Theology Corner

Addressing commonly asked questions about Christianity from the perspective of a non-theologian

Theology Corner

1.)  CAN GOD'S WILL BE THWARTED?

2.)  DID GOD ELECT ONLY A FEW FOR SALVATION WHILE CONDEMNING THE GREATER PART OF MANKIND TO HELL?

3.)  FAITH OR SALVATION: WHICH COMES FIRST?

4.)  DID GOD THE FATHER BEGET JESUS CHRIST?

5.)  WHAT ARE THE TWO NATURES OF CHRIST?

6.)  WHAT IS ANTINOMIANISM?

7.)  WHAT IS SABELLIANISM?

8.)  WHAT IS PELAGIANISM?

9.)  DOES LOVE REALLY WIN?

10.)  IS YOUR WILL REALLY YOUR WILL?

11.)  CAN TWO THEOLOGIES BE TESTED FOR COMPATIBILITY?

12.)  WHAT IS THE FRAUD OF FIDEISM?

13.)  IS CHRISTIAN THEOLOGY COMPATIBLE WITH JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES THEOLOGY?

14.)  IS CHRISTIAN THEOLOGY COMPATIBLE WITH CHRISTIAN SCIENCE THEOLOGY?

15.)  IS CHRISTIAN THEOLOGY COMPATIBLE WITH MORMON THEOLOGY?

16.)  IS CHRISTIAN THEOLOGY COMPATIBLE WITH UNITARIAN UNIVERSALISTS THEOLOGY?

17.)  IS CHRISTIAN THEOLOGY COMPATIBLE WITH SCIENTOLOGY THEOLOGY?

18.)  IS CHRISTIAN THEOLOGY COMPATIBLE WITH UNIFICATION CHURCH THEOLOGY?

19.)  IS CHRISTIAN THEOLOGY COMPATIBLE WITH THE WAY INTERNATIONAL THEOLOGY?

20.)  IS CHRISTIAN THEOLOGY COMPATIBLE WITH THE WORLDWIDE CHURCH OF GOD THEOLOGY?

21.)  IS REPENTANCE REALLY NECESSARY?

22.)  WHAT ARE SOME MUSINGS OF A METHODIST THEOLOGIAN ON LIMITED ATONEMENT?

23.)  WHAT ARE SOME QUESTIONS FOR THOSE WHO TEACH A LIMITED ATONEMENT PROVIDED ONLY FOR THE ELECT OF GOD?

24.)  WHAT WERE CALVIN'S ACTUAL WORDS?

25.)  WHAT IS GNOSTICISM?

26.)  WHAT IS THE UNPARDONABLE SIN?

27.)  IS CLASSICAL CHRISTIAN THEOLOGY COMPATIBLE WITH PROGRESSIVE CHRISTIAN THEOLOGY?

1.)  IS CHRISTIANITY COMPATIBLE WITH POSITIVE TOLERANCE?

2.)  CAN WE HAVE A FORM OF GODLINESS, BUT DENY THE POWER THEREOF?

3.)  WHAT IS THE GREAT WAR?

4.)  SHOULD PRESIDENT TRUMP HAVE BEEN IMPEACHED FOR IMMORALITY?

5.)  WHO SAID MOSES WAS HUMBLE?

6.)  COULD CHRISTIAN DOCTRINE BENEFIT FROM WOKE REVISION?

7.)  DID EINSTEIN BELIEVE ALL CHRISTIANS WERE CALVINISTS?

8.)  WHY IS MARXISM A MAGNET?

9.)  WHAT IS TRUE SCIENCE?

10.)  CAN YOU LOSE YOUR SALVATION?

11.)  WHAT ARE THE SYNOPTIC GOSPELS?

12.)  WHAT HAPPENED BETWEEN OLD AND NEW TESTAMENTS?

13.)  WAS PAUL ENTIRELY SANCTIFIED?

14.)  ARE YOU LIVING IN A WORLD AT WAR?

15.)  WHAT IS THE DIRECT METHOD FOR PROVING A CONDITIONAL PROPOSITION IS TRUE?

16.)  WHAT IS THE CONTRAPOSITIVE METHOD FOR PROVING A CONDITIONAL PROPOSITION IS TRUE?

17.)  WHAT IS THE CONTRADICTION METHOD FOR PROVING A CONDITIONAL PROPOSITION IS TRUE?

18.)  WHAT MIGHT A METHODIST THEOLOGIAN SAY ABOUT PURGATORY?

19.)  WHICH BIBLE PASSAGES ELUCIDATE CORE ASPECTS OF CHRISTIANITY?

20.)  DO SELECTED NIV VERSES ELUCIDATE CORE ASPECTS OF CHRISTIANITY?

21.)  DO SELECTED AKJV VERSES ELUCIDATE CORE ASPECTS OF CHRISTIANITY?

22.)  DO SELECTED YLT VERSES ELUCIDATE CORE ASPECTS OF CHRISTIANITY?

23.)  DO SELECTED 'VOICE' VERSES ELUCIDATE CORE ASPECTS OF CHRISTIANITY?

24.)  COULD THE CONCEPT OF 'SALVATION ONLY FOR THE ELECT' HAVE BEEN ROOTED IN THE MIND OF AUGUSTINE BEFORE HE EMBRACED CHRISTIANITY?

25.)  DID AUGUSTINE RECEIVE PUSHBACK FOR HIS TEACHING OF 'SALVATION ONLY FOR THE ELECT' DURING HIS LIFETIME?

WHAT WERE CALVIN'S ACTUAL WORDS?

In the 5th century, Augustine laid the foundations of what we now call Calvinism. Nothing resembling his contrivance existed for the first four centuries of the Christian church. After Augustine's death, his invention lay dormant for eleven centuries but was resurrected by Calvin and the Reformers in the 16th century.  Opponents quickly condemned this heresy by issuing the "Five Points of the Remonstrants" in 1610.  The doctrine of Calvin and Augustine was unknown in the early church and may be ranked among those errors which the ‘spiritual forces of evil in heavenly realms,’ have attempted to graft into the Christian faith.

What is the essence of Calvin’s Reformed Theology?  We could read from the 1619 Synod of Dort Proceedings, the 1646 Westminster Confession, the 1689 London Baptist Confession or the works of Charles Spurgeon, Charles Hodge, Louis Berkhof, J. Oliver Buswell, Cornelius Van Til, R. C. Sproul, John MacArthur, and John Piper.  But why not read the teachings of Calvin himself.  Fortunately, we do not have to read his Institutes in their entirety to extract the essence of his theology.  Here are some words of John Calvin from Allen’s translation, London, 1823.

 

“Predestination we call the eternal decree of God; by which he hath determined in himself what he would have to become of every individual of mankind.  For they are not all created with similar destiny; but eternal life is foreordained for some, and eternal damnation for others.  Every man, therefore, being created for one or other of these ends, we say, he is predestinated, either to life, or to death…Though it is sufficiently clear that God, in his secret counsel, freely chooses whom he will, and rejects others, his gratuitous election is but half displayed till we come to particular individuals, to whom God not only offers salvation, but assigns it in such a manner, that the certainty of the effect is liable to no suspense or doubt…In conformity, therefore, to the clear doctrine of the Scripture, we assert, that by an eternal and immutable counsel, God hath once for all determined both whom he would admit to salvation, and whom he would condemn to destruction.  We affirm that this counsel, as far as concerns the elect, is founded on his gratuitous mercy, totally irrespective of human merit; but that to those whom he devotes to condemnation, the gate of life is closed by a just and irreprehensible, but incomprehensible judgement.  In the elect, we consider calling as an evidence of election; and justification as another token of its manifestation, till they arrive in glory, which constitutes its completion.  As God seals his elect by vocation and justification, so by excluding the reprobate from the knowledge of his name, and sanctification of his Spirit, he affords another indication of the judgement that awaits them.”  (Chapter 21, Book 3, Institutes)  (Watson, v3, p 108-109)

“Many, indeed, as if they wished to avert odium from God, admit election in such a way as to deny that any one is reprobated.  But this is puerile and absurd; because election itself could not exist without being opposed to reprobation: -- whom God passes by, he therefore reprobates; and from no other cause than his determination to exclude them from the inheritance which he predestines for his children.”  (Chapter 23, Book 3, Institutes)  (Watson, v3, p 110)  

“…that the reprobate obey not the word of God, when made known to them, is justly imputed to the wickedness and depravity of their hearts, provided it be at the same time stated, that they are abandoned to this depravity, because they have been raised up by a just, but inscrutable judgment of God, to display his glory in their condemnation”  (Chapter 24, Book 3, Institutes)  (Watson, v3, p 115)

 

What kind of Christian doctrine emanates from these passages.  Let’s investigate using John Wesley’s quadrilateral; this entails logic and reason based on the evidence of Scripture, the historic traditions of the church and personal experience.  The Christian God is a God of absolutes and one of His attributes is "truth."  Since we are created in His image, " absolute truth" is knowable and can be distinguished from "absolute lie." 

The excerpt from Chapter 24, Book 3 suggests that determinism by God is also free-will by man.  The idea that free will can be exercised by a second-cause agent of choice is logical nonsense. Free will can only be exercised by a first-cause agent. Consequently, the thesis (determinism by God is free-will by man) violates the logical rule of contradictories (b is-not not-b). Such a statement is called a paradox.  The historic Calvinist responds that true free will can be exercised by second-cause agents; this central concept of historic Calvinism may be logical nonsense to man but not to God who reasons on a higher level using a different kind of logic.  But in truth, the references Calvin makes to men as corrupt, and to their corrupt state as the cause of their rejection, are used to deflect rather than answer objections and to soften the harsher parts of his system.  Calvinism is not accessible by logic and reason.

The excerpts from Chapter 23, Book 3 and Chapter 21, Book 3 suggest that only the elect of mankind, chosen by God, will receive the great gift of salvation.  The non-elect or reprobate were predestined for eternity in Hell before they were born.  Unfortunately for Calvin, one dictum of inspiration overturns this foundational aspect of his theology:

 

Salvation from the consequences of sin is offered to all persons by the grace of God and the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ (Deut 10:17; 2 Chron 19:7; Job 34:18-19; Lam 3:33; Ezek 18:23-25, 33:11; Mark 12:14; John 1:29, 3:16, 14:6; Acts 4:10-12, 10:34-35; Rom 2:11, 3:21-25, 5:12-18; Eph 2:8-10, 6:9; 1 Tim 2:3-5, 4:9-10; Heb 9:14-15; 2 Pet 3:9; 1 John 2:2).

 

This declaration is not opposed or limited by any contrary declaration in Scripture (Sections 2.22, 2.23 and 12.13 of Theology Corner).  Calvinism is not supported by the Bible (Section 1.3 of Theology Corner).

In terms of history, Reformed Theology had no place in Christian tradition until Calvin resurrected it from the dust bin of Augustine’s mistakes. Calvinism is not supported by the breadth and depth of Christian history.

This leaves personal experience as the only corner of Wesley’s quadrilateral propping up Reformed Theology.  But surely, well-meaning people would not pervert Christianity with a diabolical lie?  Really?  No one should doubt that within each of us is a monster from the Id feeding on evil from deep within our sin nature and telling us that we are intrinsically more valuable than those around us. If this monster breaks its chain, we might even embrace the desires of the Third Reich and become part of the master race of WOKE to dominate the world. Or we could merely elevate ourselves above others in church who lack our talents and Spiritual Gifts. Alternately, rather than lift ourselves, we could simply diminish our brethren using the tools of malicious gossip, slander and false accusation.

But the ultimate food for the monster is framed by Reformed Theology. The Calvinist can rejoice as he proclaims, "God chose me, before I was born, to be one of the elect, a joint heir to the Kingdom of Heaven; I am surely among the most favored of all men." He can look around at the vast sea of humanity and say, "I am infinitely more valuable than these reprobate scum who God selected for eternal damnation before they were born. I rejoice that God is glorified by their eternal punishment and by having me occupy my eternal place near the throne of glory." With food like Calvinism, the monster from the Id can become a behemoth.

(See also Sections 2.1, 2.2, 2.3, 12.13, 13.19, 13.20, 13.24 and 13.25 of Theology Corner)