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The Extreme of Calvinism


Pastor Alberto J. Rendon

New Life Christian Church

Poblacion, Sto. Nińo,

9509 South Cotabato



Copyright November 2005


What is Calvinism?


Calvinism gets its name from its founder, John Calvin, who was born in Noyon, France in 1509. His father was a lawyer for the Catholic Church, and sent him to be educated in Paris, Orleans. There John became friends with Protestant Reformers Pierre Robert and Melchior Wolmar. He followed Wolmar to Bourges Law School. At this time he declared himself a Protestant. He left France and settled in Basel, Switzerland and published his “Institutes of the Christian Religion.” In this volume he explains his interpretation of the Christian faith. You have to understand this book in light of the age he lived in.


Like many who leave a church over doctrinal issues, Calvin, I believe overreacted to the works-oriented salvation of the Roman Catholic Church. No doubt the Roman Catholic Church, then and now, teach that works save us. They teach it in a way that makes it impossible to have assurance of salvation. After all, how many good works must I do to be saved? Maybe I haven’t done enough! You can understand that under these conditions, John Calvin was disgusted with man’s attempt to secure his salvation with good works. So his teachings swung the pendulum to the other extreme, where man had “nothing” to do with his salvation—not even “faith” was man’s responsibility. To him, faith was something that God sovereignly gave to those He elected to be saved.


Calvinism is a Doctrine of:


Total Depravity/Inability

Because of the fall, man is unable of himself to savingly believe the gospel. The sinner is dead, blind, and deaf to the things of God; his heart is deceitful and desperately corrupt. His will is not free, it is in bondage to his evil nature, therefore, he will not--indeed he cannot--choose good over evil in the spiritual realm. Consequently, it takes much more than the Spirit's assistance to bring a sinner to Christ--it takes regeneration by which the Spirit makes the sinner alive and gives him a new nature. Faith is not something man contributes to salvation but is itself a part of God's gift of salvation--it is God's gift to the sinner, not the sinner's gift to God.


Unconditional Election

God's choice of certain individuals unto salvation before the foundation of the world rested solely in His own sovereign will. His choice of particular sinners was not based on any foreseen response or obedience on their part, such as faith, repentance, etc. On the contrary, God gives faith and repentance to each individual whom He selected. These acts are the result, not the cause of God's choice. Election therefore was not determined by or conditioned upon any virtuous quality or act foreseen in man. Those whom God sovereignly elected He brings through the power of the Spirit to a willing acceptance of Christ. Thus God's choice of the sinner, not the sinner's choice of Christ, is the ultimate cause of salvation.


Limited Atonement

Christ's redeeming work was intended to save the elect only and actually secured salvation for them. His death was a substitutionary endurance of the penalty of sin in the place of certain specified sinners. In addition to putting away the sins of His people, Christ's redemption secured everything necessary for their salvation, including faith which unites them to Him. The gift of faith is infallibly applied by the Spirit to all for whom Christ died, therefore guaranteeing their salvation.


Irresistible Grace

In addition to the outward general call to salvation which is made to everyone who hears the gospel, the Holy Spirit extends to the elect a special inward call that inevitably brings them to salvation. The external call (which is made to all without distinction) can be, and often is, rejected; whereas the internal call (which is made only to the elect) cannot be rejected; it always results in conversion. By means of this special call the Spirit irresistibly draws sinners to Christ. He is not limited in His work of applying salvation by man's will, nor is He dependent upon man's cooperation for success. The Spirit graciously causes the elect sinner to cooperate, to believe, to repent, to come freely and willingly to Christ. God's grace, therefore, is invincible; it never fails to result in the salvation of those to whom it is extended.


Perseverance of the Saints

All who are chosen by God, redeemed by Christ, and given faith by the Spirit are eternally saved. They are kept in faith by the power of Almighty God and thus persevere to the end.





The Problems in the Teachings of Calvin


All of the teachings of Calvin conclude that God created some for heaven and some for hell. Which make contradiction in the Bible for God is "not being willing for any should perish. but for all to come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9). I believe that all men is predestined for heaven. Man was created for Gods glory and desires the fellowship of man. Man’s end destiny should be heaven, but unfortunelty some "neglect so great a salvation" (Hebrews 2:3).



The Problems of Total Depravity/Inability Teaching


This is true that we were dead because of sin and God made us alive with Christ (Ephesians 2:5).  Does a man have no part to become alive with Christ? Calvinist says, NO. Because man is totally depraved he has no ability to choose and even to hear the word of God  because he is dead. What is the problem?


The problem is, Calvin did not understand how God made us alive with Christ. He only concluded that God is the only one responsible to make us alive. This is like when God created man from the ground without life that only God who gave the life to man by breathing to the nostril of the created dust man  and man become living soul, so man has no part for his life.  But the Bible doesn’t teach us like that way how God made us alive with Christ.


How we become alive with Christ? And of course we are children of God and members in His family. The Bible teaches us by being born again. The key word here is BORN. To become physically alive he must be born first. Of course a baby that is not yet born is already alive but its not his own life that he lives, it’s his mother’s life, but when a baby is born he has his very own life. The same way, God made us alive with Christ by being born, we called it born again, born from above or born of God.


Does God only responsible for man to become born again? Jesus Christ used the term born not clone and not by creation (Clone is a copy and creation can be made only by one). Because He understands that being born two must be responsible. That means God is responsible for a man to be born again and man has his part.  How we become born again?


The Bible says, John 1:12-13  “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God-- children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God. 


We become born again or alive with Christ by our natural ability of receiving him and believing in his name and by the word of God.  We are born of God not of natural descent, human or husband’s decision and will. Born of natural descent or human’s will Jesus called it, born of flesh is flesh and born of God He called it  born of spirit is spirit. 


God does not require spiritual hearing so we will become attentive to his word but by our natural hearing as well as natural understanding. That is the way how we become born again. God planted the incorruptible seed  the word of God (1 Peter 1:23) into our human being through our human understanding  that caused  our spirit to become born again.  


This is called by some Christians saving faith, and saving faith is knowledge of the word of God and conviction of the word of God and the result is covertion. Jesus said, “And you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.(John 8:32).  Where the knowing of the truth comes from for man is not yet free, converted and or alive with Christ? It comes from the natural human understanding. 


It is the hearing of the preaching of the word of God that faith comes (Romans 10:17) then the one who hears and understands the gospel by human understanding, the word of God become the incorruptible seed that is planted in that person’s being and it will be developed for a man’s spirit to become born of God. What is the part of man? Hear and believe. And therefore, the process of God for a man to become born again or alive with Christ is not that God gives life to the depraved dead person without man’s part. 


The problem of Calvin’s teaching is, God must give life first to a depraved man so he would be alive with Christ without man’s part. Because man is totally depraved or dead he has no ability to choose to believe God so God must give him first life. There is a big problem on that. Which is first, faith to be saved or saved to have faith?  Which is first, receive and believe before you become born of God or to be born of God first before you can receive and believe? 


If they say, God gave first faith because faith is a gift of God to a depraved man so he can  choose to believe then he can have life. The question is, how could he used that faith that he is still dead because he has no life yet given, that means he has no ability to choose to believe yet, he is still dead. If they say, God gave life first to a depraved man so he could have faith to believe. That is the big problem that would contradict the process to become born of God. And then, if they say God gave both faith and life together. There is another problem.  That would means God made a depraved man alive without the process of being born again.  And it means He did creat the new life in man, like when He created Adam which the Bible says nothing about it for our spiritual life that is born in the kingdom of God.


Calvin said man is incapable to become alive with Christ. This is not true, bacause that would mean God clone us or created us alive with Christ not in the process of being born of God.


Our human ability or human understanding is the sourse of saving faith and is reponsible for our destiny.  That is our free will. Are those who received him and believed in his name according to John 1:12 already born again before they received and believed? Absolutely NO. That means they have no spiritual hearing and understanding yet they are still natural man, they are dead spiritually because they were not yet born of God.  How did they believe and receive? It was by their natural human understanding of the word of God not from their spiritual understanding because they were still spiritually dead.   


Does God responsible for receiving and believing? In the sense that God gave His only begotten Son and commanded preachers to preach it would be yes!  That is the responsibility of God, but in the sense of decision to believe and receive to be saved NO.  It says, “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name,…” It does not say, to all who received the ability to receive and believe. The decision is man’s responsibility.


Calvin’s theory is in error. When he said man is incapable for his salvation because he is totally depraved has no ability to choose to be saved because he is dead.  This  teaching is totally falacy.


Calvin has another problem. He did not understand about salvation taught in the Bible. Who needs salvation the evil nature of man or the man himself? And whom God loved so much the evil human nature or the man?   


Notice what the followers of Calvin said.


"It should come as no surprise that I adhere to Calvinist theology. I believe that Calvinism is little more than a correct interpretation of the Bible. It is not a radical theology; it is correct, Biblical theology! From what the Bible teaches and from what I have seen of human nature, I simply cannot believe that man can play any part in his salvation. A former pastor of mine used to say it like this: “Imagine you are in a river, the water is flowing quickly and you are sinking. You struggle, fight and thrash about but are unable to save yourself. As you are going down for the last time, you manage to extend your hand just a bit. As you extend your hand, someone grabs it and pulls you from the torent. That is Arminian theology. Calvinism says that you are a corpse - a dead, rotting corpse unable to even extend your pinky finger. But God brings that corpse to life.” The Irvins recently posted about light and asked how much light is enough to make a blind man see. The point is the same – a blind man can see no light just as a dead man cannot extend his hand. Until God brings us to life we are dead."


Calvinists say man is a corpse unable to extend  a finger for help and blind and cannot see light. Is that true? But the author of Psalms 119:174 said “I have longed for thy salvation O LORD; and thy law is my delight.” You see a dead man a sinner still longs for salvation. Was the author of Psalms spiritually dead? Absolutely yes, but he still longs for salvation. What is that part in man that longs for salvation? It is not the spiritually dead man, it is his life the breath of God. What does long for salvation the evil human nature or the life of man? It is the life of man the breath of God that needs salvation and longs for the presence of God. In this sense Arminian is 100% correct. 


Man is human, living as natural man, he has the life the breath of God in him. His spiritual life is dead but his human life is alive. Who needs salvation? It is the life of man. The evil human nature don’t need salvation it must be removed from a man and be replaced by the nature of God.


The life of man the breath of God still longs to fellowship with God and it is experienced in the Old Testament. The people of God in the Old Testament longed to worship God and they  worshiped Him. The only thing that we must understand whatever they did cannot saved them, they are sinners by nature but they still longed to worship God. They were still spiritually dead because they were not born again but yet, the life of the human beings longs to honor God, not the nature of human beings but the life the breath of God.


I heard a preacher who believed in Calvin’s theology says, there is a built-in desire in man that longs to worship God. You see how inconsistent this preacher? He believes that man is totally dead and cannot choose to seek God then he also believed that there is a built-in desire in  man that longs to worship God.  I do believe that there is a built-in desire in man to worship God. Psalms 42:1-2  says, “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God….” What is that in man that longs for God or to worship God?  It is the breath of God the life of man and not the nature of man. 


The soul pants for God, the soul thirst for God. Notice the word SOUL in Greek is nephesh that means breathing creature, a sense, a life of a living. That is the breath of God the life of man that longs to worship God. This is the one that needs salvation. This is the one that longs for salvation.   


Have you noticed that pagans worship many gods? The reason why they worship different gods because they do not know the true God. But what  caused them to worship different gods? It is the built-in desire in the life of man that longs to worship a God.  To say that man is totally dead is not true. 


Another problem Calvin did not understand is about the term spiritually dead. What has been dead spiritually in man after he falls? It is the relationship with God. Death means separation. Man is separated from God but still he has the breath of God in him the life he lives.  To become alive with Christ means a new relationship with God that is the spiritual life born in His Kingdom. The spiritually dead in man’s life no need to be resurrected it must be born again to become alive, it must have a new beginning, a new relationship from a baby christian to a matured christian. This is called regeneration not resurrection. Calvin’s term is to put a life to a corpse that would means resurrection not regeneration.


The teaching of Calvin is inconsistent. They believe in regeneration, but to bring life again to a dead depraved man is not regeneration but resurrection.


Man is not dead in the sense of the life he lives, he has the natural understanding as a natural man, but he is only in bondage of sin. Being in bondage doesn’t mean dead. Being servant of sin or the devil does not mean dead. No master wanted to have dead servants. The bible says man is a servant of sin.  John 8:34  “Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin.”


A believer is no longer servants of sin they are delievered. Rom 6:17-18 “But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.”


To say man is totally depraved is not true, he is ony spiritually dead separated from God. He still needs salvation when he realized that he is in bondage of sin and the devil. We are like the man drawned by the water and in needs of help. We are like the man bound by the enemy who needs deliverance.  Only God can save us through our Lord Jesus Christ. If a person who is bound by the enemy knows a savior, convicted by the news that the savior is able to save him, then he has no doubt to call the name of the savior for his deliverance that man will be converted from being bound to freedom.    That is what we are.


The meaning spiritually dead is separation from God.  It does not mean because he is separated from God he is totally dead. The prodigal son in Luke was separated from the Father and his father considered him dead, but he was not totally dead. And when the son realized his sins of being separated from his father returned to his father’s home, the father said, my son was dead but now he is alive.  The son played his part to become alive again in the sight of his father. That is what we are.  We are not totally depraved.



Another explanation on the four extremes of Calvinism be posted.  No part of this article is permited for reproduction without the permission of the Author except for personal used.


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