Section 8A .. A Question Of Salvation/Calvinism

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Calvinism Part IV - God's Sovereignty, Character and Will

Calvinism’s failure fail to grasp what God's Sovereignty actually means and the apparent inability to make the distinction between His unchangeable decrees and what He simply wishes or desires has had devastating consequences

Carol Brooks.

Index To All Sections

 Part 1: An Introduction to John Calvin and his Doctrines of Grace

Part 2Introduction to the acronym T.U.L.I.P - each letter stands for one of the five fundamental tenets of Calvinism.
  2A. Total Inability
2BUnconditional Election
 2C. Limited Atonement
 2D. Irresistible Grace
  2E. Perseverance of The Saints

 Part 3: When the Gospel Becomes a Lie
You Are Here 001orange Part 4: God’s Sovereignty and Character
Part 5: Hypocrisy Unlimited
 Part 6: Conclusion

  Part 7: The Sins of Augustine.

Part 8: Calvinism in the First 1500 Years

  Calvinism And The Book of Romans HERE



God's Sovereignty
It is believed that
because God is sovereign He must dictate every facet of our lives. Thus a man cannot possibly have the ability to reject or ignore the Gospel. This is a terrible misunderstand of what God's Sovereignty means.

God's Character
Just as we judge the character of a person based on the evidence, i.e. his deeds, we come to a conclusion about the character of God exactly the same way... based on His deeds. 

God's Will
The failure to make the distinction between God's unchangeable decrees and what He simply wishes or desires is the beginning of the road to Calvinism.

Misunderstanding God's Sovereignty
The word sovereign means a ruler who exercises supreme and absolute power and authority uncontrolled by any outside force.

There is little question that God is the Most High, the Almighty who laid the foundations of the earth and stretched out the heavens. He reigns supreme and possesses all power. None can stay His hand or thwart His purpose. He sets up and remove kings thereby determining the course of dynasties. He is the first and the last, the Alpha and Omega. He is King of kings, and Lord of lords.

    See now that I, I am He, And there is no god besides Me; It is I who put to death and give life. I have wounded and it is I who heal, And there is no one who can deliver from My hand. 'Indeed, I lift up My hand to heaven, And say, as I live forever, (Deuteronomy 32:39-40 NASB)

    By the word of the Lord were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth" (Psalm 33:6)

    It is He who changes the times and the epochs; He removes kings and establishes kings; He gives wisdom to wise men And knowledge to men of understanding.  (Daniel 2:21 NASB)

    All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, But He does according to His will in the host of heaven And among the inhabitants of earth; And no one can ward off His hand Or say to Him, 'What have You done?' (Daniel 4:35 NASB)

    ... He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see. To Him be honor and eternal dominion! Amen. (1 Timothy 6:15-16 NASB)

However, Calvinists take God's sovereignty to mean that He exercises absolute totalitarian control. As sovereign, God dictates not only every facet of our lives but the smallest working of the entire planet. As mentioned in the introduction some Calvinists have taken this to extreme limits. Edwin H. Palmer (1922-1980) a theologian and pastor who served as executive secretary on the team that prepared the NIV (New International Version) version of the Bible was of the opinion that, 

    "God is in back of everything. He decides and causes all things to happen that do happen....He has foreordained everything 'after the counsel of his will' (Ephesians 1:11): the moving of a finger, the beating of a heart, the laughter of a girl, the mistake of a typist - even sin." [01]

If being sovereign means that God controls every single aspect of human behavior we are no better than marionettes whose jointed limbs are manipulated by the puppeteer's strings.

Think about this for a moment: If the Calvinistic definition of God's sovereignty is correct it would mean nothing happens that He does not will which means He also wills the very evil that He hates. (Now that makes a lot of sense)

What Gods Sovereignty Means
Simply the fact that God has supreme power, authority, and ultimate control over every aspect of His creation means it is HIS decision to permit or prevent anything and everything - including giving man freedom of choice. Although He has the final word. it is His decision not to force him to do anything that is against his will. All God will do is attempt to persuade or even plead with man.

Let me repeat that... If God chose to give man freedom of choice, then it was His decision to do so. And the fact that He made that decision means that He is sovereign.

Also consider the fact that the Bible clearly shows that man often did things that God not only disapproved of but was totally opposed to. As Isaiah and Jeremiah showed ignoring the warnings and consequences people did (and continue to do) things that God didn't like or approve of, things that they knew God was dead set against, things that were completely forbidden, and even things that He never even thought of.

    I will destine you for the sword, And all of you will bow down to the slaughter. Because I called, but you did not answer; I spoke, but you did not hear. And you did evil in My sight and chose that in which I did not delight." (Isaiah 65:12 NASB)

    Because they have forsaken Me and have made this an alien place and have burned sacrifices in it to other gods, that neither they nor their forefathers nor the kings of Judah had ever known, and because they have filled this place with the blood of the innocent and have built the high places of Baal to burn their sons in the fire as burnt offerings to Baal, a thing which I never commanded or spoke of, nor did it ever enter My mind; therefore, behold, days are coming," declares the Lord, "when this place will no longer be called Topheth or the valley of Ben-hinnom, but rather the valley of Slaughter. (Jeremiah 19:4-6 NASB)

So those who continue to break God's laws today get away with it.. FOR A WHILE. However, God has emphatically and repeatedly outlined the consequences that those who continue to flout His laws will suffer. His Sovereignty shown by the fact that that He will carry out the sentence and none can deliver out of His hand. As the old saying goes.. the mills of God grind slowly, but they grind exceedingly fine.

Retribution will come more certainly than the sun will rise on the horizon tomorrow morning. . [See The Wrath of God]

Note - The Valley Of Ben-Hinnom Or "Gehenna"
The dozen times that Gehenna was spoken of in the New Testament (almost always by Jesus) it was translated "hell". However, Gehenna -the Greek transliteration of gê-ben-hinnom (the valley of the sons of Hinnom) was an actual geographical site in Jerusalem named after a real person. What is really perplexing is the fact that this very same place Gehenna (Ge-Hinnom) that English Bibles correctly render "the valley of Benhinnom" in the Old Testament,is always rendered Hell in the New. This does not make a whit of sense since both sections of the Bible are talking about exactly the same place. Ge-Hinnom was the name of the valley in Old Testament times, so how did its name mysteriously change to hell in the new??? See What and Where is Hell? Part III

Also See What a Sovereign God Cannot Do

God's Character
The modern church is awash with some very misleading and dangerous false doctrine (See Doctrines of Demons) However, striking as it does at the very heart of the reliability of God, Calvinism is in a class by itself. As judge Rick Brooker says... (All Emphasis Added)

    The Calvinists I've met will insist on asking me why I reject the possibility of a sovereign God electing certain ones to save and damning the rest, if that's what He wants to do. I don't reject that possibility at all. God could do exactly that if He chose to do so. You see, the point is not, "Can't God do whatever He wants with His creation?" Of course He could, He's God. The real issue is, "What has the God, who cannot lie, promised to do, according to the Bible? In order for Calvin's view of election to be true, God MUST BE a cheat, a liar and a hypocrite. It is unavoidable! [02]

In an attempt to explain what they call "several common misconceptions about Unconditional Election, the Calvinistic site got.questions.org says (Emphasis Added)

    First it is important to understand that the doctrine does not teach that God's choice is capricious or arbitrary. It is not random or made without reason. What it does teach is that the reason God elects someone to salvation is not because of something worthy God finds in that individual but because of His inscrutable, mysterious will. He makes the choice as to who will be saved for His own reasons, according to His own perfect will and for His own good pleasure (Ephesians 1:5). And while some object to the doctrine of election as being unfair, it is nevertheless based upon God's will and it pleases God; therefore it must be good and perfectly just. [03]

Assuming the conclusion is true and reasoning backward to the evidence is a classic case of FAULTY REASONING. Calvinists, having accepted the doctrine of election as truth, have to reason backward and seek arguments and evidence that will somehow make the strategy seems sensible. This includes ignoring anything that would contradict or make it seem unsound.

It goes something like this. They believe God decided who would be saved and who wouldn't. So, working backwards they argue that the doctrine is based on God's will thus has to please Him. If it is based on His will and pleases Him, it has to be "good and perfectly just".

 The Bible Argues In Exactly The Opposite Way And Instructs Us To Do The Same, i.e. To Judge A Tree By Its Fruit

Judging a Tree By Its Fruit
Which means the fruit of a tree is a clear indication of how good or productive the tree is. Isn't a deliberate crime committed by a person plain evidence of the moral character of that individual?  Wasn't Hitler judged by the atrocities he committed on the Jews?

So why should it be any different with God?

On what basis are we to believe that our God is a just, holy and loving God? Because He said so?

Not good enough!

Many might think I am being very irreverent or even a blasphemer for saying this but, if you think about it, the Scriptures consistently makes appeal to evidence to support it's truth claims. In fact, it is actually quite remarkable as to how many times, God, Jesus, and the prophets of both the Old and New Testaments appealed to facts to support what they said and taught.

Using evidence is the only sensible and reliable method of judging whether something is true or not.

See Faith And The Bible Part 3 of Choose Life That You Might Live
Christianity is perhaps the only religion that doesn’t demand 'blind faith' from its followers..

When it comes to people - just as we judge the character of a person based on the evidence, i.e. his deeds, we come to a conclusion about God's character exactly the same way. His deeds are what tells us what kind of Being He is.

The Evidence For God's Character

What God Hates
To begin with the Bible is literally strewn with passages that tells us what God hates. For example,

    those that burn their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods (Deuteronomy 12:31), People who love violence (Psalm 11.5), Haughty eyes, lying tongues, hands that shed innocent blood, hearts that devises wicked plans, feet that run rapidly to evil, liars and those who spread strife among brothers (Proverbs 6.16-19), He hates robbery and and iniquity. (Isaiah 61.8).. Those who devise evil in their hearts against others (Zechariah 8.16) and deal treacherously against their spouses (Malachi 2:15)

    He says He takes no pleasure in burnt offerings and sacrifices when the hands of the people are covered with blood. Their sacrifices meant nothing to Him and their incense was an abomination. He would not even listen to their prayers unless they made themselves clean, which meant ceasing from doing evil, learning to do good; relieving the oppressed, protecting the fatherless; defending the orphan, pleading for the widow (Isaiah 1:11-17)

In the New Testament Paul, as spokesman for God, urged the Colossians to put aside "anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth" and "not lie to one another". (Colossians 3:8-9). He further urged them to " chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience;  (Colossians 3:12 NASB) bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone;" (Colossians 3:12 -13)

He Backed Up His Words With Deeds 
God's warning to the house of David was that unless they administered justice every morning, and delivered the person who has been robbed from the power of his oppressor, His wrath would go forth like fire and burn with none to extinguish it, because of the evil of their deeds. (Jeremiah 21:11-12)

And there are no dearth of examples that show that He meant what He said.

When God told the Israelites to 'Dispense true justice and practice kindness and compassion each to his brother;" and not to "oppress the widow or the orphan, the stranger or the poor" or evil in their hearts against one another.' (Zechariah 7: 9-10), the prophet said

    "They made their hearts like flint so that they could not hear" ... therefore great wrath came from the Lord of hosts who "scattered them with a storm wind among all the nations whom they have not known. Thus the land is desolated behind them so that no one went back and forth, for they made the pleasant land desolate." (Zechariah 7:11-14)

Amos and The Northern Kingdom:
The Lord told the Israelites that he hated their festivals and solemn assemblies. He would neither accept their grain offerings nor listen to their songs or harps until justice rolled down like waters And righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. (Amos 5.21) He further warned that "those who recline on beds of ivory and sprawl on their couches, and eat lambs from the flock and calves from the midst of the stall" would suffer dire consequences, 

    "Seek the Lord that you may live, Or He will break forth like a fire, O house of Joseph, And it will consume with none to quench it for Bethel, For those who turn justice into wormwood And cast righteousness down to the earth." (Amos 5:6-7 NASB)

    "Therefore, I will make you go into exile beyond Damascus," says the Lord, whose name is the God of hosts.  (Amos 5:27 NASB)

    "For behold, I am going to raise up a nation against you, O house of Israel," declares the LORD God of hosts, "And they will afflict you from the entrance of Hamath To the brook of the Arabah."  (Amos 6:14 NASB)

Although he did not specify Assyria by name, during his active years (760–755 BC) Amos accurately foretold the destruction of the northern kingdom of Israel that began when Tiglath-Pileser III of Assyria invaded Israel around 732 BCE. The Kingdom of Israel  finally fell to the Assyrians around 720 BCE following a long siege of the capital Samaria. The reason the Israelites were deprived of their land and carried into captivity were 1.) Idolatry, 2.) Disobedience to God's law, and 3.) Repeated warnings from prophets like Isaiah, Micah, Joel, Amos, Hosea were ignored. Referring to the various kings of Israel the words "He did evil in the sight of the LORD"  occurs regularly in 2 Kings 15.

chose to be unfaithful to God, practice evil and violence and refused to repent. As far back as Deuteronomy they were warned of the consequences of not obeying the Lord

    "But if your heart turns away and you will not obey, but are drawn away and worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you today that you shall surely perish. You will not prolong your days in the land where you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess it. "I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants, (Deuteronomy 30:17-19 NASB)

The nation of Judah would have avoided 70 years of captivity if they had repented and turned from their ways. But God already knew what they would so

    "So now then, speak to the men of Judah and against the inhabitants of Jerusalem saying, 'Thus says the LORD, "Behold, I am fashioning calamity against you and devising a plan against you. Oh turn back, each of you from his evil way, and reform your ways and your deeds."' "But they will say, 'It's hopeless! For we are going to follow our own plans, and each of us will act according to the stubbornness of his evil heart.' (Jeremiah 18:11-12 NASB)

The Early Church
Similarly, Paul warned the Colossians that if they did not put to death fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness the wrath of God would come down on them - the sons of disobedience. And although it hasn't happened yet, God's wrath is about to descend on this planet yet one more time. See The Wrath of God and  The End of The Age

Our God who is so concerned with justice and righteousness, the orphan, widow and stranger. Who hates anger, wrath, malice, railing, shameful speaking and lies. Who will punish cruelty and inhumanity, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness. Who values compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, longsuffering, forbearing and forgiving.

And this is the same God who arbitrarily allows people to be eternally damned without giving them any opportunity to do what is necessary to change their fate?

Give me a break.

God's Will
I can almost guarantee that should you even want to venture into the complicated world of the so called various "wills" of God you will find your head spinning in very short order. Not only are the man made definitions mind boggling, you will not find any consensus of opinion on how many 'wills' there are - or how they are to be understood.

    gotquestions.org lists three saying "theologians see three different aspects of God's will in the Bible: His sovereign (decretive) will, His revealed (preceptive) will, and His dispositional will. [04]

    Bible.org mentions five. "The Bible speaks of the "will of God" in several different ways - God's "decreed will," His "perceptive will", preferential (desiderative) will, "permissive will," and "directive will"  [05]

Man's propensity for complicating matters never ceases to amaze me. In reality God's will is far simpler than you may have been given to understand.

In the New Testament, the English will has largely been translated from the Greek thelema that is used two ways - actively or passively. When used actively it means a choice, purpose or decree (official order). When used passively... an inclination or desire, pleasure, (Strong's Hebrew and Greek lexicon).

The verses below use thelema in both ways. Jesus came down from Heaven to fulfill what the Father wished. Because we know that God everyone who believes in the Father will have eternal life, the "will" in verse 40 is not something He desired but is a fixed decision that cannot be changed.

    (38) "For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will (Gk. thelema) , but the will (Gk. thelema) of Him who sent Me.  (39)  "This is the will (Gk. thelema) of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day.  (40)  "For this is the will (Gk. thelema) of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day." (John 6:38-40 NASB)

The failure to make the distinction between God's unchangeable decrees and what He simply wishes or desires is the beginning of the road to Calvinism.

A plain reading untainted by any preconceived ideas should tell you that the vast majority of occurrences of thelema in the New Testament mean what God wishes or desires, not what God has determined or made a fixed decision about. In fact, thelema has occasionally been rendered 'desire' but could have been translated desired or wished in the examples below and many others. 

    So it is not the will (Gk. thelema) of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones perish.  (Matthew 18:14 NASB)

    For whoever does the will (Gk. thelema) of God, he is My brother and sister and mother." (Mark 3:35 NASB)

    Which of the two did the will (Gk. thelema) of his father?" They *said, "The first." Jesus *said to them, "Truly I say to you that the tax collectors and prostitutes will get into the kingdom of God before you.  (Matthew 21:31 NASB)

    * And he released the man they were asking for who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, but he delivered Jesus to their will (Gk. thelema). (Luke 23:25 NASB)

     We know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is God-fearing and does His will (Gk. thelema), He hears him. (John 9:31 NASB)

    But concerning Apollos our brother, I encouraged him greatly to come to you with the brethren; and it was not at all his desire (Gk. thelema) to come now, but he will come when he has opportunity. (1 Corinthians 16:12 NASB)

    * Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires (Gk. thelema) of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.  (Ephesians 2:3 NASB)

    For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men.  (1 Peter 2:15 NASB)

The Greek word boulomai is used almost 40 times in the New Testament and can also be understood two way. It can mean be disposed, inclined, minded, desire OR intend

    Now I desire (Gk. boulomai) to remind you, though you know all things once for all, that the Lord, after saving a people out of the land of Egypt, subsequently destroyed those who did not believe.  (Jude 1:5 NASB)

    And when Paul wanted (Gk. boulomai) to go into the assembly, the disciples would not let him.  (Acts 19:30 NASB)

    But those who want (Gk. boulomai) to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction.  (1 Timothy 6:9 NASB)

    Wishing (Gk. boulomai) to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas for them, and after having Jesus scourged, he handed Him over to be crucified.  (Mark 15:15 NASB)

    Compare this to Luke 23:25 starred above.

It is Peter's word of choice in his second epistle.

    The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing (Gk. boulomai) for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9 NASB)

    Compare this with 1 Peter 2:15 starred above

Peter was simply saying that God does not wish or want people to perish. The death of the wicked gives Him no pleasure. This neither challenges God's sovereignty nor is at all hard to understand.


Continue On To Part V - Hypocrisy Unlimited? HERE
Take your pick.. either John Calvin was a misguided zealot, or innumerable verses from both the Old and New Testament are not only extremely confusing but show God to be a very muddled or a very hypocritical being who's intent is vastly different from His words.

End Notes -  God's Sovereignty, Character and Will
[01] The Five Points of Calvinism. Baker Books; 3 edition (April 1, 2010). Pg. 30

[02] Rick Brooker. Calvinism on Trial. http://rickbrooker.blogspot.com/2010/11/calvinism-on-trial.html

[03] Unconditional Election - is it Biblical?  Got Questions Ministries. http://www.gotquestions.org/unconditional-election.html

[04] What is the difference between God's sovereign will and God's perfect will? http://www.gotquestions.org/Gods-will.html

[05] Can you help me understand God's perfect will versus His permissive will?


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