Three Self-Refuting Calvinist Suppositions

There remain biblical elements regarding our fallen state that render theological determinism and tenets of Calvinism superfluous, aphilosophical, and unbiblical -- biblical elements regarding our fallen state with which both Arminians and Calvinists entirely agree. If the following three suppositions are true, for which Calvinists argue, then determinism is a gratuitous concept, as is the foreordination of reprobation to the so-imagined unconditionally elect (as well, of course, as the unconditional reprobation of the same), and spiritual hardening of unbelievers.


The doctrine of total depravity incorporates notions regarding our present fallen state. John Piper writes: "When we speak of man's depravity, we mean man's natural condition apart from any grace exerted by God to restrain or transform man." (link) (emphasis added) This statement is mostly correct. His error is naming our present fallen condition natural: rather, our present fallen state is unnatural, since man was created by God originally and quite naturally (i.e., by nature) good (Gen. 1:31). But we understand his point and we, Arminians, agree. Fallen humanity is not partially depraved, not utterly depraved (as depraved as possible apart from the restraining grace of God), but totally depraved in all components of his human constitution. What does the reality of total depravity inform us about divine determinism?

Calvinists assume that God renders every thought, word, and action conceivable, whether good or evil, as deriving from the foreordination of God's eternal decree enacted in time according to His own will. However, if total depravity is true, then God is in no need of decreeing sin or evil in order for such to manifest: totally depraved creatures are naturally, by their fallen nature, capable of bringing about sin and evil apart from God having to decree, render certain, and bring to pass sin and evil. If total depravity is true then determinism is gratuitous at best and an inglorious indictment on the character of God at worst. God does not need to decree, render certain, and bring to pass sin and evil. Otherwise, we could not sin without God bringing such to pass, and the doctrine of total depravity would be a farce.

Stated in other words, if man were completely neutral, yet capable of accomplishing goodness (righteousness) or sin (and evil), and God needed to accomplish a particular act but needed sin or evil in order to accomplish the purpose, one might suggest that God decreed, renders certain, and brings to pass through sinful creatures the evil that He needs for the circumstance. We say, "Perish the thought," but we need to state the matter as such for the sake of argument. Yet man is not neutral, not capable of accomplishing goodness (righteousness), but naturally, in his unnatural fallen state, bent toward manifesting sin, evil, wickedness and social- and self-destruction. Divine determinism, then, is entirely overkill conceptually (to say nothing of unbiblical).


Authors of Scripture insist that fallen mortals are spiritually blinded by their inherent sinful condition. Jesus informs the spiritually-blind leaders of the Jewish people of His day that they are blind (Matt. 23:24) -- a truth to which they are, evidently, blind. St Paul teaches us that fallen humanity is blind to the glory (worthiness) of Jesus by the devil: "In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God." (2 Cor. 4:4 NRSV) What does this truth inform us, then, regarding divine determinism in a Calvinistic theological paradigm?

A popular notion among Calvinists is that Jesus chooses to use parables in order to confuse the so-conceived "non-elect." Evidently, then, if Jesus chooses to speak plainly to the people then the people will flock to Him in faith. Is that not a consistent conclusion to the notion why Jesus chooses to confuse the "non-elect" -- otherwise they will believe in Him; and He does not want the "non-elect" to believe in Him because He, His Father, and the Holy Spirit had already unconditionally elected unto salvation the relatively few in number they pre-selected from eternity past?

But the problem with this faulty theory should already be quite obvious: if everyone is already spiritually blind, and naturally, in a fallen context, unable to believe in Christ apart from regeneration, as Calvinists erroneously insist, then the theory of Jesus speaking in parables in order to confuse the "non-elect," in order to render certain that they not believe in Him, is proven self-refuted and utterly false. Do Calvinists think that someone might accidentally believe in Jesus, had He not used parables, thus undermining the doctrinal theory of unconditional election? The truth of unregenerate sinners being spiritually blind is a self-refuting supposition to the purpose of Jesus using parables in order to confuse the so-called non-elect.

JOHN CALVIN (1509-1564)


St John informs us that Jesus is sent into the world by a loving Father not to condemn that world of sinners but in order to provide its salvation (John 3:17). He concludes: "Those who believe [present active indicative: believe and continue believing] in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe [present active indicative: not believe and continue not believing] are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God." (John 3:18, emphasis added) What do these biblical truths inform us about divine determinism and divine reprobation?

If we are born into the world totally depraved, as ready-made sinners, then in such a theological framework we are born already in a condemned state. We know from St Paul that the one believing in Christ is not and will not be condemned. (Rom. 8:1) If, then, we are all condemned already, in our state of unbelief, then the notion of God decreeing the hardening of the hearts of the so-called non-elect, thus securing their condemned state, is entirely self-refuting and superfluous. That includes the false theory of unconditional, decretal reprobation, the idea that, as God allegedly unconditionally elected whom He would save, He also unconditionally elected whom He would reprobate, which John Piper and his Calvinist team teaches (link).

This false theory is often named "double predestination" -- that God proactively and unconditionally elects to save some and proactively and unconditionally elects to condemn the rest of humanity. But this philosophy is refuted by its own claim that all are naturally, by their fallen condition, born condemned. If all are born condemned already, because of the fall, then God having to decree their condemnation in a double predestinary theory is entirely undermined. Why decree, render certain, and bring to pass the condemnation of a man already condemned? That is tantamount to poisoning a dead man just in case he should, by his own self-miraculous efforts, spring back to life. No one needs to further condemn a condemned man.


Does God "harden" the hearts of unbelievers? (cf. Ex. 4:21; 7:3-14; 8:15-32; 14:8; Deut. 2:30; Isa. 6:10; 42:25; Jer. 8:12; 16:12; Dan. 5:20; Matt. 13:15; Acts 28:27; Rom. 2:5; Rev. 16:9, 11) God hardens the heart of Pharaoh but Pharaoh also hardens his own heart toward the God of Israel. Pharaoh is not a neutral historical figure: he is leader of Egypt, self-perceived worthy of worship, and will not bow to the LORD, the Jewish God of Moses. He is stubborn and God resolves that stubbornness within him by not offering him grace, not opening his heart, but securing his already-hardened heart. God, at times, performs the same work of hardening to an already-hardened heart (cf. Isa. 6:10). Note, however, the distinction: to the obstinate God hardens their hearts and thus grants them their self-destructive desires. But Scripture does not teach us that God hardens all the hearts of all unbelievers. If such were true, then no one could be saved, for all are unbelieving until the Spirit of God works within our hearts.

Calvinism, as a philosophical-theological system, offers self-refuting arguments, granting the Arminian and non-Calvinist ample reasons for rejecting its unbiblical presuppositions, and faulty hermeneutics. We know that theological determinism is unbiblical from the prophet Isaiah (cf. Isa. 1:2, 4, 12-15, 16, 17, 18, 19-20, 27-28, 29; 3:8, 9, 10, 11; 5:4; 9:13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 20, 24, 25; 10:1, 5, 6, 7, 12; 13:3, 5, 11, 12, 13; 14:4, 5, 24, 26; 15:5, 16:9, 11; 17:10; 22:11; 23:9; 24:5, 6; 26:8, 9; 30:1, 2, 3, 9, 12, 13, 15, 18; 31:6; 32:6, 7, 8; 33:15, 16; 35:8, 9, 10; 37:28, 29; 41:24; 42:17, 18, 19, 20; 43:22, 23, 24, 27, 28; 44:18, 19, 20; 45:7, 19; 48:9; 50:1; 53:6; 57:8, 9, 10, 17; 59:2, 6, 7, 8; 63:9; 65:2; 66:3), from the prophet Jeremiah (cf. Jer. 2:5-9, 13-17; 2:20, 29, 30; 3:21-22; 4:3-4, 14; 5:19, 23, 28-29; 6:16; 7:3-7, 23, 30, 31; 13:11; 19:5), and from the prophet Ezekiel (cf. Ezek. 1:1-28; 2:3, 4, 5, 7, 8; 3:7, 18, 19,, 20, 26, 27; 4:21; 5:5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 11; 6:9; 7:3, 4, 8, 9, 27; 8:6, 17; 9:9-10; 11:5; 13:2-3, 8, 9, 10, 17, 22, 23; 14:23; 16:23-29; 16:30, 31-52, 58; 18:1-23, 31-32; 33:10-16; 20:32; 23:1-49). But what of the theory of unconditional election?

We think that the theory of unconditional election (and certainly the false notion of unconditional reprobation) is false. God has, from eternity past, conditionally elected to save believers by grace through faith in the atoning work of Jesus Christ alone (cf. John 3:15, 16, 36; 4:14; 5:24, 40; 6:47; 6:50-58; 20:31; Rom 3:21-30; 4:3-5; 4:9, 11, 13, 16; 4:20-24; 5:1, 2; 9:30-33; 10:4; 10:9-13; 1 Cor 1:21; 15:1-2; Gal 2:15-16; 3:2-9; 3:11; 3:14, 22, 24; 3:26-28; Eph 1:13; 2:8; Phil 3:9; Heb 3:6, 14; 3:18-19; 4:2-3; 6:12; 1 John 2:23-25; 5:10-13, 20). God does not save unbelievers, and has not elected unbelievers unto salvation. (Mark 1:15; Luke 8:12; John 1:12; 3:16; Acts 16:31; Rom. 1:16-17; 3:22; 6:8; 10:9-10; 1 Cor. 1:21; Gal. 3:22; Eph. 1:19; 1 Tim. 1:16; Heb. 7:25; 11:6; 1 John 5:13) What authors of the scriptures do not state -- not at any place -- is the Calvinistic theory that God has unconditionally chosen who will and will not believe in Christ.


Calvinist Mark Talbot explains the appalling Calvinist position on this matter: "God brings about all things in accordance with his will. It isn't just that God manages to turn the evil aspects of our world to good for those that love him," as Scripture states (Rom. 8:28); "it is rather that he himself brings about these evil aspects . . . this includes God's having even brought about the Nazi's brutality at Birkenau and Auschwitz as well as the terrible killings of Dennis Rader and even the sexual abuse of a young child." (emphases added) See Mark Talbot, "All the Good That is Ours in Christ," in Suffering and the Sovereignty of God, eds. John Piper and Justin Taylor (Wheaton: Crossway, 2006), 41-42.

See also John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, trans. Henry Beveridge (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1993), I.18.1; see also Wayne A. Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 319-30; Bible Doctrine: Essential Teachings of the Christian Faith, ed. Jeff Purswell (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1999), 143.

See also the Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter Three, Of God's Eternal Decree: "I. God from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass; yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin [merely because the Calvinist says so], nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures [what will?]; nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established [even though those secondary causes are also decreed to occur and contribute toward the instrumental or primary causes of any action]. II. Although God knows whatsoever may or can come to pass upon all supposed conditions [a nod toward Molinism]; yet has He not decreed anything because He foresaw it as future, or as that which would come to pass upon such conditions [but by His own eternal decree]."


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My name is William Birch and I grew up in the Southern Baptist tradition but converted, if you will, to Anglicanism in 2012. I am gay, affirming, and take very seriously matters of social justice, religion and politics in the church and the state.