What Is Wrong With Calvinism?
by Pastor Don Elmore
July 31, 2011
According to Loraine Boettner, in his much-studied and theologically influential book, The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination, “The Calvinistic view is the only logical one if we accept the Scriptural declaration that salvation is by grace” (p. 103). Calvinists insist that God in His sovereignty, and in eternity, chose or picked out of mankind whom He would save (by means of Christ’s death and the work of the Holy Spirit) for no other reason than His own wise, just and gracious purpose. The Reformed Faith separates the human race into two portions and ordains one to everlasting life and the other to everlasting death. As the Westminster Confession states:
By the decree of God, for the manifestation of His glory, some men and angels are predestinated to everlasting life, and others are foreordained to everlasting death. These angels and men, thus predestinated and foreordained, are particularly and unchangeable designed; and their number is so certain and definite that it cannot be either increased or diminished.
This doctrine, which was taught by both Martin Luther (Lutheran Church) and John Calvin (Presbyterian Church), leaders of the Protestant Reformation, was learned from Augustine. This should not be surprising as both Luther and Calvin were Augustinian Roman Catholic monks. Besides the Lutherans and Presbyterians, the Puritans of England and America, the Covenanters of Scotland, the Huguenots of France, the Afrikaners of South Africa, some Baptist of America and Europe, and for a short time, the Roman Catholic Church, were thorough going Calvinists.
While I strongly disagree with Boettner’s statement that Calvinism is the only logical view on election, I strongly agree with his following assessment: “Every Christian must believe in some kind of election; for while the Scriptures leave unexplained many things about the doctrine of Election, they make very plain the FACT that there has been an election” (p. 87).
To summarize, Calvinists believe that God elected predominately individual Israelites in the Old Testament era but now He elects individuals of all races as special and peculiar objects of His favor. In both time periods, they strongly assert that, “Neither are any other redeemed by Christ, effectually called, justified, adopted, loved, sanctified, and saved, but the elect only” (p. 84). Despite the promises of God and many divine prophecies to the contrary, they promote the popular idea that anyone of any race can become God’s people by being “saved.”
- God chooses some of all races of salvation - the Elect
- God leaves the rest to damnation - the Non-Elect
Five Objections to Calvinism:
- Calvinism has no explanation as to why God chooses some to salvation and leaves others to damnation other than His own sovereign Will. The love of God, according to their theology, is both random and without any reason.
But is God’s love and salvation without any basis? Lorraine Boettner nowhere in his book mentions the most sure thing in the entire world—the Abrahamic Covenant; guaranteed by God’s PROMISE and OATH (“…two immutable things”—Hebrews 6:18). The fact that a heifer, a she-goat, and a ram were cut in half and, along with a pigeon and a turtledove, were placed to form a path by which only God, Himself, passed through while Abram was “in a deep sleep” is evidentially considered to be nonessential by Boettner in God’s predestination plan of His people.
By this very important ceremony, a once-in-the-history-of-the-world occurrence, when the Creator of the entire universe cut an unconditional covenant with His friend Abram, and later confirmed it to his son, Isaac, and his grandson, Jacob/Israel, the foundation of God’s choice of His people was determined forever. From this pivotal time in history, it was divinely ordained that the sons of this covenant would be the ones to whom God would declare, “And I will be your God.”
Several years later, Abraham proved his faith in this divine promise. He willingly obeyed God’s command to offer Isaac, who was childless at this time, as a burnt offering. By faith, he believed that God would keep His promise no matter what. So, if Isaac were to be sacrificed, God would bring him back to life, just like He later did to Lazarus. Isaac couldn’t die and be without seed—for that would make God’s promise null and void. As a result of Abraham’s steadfast faith in God’s promise, God swore by Himself that this covenant of election would never be set aside.
But nevertheless, Calvinistic writers, like Elisha Coles in his book, God’s Sovereignty, as well as Boettner, ignore the importance of this covenant when they expound on verses like these two from Deuteronomy:
Coles: “What then was the cause or motive of God’s choosing them [Israel] above others [Deuteronomy 7:8]? It was his undeserved love and favour to them. ‘He loved them because he loved them’” (p. 48).
Boettner: “Here [Deuteronomy 10:15] it is carefully explained that Israel was honored with the divine choice in contrast with the treatment accorded all the other peoples of the earth, that the choice rested solely on the unmerited love of God, and that it had no foundation in Israel itself” (p. 79).
But these two verses quoted from Deuteronomy 7:8 and 10:15, along with many other Scriptures, actually disagree with Calvinistic thought that God’s love was without careful choice and purpose. In fact, the constant theme of the Bible is that God’s love was NOT random but that it was related to the oath that He made with the patriarch Abraham.
For thou [Israel] art a holy people unto the LORD thy God; the LORD thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people who are upon the face of the earth. The LORD did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people. But because the LORD loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your fathers, hath the LORD brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondage from the hand of Pharaoh, king of Egypt.—Deuteronomy 7:6-8.
Only the Lord had a delight in thy fathers to love them, and he chose their seed after them, even you above all people, as it is this day—Deuteronomy 10:15.
And because he loved thy fathers, therefore he chose their seed after them, and brought thee out in his sight with his mighty power out of Egypt…--Deuteronomy 4:37.
These verses reveal that God ELECTED the physical seed of Jacob/Israel BECAUSE HE LOVED Abraham, Isaac and Jacob—the ones with whom He made His binding covenant. God’s choosing was not without aim or purpose.
While Calvinists agree that God elected Israel as a nation for centuries and “were the only people to whom God was pleased to make any special revelation of Himself” and “that Jesus confined His public ministry almost exclusively to them and forbade his disciples to go among others until after the day of Pentecost” (p. 117), they deny that God’s covenant with Abraham and his anointed seed was an everlasting covenant.
But the Scriptures proclaim: O ye seed of Abraham, his servant, ye children of Jacob, his chosen…. He hath remembered his covenant FOREVER, the word which he commanded to a thousand generations, which covenant he made with Abraham, and his oath unto Isaac, and confirmed the same unto Jacob for a law, and to Israel for an EVERLASTING covenant—Psalm 105:6, 8-10.
These verses teach that God’s election is based upon the everlasting covenant that He made with the fathers of the Israel people. And if the covenant of God’s elective people was declared by God’s own sworn word to never end, but then if, as Calvinism teaches, it was only temporary—wouldn’t that make God a liar? But we know that “…it was [is] impossible for God to lie…” (Hebrews 6:18b). Therefore, God did not have a special people for several thousand years and then suddenly, after Pentecost, switch to someone else.
Calvinists ignore that God’s election is based upon the love of Israel’s fathers and the covenant that He made with them. Maybe it is because they insist that after thousands of years of not electing anyone outside of Israel, God began to choose and bless individuals of other races beginning with Pentecost.
But the Scriptures do not uphold that presupposition:
Yet now hear, O Jacob, my servant; and Israel, whom I have chosen….I will pour out my Spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring.—Isaiah 44:1, 3b.
And wasn’t this fulfilled when on Pentecost Peter preached, “Ye men of Israel, hear these words….repent, and be baptized…and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the PROMISE is unto you, and to your children,….” (Acts 2:22, 38a, 39a).
And after Pentecost, Peter preached, “Ye are the sons…of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying unto Abraham, And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be BLESSED” (Acts 3:25). In the letter to the church at Galatia, the Apostle Paul writes that this was the gospel that was preached unto ABRAHAM! (Galatians 3:8).
During the Apostle Paul’s first missionary journey at Antioch in Pisidia, he preached, “And we declare unto you [men and brethren, children of the stock of Abraham….(Acts 13:26a)] glad tidings, how the promise which was made unto the fathers, God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children…” (Acts 13:32, 33a). “Us their children” has to be the seed or stock of Abraham and cannot in anyway be spiritualized. Later, it is recorded that, “as many [from the stock of Abraham in Antioch] as were ordained to eternal life believed” (Acts 13:48b).
In addition, John the Baptist’s father proclaimed these words about Jesus, that He would “perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember His holy covenant; the oath which he swore to our father, Abraham….to give salvation to His people [not to those who were not His people] by the remission of their sins….” (Luke 1:72, 73, 77).
The elect of the New Testament are the same as the elect of the Old Testament. In no wise did God’s chosen people totally disappear. For to them only were the promises made and to no one else.
Boettner writes that God rejected His chosen people of the Old Testament Congregation of Israel “that salvation might be given to the Gentiles….” He then adds, “Historically we see that the Christian Church has been almost exclusively a Gentile Church.” (p. 122). Furthermore, it may be said that Calvinism makes membership in the New Testament Congregation of Israel (local visible church) optional. Membership is recommended but not required (p. 146).
Boettner would be right when he says that salvation was given to the Gentiles, if he knew the true identity of the Gentiles of whom he refers. But He identifies the Gentiles of the New Testament as being people who are separate from the everlasting covenant that God made with the physical seed of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Irregardless, Boettner and other Calvinistic writers quote Ephesians 1:4:
“According as he hath chosen US in him before the foundation of the world, that WE should be holy and without blame before him in love….” as if it applies to anyone of any race. But those who were “chosen” (v. 4), also were “predestinated” (v. 5), and had “redemption through His [Christ’s] blood” (v. 7), and had the “forgiveness of sins” (v. 7), and heard and believed the gospel of their salvation and were “sealed with the Holy Spirit” (v. 13). These chosen redeemed people were Israelites in the local church of Ephesus. They use to be dispersed and uncircumcised Israelites (ch. 2, v. 11), who were “aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise” (ch. 2, v. 12); and like the dry bones of the house of Israel, prophesied by Ezekiel hundreds of years earlier, they had “no hope” (ch. 2, v. 12 and Ezekiel 37:11). But after the death and resurrection of their shepherd all this was no longer true—they were once again, after over six hundred years, back in the everlasting Abrahamic covenant.
The failure to understand the prophecies and destines of the House of Israel, who were cut off from being God’s people in 640 BC, is a major error of Calvinism. The omission of Calvinism to provide any insight into Hosea’s prophecies of this larger population of Israel becomes the Achilles’ heel of this flawed system of theology.
They quote verses from the epistles of the Apostle Paul and Peter in an attempt to prove their universal random election, but they misidentify the people that these early church apostles were writing to and about. All Calvinistic writers fail to recognize that it was the Northern Kingdom of Israel that was prophesied by the prophet Hosea! The people of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, who were the elect people of God at the time of Hosea, were, according to this prophet of God, to soon become no longer “the people of God.” But, by God’s loving grace, these hopeless Israelites were later in history to be “grafted back into the olive tree [Israel]” and be restored again to the status of the “people of God.” This was to happen after they, for many centuries, were to be “scattered” to many parts of the earth “without mercy.”
Notice the particular description of the elect people to whom Peter writes:
Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, ELECT according to the foreknowledge of God, the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ….1 Peter 1:1-2.
But ye are a CHOSEN generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a people of his own…
And then the disciple of Jesus quotes Hosea: “Who in time past were not a people but are now the people of God; who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy” (1 Peter 2:9, 10).
So these elect people of God who Boettner calls non-Israelite Gentiles are in reality the people who are the fulfillment of the names of the three children of Hosea:
- “Jezreel”; “scattered”
- “Loruhamah”; “no more mercy”
- “Loammi”; “not my people”
--they could be no one else but the dispersed, punished House of Israel. The ELECT Gentiles written about by Peter and Paul were Israelites.
Think about it. The House of Israel, according to the epistle written to the Ephesians, was “without hope” (Ephesians 2:12). The ten tribes of Dan, Gad, Ephraim, Reuben, Simeon, Zebulon, Naphtali, Manasseh, Asher, and Issachar along with many from the tribes of Judah, Benjamin and Levi were, since the days of the Assyrian Captivity, far off and without God in the world. What could they do to be made alive, since they were dead in sins? NOTHING! They, like a marred clay vessel in the hand of the potter, had to be refashioned into a new vessel (Jeremiah 18:1-10).
At the end of the Apostle Paul’s ministry, he said before King Agrippa at his trial, “And now I stand and are judged for the HOPE OF THE PROMISE MADE OF God unto our fathers, unto which promise our TWELVE TRIBES, EARNESTLY SERVING God day and night, hope to come. For which hope’s sake, King Agrippa, I am accused by the Jews” (Acts 26:6, 7).
What was this hope? It was the hope of the promise that God made in the covenant that he cut with Abraham—that “in his seed should all the families (of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob) be blessed.” This gospel of the kingdom would include the ten tribes of Israel who had been cut off for over six centuries Jesus Christ would “confirm the promises made unto the fathers. And that the Gentiles [nations of Israel] might glorify God for his MERCY” (Romans 15:8b, 9a).
Does it not follow as reasonable why the Bible emphatically declares that the New Covenant was made only with the House of Israel and the House of Judah? This unique covenant, which was sealed with the divine blood of Jesus Christ, confirmed forever the Abrahamic covenant and its promises (Romans 15:8). It took the power of the blood of Jesus Christ to reconcile both kingdoms of Israel back to God and to each other. Is this not the mystery of the New Covenant church—the “gather[ing] together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other” (Matthew 24:31)?
Calvinism has shortened the gospel message of “repent and be baptized” to “just have a saving faith in Christ.” The influence of the Protestant Reformation’s doctrine of “The Priesthood of the Believer” is also evident in Calvinist theology as it is in the rival Arminian theology. Baptism, The Lord’s Supper, not forsaking the assembling together, having the resurrected and ascended Jesus Christ as one’s High Priest, being in the “holy temple,” the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit, striving for the unity of the brethren, continuing steadfast in the apostles’ doctrine, loving the brethren, etc. are taught that they are commanded by God but not required.
It is unclear if Calvinism believes that the local, visible church has the “powers of the keys of heaven.” And there seems to be some differences of opinion among themselves if the elect (saved) can be members of other religious apostate and false organizations. Does the “saving faith” of the elect required by Calvinism include faith in a Jesus, who is an angel, or a Jesus who is the offspring of Mary and Adam or a Jesus who is not divine, or a Jesus who is multiracial, etc.? Is it possible for an elect of Calvinism to be a 33rd degree Freemason, or a member of the occult society, or illuminati or other new age societies and still have saving faith? Is it possible to be a Calvinistic elect if he has been JUSTLY excluded from the ecclesia of God?
Boettner asserts, “God undoubtedly does choose some nations to receive much greater spiritual and temporal blessings than others.” This form of election has been well illustrated in the nation of Israel, “in certain European nations and communities, and in America. The contrast is very striking when we compare these with other nations such as China, Japan, India, etc.” (p. 88).
Touche: “…election has been well illustrated…in certain European nations: and in the lands that they colonized—in America, in South Africa, in Australia, in New Zealand, etc. Is it not very significant that these are the dwelling places appointed by God for the nations of the dispersed House of Israel and the House of Judah? And ONLY in these lands, amongst its Caucasian people, is there a common heritage of being part of Christendom for countless generations.”
But in striking contrast, as Boettner points out, China, Japan, India, and most of the countries of the earth, do not have a heritage of Christianity: Hinduism, Buddhism, Islamism, Judaism and many other–isms, but not Christianity. Why? Calvinism just attributes it to God’s sovereign choice. A mystery that, admittedly by them, is hard to understand and explain.
How much simpler it is to understand if one realizes that the Elect people of God have remained the same people for the last four thousand years. AMAZING GRACE! The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob proved His love to the world of His elect people, by faithfully keeping the covenant that He made with their fathers. He so loved their fathers and their posterity that even though they became adulterous and rejected the covenant; God would not cast them away. As it was prophesied to Joseph by an angel in a dream, “Thou shalt call his name Jesus; for he shall save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). By His suffering and shed blood as their Passover Lamb, He did bring salvation to His people—known as the elect.
While Calvinism claims to be the ONLY logical view of election, on a closer examination is it really logical at all?
- Is it logical that Calvinism teaches that God’s election is different before and after Pentecost? For the long period of time before Pentecost, from Genesis 12 to Acts 2, God’s election was exclusively with the fleshly descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; and election that was based on His love for the three patriarchs and their seed as promised and sworn by the everlasting covenant. But then, God supposedly went back on His word by nullifying this everlasting covenant with Israel and began to elect people who were not “His special people,” “His peculiar people,” “His holy people” and “His people that He placed above all peoples”? So, post-Pentecost, instead of still electing people based on His love for their fathers, He now totally reverses His election plan and supposedly chooses predominately people who are not “the sons of the covenant”—even those (like the Canaanites and Edomites) who God hated, and forever cursed and doomed to destruction.
- Is it logical that Calvinism teaches that God’s election totally ignores the dispersed House of Israel? A people never called “Jews” in the Bible. A people that the prophets of God continually prophesied of their reconciliation back into the commonwealth of Israel. A people that would once again have Abraham’s God as their God and would once again be His people. The people that are the subjects of God’s grace and called the elect in the epistles of the New Testament.
- Is it logical that Calvinism teaches that God’s love is random and aimless and inconsistent? For a period of time, God was the actual King of Israel and fought for and defended them against their enemies. But now He supposedly offers the blessings of Abraham to the descendants of these perpetual enemies of Israel and Himself?
- Is it logical that Calvinism teaches that God never elected anyone from New Guinea, China, India, Japan, Zululand and many other nations for thousands of years until recent time? If they would understand that the old covenant was the marriage covenant between GOD and Israel—then what is the new covenant? Since the House of Israel was divorced; scattered, had no more mercy and were no longer God’s people—they could do nothing to put their selves back in the marriage relationship. It all was the work of their former husband. He had to die and be resurrected and then He could marry the SAME people—the Israelites once again. The Calvinists ruin the great love that GOD had for His people, by saying that He changed His covenant to all races: That is, He first married Israel, then after His death and resurrection, He married anybody from all races. Heresy!
- Is it logical that Calvinism teaches that the “rejection of the Jews” brought about God’s elective love being poured out on non-covenant peoples, but is silent about the rejection of the House of Israel six centuries earlier? Why didn’t the cessation of the larger portion of Israel bring about a change in God’s election?
- Is it logical that Calvinism “extends saving grace far beyond the boundaries of the visible church” (p. 145)? It promotes the popular idea that anyone of any race can become God’s people by being “saved.” But many verses, like Matthew 1:21b, “…for He shall save His people from their sins” show that these are God’s people before they are saved. And some of the chosen people of God, like King Ahab of Israel and King Manasseh of Judah, were some of the most evil people in all of history. So they were an elect person, but chose to serve other gods.
- Is it logical that “Most Calvinistic theologians have held that those who die in infancy are saved?” (p. 143). However, while there is almost unanimous agreement among Calvinistic scholars that the children of believers who die (up to “the age of accountability”) are automatically elected by God, there is much indecisiveness in regards to the election of the infants of unbelievers. The vast majority are silent on this dilemma. How ironic, that Calvinism separates a physical seed of elect believers from unbelievers when it comes to the death of their young children, but refuses to separate the physical elect children of the covenant from the rest of the world!
While Calvinism claims to be the only logical view of election, it admittedly is unable to provide any reason for God’s election except His random love. It insists that since the first Pentecost after the ascension of Jesus Christ, the divine choice of God is completely independent from the promise and oath that He made with Abraham. It argues that salvation is by grace, even if some of the recipients of God’s grace were never under God’s laws.
But covenant theology not only provides a consistent view of election, it also maintains God’s integrity of His promise, oath and love. It alone provides a logical and biblical reason why salvation is and must be by grace through faith.
Amazing grace, How sweet the sound, That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, But now I’m found. Was blind, But now I see.
One of the favorite hymns of Christendom and Calvinists, “Amazing Grace,” rightfully praises God’s grace towards those who were lost and blind. But who, in the Holy Scriptures, are the lost and blind that were to be found and given sight? The Japanese? The Chinese? The Incas? The Zulus? The Koreans? The Mexicans?
None but “the lost sheep of the House of Israel”—the elect of God!