxymoron indeed, for faith in Christ alone apparently is completely absent from the salvation equation until after they have been born again!
Calvinists also teach that once a person is regenerated (born again) by the Holy Spirit, he is assured of eternal security in heaven from that time on (termed the perseverance of the saints). Apparently, this promise of eternal security precedes the hearing of the gospel and then consequent faith in Christ. The question must be asked: if a person dies after regeneration but before faith in Christ, does he go to heaven? The calvinist has to answer “Yes!”, for if he answers “No!”, then he would also have to admit that his regeneration was an empty and ineffectual act of his God. Thus, the calvinist gets to heaven based upon his regeneration, not upon his faith in Christ. What an oxymoron!
Oxymoron No.8 – The calvinists cry “The Bible Alone”, yet ignore its truths in favour of Calvin’s teachings.
With calvinism, many verses are subtly (or not so subtly) re-written or added to so that they come into line with calvinist doctrine. In the following, Jesus tasted death for everyone, a truth clearly repugnant to calvinists who believe that Jesus only died for the sins of those whom God has chosen for salvation (limited atonement):
One well-known calvinist teaches in his study Bible on Hebrews 2:9 – “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone.” The associated note … states: “taste death for everyone. Everyone who believes, that is.” Notice how tasting death for everyone has now become tasting death only for those whom God has chosen for salvation!
In his sermon 90-278, MacArthur says of John 3:16: But His saving love for the world is limited to those in the world, the realm of humanity who believe.
The “world” no longer means the “world” but only those who will be chosen for salvation!
Also note the twisting of Scripture to fit in with calvinism in the following from “One Perfect Life: The Complete Story of the Lord Jesus” excerpts from Pages 509 & 510 – By John MacArthur. “And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world. …..” (Footnote) FOR THE WHOLE WORLD. This is a generic term, referring not to every single individual, but to mankind in general. Christ actually paid the penalty only for those who would repent and believe.”
Calvinism is often quoted as claiming (along with Spurgeon) that “Calvinism is the gospel”. However, any fundamentalist Bible believing Christian has to teach that the Bible itself is the gospel, not calvinism! But the calvinist continues to insist that Calvin’s writings demonstrate a superior understanding of the Bible that cannot be gained by reading the Bible on its own. What an oxymoron!
Oxymoron No.9 – The calvinists cry “Faith Alone”, yet faith is not part of their salvation until after they have been born again.
According to Romans 4:5 we are justified by faith (in Christ), yet according to calvinism we are born again before we may have faith in Christ. Note their teaching on John 3:3 – Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. They teach that “see” equates to “believe in” or “have faith in” and therefore (according to the calvinist) the Bible teaches that you cannot have faith in Christ until after you have been born again. Calvinist Robert Morey in “Studies in the Atonement” Ch.8 says: 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! (Emphasis in the original.) Note that this is yet another example of altering or twisting Scripture in order to line up with calvinist teachings.
If faith alone in Christ alone saves us, then the calvinist must still be lost and heading for hell until he hears the gospel and believes by faith in Christ, all of which will occur after the calvinist is born again. Thus, either the calvinist remains lost after he is born again, waiting until he hears the gospel and has faith in Christ, or he is saved without faith, and thus hearing the gospel and coming to faith in Christ is an unnecessary extra! What an oxymoron!
Oxymoron No.10 – God chose Israel as His special nation, and then ordained that it sin and be rejected.
Calvinists make a big thing of “proving” the unconditional election of man by using the election (choosing) of the nation of Israel as an example. They teach that because God chose Israel unconditionally as His people, then God must also unconditionally choose those who will be His people, the Church.
But, there are two big problems with this:
(a) The choosing of one nation must automatically exclude all other nations from being God’s people, for only one nation can be God’s nation. Applying the same rationale to the election of individual people would mean only one could be chosen. All other people would have to be rejected in favour of the one chosen person!
(b) Despite God choosing Israel as His people, most of them would have ended up lost and condemned to hell because their rebellion against His law was greater than the sin of all the nations around them (Ezekiel 16:47). Applying this to the calvinist elect (chosen ones) today would see them in more punishment in hell than those who were not chosen by God to be “saved”.
But God says of Israel and Judah that He has done His best to cause them to be most fruitful, yet in spite of all His care for them, they still remained unfruitful. In the following, the vineyard is Israel and the vines are Judah (Isaiah 5:7).
Isaiah 5:3-4 – 3 And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem, and men of Judah, judge, I pray you, betwixt me and my vineyard. 4 What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it? wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes?
Here we now have that very question being put forward by God Himself: what more could He have done to get the best crop possible that He hasn’t already done? Why had it brought forth wild grapes when God had done everything possible to produce choice grapes? God Himself is stating clearly that he has not done anything that could have jeopardised His crop. So why did the crop fail?
Some options to look at:
(a) God is not telling the truth concerning His best efforts to obtain a choice crop? (As a politician makes promises before an election, yet decides after the election what he will then do?) That is, God made grand promises even if He mightn’t feel like doing His best to produce a choice crop later on? An unacceptable conclusion which opposes the very nature of God by making Him a liar, and could even make God irrational, or that His responses are dependent upon what He feels like at the time.
(b) God is incapable of producing that which He has promised? That is, He promised perfection yet couldn’t deliver on His promises? An unacceptable conclusion which assumes that God is less than sovereign.
(c) God ordained that His crop should fail in spite of His assurances that He desired the very choicest crop? That is, God, while openly committing Himself to producing the best possible crop, nevertheless behind the scenes actually planned that Israel should fail to produce such a crop? That is, Israel was prevented by God’s decree from producing a choice crop? A conclusion similar to (a) yet His inability to deliver is decreed according to His will, rather than based upon feelings. An unacceptable conclusion that requires a dual personality for God, that is, God is not what He seems to be! Such a conclusion has to mean that God had planned for Israel to fail so he could replace it with the Church. This is devious dealing with His creation.
(d) God, while desiring a better outcome, nevertheless allowed Israel to have a free will to determine for themselves what they would do? That is, the responsibility for the failure, instead of falling upon God who cannot fail, falls upon Israel who then has to take responsibility for such in the judgment which will come upon all mankind without exception? This is the only conclusion that allows for the failure of Israel without compromising the nature of God in any way!
Option (d) is the only scripturally acceptable option, yet it requires a free will for the people of Israel, something that calvinism refuses to accept. If there is no free will, then the calvinist God is responsible for choosing a people and then deliberately destroying it by ordaining the very sin that he commanded them not to do! That is, the calvinist God has to command his people to sin after previously commanding them not to sin! What an oxymoron!
As a footnote, God’s will is clearly that all mankind be saved (1 Timothy 2:4) and yet MacArthur’s God never intended saving everyone, even though he could have saved everyone! MacArthur says: God did not intend to save everyone. He is God. He could have intended to save everyone. He could have saved everyone. He would have if that had been His intention. The atonement is limited. (The Doctrine of the Actual Atonement Part 1). What an oxymoron!!
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