IPS-Eye-White

Section 8A .. A Question Of Salvation/Calvinism

003white  Section A Question of Salvation       >        Index To Calvinism       >        Total Inability  

IPS-Header
Predestination
 

Calvinism Part II A -  Total Inability

One would expect that when a major belief system stands or falls on a single point, there should be unequivocal proof for this doctrine in the Scriptures. This is far from the case.

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 standing for one of the five fundamental tenets of Calvinism.
You Are Here 001orange 2A. Total Inability
2B
Unconditional Election
2C.
Limited Atonement
2D.
Irresistible Grace
2E.
Perseverance of The Saints

Part 3: When the Gospel Becomes a Lie
Part 4:
Godĺs Sovereignty, Character and Will.
Part 5:
Hypocrisy Unlimited
Part 6:
Conclusion

Part 7: The Sins of Augustine. Early Church Theologians
 

IPS-Bar 

On This Page

Total Inability.. The Cornerstone
Calvinism teaches that people are so corrupt that, on their own initiative, it is impossible for them to repent of their sins, turn to Christ and be saved. In fact, they don't even have the desire to do so. Their only hope is if God, by His grace, sovereignly changes their wills.

Total Inability and The Fall
Calvin believed and taught that the reason man was so totally corrupt and unable to choose to accept God's offered of salvation is rooted in Adam and Eve's sin. The problem being that every point offered as 'proof' finds no basis in the Bible.

Isaiah 64:6-7 - A Proof Text?
Sure! If you ignore the textual and historical context.

Old Testament Examples That Disprove 'Total Inability

Supposed Proof Texts From The New Testament

Total Inability, the Gospel and an 'Unreasonable' God?
A call to repentance assumes the ability to respond.


Total Inability
is represented by the first letter of the acronym TULIP.

Total Inability.. The Cornerstone
While it is rightly maintained that humanity was born with a propensity or inclination to sin, a fact that is not only easily proved from the Scriptures, but also the daily newspaper.

Calvinism goes far beyond this, teaching that people are so corrupt that it is actually impossible for them, on their own initiative, to repent of their sins, turn to Christ and be saved and don't even have the desire to do so. Unless God sovereignly changes their wills by a grace that cannot be resisted (irresistible grace). 

The Cornerstone
It has to be noted that the last four points of Calvinism are completely dependent on the first. In other word, Total Inability is the foundation and cornerstone of the entire superstructure. 

If man is indeed incapable of saying, doing, thinking or believing anything that would set his feet on the road to salvation, then it is easy to understand why God Himself must step in and  designate who will be saved (Unconditional Election) then irresistibly draw those men to Himself (Irresistible Grace)

In his book The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination, Loraine Boettner, a well known reformed theologian went even further than this making the following statement regarding the five points of Calvinism... (Emphasis Added)

    prove any one of them true and all of the others will follow as logical and necessary parts of the system. Prove any one of them false and the whole system must be abandoned." [01]

Certainly, one would expect that when a major belief system stands or falls on a single point of doctrine, there should be unequivocal proof for this doctrine in the Scriptures. But, far from this being the case, the silence in the Bible is deafening when it comes to certain points that Calvinism insists are completely by the Book.

So lets take a trip back in time to where it was all supposed to have started... the account of the creation of Adam and Eve, and their first sin as related in the book of Genesis.


Total Inability and The Fall
Calvin believed and taught that the reason man was so totally corrupt and unable to choose to follow God or choose to accept God's offered salvation is rooted in Adam and Eve's sin. Since all "sinned in Adam", every single person who came after Adam inherited his guilt. None are innocent, not even infants. In other words, when they fell, we fell.  What's more... there is absolutely nothing we can do about this situation. As John Calvin said...

    "...the corruption by which we are held bound as with chains originated in the first man's revolt against his Maker."  [02]

Adam.. Morally Perfect and Immortal?
Calvin's beliefs on salvation were largely based on the assumption that Adam was created morally perfect but, because of his sin, he became totally corrupt and alienated from God. He then passed on this fallen nature to all his descendants.

Which makes no sense whatsoever. Why would God create Adam and Eve completely righteous, with the power to fulfill the law of God, if He intended to arrange for them to sin, or had already done so? And, the question has to be asked is how John Calvin knew all this since the Bible is absolutely silent on the subject of Adam and Eve's supposed holiness or the reason they sinned... other than they were tempted by the serpent.

However, don't take my word for it. Read the Genesis account for yourself and find where it says that Adam and Eve were created either morally perfect or immortal? Or that they had "the law of God written in their hearts" (London Confession - part 1V).  Much less that it was God who caused them to sin. 

No matter how long you search you wont find anything of the sort because it quite simply isn't there.

Death Before Sin?
John Calvin would have us believe that the fall of Adam along with the rest of his posterity was "arranged" by God at "His own pleasure". (Emphasis Added)

    God not only foresaw the fall of the first man, and in him the ruin of his posterity; but also at his own pleasure arranged it. For as it belongs to his wisdom to foreknow all future events, so it belongs to his power to rule and govern them by his hand... [03]

And, since God only planned to elect some to salvation, the rest of humanity was doomed to eternal death before Adam sinned. Yet, the Bible tells us that God warned Adam that death would come into existence if he disobeyed.

    but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die."  (Genesis 2:17 NASB)

And, as Paul taught, that was exactly what happened. Sin and death initially entered the world because of the sin of one man. (Emphasis Added)

    Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned  (Romans 5:12 NASB)

    For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead.  (1 Corinthians 15:21 NASB)


Did Adam Die Spiritually or Physically?
In Genesis: 2:17 God tells Adam that in the day he eats of the forbidden fruit he will "surely die", but as we well know, although both Adam and Eve ate of the tree, neither of them physically died for quite a while, going on to have several sons. In fact, Adam lived to the ripe old age of 930 (Genesis: 5:5).

As the argument usually goes, since Adam's physical death does not occur "in the day" that he sinned, God must have been speaking of a spiritual death or a separation from Him. Therefore Paul had to be talking about a "spiritual death" in Romans 5:12...

And when he said, in Ephesians 2:1, we were "dead in transgressions and sins, it means that since man is born spiritually dead he can not receive spiritual truth (the Gospel). (More about Ephesians 2:1-3 below)

However is this accurate? Did Adam die spiritually or was God talking of a physical death? If the latter, what are we to make of the fact that Adam certainly did not die "in the day" he ate of the forbidden fruit? For Details See Adam.. Physical or Spiritual Death?


A Corrupt Stock Produced Corrupt Offspring?
The Canons of Dordt state that

    Man was originally formed after the image of God. His understanding was adorned with a true and saving knowledge of his Creator and of spiritual things; his heart and will were upright; all his affections pure; and the whole man was holy... Man after the fall begat children in his own likeness. A corrupt stock produced a corrupt offspring. Hence all the posterity of Adam, Christ only excepted, have derived corruption from their original parent, not by imitation, as the Pelagians of old asserted, but by the propagation of a vicious nature. [04]

About this Calvin wrote

    I again ask how it is that the fall of Adam involves so many nations with their infant children in eternal death without remedy unless that it so seemed meet to God? Here the most loquacious tongues must be dumb. The decree, I admit, is, dreadful; and yet it is impossible to deny that God foreknew what the end of man was to be before he made him, and foreknew, because he had so ordained by his decree. [05]

Yet there are innumerable passages of Scripture that clearly and unambiguously tell us that no person can bear the guilt (or innocence) of another - that everyone will answer for their own sins and misdeeds, and that our eternal destiny is determined by our conduct not by inheritance. For example,

    "Fathers shall not be put to death for their sons, nor shall sons be put to death for their fathers; everyone shall be put to death for his own sin. (Deuteronomy 24:16 NASB)

    "In those days they will not say again, 'The fathers have eaten sour grapes, And the children's teeth are set on edge.' "But everyone will die for his own iniquity; each man who eats the sour grapes, his teeth will be set on edge. (Jeremiah 31:29-30 NASB)

    "The person who sins will die. The son will not bear the punishment for the father's iniquity, nor will the father bear the punishment for the son's iniquity; the righteousness of the righteous will be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked will be upon himself.  (Ezekiel 18:20 NASB)

I find it hard to believe the the Lord God does not take exception to convoluted arguments trumping Scripture so plain that a child could understand it. Opting to believe what the Bible says makes it impossible to accept that we are sinners because Adam sinned.

But, on the other hand, what we cannot ignore is that in Romans 5 Paul seems to be saying that something happened to all humanity because of Adam's sin. Which begs the question... What exactly was it that Adam passed down to his descendants?  See Original Sin or Epigenetics


God Called His Creation "Good"
It is true that, in Genesis 1:31, God called His creation "good" (Heb. t˘b) which seems strangely at odds with the fact that even as God was speaking, He was fully aware of the death sentence that hung over a large part of humanity and knew full well that the world would soon be filled with human beings who would be born without hope. In light of this, His one word pronouncement ("good") on the world He created comes across as completely insensitive, even bizarre.

 However this does not mean it was all morally perfect. According to Strong's Hebrew and Greek lexicon, the Hebrew word t˘b can mean goodness, beauty, gladness, fair, joy etc. Moral perfection is not even included in the definition. 

Certainly Adam and Eve were probably innocent, as is anyone who has never encountered anything evil or bad. It is also reasonable to surmise that after they first sinned they went and hid when God came to the garden (Genesis: 3:7,8), because they felt guilty for disobeying the Father's commands which is in itself a loss on innocence. Anything beyond this is sheer speculation, upon which the entire Calvinist doctrine of salvation is based.

Or is it that John Calvin creating, as I said before, a god in his own image was completely off the mark.

This is an easy question to answer because Calvin himself has provided a clue as to where his information came from. Almost immediately after the quote above, he went on to write that this question, "like others, is skillfully explained by Augustine". [06]

As previously shown, his Institutes contains innumerable positive references to the teachings and opinions of Augustine. Apparently Augustine's 'skilful' explanation convinced this novice Christian that this was the truth. Unfortunately, the trend has continued through the ages with many, many others taking philosophical streams of words as God's truth.


Did God "Forget" To Mention The Most Devastating Consequence Of Adam's Sin
One would think that if Adam's transgression had such a monumental effect on all future generations it would at least be mentioned in the Genesis account. Much to the contrary, the silence is deafening - nowhere explicitly stated (or even implied) that Adam's sin was passed down to anyone.

All we are told is that, because Adam and Eve ate from the Tree of Good and Evil, God did not want them to also partake of the Tree of Life, and live for ever (Genesis: 3:22), therefore He banished them from the garden (Genesis: 3:23). The man was cursed with having to work for food and the ground (that was also cursed) would reward him with thorns and thistles (Genesis: 3:17-19). The woman was cursed with great pain in childbirth (Genesis: 3:16).

However all these curses fade into insignificance when compared to the fact that trillions of Adam's descendants would inherit his sin and not be able to respond to God or Jesus. Yet, the book breathes not a single word about this. Why not? Did God just forget or simply neglect to mention the most devastating consequence of all. 

However, there is no question that, in Romans 5, Paul seems to be saying that something happened to all humanity because of what took place in the garden of Eden. That the entire race was affected by Adam's sin. These statements are very intriguing, especially since they fly in the face of innumerable other verses that say exactly the opposite. What then did Paul mean when he said

    Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned  (Romans 5:12 NASB)

    So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men. (Romans 5:18 NASB)

    For as through the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous.  (Romans 5:19 NASB) (Emphasis Added)

The answer may very well be found in relatively new scientific discoveries... the emerging field of Epigenetics. S

See Original Sin or Epigenetics www.inplainsite.org/html/original_sin_or_epigenetics.html
Since there are innumerable passages of Scripture that clearly and unambiguously tell us that no person can bear the guilt (or innocence) of another - that everyone will answer for their own sins and misdeeds, and that our eternal destiny is determined by our conduct, not by inheritance, we can not simply accept that we are sinners because Adam sinned. But, on the other hand, what we cannot ignore is that in Romans 5 Paul seems to be saying that something happened to all humanity because of Adam's sin. Which begs the question... What exactly was it that Adam passed down to his descendants?

All of Which Brings Up some questions.

  1. Why would Adam's descendants be held responsible for only his first sin, and not for the ones that came later?
  2. Why are we not held responsible for the sins of all our forefathers that came after Adam? 
  3. Since Christ shared our human nature through His mother, why was He not considered guilty of Adam's sin?

Regarding the third question - the Catholic Church would have us believe that Mary was stain free - somehow managing to escape inheriting "Original Sin" like the rest of humanity. A classic case of coming up with one myth to cover a major flaw in another. I have no idea how Calvinists would answer this or either of the other two.


Isaiah 64:6-7 - A Proof Text?
Isaiah 64:6-7: For all of us have become like one who is unclean, And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; And all of us wither like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. There is no one who calls on Your name, who arouses himself to take hold of You; For You have hidden Your face from us and have delivered us into the power of our iniquities.

Isaiah 64:6 has long been used as a proof-text for two totally separate... yet equally unfounded beliefs.

    1) Calvinism uses it to establish the idea that everything the natural man does is wicked... even good deeds. This helps to set up the dogma of "total inability," the engine which drives the entire Calvinist soteriology.

    2) The Evangelical uses it to show that good works, obedience, virtue are all useless. This sets the stage for the doctrine of "accepting Christ" through a once-for-all act of faith.  [07]

The problem is that both parties ignore the textual and historical context. An accurate understanding depends on not reading this verse (or any other) in isolation but within the flow of the entire chapter. If they quoted the verse in context, it becomes glaringly obvious that the text is not a universal theological statement made to everyone in every age. Much to the contrary, it is directed at a specific group of people at a specific point in time. See Context is CRUCIAL

This topic has been covered in a separate article. See Filthy Rags - the Bible often speaks of "righteous" people.


Old Testament Examples That Disprove 'Total Inability
People Called On God and God Answered
It is truly amazing that Calvinism states that man is totally unable to call on God, But the Bible states that not only can men call upon God but when they do, He actually answers them.

    For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as is the Lord our God whenever we call on Him?  (Deuteronomy 4:7 NASB)

    My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge; My savior, You save me from violence. "I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised, And I am saved from my enemies. (2 Samuel 22:3-4 NASB)

    Moses and Aaron were among His priests, And Samuel was among those who called on His name; They called upon the Lord and He answered them.  (Psalms 99:6 NASB)

Besides which both ...

Moses and Joshua
seemed to think that the keeping of God's commandments was an achievable goal and that the listeners could obey. In fact Moses said that keeping the commandments was not even particularly difficult. (Emphasis Added)

    if you obey the Lord your God to keep His commandments and His statutes which are written in this book of the law, if you turn to the Lord your God with all your heart and soul. "For this commandment which I command you today is not too difficult for you, nor is it out of reach. (Deuteronomy 30:10-11 NASB)

He then went on to say that he was setting before the Israelites life and death, presenting the two options as straightforward and genuine alternatives for them to choose between. There is not the slightest suggestion in his words that some or any of the listeners were incapable of complying with the commands.

    "See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, and death and adversity; in that I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways and to keep His commandments and His statutes and His judgments, that you may live and multiply, and that the Lord your God may bless you in the land where you are entering to possess it. (Deuteronomy 30:15-16 NASB)

Moses even told the Israelites to command their children obey the law which was the only thing that would prolong their lives in the land across the Jordan.

    he said to them, "Take to your heart all the words with which I am warning you today, which you shall command your sons to observe carefully, even all the words of this law. "For it is not an idle word for you; indeed it is your life. And by this word you will prolong your days in the land, which you are about to cross the Jordan to possess." (Deuteronomy 32:46-47 NASB)

Joshua repeated a similar message more than once. (All Emphasis Added)

    "Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go. "This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success. "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go." (Joshua 1:7-9 NASB)

    "If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." (Joshua 24:15 NASB)

We Will Serve The Lord
Also note that Calvinism teaches that people do not even have the desire to serve God. Yet this is completely contradicted by the people's response to three of Joshua's statements

    If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, then He will turn and do you harm and consume you after He has done good to you." The people said to Joshua, "No, but we will serve the Lord."

    Joshua said to the people, "You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen for yourselves the Lord, to serve Him." And they said, "We are witnesses." "

    Now therefore, put away the foreign gods which are in your midst, and incline your hearts to the Lord, the God of Israel." The people said to Joshua, "We will serve the Lord our God and we will obey His voice." (Joshua 24:20-24 NASB)

And if you wish to dismiss this as lip service, Joshua did not. He took their commitment to keeping God's commandments very seriously. The next verse tells us that He "made a covenant with the people that day" (V.25) going as far as to write those words in the book of the law of God. He then took "a large stone and set it up there under the oak that was by the sanctuary of the Lord (V.26) as a witness to the promises made by the people,

    Joshua said to all the people, "Behold, this stone shall be for a witness against us, for it has heard all the words of the Lord which He spoke to us; thus it shall be for a witness against you, so that you do not deny your God." (Joshua 24:27 NASB)


Nineveh
Then Jonah began to go through the city one day's walk; and he cried out and said, "Yet forty days and Nineveh will be overthrown." Then the people of Nineveh believed in God; and they called a fast and put on sackcloth from the greatest to the least of them. (Jonah 3:4-5 NASB)

According to Calvinism men cannot repent aside from God's Irresistible grace which, considering their repentance, the people of Nineveh had to have received. However, it wasn't long before they were back to their old blood thirsty ways, which is when the prophet Nahum pronounced doom on them.

God's grace did not appear to be very efficacious or long lasting.


Supposed Proof Texts From The New Testament

The Book of John
John 5:21: "For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son also gives life to whom He wishes.

Read in isolation, this verse seems to give Calvinism some plausibility because they assume that if He wishes, Jesus gives spiritual life to those who are dead in trespasses and sins. However, this is not at all the case if the verse is read in context...

    After Jesus healed the lame man of Bethesda on the Sabbath, he told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well.(V. 15) Then the Jews "persecuted Jesus, because he did these things on the Sabbath" (V.16).  Jesus' response was to tell them "My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working" (V.17).  This stirred the people up even further since He not only was breaking the Sabbath, but was also "making Himself equal with God" (V.18).

    Therefore Jesus answered and was saying to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner. "For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself is doing; and the Father will show Him greater works than these, so that you will marvel. "For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son also gives life to whom He wishes.  John 5:19-21 NASB)

The focus of the exchange had shifted from the healing of the lame man to Jesus' claim to be one with the Father. Considering that the power to raise the physically dead is one of the highest attributes of divinity that God says belongs to Him alone... 

    '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. (Deuteronomy 32:39 NASB)

Jesus was telling them that He, like the Father had authority over physical life and death

John 6:44 - "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws (Gr. helkyse) him"
This verse is commonly proffered as a proof text for Total Inability.

There is no question that no one can come to the Father unless the Father draws him. But then isn't God reaching down to man the point behind the entire Bible?

In his book Chosen by God, R. C. Sproul, chairman and president of Ligonier Ministries, says this (Emphasis Added)

    A cardinal point or Reformed theology [Calvinism] is the maxim: "Regeneration precedes faith." Our nature is so corrupt, the power of sin is so great, that unless God does a supernatural work in our souls we will never choose Christ. We do not believe in order to be born again; we are born again in order to believe." [08]

In other words, the 'drawing' John speaks of refers to being 'born again' or given new life or regenerated and until that happens no one can come to Christ. However, just one chapter earlier Jesus told the Jews that they were "unwilling" to come to Him so that they may have life. (John 5:40 NASB)

And here we have two completely contradictory and irreconcilable statements - Jesus says people have life as a result of coming to Him. Calvinism claims that a person has to be given life before they can come to Him. For the Calvinist interpretation to be accurate, Jesus should have said, "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me first gives him life."

John 12:32
A few chapters later, Jesus stated that the Father draws all people.

    And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw (Gk.helko) all men to Myself."  (John 12:32 NASB)

If John 6:44 and 12:32 are considered together, the obvious conclusion is the drawing spoken of is universal. This does not however, means that because God draws all people He also regenerates or gives life to all people. The Scriptures provide plenty of evidence that people can and do resist Him. Take Acts 7:51 for example,

    You men who are stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears are always resisting the Holy Spirit; you are doing just as your fathers did.  (NASB)

"Draw"
Incidentally, the word "draw" is often taken to mean "drag". While it can be used that way, of the 8 occurrences of helko in the New Testament only three (Acts 16:19,21:30, James 2:6) definitively indicate dragging. However, all three of these uses show ill intent.

Of the other five uses, two are about the Father's drawing (John 6:44 and 12:32), one refers to Peter drawing his sword (John 18:10) and two to pulling in a large catch of fish (John 21:6, 11)

 In other words, helko doesn't necessarily mean dragging by force. In any case this interpretation would fly in the face of reformed doctrine that a regenerated person has their wills changed so that they come willingly.


Acts 16:14: And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple of the city of Thyatira, one that worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened (Gk. dianoig§) to give heed unto the things which were spoken by Paul.

Calvinists claim that God's grace opened Lydia's heart to receive the word which she heard and was saved. However, this is not the order presented in the account that states as a fact that Lydia was already "a worshiper of God" which she couldn't have been if she was so totally depraved. 

Calvinists tend to ask why would God have to open Lydia's heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul? in other words, it would be a violation of her 'free will'.  However, the same Greek word is used in Luke 24:45,


Then He opened (Gk. dianoig§) their minds to understand the Scriptures, and He said to them, "Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, (Luke 24:45-46 NASB)

In other words Jesus enabled them fully to comprehend the meaning of the prophecies which foretold His death and resurrection. Similarly God enabled Lydia to fully understand that what Paul said was true.

 
Romans 3:10-18: "There is none righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, there is none who seeks God. All have turned aside, together they have become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one. Their throat is an open grave; with their tongues they keep deceiving; the poison of asps is under their lips: Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: Their feet are swift to shed blood: Destruction and misery are in their paths: And the path of peace have they not known: There is no fear of God before their eyes.ö

Although these verses from Romans say nothing about man's ability or inability to receive the gospel or to exercise faith, they are often quoted to bolster the claims of universal depravity - that no one ever seeks after God. However if this were the case it would be a flat contradiction of Hebrews 11:6. which clearly states that God rewards those that diligently seek Him. (Calvinism teaches that man does not even seek God unless given the grace to do so)

And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. (Hebrews 11:6 NASB)

Additionally, if one examines the source of Paul's quotes a very different picture emerges. The Psalms in question do not show that righteous people have never lived but, on the contrary, often spoke of God's protection and favor towards the virtuous people of that day.

What then could Paul have meant? How could he possibly say that it is of no profit for men to live righteously when innumerable verses say just the opposite? Why did he present one side of the coin and ignore the verses that speak of God's support and favor for those who feared Him? Actually he didn't... [See None That Seeketh]


Romans 8:7:
because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so.

The argument here is that the "carnal mind," of depraved people cannot obey God's laws. However, you have to consider the verse in context which begins a couple of chapters earlier

Very briefly, Paul tells us in Romans 6 that righteousness is required of those who have been justified by faith. They cannot continue to live in sin, but are instructed to present themselves unto God, as alive from the dead, and as instruments of righteousness (V.13). However our flesh is weak. Romans 7 describes the frustration of trying to do it on one's own. The chapter ends with Paul's thanks to God effecting a deliverance that conscience, the Law, and human strength could not do.

He begins chapter 8 telling the Romans that the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set them free from the law of sin and of death and there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

However, he goes on to warn that in order to please God he has to walk according to the Spirit.  Anyone whose mind is set only on earthly things "does not subject itself to the law of God  for it is not even able to do so. "


Romans 9:31-32:
but Israel, pursuing a law of righteousness, did not arrive at that law. Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as though it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone.

Regardless of how wrong they were about the method, the very fact that the Jews pursued righteousness directly contradicts Calvinism's doctrine of Total Depravity as do these other verses which all speak of God being found by people who diligently seek him.

"As for you, my son Solomon, know the God of your father, and serve Him with a whole heart and a willing mind; for the Lord searches all hearts, and understands every intent of the thoughts. If you seek Him, He will let you find Him; but if you forsake Him, He will reject you forever. (1 Chronicles 28:9 NASB)

Seek the Lord while He may be found; Call upon Him while He is near.  (Isaiah 55:6 NASB)

'You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.  (Jeremiah 29:13 NASB)

and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; (Acts 17:26-27 NASB)

And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. (Hebrews 11:6 NASB)

Besides which, not only can un-regenerated men attempt to find God and save their souls, but God apparently looks with favor on some "totally depraved" individuals as well. Witness the case of ...


Cornelius:
According to Acts 10:1-5, Cornelius was a centurion...

(2) a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, and gave many alms to the Jewish people and prayed to God continually. (3)  About the ninth hour of the day he clearly saw in a vision an angel of God who had just come in and said to him, "Cornelius!" (4)  And fixing his gaze on him and being much alarmed, he said, "What is it, Lord?" And he said to him, "Your prayers and alms have ascended as a memorial before God. (5)  "Now dispatch some men to Joppa and send for a man named Simon, who is also called Peter;

We all know the rest of the story. Peter was also alerted in a vision not to call unclean what God had cleansed, therefore went with the men to Cornelius' home and preached the Gospel to him, his relatives and his near friends (V. 24) with the result that "the Holy Spirit fell on all them that heard the word". (V. 44).

Certainly this story is remarkable in itself... being God's first offer of salvation to the Gentiles and fulfillment of the prophecy in Matthew 16:19, where Jesus said Peter held the keys of the kingdom. (Peter was the one to first unlock the doors to both groups - the Jews (on Pentecost) and the Gentiles (beginning with Cornelius). However let examine a few aspects of the story. According to Calvinism, man is totally depraved before he is regenerated by God's irresistible grace, yet

1) Luke says some very complimentary things about Cornelius, calling him a devout, God-fearing, prayerful man. (What happened to Total Depravity?)

2) An angel actually talked to this totally depraved man before Peter arrived and told him that God had noticed and was pleased with his prayers and alms.

3) The angel told Cornelius send for Peter. He had to do something before he could even hear what Peter had to say.

4) According to Calvinism, an unregenerate man cannot be obedient to God's instructions. Yet the centurion heard and obeyed.


1 Corinthians 2:14:

But a natural (Gk. psuchikos) man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. (1 Corinthians 2:14 NASB)

The Calvinist's presuppositions lead him to conclude that the 'natural' man Paul speaks about is the unregenerate sinner who is so mired in sin, that he is unable to grasp the gospel unless given the Grace to do so. But is this the case?

As has been said many times on this site, virtually all verses in the Bible can only be fully understood and assessed as part of the surrounding verses, which form the setting, or the big picture. Ignoring verse numbers and reading at least several paragraphs, if not the whole chapter will almost always result in the discovery of a very clear theme and distinct message, which will often illuminate or throw a different light on a particular verse. In other words the verse may not mean exactly what you had been lead to believe, or thought it meant.

Thus 1 Corinthians 2:14 can only be correctly understood if read in context - in this case verses 1:18 through the end of chapter 2. The earlier verses of chapter 1 deal with Paul's appeal to the Corinthians not to be divided into factions based on who baptized them. However, beginning with verse 18, he changes subject and from then until the end of chapter two uses the word wisdom (sophia) some thirteen times, and wise (sophos) four, making wisdom the dominant theme.

Paul was telling the Corinthians that the cultural elite or upper crust of society - the wise men, scholars,and philosophers of the day were not believers simply because, as he put it, a crucified Messiah was a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the pseudo-intellectual Gentiles. In other words, the world rejects the Gospel because it judges it by its own standards.

For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. (1 Corinthians 1:22-25 NASB)

God chose a 'foolish' thing to shame the things that are wise and strong (V.27). He came to the Corinthians preaching noting but a crucified Lord. If the rulers had understood God's wisdom, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 

Just as one cannot know the mind of another person, unless revealed by that person (2:11), the only way for man to know and understand this mystery was if God revealed it to him by His Spirit. Just how the Spirit reveals God's Divine plan is told us in verse 13... 

The "Natural" Man: But what are to we make of the term "natural man" in 1 Corinthians 2:14? The Calvinist insists that when Paul uses the term "natural man", he means man in his natural-born degenerate state. But note other New Testament uses of this word,

     it is sown a natural (Gk. psuchikos) body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural (Gk. psuchikos) body, there is also a spiritual body. So also it is written, "The first man, Adam, BECAME A LIVING SOUL." The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural; then the spiritual. (1 Corinthians 15:44-46 NASB)

    This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural (Gk. psuchikos) , demonic. (James 3:15 NASB)

    These are the ones who cause divisions, worldly-minded (Gk. psuchikos), devoid of the Spirit. (Jude 1:19 NASB)

In other words psuchikos refers to a sensual person ruled by the physical (or the five senses), rather than by the spiritual, which is usually unseen and experienced only by faith. A man who lives as if there was nothing beyond this physical life cannot understand spiritual things.

This is supported by the fact that psuchikos (G5591) is derived from phusikos (G5446), which in turn is derived from phusis (G5449) used in Romans 2:14 which states

    For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively (Gk. phusis) the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them, (Romans 2:14-15 NASB)

These verses have to be some of the most compelling in the case against Total Inability saying as they do, that although the Gentiles did not have the benefit of God's written law, they could instinctively keep the law because their consciences distinguished right from wrong. No one can "instinctively" keep the requirements of the law if they are totally depraved. 

Additionally 1 Corinthians 2:14 does not say that the natural man cannot receive the things of the Spirit of God, but that he does not do so because they are foolishness to him, which is exactly the theme of...


Ephesians 2:1-3:
And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.

Two conclusions are usually drawn from these three verses. Calvinism believe that when Paul says we were "dead in trespasses and sins", it means that since man is born spiritually dead he can not receive spiritual truth (the Gospel). However the problem with this theory is that the Greek word nekros translated dead, is used some 130 other times in the New Testament. Except for a couple of instances where it is used metaphorically, as in Hebrews 6:1...

    Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead (Gk. nekros) works and of faith toward God,  (Hebrews 6:1 NASB)

... The word is always used to describe a literal physical death, often that of Jesus Himself.

    that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead (Gk. nekros), you will be saved;  (Romans 10:9 NASB)

    "But God raised Him from the dead (Gk. nekros); and for many days He appeared to those who came up with Him from Galilee to Jerusalem, the very ones who are now His witnesses to the people. (Acts 13:30-31 NASB)

In other words, when Paul said "you were dead" he was simply stating that the unregenerate were as good as physically dead.


Tyre and Sidon
And what are we to make of our Lord's words in the eleventh chapter of Matthew...

    Then He began to denounce the cities in which most of His miracles were done, because they did not repent. "Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles had occurred in Tyre and Sidon which occurred in you, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. "Nevertheless I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you. (Matthew 11:20-22 NASB)

Very clearly, according to Jesus, Tyre and Sidon would have repented had they witnessed the miracles Jesus performed in Chorazin and Bethsaida. But If Total Inability is true then even if Jesus did ten times as many miracles the people of the two cities would not have changed their minds or behavior.


Total Inability, the Gospel and an 'Unreasonable' God?
If our Total Inability makes it impossible for us to voluntarily believe in Christ, why did God command that man repent and believe. A call to repentance assumes the ability to respond

    "Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent,  (Acts 17:30 NASB)

    This is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us.  (1 John 3:23 NASB)

When God gives a command and threatens to punish those who do not obey it, one would imagine that the recipients are capable of doing so. But, according to Calvinism, man is so morally corrupt that, under his own steam, he is incapable of repenting and believing.

If these instructions came from a human I suspect that we would wonder how long they had been off their medication. Yet we unquestioningly accept this completely unreasonable behavior as Godly, passing it off under various excuses such as no one can know "the mind of the Lord" (Romans 11:34) or that His ways and thoughts and above our ways and thoughts (Isaiah 55:9).

I however, somehow doubt that "the mind of the Lord" includes Him being completely unreasonable


End Notes - Total Inability
[01] Loraine Boettner. The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination. Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company (April 15, 1991) Pg. 43

[02] John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, translated by Henry Beveridge (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans), reprinted 1983, vol. II, Chapter 5. The Arguments Usually Alleged In Support Of Free Will Refuted. Pg. 273. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/calvin/institutes.iv.vi.html

[03] John Calvin. Institutes of the Christian Religion. https://www.ccel.org/ccel/calvin/institutes.v.xxiv.html

[04] Third And Fourth Heads Of Doctrine. Article 1. https://prts.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/Canons-of-Dort-with-Intro.pdf

[05] Institutes of the Christian Religion. Chapter 23. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/calvin/institutes.v.xxiv.html

[06] ibid.

[07] Steve Jones. Filthy Rags? http://www.auburn.edu/~allenkc/openhse/rags.html. Link is no longer valid

[08] R. C. Sproul. Chosen By God,  Tyndale Momentum (September 21, 1994) Pg. 55

Predestination-Back

Index To Calvinism

www.inplainsite.org