Dear John (An Open Letter To John Calvin)

 

Dear John,

Ok, first off I know, “Dear John” letters are usually written between former lovers and we were never even friends. But, John, I tried. I really, really did.

I’ve heard for so long that my frustrations with Calvinism were really due to your Neo-Calvinist followers giving you a bad name. That made sense to me. After all, I couldn’t believe that some of the rephrensible and callous things being said and taught today would be derived directly from someone of your theological prowess. So, I wanted to give you a chance at redemption in my eyes.

Since you’ve been, um, not present in the body for the past 450 years, I thought the best way to get acquainted with the real Calvin would be to read the work you are most famous for. I’m talking, of course, about your Institutes of the Christian Religion.

In my effort to get to know you better I spent my last semester at Yale in a class devoted entirely to the reading and discussion of your epic work. I admit we didn’t make it through every single chapter (forgive us John, but the book is nearly 1,000 pages long and we needed time to discuss what we read each week), but we did make it through almost all of it (we mostly skipped a few chapter at the end about church polity). And even with those handful of overlooked chapters, I’m still willing to bet we made it through more of the Institutes than many of your followers today have read. (I say this as a Wesleyan, who has read far far too little of what Wesley actually wrote.)

I have to admit, John, you’re a brilliant guy and a great writer. Your passion and honesty were obvious from page one and at times refreshing given the way we so often dance around what we really think in the church today. I really admire your conviction and willingness to say what you believe to be true even if it wasn’t the popular thing to say. Without a doubt, you had some great things to say and, at times, I even found myself close to shouting “Amen!” Like the time you called out those who want to believe in the absurd notion that God can predestine some to heaven while not necessarily also predestining everyone else to hell, “This they do so ignorantly and childishly since there could be no election without its opposite reprobation.” (3.23.1)

Ok, maybe, that amen wasn’t exactly for the reason you would like, but still, it counts for something, right?

Anyway, class is now over, our reading of your monumental achievement complete, and I’ve had some time to process everything you said.

So, can I be totally honest with you, John?

You crushed my hope for reconciliation.

I found your theology to be every bit as appalling – and maybe even more so – than your followers.

To be blunt, as a Christian, I don’t recognize your God and I have no clue what the good news is in the Institutes. That some people are saved no matter what? I guess that’s good for them. But you’re clear that God also creates people for eternal damnation,

By predestination we mean the eternal decree of God, by which he determined with himself whatever he wished to happen with regard to every man. All are not created on equal terms, but some are preordained to eternal life, other to eternal damnation; and accordingly, as each has been created for one or other of these ends, we say that he has been predestined to life or to death. (3.21.5)

And you also say that God tricks some of those same people He dooms to hell into thinking He loves them by “instilling into their minds such a sense of his goodness as can be felt without the Spirit of adoption” simply so he “better convince them.” (3.2.11) John, what kind of perverse and manipulative God would do that?

But it gets worse.

Much worse.

For, according to you, God ordains every single horrific act of evil that has or ever will occur.

As you explain over,

Scripture, moreover, the better to show that every thing done in the world is according to his decree, declares that the things which seem most fortuitous are subject to him. For what seems more attributable to chance than the branch which falls from a tree, and kills the passing traveler? But the Lord sees very differently, and declares that he delivered him into the hand of the slayer. (1.16.6)

And over,

As all contingencies whatsoever depend on it, therefore, neither thefts, nor adulteries, nor murders, are perpetrated without an interposition of the divine will. (1.17.1)

And over,

Let us suppose, for example, that a merchant, after entering a forest in company with trust-worthy individuals, imprudently strays from his companions and wanders bewildered till he falls into a den of robbers and is murdered. His death was not only foreseen by the eye of God, but had been fixed by his decree. (1.16.9)

And over again, God is behind every act of evil that ever takes places,

I concede more – that thieves and murderers, and other evil-doers, are instruments of divine providence, being employed by the Lord himself to execute the judgments which he has resolved to inflict. (1.17.5)

In other words, if a child is raped, a family murdered in their sleep, or an entire population of people sent off to the gas chambers, that wasn’t just the act of evil men. It was the will of God.

And, of course, God doesn’t just have it out for us in this life; God has it out for some people for eternity too because as you say, “Those whom the Lord favors not with the direction of his Spirit, he, by a righteous judgment, consigns to the agency of Satan.” (2.4.1)

You say all of this wrath is due to our depravity. Ignoring Paul’s words affirming the complete opposite, you say “wherever sin is, there also are the wrath and vengeance of God” (3.11.2) And as if to drive your point home at just how much God hates us, you claim that it’s not just adults that God despises, but infants too because they “cannot but be odious and abominable to God.” (2.1.8) John, you go to great lengths to establish the total depravity of man, and I agree that we are indeed sinful people. But in the end, based on your own argument, the one looking the most depraved is God. For it is God, not humanity, who ordains evil and institutes eternal torture regardless of act or decision.

Yes, John, you’re right. All of these quotes and points are lacking in their immediate context, but they’re not random thoughts. They are, as you demonstrate so well, the logical conclusions of your theology of divine sovereignty and, therefore, at the very heart of what you believe about God. Worse, this isn’t a case of you overstating without thinking through the conclusions. You’re clear that this sort of God who ordains genocide, murder, rape, children abuse, and every other conceivable horrendous act is the God you worship.

Not surprisingly, you say that we should fear this God, not just honor and revere Him, but actually be terrified of Him. (3.2.26) I suppose on that point we are in at least partial agreement. If this is a God who arbitrarily ordains the death of children and the torment of people before they’re even born, then of course we should fear this God.

Which is why, John, I’ve got to be brutally honest with you.

I think your God is a monster.

I don’t say that casually or based on a handful of random one liners. I say it based on the foundation of your theological project and your insistence on a God who both ordains evil and creates people simply to torment them for eternity. John, this is not the God I find in the Bible, nor is it a God I think is worthy of worship. It’s a God who can only be feared for His arbitrary, callous, and evil ways, and pitied for his enslavement to wrath.

To me, John, your God looks nothing like Jesus of Nazareth. And, for me, that’s a big problem.

Now, John, it wouldn’t be a good breakup letter if I wasn’t clear about why I don’t like you like that anymore (or I guess ever did). I’m know a lot of those reasons are obvious already, but in the spirit of your Institutes, I don’t want to leave any room for doubt as to why we need to go our separate ways.

First, John, as awed as I am by your intellect, you’re way way way too overcommitted to your theological system. I know your methodology and meticulousness are derivative of  your training as a lawyer, and while those can be great qualities in a person, in your Institutes your utter devotion to your theological system creates an unbelievable callousness that is totally foreign to the Jesus I meet in the gospels. Experience, reason, compassion, and even huge chunks of scripture are sacrificed on the altar of your theological system. Relationships require compassion, humility, and at a times a bit of flexibility. John, we’ve all got some work to do in those areas, but that’s especially true for you.

You also have a tendency to talk out of both sides of your mouth. This isn’t good for a relationship because it means I can never really trust what you’re saying. F0r instance, in order to acknowledge the obvious reality of freewill while defending your hardcore understanding of divine sovereignty, you try to create a make believe difference between compulsion and necessity, as if just because we necessarily have to act in a certain way because God has ordained it so, we’re not actually compelled to do that. (2.3.5) John, that makes no sense. Likewise, you argue that even though everything is determined by God long before we even exist, we’re still responsible for out actions. (1.17.5)

Look, I get it, you’ve got a system to maintain and you need to make sense of sin and guilt. But, John, you can’t have your cake and eat it too. Either we freely choose to sin and are therefore responsible or God causes us by divine decree to sin and, therefore, God is ultimately responsible. Which leads us to the worst doublespeak of all in your book. You make is clear that God ordains evil, but isn’t the author of it. John, buddy, as you heard throughout your lifetime, if God is the source of and the one who ordains evil acts, then God is the author of evil. Which means your God isn’t really as loving and good as you would have us believe. In fact, your God is pretty stinking evil.

Which is why, John, it’s hard not to conclude that Calvinism is a sustained exercise in the defense against the obvious. By which I mean you’re constantly on the defense against the obvious conclusions of your claims. To your credit you offer up an exhaustive defense. It just runs counter to basic logic. There’s just no way around the fact that you’ve simultaneously created a God who is the author of evil while rendering the Christian life irrelevant because if our eternal fate is already sealed, there is absolutely no point in bothering to live in any particular way.

Also, John, and I’m not trying to be mean here, but your use of scripture is just awful. I know, I know, I know. Who am I to criticize the great John Calvin’s exegesis? But buddy you cherry pick scripture like it’s your spiritual gift. You completely ignore the context of the verses you pick. And, with only a few exceptions, either ignore or dismiss out of hand any and all passages that contradict your position. But, John, I’m not sure that’s even the worst part of it for me.

As a fellow Christian I know this might be a little hard to hear, but you deal surprisingly little with what Jesus himself actually had to say. Sure, you talk about his role in salvation plenty, but when it comes to supporting your various claims, you seem to quote everybody but Jesus. In fact, I’m pretty sure you quoted the entire book of Romans. And yet the words of Jesus himself were few and far between. Knowing your bravado, I’m sure this wasn’t the case but it was almost as if you intentionally ignored him because some of the things he said threw a huge wrench your system that could bring the whole thing crashing down on itself, like that pesky John 3:16-17 loving the whole world and not just the elect nonsense or that stuff in Matthew 25 or James 2 where salvation by faith alone seems to be an unwelcome guest.

But, John, I think the ultimate problem between you and me is the starting point in your grand theological endeavor. For you, everything begins and ends with the glory of God. I wholeheartedly agree that giving glory to God is an important thing. But John, I don’t know what Bible you’re reading if you think that receiving glory is God’s primary interest in and purpose for mankind. If anything, the Bible is a sustained account of God’s disinterest in glory. It’s the story of a God who desires above all to be in a loving relationship with His people and God’s willingness to do anything to make that happen, including abandoning all sense of glory even to that point of death on a cross.

But perhaps the most ironic point in your emphasis on glory is that in your attempt to glorify God you destroy that very glory through your understanding of divine sovereignty and election. For if God ordains murder, rape, and abuse, while creating some people – maybe most people – for eternal torment, then that God is not worthy of glory. Period.

Now, I know your followers today will tell me I’m “misreading” you and don’t understand what you’re “really” trying to say. I heard a lot of that this semester as we tried to reconcile the words on the page with their practical implications. But this letter isn’t about the 450 years of interpretation and reinterpretation that have followed in your wake. I’m responding to the words you yourself wrote. And, for me, what you wrote was far too often abhorrent.

And can I tell you something else, John? I don’t think your followers today are nearly as comfortable with your theology as you are. At least, not a lot of them. Don’t get me wrong. You’re on an incredibly high pedestal for them, but time and time again I see them jumping through hoops and doing mental gymnastics to avoid or at least soften the very clear claims you’re making. And I see others rejecting out of hand some of the things you said, while trying to hold on to the rest.

But I get that. We all want to defend our heroes. The bigger issue I have, John, is that you have a tendency (cause I’ll be the first to admit they’re not all like this) to create incredibly arrogant and sometimes hateful followers who are just as cold, calculating, and callous in their theology and selective in their use of scripture as you are. Just like you, too many of your prominent followers today denounce their critics as heretics while praising God for a whole host of evil things that happen in the world from earthquakes and tornadoes to the marginalization, oppression, and destruction of people made in the image of God.

John, I don’t know how to say it any other way – you’ve got a bad habit of making disciples that aren’t very christlike in their love, mercy, compassion, and grace towards others.

Now, I know if you were still around to respond, you would probably tell me like you did so many of your opponents, that I’m a “virulent dog” (3.23.2) or maybe a satellite of Satan (3.17.1) because in my “rebellious spirit” (3.21.4) I have the audacity to question your understanding of God, God’s sovereignty, and election which I should never do (3.21.1-2) because by doing so I “assail the justice of God.” (3.21.7)

Maybe you’re right.

Maybe I am an agent of Satan lost in my own heresy and sin and I just don’t realize it.

But John, I don’t think I am. Like the millions of Christians that came before you and billions that have come after, I believe in a God who confronts sin with grace, defeats evil with love, and offers redemption to all.

Which is why, John, it’s not going to work out between the two of us.

Maybe when I see you in heaven and we both see things a bit clearer, we can try this relationship thing again.

But for now, I think you would agree, we need to go our separate ways.

It’s what’s best for the both of us.

 

Grace and Peace,

Zack Hunt

 

 

  • http://www.edcyzewski.com/ Ed_Cyzewski

    If you don’t add “Satellite of Satan” to your bio, I’m never reading your blog again.

    And also, this was pretty much what I got out of Reformed theology in my school, so this post helps confirm why I ended up becoming a Wesleyan Vineyard guy.

    • Logan Miles

      Satellite of Satan, That’s an awesome name for a band if I say so myself.

    • http://www.thinktheology.org/ Luke Geraty

      Good thing you are friends with a Calvinist Vineyard guy or I’d have to punch you. :)

      reading one of your books to get the first review up dude!

    • KentonS

      LOL!

      I as *so* close to changing my religious affiliation on Facebook to “Satelte of Satan.”

  • Bart Massey

    Clever premise, nicely written article. Thanks for sharing!

  • Greg

    Calvin and his theology which I once vigorously defended while in seminary, along with several other issues found within the Reformed movement, and the issues I had with many people who espouse and promote these views, are the reasons why I left Calvinism and the Reformed movement about 5 years ago. It was the best move I ever made in my spiritual journey in faith in Christ. While I do believe the Bible makes the case for some of Calvin’s theology, I find it much more difficult to reconcile with scripture than I do with classic Arminianism. However, I am at a season in my own life where I refrain from labels and boxes of theology altogether. I’ve moved away from theology being my primary focus and instead (at the risk of sounding self righteous) focusing on what it means to just simply live and walk in the Spirit each day.

    Nevertheless, good post my friend. I would recommend Roger Olsen’s book “Against Calvinism” to add to this wonderful post of yours. Cheers.

  • Ben Howard

    Hey Zack, I really appreciated the time and energy you put into this post. I’ve never been a big fan of Calvin, but I think it’s cool that you went into the class looking to like him (even if you confirmed that you didn’t).

    Also, apologies for my Twitter rant that ensued from your line “I think your God is a monster.” I thought that was harsh (thus the rant).

    • ZackHunt

      Dude, no apologies necessary. Obviously we’re not going to agree on Calvin’s God being a monster, but please know that I wasn’t trying to take a cheap/generic shot at him. I did come to the Institutes with an open mind, genuinely hoping to like what I found. But the description of God I discovered there is something I can only describe as monstrous.

      • Roger Johnson

        Zack, I really don’t want to engage in this entire debate. However, I have to say that I found your post very encouraging for me. I have conducted similar research into Calvinism. I have read Calvin’s Institutes and have come away with exactly the same conclusion you have, the god of Calvinism is a monster. There have been many times when I have questioned my conclusion. I mean how can Piper honestly enjoy this god, much less write a compelling book on how to enjoy this god? I can find nothing enjoyable about this god. Well written. Thanks.

  • http://www.TCMoore.net/ T. C. Moore

    Thank you so much for writing this!

  • Jon

    Fantastic article Zach. A clever and entertaining read while hammering truth Well done.

  • davpettengill

    Awesome article! You hit at the heart of why I am not a Calvinist.

    • D Lowrey

      As someone who has left the Baptist tradition and is now traveling down the Anabaptist road…could never understand how many Calvinists can throw away much of the Bible and refuse to understand what Jesus said. For instance…Jesus plainly said in Matthew 25:31-46 what is going to happen. With this being the case…why would someone who believes Calvin is right even bother trying to help others?

      • Sue Ellen Hull

        Calvinism, taken to its logical conclusions, leaves one with no reason to live at all.

  • http://www.throughaglass.net Kari

    Love this. Even if you are a satellite of Satan.

  • Nish

    You have the smarts.

  • Naomi Wilson

    As a recovering Calvinist who has found a home in Wesleyanism, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for this post.

  • http://ryanrobinson.ca/ Ryan Robinson

    Yep. I’ve only read probably 20% of Institutes. Of that, the one big compliment I can give was his defence of the Trinity – I’m sure you could still say a lot of it was purely proof-texting, but I did find it the best defence I’ve read.

    The part that did shock me, though, and maybe I shouldn’t have, was when he directly said something to the effect of “God hates most humans.” The softening I’ve heard from most in the Reformed tradition are more like “God loves everybody, but it’s a special kind of extra love for the elect” or “God loves everybody, but for the sake of his glory he has to predestine some to Hell” (how that works I don’t know). But he wasn’t soft about it. God hates you if you aren’t elect. That one completely stopped me in my tracks as I read.

    I am thankful that the majority of the older Reformed denominations are significantly softened from Calvin so that while I don’t agree with some things they are, at least I can respect that God a little. It is mostly the neo-Reformed camp that really wants to reclaim the extremes of the theological system. Those people definitely scare me and I have no qualms saying their god is a monster.

  • http://2buntu.com Roland Taylor

    Well done. I’m not a Wesleyan, Calvinist, or any other “istian”. Just a Christian…

    But I am glad you wrote this. It highlights the problems I have with the doctrine of demons that is Calvinism. I hope and pray that its adherents will some day see the light, and in dropping their pride, humble themselves before the true God and serve Him in Spirit and in Truth.

  • John Ayala

    Great post! I have thought of all of these objections myself but the point you made about Calvin starting at God’s glory I had never actually thought about.
    Also, I have just been starting to understand that God’s justice (and righteousness) is not retributive. His justice (and righteousness) IS His mercy and reconciliation. It’s all over the OT prophets, not to mention Jesus and the NT. :-)

    Thanks!

  • Matt

    I may not agree with Calvin on several points, but at least he backs up what he says with Scripture. You barely make mention of them and cherry pick yourself. How is your method of forming doctrine any different than his, then? When you interpret Scripture in only the way that seems reasonable to you, you make a god in your own image. It may tickle our ears, but it dumbs who God is down to one who’s ways are just about the same as ours, rather than One who’s ways are far higher. As much as I hate to admit it, there are far more passages that agree with Calvin than you. Pretending those verses don’t exist either means you cherry pick which verses make God as reasonable and intelligent as you, not God, but a god or you just ignore those verses and hope they go away. Read the verses Calvin stands on and then humbly admit that you don’t know. Pretending you know for sure is arrogance.

    • Tim

      Spoken like a true Calvinist/ Reformed.

      Taking scripture out of context and to illogical extremes does not qualify as “backing up what one says with scripture”. Any theology that does not begin and end with the person and work of Jesus and his representation of the Father is bound to have serious problems, and I guarantee such a Jesus-centered hermeneutic will not agree with Calvin.

      Jesus himself warned the Religious elite that they were looking in the wrong place (scriptures) to find eternal life. “You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me!

      • Matt

        I thought I made it clear that I am not a Calvinists. I’ve never read a single work by him or any of his proponents and don’t have plans to. I read the Word and indeed it does all point to Christ. I am constanly amazed at finding pictures of Christ at every nuanced turn. Be careful about only accepting the logical. You have to “become a fool,” and often accept the illogical to know the Christ that Scripture points to. Much of what Calvinists believe (from my limited understanding) demonstrate God’s extreme and unfathomable grace far more completely than other veiws. Your god must be very small indeed if he is completely logical to tiny human brains.
        It seems like you are using the “all Scripture points to me” as am excuse to exclude any verses or books in the Bible that don’t conform to your limited human veiw of who Christ ought to be. A slippery slope for sure, the fastest way to worship self in the name of Jesus.

        • Eric Boersma

          It seems like you are using the “all Scripture points to me” as am excuse to exclude any verses or books in the Bible that don’t conform to your limited human veiw of who Christ ought to be.

          Far better to use verses and books in the Bible to say things that literally contradicted the life of Jesus and what he actually did and said, right?

          • Matt

            My God is big enough to perfectly preserve His Word. There is no contradiction between the words of Christ and verses about predestination. We read the very words of God in awe, understanding that we will never fit them into tidy little boxes that sound reasonable to a human point of view. We should be very concerned if we think we can make complete sense of it all. How small would God be in that case? If your goal is to make the Bible fit your world view, you are missing the point and you will never find God or His salvation. In that context all we’ll find is a god of our own making that exists only in our minds. Instead, our purpose is to sit in the wonder of it all asking the Creator of everything to reveal Himself to us. 1 Corinthians 8:2 Anyone who claims to know all the answers doesn’t really know very much. 3 But the person who loves God is the one whom God recognizes.

          • Eric Boersma

            There is no contradiction between the words of Christ and verses about predestination.

            In your interpretation. I’m going to repeat that a lot, because it seems to be something that you’ve missed wholesale. Your interpretation of the Bible is based off of…your interpretation.

            We read the very words of God in awe, understanding that we will never fit them into tidy little boxes that sound reasonable to a human point of view.

            Yet, you’re doing that with predestination.

            If your goal is to make the Bible fit your world view, you are missing the point and you will never find God or His salvation.

            Yet, you’re doing that with predestination.

            In that context all we’ll find is a god of our own making that exists only in our minds.

            Yet, you’re…hopefully getting the point, here.

          • Matt

            You keep defining me as a Calvinist eventhough I have said several times I’m not. If you can’t read my words without putting me in a box, how do you expect to read the Word objectively? By saying Jesus’ words don’t contadict verses about predestination, I am making an observation to help bring some humility to the conversation ?I’ve seen several people imply Jesus contradicts predestination, but no verses to clearly support it). We can’t delete verses we don’t agree with, rather we accept that God is far bigger than we are. I don’t have the answer to the age old free will / predestination debate and I’m content with that position. By God’s grace I love and depend completely on the power of Christ, the source of all righteousness and strength. The above argument has no bearing on that faith, so why should I come to a firm conclution? All I prove by taking a strong stand is my own arrogance, which is exactly what Calvin and Zach have done. They are cut from the very same cloth. If we think we have all the answers, we should never expect Christ to take us aside and open our minds to understand the Scriptures – Luke 24:45. You seem to have all the answers, so good luck with that.

          • Eric Boersma

            The above argument has no bearing on that faith, so why should I come to a firm conclution? All I prove by taking a strong stand is my own arrogance, which is exactly what Calvin and Zach have done. They are cut from the very same cloth.

            You seriously don’t see a difference between “God consciously wills billions of human beings into existence with full foreknowledge and intention of making them live short, brutal lives full of pain, anguish and despair, followed by an agonizing death and then eternal, conscious torment being burned alive forever and ever” and “If God does that, God’s a horrible monster”?

            You can roll bullshit off your tongue all day long about how “God’s ways are not our ways”, but if God’s ways are what Calvin says they are, God is the worst being that has ever existed. That’s not the God of either the Old Testament or the New Testament, it’s a God that someone reasoned themselves into in order to fulfill a need for theological purity — a theological purity that Jesus himself condemned in the Pharisees. That God is not reflected in the law, the prophets, nor the life of Christ.

            I realize that you’re getting your jollies by taking a stance that somehow both sides are just as bad, but that’s intellectually lazy, not something that Christians should aspire to. Believe in something.

          • Matt

            You’ve decided that in order for God to be warm and cuddly ~in your mind~, one must delete a dozen or two verses from the Bible. Otherwise your god becomes a monster. You might as well delete another fifth or so of the OT when he prophesies and exacts His wrath if you want Him cute and squishy too. Like I said, good luck with that.
            I’ve decided it’s all true, just too difficult for a mere human to comprehend. David did the same, I’m with him. Psa 131:1 Lord, my heart is not proud; my eyes are not haughty.
            I don’t concern myself with matters too great or too awesome for me to grasp.
            I believe in the God of the Bible and Him incarnate as my savior. Simple.

          • Eric Boersma

            I’m a Wesleyan; that means that two of the four parts of how I interpret the Bible involve my own reason and my own lived experience. I’m a more liberal Wesleyan as well; I believe that God continues to reveal Himself and His nature to us as history goes on. I recognize that this is the lens through which I view Christianity and the Bible, and I’m OK with that. It’s your continued insinuation that having an interpretation at all (ignoring that your interpretation is just that) somehow means that one is betraying God that I don’t abide. Just because you choose to eschew thinking about how you interpret the Bible doesn’t mean that everyone should.

          • Matt

            I can see that you rely on your own understanding. You have completely ignored every verse I have mentioned in deference to your experience and what you can easily fathom. I’m sorry to have to tell you, but your tradition is in direct conflict with Scripture.
            Pro 3:5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. And Pro 3:7 Don’t be impressed with your own wisdom. Instead, fear the Lord and turn away from evil. Wesley and his traditions will not be with you in your time of need, nor will he be able to welcome you into heaven. Only Christ can do those things and much more. I suggest you pursue a relationship with Him instead of a religion. You’ll find far more answers and a far deeper peace with Christ than you will with Wesleyan traditions.

          • Karen

            Matt, what you don’t seem to understand is that we all come to Scripture with our own intellectual filters and presuppositions which have to do with what we have been taught, our own experience, etc. The Bible is a book in which every verse has to be interpreted. Very early in Christian history when heretics like Marcion (who taught the God of the OT was evil and only embraced the NT, or parts of it) and the various Gnostic teachers started using the Christian Scriptures, but interpreting them wrongly, the famous early Christian apologist and defender of the faith, St. Irenaeus, refuting their erroneous doctrines recognized that appealing merely to the letter of the Scriptures wasn’t an adequate way to properly defend the truth. Instead he counseled believers to see if the teaching could be found not only in some verses of the Scriptures, but in those communities that received their initial teaching and commission from an Apostle of Jesus Christ, who were historically identifiable in the lists of their bishops going back to an Apostle. Interpretation and application of the Scriptures in the liturgy and creeds of these communities was still taking place in accordance with what had always been believed in all those communities and being understood in its proper apostolic sense. IOW, they recognized their Scriptures had a proper context and this was the Church in which they had been penned and received. The bottom line is that the verses that talk about God’s “predestination”, etc., in the Scriptures mean one thing to Calvin (and apparently you), but meant something very different than this to the early Christians and Church Fathers still connected (through sacraments, creeds and liturgy) to the churches of the Apostles, who charged them to continue to hold to the teachings (“traditions) they were taught, whether orally or in epistles (2 Thessalonians 2:15).

          • Matt

            The problem with trusting in traditions, sacraments, creeds, liturgy, experience, and logic is that they are man made. If they agree with Scripture, fine. The problem is when they don’t, which seems to be more and more common. Your approach is a “gateway drug” to a christ based on man’s best or even worst definition. This page is full of comments calling God arrogant for requiring glory. So just toss out all those verses and major themes because intellect dictates. Toss out all of God’s judgments too since they don’t agree with your definition of your god, right? We are far, far, far too small to define who God is and what He can and can’t do, yet man’s experience and intellect do it everyday in the name of Wesley or whoever. Your approach also rules out the supernatural. By definition, a relationship between humans and a God far above must be miraculous in every aspect. God’s supernatural intervention is woven deeply into the fabric of the Bible right through. Without the work of the Holy Spirit, one shouldn’t expect to really understand a single shred of Biblical truth other than as one would a stodgy old history book. You are welcome to debate and define a god in your own image, found in small part in an old irrelevant history book. But don’t you want more than some comforting traditions and the satisfaction of know you are smarter than others? Don’t you want to know and experience God’s presence as David did? Psa 116:9 And so I walk in the L ord ’s presence as I live here on earth! There is so much joy, peace, heart change, revelation (completely in line with the Word) and more available with the God defined in the Word and not by men. Ask for it. I hope your intellect can stand aside long enough to find Him.

          • Karen

            Um, Matt, you’re just proving my point here, and you’re jumping to so many far-flung false conclusions from what I have written it’s making my head spin. As you can see if you consider what 2 Thess. 2:15 teaches, there are “traditions” that are genuinely Christian and apostolic (in fact the Scriptures are a written expression of this “tradition” which was both written and oral according to this verse), and there are “traditions” of men (i.e., human philosophies-what I’m trying to get you to see is that you are actually employing human philosophy about how to approach the Scriptures in your posts here). The problem with not trusting Christ’s institution of apostleship, baptism, and the eucharist (recorded for us in the Scriptures) is that this is also not really trusting the Christ of the Scriptures either, but rather the “Christ” of our own individual interpretation. Christ, the Christian faith, the Bible’s teachings, have always been embodied in the Church (which is Christ’s Body, according to the Scriptures), and He promised to lead them into all the truth by sending His Spirit. The Scriptures themselves tell us what is the “pillar and ground’ of the truth. Go ahead and do a Bible search and see what the answer to that is (here’s a hint: it’s not a group of texts). The Bible has a proper context which the early Christians recognized.

            I absolutely believe in the supernatural-otherwise it is hard to explain how either the Church or the Scriptures could still exist. I also belong to a Christian tradition that has 2,000 years of experiential wisdom about how to discern truth from error and demonic manifestations from true manifestations from God. This is because we expect God to be living and active in our midst and not simply to have left us some instructions as text on a page. We have a steady, continuous 2,000 year supply of witnesses to the continuation of the manifestation of the Holy Spirit in His Church, not infrequently in miraculous ways. I do not believe the naked text of the Scriptures is a “magic” book such that each individual who believes and says he is, is actually being led by the Holy Spirit in his understanding of their message (though, I absolutely agree the Holy Spirit’s illumination is essential to guide our understanding). Certainly not all “revelation” or miraculous manifestations are of God. Rather, it is as St. Vincent Lerins wrote in the 5th century, we must look to understand the Scriptures in the way they have been understood “everywhere, always, and by all” within the apostolic Christian Church (the Holy Spirit doesn’t disagree with Himself over time), and we should pay special attention to how those who lived the most exemplary, Christ-filled Christian lives (according to those who were eye-witnesses of this) have understood and interpreted the Scriptures. Those who genuinely understand the Scriptures aright are those who end up most resembling the Lord Jesus Christ as He is revealed in the Gospels and in whose lives the fullness of the Spirit is made manifest.

          • Matt

            2 Thes 2:15 is one verse that was more than likely written specifically about a face to face relationship. I’ll need a lot more specific scriptural references than that to toss scripture aside for some traditions and puny human intellect. I generally need at least 10 verses saying basically exactly the same thing before I feel it’s worth talking about.
            In general, traditions tend to obscure the Gospel and teach people to depend on them instead of Christ, regardless of the denomination or doctrine. I avoid them and run directly to the Bible. The symbolism, pictures of Christ, depth, and peace keeps me continually in awe year after year, decade after decade. Where would I find time for all that other noise from mere men?

          • Karen

            Alas, you continue to prove the old adage, there are none so blind as those who will not see.

            Where you understand the Scriptures aright (and I’m sure there are many places you do), you are already reading them through the filter of the true Apostolic tradition you have been taught and received through other believers. Where you are not, you will not apparently have the opportunity to be corrected unless you are willing to listen to what the Spirit has been speaking to the Church down through the ages, and learn from the history of the Church. I wish you well.

          • Matt

            I wish you well too, Karen, and Eric (from Friesland, I think) and Zack.

    • ZackHunt

      Well, for starters, I’m not interested in proof-texting. So, that’s not going to happen. But more importantly, this was a post about Calvin’s book and his theology in general, not an attempt to exegete every verse in the Institutes. Also, believe it or not, having read the Institutes I am actually pretty familiar with “the verses Calvin stands on.” Are you? By which I don’t mean, can you quote a bunch of random verses to me, but have you read his work and become familiar with the specific passages of scripture he uses (and doesn’t use) to construct his argument? Because if not, then we’re not really arguing about Calvin, we’re arguing about your view of scripture/God/theology, which wasn’t the point of this post.

      • Matt

        Let’s just cut the small talk and go straight to the theme of what I have read in your blog and the nature of your comments in general. That is where the real disagreement lies. I can tell you read scripture through the filter of what makes sense to you, and thus, you read Calvin and others through the same filters. Calling God egotistic for what is clearly expressed numerous times in the Bible shows a complete lack of understanding of what Scripture is all about. Rather than reading the Bible and the works of the ancients through the lense of pop American humanistic thought, admit that your extremely limited (and tainted by sinful nature) human intellect is not enough to fathom the High and Lofty One and His ways. Then ask the Holy Spirit, who is the only purveyor of truth, to speak to you through His perfectly preserved Word. You certainly won’t become a Calvinist, however, you will at least be given a desire to see God and God alone glorified and you can finally read those glory to God verses, rather than exclude them. You complain that “we in America tend to remake Jesus in our own image,” yet you are the epitome of that very flaw.

        • Guest

          “the High and Lofty One”…this must be a troll!

          • Matt

            Isa 57:15 The high and lofty one who lives in eternity, the Holy One, says this: “I live in the high and holy place
            with those whose spirits are contrite and humble. I restore the crushed spirit of the humble and revive the courage of those with repentant hearts.

        • Carlos

          “yet you are the epitome of that very flaw” Wow.. you lost me here… in all of your dissertation.. your spirit finds need of rebuke. Sir, you do not speak for the Spirit of the Lord, you need to go back into prayer.

        • reubster

          Through the teaching of various people I respect, I was recently released from this kind of thinking. The heart of God, his being, his character and person, should be intelligible not counter logical.

          God came to earth in person, as a human being, specifically, literally, categorically, so that we could see him and know him. The more you read Hebrews 1 v1-4 the more astonishing it is.

          Our God is relational. He loves us. He is not looking to remain forever separate from our understanding. He’s looking to get closer and closer to us.

          He communicated his word to human beings, who wrote it down in their own language, with their own cultural viewpoint colouring their expression of the message, their selection of words.

          Yes, he is High and Lofty. But we really are supposed to be able to understand Him by looking at Jesus.

          Yes, I will get that wrong repeatedly for various reasons.

          Yes, I’m part sinful in nature (and part redeemed). But as Jesus promised, if I keep seeking Him I will find Him.

          • Matt

            John 10:35 Jesus says “… you know that the Scriptures cannot be
            altered.”

            2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach
            us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives.

            2 Peter 1:20 Above all, you must realize that no prophecy in Scripture ever came from the prophet’s own understanding, 21 or from human initiative. No, those
            prophets were moved by the Holy Spirit, and they spoke from God.

            We are to be “conformed to the image of his Son” according to Romans 8:29, not conform Him to our image.

            Proverbs 3:5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; (it is our job to trust, not fully understand)

            2 Timothy 4:3 For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for
            teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear.

            2 Peter 3:3 Most importantly, I want to remind you that in the last days scoffers will
            come, mocking the truth and following their own desires.

            Isaiah 55:8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord.

            Those verses may sound “mean spirited”, but I didn’t write them. There are many more that confirm that we are not in a position to define God by what we find reasonable and culturally appropriate. Jesus did and said many things that we wouldn’t consider loving, Yet He is the very definition of love and our sensibilities do not and can never define Him. Read 1 Cor 2. It’s better to be a fool trusting Christ than “wise” and doing what seem right in my own eyes.

            1 Cor 3:18 Stop deceiving yourselves. If you think you are wise by this world’s standards, you need to become a fool to be truly wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness to God. As the Scriptures say,
            “He traps the wise in the snare of their own cleverness.”
            20 And again,“The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise;
            he knows they are worthless.”

          • Karen

            Matt, those Scriptures don’t sound at all “mean-spirited” to me. It’s interesting to me that you think they might sound that way. Yet Calvin’s interpretation of Scripture undeniably creates an abhorrent image of God that is opposed to that revealed in the face of Jesus Christ, who said “He who has seen me has seen the Father.”

            Who am I to believe? Jesus or Calvin? Because this is what it comes down to. Do I believe the apostolic NT typological interpretation of the OT narratives as pointing to Christ and only understood properly through Him (John 5:39; Luke 24:25-27)? Or, do I believe Calvin’s (and modern Fundamentalists’) overly literalistic interpretation and application of the OT anthropomorphic language about God’s “wrath”, “hatred”, “repentance”, etc., which flies in the face of so much of the Gospels’ straightforward and clear teaching?

          • Karen

            I should add for clarification I absolutely believe what the Scripture means to communicate through this anthropomorphic language about God, but taking my cue from the apostolic witness to Jesus in the NT and the careful exposition and unified voice of the early Church Fathers’ following directly in the same apostolic tradition of interpretation, I know it does not mean what Calvin (and many modern fundamentalist readers) think it means.

          • Matt

            You have come to an interesting conclusion. You believe that a literal interpretation of Scripture results in Calvinism. I would venture to guess that 90% of Christians who take a literal veiw of Scripture are not Calvinists. I recently read something saying only 30% would agree with him to one degree or another, but almost none completely.
            You also seem to know a great deal about what other people say about the Christian religion, but very little about what Jesus actually said and did. He confirmed the “wrath and judement” from the OT on more than one occasion. Have you read Matthew 25 lately? It is right there in red letters where you can’t miss it.
            But I suppose if you prefer to make a god and savior in your own image, you have to avoid the Word at all costs since so much of it destroys your version. You can do all the mental gymnastics you want and pretend to have a better way of “interpreting” what Jesus clearly said. (try that “your interpretation” phrase to get out of legal conrtact some day and see how far it gets you) Instead I hope you start reading the Word with the help of the Holy Spirit rather than through a thick fog of “traditions”. You might be surprised at the Jesus you find. He may not look so much like you, but one Whose ways are far higher than yours. You might find a God that won’t be fully understood for an eternity of revelation.

      • David Puleo

        Grace and Peace to you brother Zack. I think this article was a great article and you made some great points in it. With that being said bro, there are some necessary questions that need to be asked. For instance arminians say that God knew who would choose him so he elected them. Okay I understand that but how did God know? Did he look down the corridors of time to see? If so where did the future come from? Does not God create the future? If God is all knowing, and never learns anything new then didn’t he know all before the earth was made? The next question is if God knew everything before the earth was made then all events in this life whether small or big are known by him and he allows them to happen for a purpose. If he is not in control of all events including overseeing evil acts of men then we have reason to fear that God himself has no idea whats going on. I think this is a vital point. Does our suffering and evil have a purpose? If not then why doesn’t God step in and stop it. ? My scripture references would be Job, Psalm 139 (in regard to his knowing of all things and our predetermined existence) Proverbs 4 ( God made the wicked for the day of trouble) Exodus 4:11 (god makes man deaf dumb blind) The crux of the issue is is all the evil and suffering void of purpose or does God have a purpose in it. / Thanks for your time bro love your writing.

  • Tim

    To be fair, as bad as Calvin’s theology is; Arminius got some things just as wrong in the opposite direction (Like giving free will too much power). It’s unfortunate that most of Christianity falls into one of the two camps. Of course, now that more people are realizing the difficulties with both positions, we’re getting a (frequently) incoherent blend of the two I often refer to as “Calminianism”.

    • Fr. Bill

      Oh, I wouldn’t say that “Most” of Christianity falls into one of those two camps. The largest Segment of Christianity on the planet is Catholic/Orthodox, both of which deny Calvin with no thought of Amrinius. Not all who affirm the freedom of the will is Arminian. That truth was around long before the great Protestant controversy. All the Church Fathers assert the freedom of the will (as a way we bear the image of God) long before Arminius was a funny feeling in his momma’s tummy. The Orthodox church condemned Calvinism without any reference to, or perhaps, even knowledge of the existence of, Arminius. The Council of Trent deals with the distinctives of Calvinism quite well on its own terms.
      That said, a well done post, and good information to combat those Calvinists who try to assert the more horrendous aspects of the doctrine on a misunderstanding of the theologian himself.

      • Westcoastlife

        And don’t forget the Anabaptists who were around before Arminius yet are not Calvinists.

      • Tim

        Sorry, should have said “American Christianity” which is dominated by Evangelicalism/ Fundamentalism. And I’m not arguing against free will, only the extremes to which I see it taken.

    • ZackHunt

      You’re definitely right about that. Arminius/Wesley/everybody else gets things wrong too. Even though I believe God allows, not authors evil, I still think that position is highly problematic. Just curious though, (and I’m not being combative, honestly curious) what do you mean by “giving free will too much power?”

      • Tim

        Sure; by that, I mean that the idea of our absolute freedom of will is defended at all costs; that our free will can (effectively, if you take the position to it’s logical conclusion) ultimately trump God’s will. But this idea flies in the face of several very clear scripture passages.

        • Karen

          In the interests of moving this line of conversation along a little:

          It seems to me freedom of human will does have to mean I can trump God’s will (who wills “all to be saved”) at least for myself personally in some sense, or it’s meaningless to say God has created human beings in His image with personal freedom of the will (which in classical Christian understanding is one of the most basic criteria for what being created in the image of God means-who is Personal and, by classical Christian definition, completely free do do as He wills). I don’t believe human freedom means God’s loving will for the world as a whole can be trumped, but how all that works together to accommodate human abuse of free will is a mystery, which many Scriptures seem to indicate is not only possible, but will occur. If it weren’t possible for human beings to trump God’s will “that none perish, but that all come to a knowledge of the truth and be saved,” the punishment of hell (as “gehenna”) could not exist, except, perhaps for the demons. Would you then argue for universalism? (My understanding is that this is exactly what many of the early Calvinists in this country did, which ought, perhaps, to put our understanding of at least some of Calvin’s followers in a less harsh light.)

  • Matt Parkins

    Well written – good job!

  • pastordt

    Great premise, sterling arguments. Thank you.

  • Jason75

    Well written Zack. I’ve encountered a few of those ultra-Calvinist Calvinists myself. I’d probably have been less critical of Calvinism if my experience was limited to the more reasonable Calvinists I know.

  • J.R. Sorrow

    Is it simply enough to be a follower of Christ without all the name tags some folks like to carry? I was never called to be a follower of Wesley or of Calvin or of Paul for that matter. All your great theology does nothing but muddy the water and it gets you no points in heaven. I don’t think someday the Lord is going to look you in the eye and say well done my good and faithful theologian.

    • Eric Boersma

      Is it simply enough to be a follower of Christ without all the name tags some folks like to carry?

      The name tags are simply shorthand ways of classifying existing divides between people. Our theologies matter, in that they inform how we relate to people and God. A Calvinist sees God very differently from me (who is Wesleyan/Methodist). They see people very differently than I see them. Those name tags respect the fact that what Christianity means to someone who’s a Calvinist is very different from what Christianity means to me.

      • Carlos

        Eric, while theologies matter names do not. Names are Id’s used to segregate believers into camps. They exist for ill motives… While I myself identify more with Classical Arminians, I make hard efforts reach across the isle in fellowship.

        • Eric Boersma

          They exist for ill motives

          I disagree with this. I don’t think the names of differing theological camps exist for either good or bad purpose; they simply exist.

          I cannot be a Calvinist. The core of Calvinism, it’s very essence, is counterintuitive to what Christianity means to me. This doesn’t mean that I consider Calvinists to be non-Christians or lesser Christians or Christians any different from me. I purposefully and actively seek to recognize that Christianity is found in many, many forms, most of which are much different than the way that I choose to worship.

          That said, attempting to squash the differences between different Christian theologies is, in my experience, nothing but a recipe for pain. It seems to try to create the illusion that we all believe the same thing, and that’s obviously not true. Moreover, that’s OK. Giving names to our differences doesn’t cause division, it simply recognizes that those differences exist and lets us approach them intelligently.

          • Carlos

            Eric I have to say I agree with most of your statements. However I believe my statement still stands true.. The theology matters not the name by which it chooses to go by. The value of our theology, the common thread whether arminian or calvinist is we are in Christ. We are family in brotherhood despite disagreeing on non foundational doctrines. So there is small value in saying i am a classical arminian for identification purposes, how is this any different than one claiming “I am of paul” and the other saying “I am of apollos” … ?

    • ZackHunt

      Like Eric said, name tags are unavoidable. I also find them helpful because they help us give each other a sense of what we believe because though we may all be followers of Christ, what that means looks different for each one of us. I would also add that I do believe that some day the Lord is going to say well done my good and faithful theologian, because all of us are theologians, all of us talk and think about God (usually in that order unfortunately), and theology isn’t just an intellectual debate something we put into practice (one way or another). In other words, deciding that loving others is something followers of Jesus should do and then doing that is a theological act.

  • http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com/ Lotharson

    This is truly a wonderful post which expresses what many people think silently.

    My first experiences with Calvinists were kind of traumatic. There is one thing I didn’t mention in the above link: I also read a German reformed pastor stating that Hitler was God’s tool for punishing the Jewish people for having rejecting His son (forgetting to mention they rejected Him because God Himself predetermined it).

    I (try to) love my Calvinists as fellow human beings, but I cannot view consistent ones as my fellow believers because they worship an evil demon they call God.

    They uphold their belief system by resorting to countless fallacies and absurdities, and if you expose their errors, they will inevitably quote:

    ““For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,”
    declares the Lord.9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55.8)

    But there is a big irony here. Reading the verse in its immediate context shows it is all about reconciliation, that God invites all evildoers to give up their wicked ways and come back to Him. This verse seems rather to indicate that God is much more loving, much more forgiving than any man can be and even than any man could ever imagine to be.
    For reformed theologians, this verse means than God is probably more vicious than the worst criminal who has ever lived.

    They say that people deserve to be eternally tortured because they constantly commit misdeeds. But they almost never mention (at least in public) that:

    1) God predetermined the fall of Adam and Eve and cursed us with a sinful nature

    God predetermined every one of our evil actions

    The most crazy aspect is that God does all these things for SHOWING OFF His glory by pouring off his unquenchable wrath on those who were not elected before their birth .

    Consistent Calvinism is a horrendous blasphemy and a very sophisticated form of devil’s worship . I don’t seek communion with Calvinists, only confrontation but always in a spirit of love, reminding myself that they are valuable, wonderful creatures, their horrible ideas notwithstanding.

    Finally, you say that Calvinists misinterpret many Biblical verses. I agree that it’s the case, but for honesty’s sake we should recognize that the Bible itself also contains odious stuff, such as praying God to dash the children of one’s foes to the ground.
    The Bible (along books of C.S. Lewis, Ellen White, John Wesley…) contains the human experiences of people with God, perhaps even the reports of genuine miracles but a careful and intellectually honest study of its content and context forbids us to view it as the voice of the Almighty directly talking down to us.

    Unlike the opinion of militant atheists, you can find lots of wonderful things within its pages (when properly interpreted in their historical and cultural context) but unlike the convictions of Conservative Evangelicals, it also encompasses odious things.
    The basis of our theology cannot be a composite document speaking with conflicting voices but God’s perfect love and justice (as exemplified in Christ), which is necessarily far greater than that of the best (purely) human being having ever lived.

    So I’m really looking forward to reading your answers to the ideas I’ve promoted here. You’re truly a fascinating person and I’d love to interact with you in the future.

    Lovely greetings from Europe.

    • Karen

      Lotharson, you might be interested in the classical Eastern Christian approach to understanding the meaning of the Scriptures (which is not literalistic in the sense many conservative Protestants understand its “inspiration”, but rather is through the lens of the Person of Jesus Christ). Fr. Stephen Freeman, an Eastern Orthodox priest (himself brought up a Southern Baptist, later Anglican priest, and finally convert to Eastern Orthodoxy) has a lot of good explanation of the Orthodox perspective at his site, “Glory to God for All Things.” He writes especially for the benefit of those, like him, raised in American Protestantism (especially the more Fundamentalist varieties). I recommend you search such terms as, “Scriptures” and God’s “wrath” at his site and read some of his posts. He also has a post on Calvinism, which gives the official response of the Eastern Orthodox bishops to the Calvinist ideas being taught by some of the Reformers at the time of the Reformation. That post is here:

      http://glory2godforallthings.com/2009/06/24/calvinism-as-heresy/

      The early Church Fathers invariably approached the material in the “imprecatory Psalms” in an allegorical or symbolic, not literal, sense-understanding the enemy’s “children” to be “dashed against a rock” those sinful inclinations and thoughts sewn in our own hearts by the devil and his demons, which when full grown lead to our complete alienation from God, which in biblical terms is “death.” According to the NT (which must inform our interpretation of the Old), God IS love, and we are commanded to love (as He does) even our (human) enemies.

      • http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com/ Lotharson

        Hello Karen. The problem is that it is not honest to interpret the imprecatory psalms in this way if the authors originally meant literally to kill the children of one’s foes.

        • Karen

          Honest in what sense? I should perhaps clarify that if you understood my comment to infer that the Fathers didn’t allow that the Psalmist’s intent could be the more literal sense, that is not what I meant. Looking at the OT through the Person and teaching of Christ, however, the Fathers taught the Holy Spirit-inspired meaning and application of those Psalms (and many of the other narratives of the OT) was found at the level of the symbolic and spiritual, not necessarily the literal sense intended by the author. In the NT, the OT narratives are referred to as “shadow” and “type” and a revelation “in part” which could only be understood properly in light of the full Reality of Christ. The NT epistle to the Hebrews is particularly instructive in this apostolic Christian interpretation of the OT, and this is still the approach of the Eastern Orthodox Church to the OT today. The OT Scriptures are only “inspired” from an apostolic Christian perspective in the sense that they “testify of” Christ (John 5:39-40, Luke 24:25-27)-in the sense that the Church has received, understood, and interpreted them from the beginning. See also, my comment to Jon Russell above.

          Now, since it is these apostolic NT and early Christian expositors who first recognized and defined these historic writings collectively as “holy” and “inspired” Scripture and preserved them for future generations, oughtn’t we to consider their approach to interpretation in our discussions of the nature of the Scriptures’ “inspiration” and authority for Christians today? Shouldn’t we be asking what they understood the “inspired” sense of the Scriptures to be? They did not follow a “historical-critical” or “textual-critical” approach to understanding the “inspired sense” of the Scriptures. Rather, that is a thoroughly modern, post-Renaissance, post-Enlightenment rationalist mindset and approach to a collection of individual historical texts-a mindset in which we in the modern world are steeped today-but this is NOT the apostolic Christian mindset, which rather looks to the Person of Christ as the ultimate definition of the Truth and full context for understanding the “inspired” purpose and meaning of the OT. An apostolic Christian understands the Bible as “inspired” only as a single written witness to Christ, and not as a collection of books that can each be understood in its “inspired” sense apart from all the others (and especially apart from the NT). I hope this makes some sense.

          Sadly, the Reformers’ wrenching of the Scriptures from their natural context in the apostolic Church and attempt to make of them a kind of “paper Pope” in their eagerness to be rid of the excesses of Medieval Roman Catholic Papal domination, coupled with the seeds of Renaissance and Enlightenment philosophy that informed their thinking, has resulted in a distorted understanding of the nature of the Scriptures’ “inspiration” and a rationalistic approach to their interpretation which results in the kind of monstrous doctrine we see in much of Calvin’s teaching and in modern Fundamenallst-informed approaches to the meaning of the Bible (which, of course, any morally sensitive person would find repugnant).

          If you are interested to understand further, I recommend Fr. Stephen’s site. He’s a much more learned and thorough exegete of apostolic and patristic Christian thought than I am.

        • Karen

          Hi again! I thought of a more succinct way to summarize my very long response to your statement here that “it is not honest” to interpret the imprecatory Psalms in a spiritual, rather than literal, way unless this was the author’s intent. In short, there is an assumption in your statement that the “author’s intent”, etc., is what reveals the “true” meaning of the text (for Christians), and thus the real spiritual (“inspired”) meaning of the text as well. (This also carries the assumption, that the historical and textual-critical method is the appropriate way to derive the “inspired” sense of the Christian Scriptures). I’m attempting to challenge those assumptions in the strongest possible terms, because I believe they reflect a complete misunderstanding of the nature of the Scriptures’ inspiration and truth (and how it may best be discerned) and lead to all kinds of devastatingly erroneous conclusions for modern Evangelicals, Liberals, Atheists and Fundamentalists alike.

          Based on the assumptions you seem to be making, Christ’s, His Apostles’, and the early Church Fathers’ use of most of the OT prophetic texts and narratives (e.g., Jonah in the belly of the whale for 3 days prophetically points to Christ’s three days in the tomb) is false and illegitimate, and yet the material in the Gospels followed by that in the NT epistles (where this hermeneutic comes from) is the most foundational revelation of all the texts in the Bible for Christians, and in light of which all other parts of the Bible need to be seen, or we cannot understand the sense in which Christ and His Apostles took the OT to be “God-breathed.”

  • EdwinCrozier

    Just out of curiosity (or maybe not “just”) considering Galatians 1:6-9 and your above explanation that Calvin taught a different God and different gospel than we find from the apostles recorded in the New Testament, why do you expect to see Calvin in heaven?

    • Eric Boersma

      why do you expect to see Calvin in heaven

      Not speaking for Zack, here, but it’s entirely possible that he believes in universal atonement for sins via Jesus’s sacrifice, or he believes that having the wrong theology isn’t necessarily indicative of not being a Christian.

      • EdwinCrozier

        I’m sure those are both possibilities. That is why I included the reference to Galatians. I wasn’t just interested in what theological position allowed that statement, but also how that potential theological statement would correspond with what Paul wrote in Galatians.

        • Eric Boersma

          how that potential theological statement would correspond with what Paul wrote in Galatians.

          As an (admittedly bad) Wesleyan, the simplest answer I can give is that most Wesleyans are probably going to look at that sequence of verses and if our interpretation doesn’t correspond with the life of Jesus (or in this particular case, something like Acts 10), we’re going to reject that interpretation and search for a better one which does correspond with the life of Jesus.

          For me, I can say that I don’t think that (a) getting into Heaven (or whatever the afterlife might look like, if there even is one) is contingent on being a Christian and (b) that being a Christian is contingent on falling within a particular theological window.

    • ZackHunt

      Eric, already beat me to it, but I would say because I don’t think bad theology (in the sense of what you think) sends somebody to hell just like I don’t believe good theology (in the sense of what you think) gets anybody into heaven.

      • EdwinCrozier

        I don’t believe good theology gets people into heaven either. But Galatians 1:6-9 does say people who teach a different gospel will be accursed, not blessed with heaven. Doesn’t that mean that whatever you think gets someone into heaven won’t do that for people who teach a false gospel? Your post sure sounds like you believe Calvin teaches a false gospel. BTW: I agree with you about that part of it.

  • Paul Frazier

    I was truly impressed reading the Institutes at the end of the last century. And I was impressed whenever I read Augustine. But, as any honest Protestant will admit, there have been other writings since. Theology isn’t something Moses brought down off Sinai. No theologian has the last word about the Word of God who is Christ. We have a Confessional heritage in the Presbyterian Church and other than love of God and love of neighbor, ministry changes throughout the years and centuries. We don’t dismiss those writers of the past, we read them, discuss them, think about what they wrote, but that is not the end of theology or ministry. We interpret the Bible every time we have a Bible Study or preach a sermon. Thank you for being honest, thank you for your ministry. I don’t think the so-called Religious Right is doing a good job. They’ve become like the American Taliban. I’m tired of them misrepresenting the Faith and Lord I love and want to serve. So, let us love God and love our Neighbor, and God’s Kingdom will come.

  • Tim Marsh

    Zack,

    To paraphrase the Most Interesting Man in the World, I don’t always read your blog, but when I do I am incredibly blessed.

    Thank you for this thoughtful and passionate engagement with Calvin’s institutes. I agree wholeheartedly with your conclusion – Calvin’s ‘god’ is certainly not deserving of glory, and is perhaps a monster.

    Nevertheless, why does he have so many admirers and disciples, even today?

    Thanks,

    Tim

    • Westcoastlife

      Why does Mohammed?

    • ParsonBoots

      I hope you don’t leave here thinking that because you’ve read 5-6 brief quotes from a 1,000 page book that you have thoughtfully engaged with Calvin.

      • ZackHunt

        5 or 6 brief quotes? Really? If you go back and count you’ll find (I believe) 20 citations. Does that account for every nuanced point in the Institutes? Of course not, but that doesn’t mean his core theology can’t be synthesized in a thoughtful and proportionally brief way. Besides, if length is going to be the measure of thoughtful engagement, then I would refer you to the words of my prof Miroslav Volf who referring to Karl Barth’s much longer Dogmatics quoted his prof Jurgen Moltmann who said “The truth cannot be that long.”

        • ParsonBoots

          Zack, you obviously did a lot of reading and hard work. Though I am not Reformed, I have read the Institutes through once and used it for research other times. I know it can be tough sledding. You get lots of credit in my eyes for your effort! :) I actually wasn’t responding to you, but to the previous comment. Sorry I didn’t make that clear. What I was trying to say and didn’t say well is that I hope that Tim doesn’t read your engagement with Calvin and the quotes you’ve provided and then assume that he himself has thoughtfully engaged with Calvin.

  • Bonnie Kristian

    THANK YOU for your comments on the glory of God. The idea that God’s primary purpose for interacting with humanity is to gain glory for himself never sat well with me, but explicit objections to this claim are rare indeed. I’ve long thought this theme wasn’t really evident in Scripture, and it’s good to know I’m not completely off base.

    • ParsonBoots

      I’m not sure how anyone reads Scripture without coming to the conclusion that God’s primary aim is His own glory. I’m wondering what you believe His primary aim to be.

      • ZackHunt

        And I’m not sure how you can read Philippians 2, the crucifixion, the incarnation, the ministry of Jesus, or the promise of Revelation and come to the conclusion that God’s primary aim is His own glory.

        If that were true (that God’s primary aim was God’s own glory), then God would be the supreme egomaniac.

        • ParsonBoots

          – Philippians 2: Every knee will bow and every tongue confess “to the glory of God the Father” (This in the context of a passage about Jesus’ incarnation, ministry, death and resurrection.)
          – The crucifixion: John 12:23-28
          – The incarnation and ministry of Jesus: “Father, the time has come. Glorify Your Son…I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do.” John 17
          – The promise of Revelation: There are at least 15 references in Revelation to people and/or angels giving glory to God.
          – For good measure, He chose Israel and predestined us for the praise of His glorious grace. (Isaiah 49:3; Ephesians 1)

          I’m not sure how you can read Philippians 2, etc. and not come to the conclusion that God’s primary aim is His own glory.

          As for God being the supreme egomaniac if He demands glory, the truth is humans WILL glorify someone, be it God, ourselves or someone or something else. It would be evil of God not to command us to glorify the One person in the universe who is truly worthy of it. In commanding us to glorify Him, He is commanding us to do the thing that will bring us the greatest benefit.

          Out of curiosity, what would you say is the primary aim of God, if not His own glory?

          • Dean

            ParsonBoots, I’ve always wondered about this fetish with God’s “glory” that Calvinists have. Do you think God needs more glory? I thought he didn’t “need” anything? Was God’s glory at its maximum before the creation of the universe, or is his glory something that ebbs and flows with time? Can we as human beings do anything to “diminish” God’s glory? If so, then why did he create us in the first place? In fact, why would God ever do anything that would cause his glory to ever be diminished in the first place? If we do have the capacity to diminish God’s glory then why do we exist at all? If we don’t have the capacity to diminish God’s glory, they why do you care so much about it? This whole concept that God exists to “maximize” his glory is incoherent and bizarre, if you could clarify for me exactly what that means and how it works I would be interested in hearing what you have to say. If God’s glory is the end all be all for Calvinists, then I guess I’m just expecting a more coherent framework and not a bullet point list of verses cherry picked from the Bible.

            I would argue that the primary aim of God is love, the kind of self-sacrificial love that brought us all into existence and that culminates with the Cross.

          • ParsonBoots

            First of all, I would be very careful calling something “incoherent and bizarre” that is so prominent in Scripture. It is also the nature of a comment section to only be able to offer a few bible verses, but that does not mean they have been “cherry picked”, if by that you mean taken out of their context to say what they were never meant to say.
            If you are speaking of the glory of God ontologically, then of course His glory does not diminish. God is just as glorious now as He always has been. But if you are speaking of God’s command to glorify Him, then all it takes is a moment of browsing to realize Scripture is full of commands for us to glorify God. We were created for His glory and there is simply no way around. 1 Corinthians 10:31 says to do everything for the glory of God. You can call this a “fetish” all you like, but I’ll chose to call it obedience.
            You say the primary aim of God is love, yet you present that with no ‘coherent framework” and no Scriptural support. Yes, God is love and God loves us with a love that is unfathomable. But to say that God loves us does not negate that we were created to glorify Him. You are talking about two different things. You see, if you think God’s demand for His glory makes Him the supreme egomaniac, then you are still left with the same problem if you try to boil it down to love. God wrote a book full of commands and sums them all up with “love Me with all of your heart, soul, mind and strength.” God demands love. If I love anything else supremely, I am an idolator. God does not look favorably on idolatry. Yet according to the author of this blog’s line of thinking, to demand glory, and along with it love, makes God self-centered. I disagree.

          • Dean

            I didn’t say God’s glory per se was incoherent or bizarre, I think a theology with that as it’s foundation is. There are many things that are prominent in scripture, I just question whether you are appropriately preoccupied with the right thing. You didn’t answer any of my questions though, why are we even here? If we exist for God’s glory and are commanded to glorify him, but don’t always do that, then what does that mean? If God’s glory was maximal even before the universe existed, then what the heck are we doing here? I guess you have to point to mystery. ;) I’m saying that’s incoherent. BTW, I can criticize a position without offering an alternative or defending my own. You chose to post a comment on God’s glory, I’m just asking you some questions.

            I don’t think the fact that God demands glory makes him self-centered or even egomaniacal at all. God demands glory for our sake, not his. God doesn’t need us to give him glory, he commands it because he loves us. So again, God’s glory is not the point, and he doesn’t want it as an ultimate end, he wants it because it will do us good as his creatures to glorify him by obeying his commands. I think that framework is more consistent with the Blbilcal narrative.

            Let me give you one example where Calvinism and its focus on God’s glory goes terribly wrong. What this kind of framework allows is the possibility that God created some human beings for the express purpose of eternal conscious torment so that his “glory” may be revealed to the Elect. In other word, in order that he might show the full spectrum of his character to the Elect so that they might fully understand his “glory”, billions of conscious being made in God’s image must suffer inconceivable pain for all of eternity. A holocaust on an epic scale as a “good thing” is precisely what you become willing to accept when you confuse God pursuing his glory as an ultimate good, in and of itself. Maybe you can accept that, and if you can, then God bless you. But I tend to think that the fact that so many prominent Calvinists believe their God is capable of this kind of atrocity is strong evidence that this theology is seriously defective, and so much so that it’s most ardent adherents have gotten so lost in the rabbit hole they can’t even see something this evil for what it is, they’ve just lost their moral compass entirely. As Austin Fischer describes, you get sucked up in the “black hole” of God’s “glory”.

      • Joe Garratt

        It doesn’t ultimately seem to be the exclusive and often selfish glory that Calvinism portrays though?

  • Kevin Miller

    Great piece, Zack!

  • Seth

    6 But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, 7 and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but“Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” 8 This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring.9 For this is what the promise said: “About this time next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son.” 10 And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, 11 though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— 12 she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”

    14 What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! 15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion,[b] but on God, who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.”18 So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.

    19 You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” 20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? 22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— 24 even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? 25 As indeed he says in Hosea,

    “Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’
    and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.’”
    26 “And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’
    there they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’”-Romans 9:6-26.

    I follow Jesus and His true, inerrant Holy Spirit breathed word. Honestly, I don’t know if I could say it any better than Paul does in Romans 9. “But who are you, O man, to answer back to God?” We are called to loved the Lord our God with all our hearts and preach the Gospel. This is what matters. I consider myself Reformed, but not Calvinist, for that would mean that I follow a man and not the Saviour. C.H. Spurgeon has a great quote, “I fear that I’m not a very good Calvinist, because I pray that the Lord would save all the elect and elect some more.”

    • Mark

      Don’t stop at Romans 9. Keep going until you get to Romans 11:32. Then you can add on the doxology in 11:33-36.

    • Scott

      God rejected Esau before he was born, not arbitrarily, but because He had the foreknowledge that Esau would despise his birthright, while Jacob valued it. On the Pharaoh reference, the phrase “raised you up” can be legitimately interpreted as “kept you alive”. God could have judged Pharaoh long before, for enslaving His people in Goshen, who claimed to know the real God, but He kept him around for the purposes of demonstrating His power, and that His name would be known in all the earth (That’s about creating more knowledge of God, for more saving work to be done). And God will further harden those who have already hardened themselves to God. Pharaoh was already hard to God and His people before God hardened him. I don’t think most people who believe in free will would deny that God intervenes in our lives, but since He isn’t willing that any perish, He’s not hardening the hearts of any that He knew would have otherwise turned to Him in faith. He will use as pawns, for various purposes, those who He knows will never come to Him. And He will direct the footsteps of believers as well. But this doesn’t mean we don’t have the ability to accept or reject the knowledge of God, by our own God-given free will.

      God’s foreknowledge answers all of the Calvinist arguments.

      Answering back to Calvinists with Scripture isn’t the same as “answering back to God”.

      • Seth

        I’m not sure if you realize this or not, but you have made quite contradictory statements. On one hand, you say that God chooses to use people as He wills, for honorable or dishonorable use. However, you also say that we are the ones who have the ability to accept or reject God. So which is it? I’m not denying that humans don’t have a response in salvation, but we are foreknown before the fact. Also, I understand God desires for all to be saved, 1 Timothy 2:4, however, we also see in 2 Timothy 2:25 that “God may perhaps grant them repentance..” Because we also see in 2 Corinthians 4:4, “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.” Also, God is of infinite wisdom, all knowing, and all seeing, wouldn’t it make Him not all knowing if he didn’t know who His children were? This is why we share the Gospel. We pray and preach the Gospel so that “God may perhaps grant them repentance.”

        • reubster

          Seth – in Romans Paul is talking about the nations of Israel and Esau/Edom…not the individuals. This one fact completely resolves predestination for me. We join the nation of Israel by faith, as Paul says.

      • jake

        God had a4 knowledge of what esau was going to do so he judged him based on a work then. even though the text clearly states it’s not based on works.

    • Fred Gilham

      I would think that the authoritative interpretation of Romans 9 would be…Paul’s.

      What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith; but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law. Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works. (Romans 9:30-32)

      Therefore we must read Romans 9 as an apologia from the OT for 1) Salvation by grace through faith, and 2) Salvation of the gentiles.

      Oh, and don’t forget Romans 11:30-32:

      Just as you were at one time disobedient to God but now have received mercy because of their disobedience, so they too have now been disobedient in order that by the mercy shown to you they also may now receive mercy. For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all.

  • C. Loewen

    Thank you.

  • Tom Corcoran

    Good post. I’ve tried to read through the Institutes several times but have never made it all the way through. Sometimes I get angry, sometimes just sleepy. Calvin and his followers can’t stand a messy Scripture that our puny minds can’t grasp. Every time I feel tempted to think I have some point of Scripture figured out I re-read Job 38-41 where God is not saying “I am God and get to do that I want” but that we can never come close to understanding Him. It reminds me that I need to go to Scripture to meet God, not figure Him out. Again, great post.

    • Aaron

      Or Job 42:11: “And they showed him sympathy and comforted him for all the evil that the LORD had brought upon him.”

      • Rich Stals

        Or we could all just randomly quote de-contextualised passages of scripture to each other as if everyone who disagrees clearly doesn’t believe in the Bible.

  • http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com/ Lotharson

    I just re-blogged this and added my own comments. Some of you might be interested by the discussion which will (hopefully :-) ) start there.

    http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com/2014/05/14/fostering-communion-with-committed-calvinists/

  • Tom Eggebeen

    One of the best critiques I’ve had the pleasure of reading … and parallels much of my own thought, though it took a good many years to work it out.

    I’m a graduate of a Christian Reformed high school in Grand Rapids, MI, Calvin College (of all places) in Grand Rapids, and Western Theo. Seminary in Holland, MI (I’m Dutch and reared in Calvinist Churches). I first read the Institutes in college – later in the ministry, I read them through at least 3 or 4 times and have taught at least 3 or 4 year-long adult classes on the Institutes. There’s no doubt that Calvin’s sermons and letters offer a more pastoral note than do the Institutes, but I’ll not take away anything you say … and I sometimes think that Calvin might be the first to agree with you, were he living today. He’d be appalled to know that’s he’s become an icon for some, the untouchable Calvin.

    I’ve decided that he deserves to be read, and his works can be mined for brilliant gems, but overall, he was too logical, and ended up speaking loudly of those things that should be reserved for whispers, things better left unsaid. Sadly, Calvin had no more mystery, except the mystery of the secret counsel of God, which Calvin had figured out anyway. “They shall be known by their fruits” – so Calvin is know by the excesses and cruelties of latter-day Calvinists who’d rather judge someone than care for them. Those who claim to be neo-Calvinists these days fall victim to all the anxieties of the Middle Ages, and commit the same theological errors of Calvin – essentially reading Jesus in the light of Paul, and sometimes entirely forgetting the gospels, rather than reading Paul in the light of Jesus and the gospels.

    Your point about “the glory of God” was eye-opening for me, so thank you on that point, which, I think, is pivotal. It isn’t about glory, or at least the Medieval version of it.

    Furthermore, I had to chuckle when you noted: Calvin quotes nearly all of Romans, and hardly references Jesus of the Gospels, which is a problem, as well, with the Apostle’s Creed. See N.T. Wright on this score.

    Now, I’m not a Wesleyan … hee hee … I still opt for something I heard in high school: “Salvation is too important to be left in the hands of humankind.” For me, however, I’m a universalist on this point – so, with Barth I suppose, I’m content to let salvation remain in the hands of God (the crucified hands), and that in Christ, the whole of creation is elected to new life. I like to say: God got us here, and God will see us through, the worst of it, to the best of it.

    When Calvin speaks of how difficult life can be, how little we know, how we “limp through life,” he’s comfortable with this in light of his understanding of a god who is utterly faithful to the saved. I can go with that, enlarged as it must be for me.

    Anyway, thanks for one of the best pieces I’ve read in a long, long, time.

    Look forward to hearing more from you.

    Tom

  • Tom Eggebeen

    Let me add a positive note: during WW2, where Calvinism as strong, Jews did better, I think, in part, because Calvin offered a unified Bible – one covenant (Calvin’s work on Baptism is terrific). In countries where Old and New were divided, Jews were likely to fare poorly. I’m terribly critical of Calvin these days (see my earlier post), but his work on the Sacraments and his determination to keep Scripture together are hallmarks that deserve an honorable place in Christian thought.

  • Jim West

    You should, in fairness, try to level criticism after reading more than just snippets of the Institutes. You don’t refer to any sermon, any tractate, any commentary, or any occasional piece. You’ve found a few things in ICR to disagree with, cherry picked them, paraded them, beat them, damned them, and ignored mountains of other materials that both clarify and expand. In short, you have mistreated Calvin and misrepresented him, creating nothing but a straw man to attack and set on fire.

    It’s fine to critique Calvin. Or anyone. But to be fair, such criticisms must be based on more than one or two works when that someone has written hundreds. Especially when the critic has written none.

    Remember, anyway, what Kierkegaard said: Critics are like Eunuchs- they know what’s supposed to happen, they just can’t manage to do it themselves.

    • Adam

      Can you share with us on which points you feel the author has misrepresented, cherry-picked, and ignored mountains of other material? I’d genuinely like to know.

    • Karen

      If I have understood Zack’s post correctly, he has not just read “snippets” of the Institutes, but most of the Institutes (and discussed it in a class), omitting only the last few chapters pertaining to church polity. I echo Adam’s question.

    • peteenns

      Jim, can you point us to anything Calvin has written elsewhere that should change our perception of Calvin that Zach has written here, and if so, does that really balance or neutralize what ICR lays out with legendary systematic rigor? Nothing personal, and as you know, I’ve been around the Calvin block enough times to offer an opinion, but your point is a common one in Calvinist apologetics: “But Calvin has written so much and so your critique is superficial until you’ve read everything (and absorbed it as I have).” This is also how Warfield, Machen, Van Til, etc., etc. are protected from criticism. Ironically, all it takes for Calvinists to condemn others is finding an errant sentence here and there.

      • http://www.buriedhopes.com/ Rebecca

        “Ironically, all it takes for Calvinists to condemn others is finding an errant sentence here and there.”

        Oh so very true.

    • Rich Stals

      Crickets….?

  • Joel Kessler

    As a recovering Calvinist, I thank you for this honest and open letter to John Calvin (but I do think John Calvin is an Arminian now, because he’s in heaven and God gave him some better theology)

  • http://ecclesiaextraneus.wordpress.com/ Matt

    Just get ready for “You see, the reason you don’t understand Calvin is because you are a closet Calvinist and just haven’t realized it yet”. That pretty much summarizes every argument a certain famous Calvinist makes against any logical point made against Calvinism. I also love the responses most Calvinists give to any question about certain scriptures that would seem to contradict Calvinism. “We have to do what everyone else does – read and follow them.” But how do you deal with the contradictions? “They aren’t contradictory if you know what they really say.” So it’s really your interpretation? “We don’t interpret… we just read and follow.” But a straight forward reading contradicts Calvinism. “Not if you know what they really say.” Okay, so what do they really say? “You can see that plainly for yourself.” I know, which is why I ask… oh, never mind…

    • reubster

      that is really quite funny!

    • Will Gaughan

      care to offer said passages?

  • jon_russell

    As a recovering Nazarene and someone who is slowly embracing reformed theology. It is not the works of Calvin that inspire me, but rather a complete view of scripture as “word for word” absolute truth, even if I don’t understand it and even if I don’t like it. I know many of my reformed brothers and sisters who live by the creed “what would john calvin do” (WWJCD)? They come off very strident and repel many non-reformed Christians. My hope is to place myself in submission to the word and think of others as better than myself in all things. That is the type of reformer I want to be.

    • Karen

      “. . . a complete view of scripture as “word for word” absolute truth, . . .”

      This sounds perilously close to advocating a “magical” view of how Scripture contains and communicates spiritual truth that is analogous to how Muslims understand the Qu’ran. It has historically proved to be a prescription for mischief in terms of understanding in what way the words of Scripture are true, with the production of all sorts of terrible interpretations and applications of the Scriptures as well as a manifest lack of dogmatic and sacramental unity among those claiming to found their belief and practice “only” on the “word for word truth” and “inerrancy” of the letter of the Scriptures!

      In classical Christian and apostolic understanding, it is the overall message of the Scriptures as a whole as interpreted in light of the full revelation of their meaning/import https://zackhunt.net/files/2014/05/13/in jesus christ that is “absolute truth.” Christ, and Christ alone, is the Word, and the Truth in this sense. The Scriptures are indeed holy and inspired (God-breathed), but as the early Church Fathers understood, their “inspiration” is in the hearing of them (i.e., their Holy Spirit-inspired interpretation through Christ within the Church), not in the letter or the naked text as such, which did not lead the Pharisees to Jesus, and the real message and import of which was not even understood by Christ’s disciples until He explained it to them after his Resurrection (Luke 24:25-27). You will look long and hard to derive the meaning found in most of the OT texts quoted in the NT (i.e, their apostolic interpretation and application to Jesus Christ) at the level of the literal word-for-word meaning in their own immediate context in the OT.

      • reubster

        Very well put!

      • reubster

        I’m afraid these days I have to stop listening whenever anyone mentions the absolute sacred truth of the literal words of Scripture, or words to that effect. All words are relative to the context of the writer and the reader. Jesus is the Word, scripture is not ‘sacred’. the reading of scripture is only infused with the life of the Word when we read with faith.

    • anthropic

      Jon, I appreciate your stance of kindness towards both those who agree and those who do not. Too many Christians get caught up in anger and even hatred toward their brothers and sisters over points of doctrine that ultimately matter far less than the person & work of Jesus! (Age of the earth is one of them…)

      But as “word for word”, well, I’m sure you remember how Satan tempted Jesus by quoting scripture. It really does not simply “speak for itself”, it must be interpreted in context.

      And knowledge outside of scripture sometimes helps us understand it. For example, Christians believed for centuries that the earth did not move because of scriptures describing it as firm on its foundations. Nobody believes that now, not because the scripture changed, but because we know more about physics. Since a physical interpretation would mean the scripture was in error, it makes sense to see it as a metaphor.

    • Carlos

      Jon, in all respect. You should strive to be a disciple, not a type of Christian. I understand the damage legalism has done.. be cautious in going from one extreme to another. There is a theological middle ground.. I encourage you to find it with no compromises.

  • Clark Sarge

    If you think God has to “deserve” glory from us, than you reveal you have no idea what the word really means. I agree with Matt, you love the God you have created in your mind, so you obviously will hate the God of scripture.

    • Karen

      Or, another possible explanation is that you have no idea what the Scripture means by the “glory” of God, and are yourself in servile fear of a “god” of your own imagining based on a completely anthropomorphic understanding (i.e., completely limited by your own unenlightened human logic) of what the Scriptures mean by the “wrath”, “judgment”, “glory”, etc., of God. Based on the scant information available in blog comments, I’m not offering any final judgment here, but just a possible alternative explanation.

      “The glory of God is a man fully alive.” (St. Irenaeus of Lyons, A.D. 185)

      St. Irenaeus was the spiritual grandchild of the Apostle John, and whose native language was Greek (reading the Greek of the Scriptures of his day). I have the impression from my reading that any conservative Christian scholar who respects the inspiration of the Scriptures and knows anything about Christian history would tend to agree St. Irenaeus knew a thing or two about what the Scriptures really mean.

    • Rich Stals

      Clark – comments like this reveal that you confuse the Bible with your interpretation of the Bible. You didn’t engage in any part of the post, or comments. You simply write-off someone who disagrees with you as a hater of Scripture and God.

      Is it possible that the author of the post may have legitimate, well thought-out, well reasoned scriptural reasons for viewing this the way he does? The path to discovering this is dialogue not pronouncements of damnation.

  • John Travis Wilson

    The tone of this is so unbelievably condescending, I’m not sure I want to write a response anymore. This is one of the most ungracious, cherry-picking posts I’ve ever read. I’m not a follower of Calvin, but the lack of exegetical dealings (Calvin is so committed to his system that he doesn’t deal well with Scripture?), the microwaved assumption that Calvin was sticking to a system—despite the several places where he says he cannot pretend to answer a thorny question that Scripture does not answer—and the smugness with which this is written makes me sick. There also seems to be the idea that the writer’s own theological system is the only right way to read Scripture, and the insistence that he can read Calvin’s heart and accuse him of not being truly concerned with God’s glory is appalling. Furthermore, there have been multiple other brilliant theologians who held the exact same views that aren’t even considered; but it’s that easy to say he gave the school of thought an honest look after reading most of one work discussing theological ideas that predate Calvin, and are dealt with later (Augustine, Luther, Edwards, Whitfield, Piper, Sproul, etc., etc., etc.). The writer provides a paltry half-handful of verses that apparently shut down the entirety of Reformed thought, without any due consideration of the difficulties and obstacles every theological system has (including his own!). There is no humility in this, and an abundance of overly harsh, reactionary criticism wrapped in the pretense of a good, hearty try. I’ve read the entire work (my copy is two volumes and has 1526 pages), and I am the first in line to disagree with not a few points. In order to deal properly with Calvin, you must first deal properly with the Scripture he turned to first and foremost. And to blame Calvin for followers who have been jerks? Really? So you should also blame Wesley, and Jesus for that matter. How is it Calvin’s fault that some of his followers are jerks? You know what? I’ve met some really jerky Calvinists, but I’ve also met some really jerky Wesleyans, some really jerky Lutherans, some really jerky Catholics. That’s not a knock against Wesley, Luther, or the Pope. It’s an observation that people are sinful. You didn’t need to tack on yet another insulting, condescending line. A friend forwarded this (who totally agrees with your anti-Calvinist views) and I approached it merrily, expecting a solid critique, colored with humility, grace, and respect. I don’t know you that well, but I really think you’re better than this, Zack. You may not agree with the theology, but I suggest you take care saying that the theology destroys God’s glory. What if you’re wrong? I don’t agree with Arminianism, or eternal conscious torment, but I’d be danged if I would ever say that God cannot be like that, because our concern should be to worship God as He truly is, whatever that looks like. You can disagree and say that you just don’t get it and you’d be surprised if God worked that way, but to assume that God can’t work the way Zack says He can’t is out of line. I’m sure I hold an incredible number of wrong views, but let’s check our hubris and learn in humility, grace, and love, and leave the sweeping declarations of who is right to God when we are all seated together before Him. I’m sure we’ll all have a good laugh—Calvin included—and we’ll all fall on our faces in praise of the One Who paid our debt irrespective of our theological leanings. Grace and Peace, Zack.

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  • Justin L. Marple
  • http://johanwoods.com/ Johan Woods

    Great! I’m not the only one! ;) I read those Institutes as well, even 2.5 times. I came to many of the same conclusions. Thanks for writing this, loved it; stand firm.

  • lmalone

    “Which is why, John, it’s hard not to conclude that Calvinism is a sustained exercise in the defense against the obvious. By which I mean you’re constantly on the defense against the obvious conclusions of your claims. To your credit you offer up an exhaustive defense. It just runs counter to basic logic. There’s just no way around the fact that you’ve simultaneously created a God who is the author of evil while rendering the Christian life irrelevant because if our eternal fate is already sealed, there is absolutely no point in bothering to live in any particular way.”
    THIS. “A defense against the obvious”. Oh boy that could have saved me time. Living at ground zero, I am surrounded. And the entire debate is a circular dance down a black hole that ends in the declaration that I don’t believe God is Sovereign. Boy is that getting old. When in reality in Calvinism, God is not Sovereign over His own Sovereignty..
    How did you enjoy the part on “Reprobation”. That blew me away. So God wants you to “think” you are saved but you really aren’t. The bait and switch god.
    But seriously, All we have to do is read about his actual deeds in life to get the picture how this works out. His ruining of Castellio, writing to the Marquis long before Servetus came to Geneva that if he ever did, he would not leave alive.(premeditation!) His public punishments for things like falling asleep during one of his sermons, regulating the courses Genevans could serve at each meal, having his servants declare he could not tend to dying plague victims because the church needed him, and so on.
    The guy was a despotic thug

  • Argo

    I dispute the claim that Calvin was “brilliant”. How can that possibly be a legitimate description of the abject rational larceny which IS Johnny’s mind?

    All of his conclusions lead to the DEATH of man as man’s greatest moral obligation.

  • Dan

    Gutsy Hubris taking on one of the most celebrated “dead” theologians in history

  • Billy North

    Speaking as someone who at one point was very committed to reformed theology; what is interesting I believe is that the attraction at the beginning is due to its rigorous intellectual engagement. The irony is that it is actually quite a very dogmatic narrow view based more on philosophical speculation then scripture. So you end up doing all of these intellectual gymnastics to defend metaphysical concepts of God and his character due to sovereignty and the implications of that with evil, free will, election, etc.

  • Harrison

    My observations of Calvin were very similar, as have been my interactions with most Reformed Christians. Calvin’s God seems more like Zeus than Christ. He is characterized by power, but the pagans knew that a powerful God was not necessarily good. Also, Calvin’s treatment of his opponents (calling them a “satellites of Satan” stifles conversation and dehumanizes them, rather than seeing them as human beings made in the image of God. It comes off as manipulative and contrary to Charity.

  • Ann A. Jones

    I never really thought about this a “real” issue until I had one of John Calvin’s devotees tell me that I was going to Hell. If I really was elect, I would know the errors of my ways and be a Calvinist. But I can’t and won’t accept that. I have hungered and thirsted for God all my life, done my best to follow the Word, etc. So, after all this, I die, get to the Judgment and find out I had it wrong?? This seems like the ultimate in cruelty to me and I can’t believe God would be that way. However, I have found many churches that act this out. You go and feel like a stranger, uninvited, ignored. You do your best, but at some point the truth becomes clear, when someone says, “My grandfather was the pastor here,” or “You weren’t here when we decided that.” Yes, there is some sort of unspoken rule to prevent people from getting it. I can’t believe that God works that way.

    • Ann A. Jones

      Ed, we live near a Ref Sem and we figured out how it works! They let you in, you do all your classwork and do well. You pay the full price and don’t ask for anything extra. Then when graduation comes, you walk across the platform to receive your diploma, the president of the college says, “Oh, no, I’m sorry. You don’t get one. We decided before the day you started that you would not be getting a degree from us. No reason, we just decided. We’re real proud of how well you did, but we knew all along that it wouldn’t change anything.” I have had Calvinists tell me that I would pretty much have that happen when I get to Heaven. I’ll find out that there was something that I had nothing to do about and knew little about will be the reason I don’t get in. Wrong!

  • Ann A. Jones

    Another thought from this dusty ol’ brain. The truth is that none of deserve salvation, and why some come to Jesus and some don’t is a very mysterious thing. I really believe that both sides are just trying their best to figure it out. I think that the most important thing we need to do is preach the Gospel, not use this to divide an already troubled fellowship. I wish that Calvinist preacher had never talked to me.

  • http://theivorylighthouse.blogspot.com/ SJ

    Fantastic. Is it more terrifying to know that the shorthand of this theology is what is preached everywhere, or the realization that some people have read and agree with this book that scares you more?

  • Joe

    Zack, Any reason you let Calvin off the hook for the brutal murder of Servetus? Who as you know, Calvin ordered burned with green wood, so he suffered for three hours before he died.

    And this Calvin was an agent of God? Makes Stalin and Hitler look like nice guys compared to the God of “reformed theology”. Nothing reformed about it.
    Is it any wonder why educated people see conservative christians as kooks?

    Are you familiar with Austin Fischer of Purple Theology? Sounds like you two are in the same camp. Arminianism is a common stopping point on the way to a third way, a way that sees God as both all powerful and all loving.

    Consider Talbott’s three propositions, and let us know which one you disagree with.

    1. God is totally sovereign over human destinies.

    2. God is entirely loving and wills that all people be reconciled to Him in relationship.

    3. Most people will experience endless, conscious torment in hell

    • Karen

      Joe, you seem to be a master of hyperbole. :-) Have you studied in any detail the magnitude of the suffering that Hitler and Stalin caused? I’m no fan of Calvin, but he’s not quite in that league despite his heresy and cruelty.

      I understand where you are going with Talbott’s propositions, and am sympathetic. A couple of the most beloved Saints in my own Christian tradition are St. Isaac the Syrian and St. Silouan the Athonite-for very good reasons. Talbott’s approach, however, is an inherently western, Scholastic approach to what is ultimately a mystery of personhood (both God’s and ours) that transcends categories of mathematical logic. Where freedom and self-determination are genuinely part of the very definition of personhood, there can be no dogmatic universalism, because within God’s sovereignty there is no room for coercion, and human beings are genuinely free. Of course, this also presupposes an understanding of the nature of hell’s torment that is Eastern (best articulated in St. Isaac’s writing), not that which predominates in Western Christendom.

      • Joe

        Karen,

        Thanks for the back door compliment, but what did I say that you found hyperbolic? I did not say Calvin was on the same level as Stalin or Hitler – although there is no denying he was guilty of murder – but that the Calvinistic view of God makes God far worse than any monster on earth. Seems Zack’s title of his post alludes to the same idea.

        Rather, I think Jesus was the real master of hyperbole. The end of Matthew 25 is a prime example.

        Have you read much of Thomas Talbott? I know him personally.He has debated (in writing) John Piper. You can find the debate on Talbotts website. I would encourage you to read the transcript.

        At the end of the day, it is not about Universalism. Universalism is a foregone conclusion. Rather, the story is about why Jesus came. And about what we mean when we talk about “salvation”.

        I’d be interested to know where you are coming from with your idea of hell, east or west.

        And this statement: “because within God’s sovereignty there is no room for coercion, and human beings are genuinely free”. Could you unpack that for us?

        • Karen

          Ah, I see I mistook your “hyperbolic” comparison to be between Calvin and Stalin/Hitler. My bad-I misread, and I do agree with your point now that I see what it was! :-)

          I haven’t read Talbott, but just a little about some of his writings by another blogger who has discussed these topics at more length (here: http://afkimel.wordpress.com/?s=Talbott). I’m sure I’d enjoy reading the response to Piper. Thanks for the heads up.

          A little more on “hell” East vs. West here:
          http://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/carlton/hell_a_modest_proposal

          And here (please pardon the strong polemical tone in the beginning against the theology of the “west”-it has a certain historical context and will certainly be seen as hyperbolic even by many Eastern Orthodox Christians): http://glory2godforallthings.com/the-river-of-fire-kalomiros/

          Good series on Isaac, the Syrian (and a hopeful, not dogmatic, Eastern Orthodox Christian universalism-a minority position for Eastern Christians as well) starts here:
          http://afkimel.wordpress.com/2013/03/16/st-isaac-the-syrian-preaching-the-astonishing-love-of-god/

          With regard to the issue of God’s sovereignty and human freedom, I’m Eastern Orthodox, and we don’t believe in Calvin’s divine monergism, nor Pelagius’ human monergism, but rather in the synergy between man and God as the means through which our personal salvation is appropriated (where, obviously, God’s energies are infinitely the greater and foundational, but the human energy no less necessary). By definition, God being love, and coercion of another’s will being contrary to God’s kind of love by orthodox Christian definition, we believe God’s sovereignty means His work within us “to will and to work for his good pleasure” stops short of coercion of a resistant human will (meaning simply we truly aren’t puppets of the Divine will).

          Salvation by EO definition is union with God in His love (which is impossible apart from a voluntary movement toward God on the part of the human being). Whether a resistant human will can last as long as the love of God is an open question, but dogmatically the Orthodox Church has insisted on the real possibility (not inevitability) of persistent resistance, with all the natural consequences this entails for how God’s eternal presence is experienced by the soul that continues to hate Him and HIs will. However, the very widely-beloved nature of the Orthodox Saints I mentioned in my first comment tells you a little about the spirit in which this dogmatic position is held by the most pious Orthodox Christians.

  • reubster

    It’s such a relief to discover people who will say this out loud, coherently.

    I’m learning that Christians come with so much baggage, but God in his grace will use us for good anyway.

  • http://www.withalliamgod.wordpress.com/ Prayson W Daniel

    This letter could be addressed to Martin Luther, Thomas Aquinas, St Augustine and a host of other giants we happen to stand on their shoulders. I find it unfair that John Calvin is the mostly singled out on the doctrine of predestination. I have just re-read Aquinas’ Summa Theologica “On Predestination” and
    I would say nothing Calvin uttered that is not in Aquinas’.

    • Karen

      From what I have read, this is a fair comment with regard to Aquinas at least. On the other hand, I believe it also shows how much St. Augustine in his own context has been conflated with his interpreters in much later times and different contexts. In addition to making unwarranted theological leaps from some of Augustine’s speculations (ones he would not have made himself), Luther, Aquinas and Calvin, unlike Augustine, were building from the assumptions and method of Medieval Scholasticism in their approach to the Scriptures.

      St. Augustine’s emphases on God’s sovereignty and predestination and on grace enabling free will, was in the context of his offering a polemic against Pelagius’ false teaching (that is to say it was not a coldly logical systematic theology in the vein of Calvin). Despite what are viewed in Eastern Orthodoxy as some theological errors in Augustine’s works (i.e., vis-a-vis the views of his counterparts in Greek-speaking Christedom, with whom he did not have opportunity to dialogue since he did not know Greek), Augustine was well within the early Catholic and Orthodox tradition in his overarching theological perspective. The others (along with the Jansenists) represent a departure from this earlier patristic orthodoxy.

  • Mike

    Wow….waaaaaay too long. Definitely skimmed, got the jist though.
    Too much taken or of context though to consider this to be anything of value.

    And the Bible straight up quotes God as saying He does in fact create calamity.

    The Bible tells us that God exists and that nothing exists or occurs that He does not ordain.  There are numerous verses that declare this truth…

    1 Chronicles 29:11-12, Psalm 1115:2-3, Daniel 4:35,  and Scripture repeatedly affirms the sovereignty of God over everything: 1 Timothy 6:15,  Exodus 4:11,  2 Kings 17:25, . 
    Specifically though, Proverbs 16:4 is what stands out most to me…

    ” The Lord has made everything for its purpose,  even the wicked for the day of trouble.”

    and Isaiah 45:7 – “I form light and create darkness,
    I make well-being and create calamity,
    I am the Lord, who does all these things.”

    Scripture is clear then…God is behind what we would classify as being good and what we would classify as evil or bad…He has ordained them both.

      What we have to understand though is, while God wills evil to exist, He NEVER commits evil.  Otherwise he would not be holy as scripture tells us He is.

    Can’t believe this letter has been shared so many times. Unfortunate.

  • Mallory Pickering

    Thank you so much for writing this. It explains so thoroughly all I feel that’s wrong with Calvinism.

  • OldArkie

    Very good thoughts, thank you for writing it. I hope its read by many, hopefully it will help some understand the dangers of this doctrine.

  • Chris

    I understand the dislike for Calvinism. But I am baffled by your description of the “ultimate problem” that the Bible is not ultimately about the glory of God.

    You state, “But John, I don’t know what Bible you’re reading if you think that receiving glory is God’s primary interest in and purpose for mankind. If anything, the Bible is a sustained account of God’s disinterest in glory.”

    I have a strong disagreement with that last statement. I don’t want to get into an argument about interpretation, but surely you can’t suggest that the following verses represent a “sustained account of God’s disinterest in glory” even when in comes to God’s purposes for creating man.

    Isaiah 42:8
    Isaiah 43:6-7
    Isaiah 48:9-11

    Psalm 96:1-4
    Psalm 106:8

    Ezekiel 20:9, 14, 22, 44

    And even Jesus Himself stated his concern for his own glory in his prayer in John 17:1-5

    “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you… I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.”

    I certainly don’t deny that God desires a relationship with his people, but there is no way to say that God is in any way disinterested in his own glory.

    By the way, sorry to be so late to the party, but I just saw your post linked from SBC Today.

  • thoff

    Am I the only one concerned that he’s implicity suggesting John Calvin is not a Christian?

  • Mason Goodknight

    Worst sin ever committed? Baby rape? No. Mass murder? No. Murder of Jesus? Yes. God’s plan man’s responsibility.

    “For truly against Your holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done.”
    Acts 4:27-28

    Thank you Jesus for dying for me according to the Father’s foreordained plan. I thank You that You do all for the glory of God and the good of Your people.

    • Rich Stals

      Hi Mason,

      As an Arminian, I would say that you are reading that text with your Calvinistic glasses on.

      Let’s start with what it does *not* say. It doesn’t say that God determined each and every action of Herod, Pilate and the rest of the cast of the crucifixion.

      What is does explicitly say is that Herod, Pilate etc. had gathered together to “do whatever God’s purpose determined before to be done’. So what was the “purpose determined”? It was the crucifixion. It doesn’t say that God had planned and decreed the evil actions of these men.

      An Arminian views this passage as saying that God purposed the death and resurrection of Christ before the foundation of the world, without having to decree the individual evil intent and acts of men to bring it about. A view in perfect harmony with this scripture.

      Many Calvinists (I do not include you in this) use this verse in discussion to mean that Arminians somehow ignore scriptures like these when we read the Bible. In fact people on both sides of the debate seem to consistently confuse the Bible with their interpretation of the Bible (like another somewhat prolific commenter on this post). Calvinists and Arminians generally both have high views of scripture and don’t ‘ignore’ parts of the Bible, we interpret them differently.

      • Chris

        So… when you say, “So what was the ‘purpose determined?’ It was the crucifixion. It doesn’t say that God had planned and decreed the evil actions of these men.”

        You are saying that the crucifixion, the unjustified murder of the Son of God, was NOT an evil act on Herod or Pilate’s part?

        You are saying God ordained the crucifixion, but that the crucifixion itself was not en evil act as the breaking of the sixth commandment?

        I’m confused…

  • Will Gaughan

    Lots of philosophical arguments but not a single example of exegesis.

    The institutes are among the greatest and most extensive exegetical works of reformed theology. Would it have been too much to simply pick one of Calvin’s exegetical views and contrast it with your superior grasp of Koine Syntax?

  • James White

    I will be responding to this diatribe on The Dividing Line starting today, around 7pm EDT (after responding to a video in the first hour). I do not know if I will finish the response today or not, but we will at least get a good start. You can watch/listen to the program at aomin dot org.

  • James

    What a mess…

    In
    other words, if a child is raped, a family murdered in their sleep, or
    an entire population of people sent off to the gas chambers, that wasn’t
    just the act of evil men. It was the will of God. – See more at:
    http://theamericanjesus.net/?p=12190#sthash.zbqO4mHz.dpuf
    Zack, you write, “In other words, if a child is raped, a family murdered in their
    sleep, or an entire population of people sent off to the gas chambers,
    that wasn’t just the act of evil men. It was the will of God.”

    From our perspective, these things are absolutely horrible… but we essentially have three choices here:
    1.
    God decreed these things and has a purpose in them that’s beyond our
    ability to know or understand… but we trust Him because in spite of
    how horrible these things hare we know He’s good, just and righteous,
    2. God doesn’t care enough to stop them and thus allows them, or
    3. God is utterly powerless to stop them.

    Let’s
    see… I’ll pick… #1. Seems you’re stuck with either 2 or 3… in
    which case, the ‘problem of evil’ is a real theological problem for you.
    In
    other words, if a child is raped, a family murdered in their sleep, or
    an entire population of people sent off to the gas chambers, that wasn’t
    just the act of evil men. It was the will of God. – See more at:
    http://theamericanjesus.net/?p=12190#sthash.zbqO4mHz.dpuf
    In
    other words, if a child is raped, a family murdered in their sleep, or
    an entire population of people sent off to the gas chambers, that wasn’t
    just the act of evil men. It was the will of God. – See more at:
    http://theamericanjesus.net/?p=12190#sthash.zbqO4mHz.dpuf

  • Chris Bodnovits

    I was a Calvinist reprobate right up until I met Jesus. I truly believed I was an Esau. I praise God for the Pastor who led me out of all that, he truly had the love of Jesus coming out of his pores. Id never seen anything like it.

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  • Randal Potratz

    I know I am late to comment, but just came across this. As someone who has come through a church diaspora because of this viewpoint, I can not agree more the article.

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