Section 8A .. A Question Of Salvation/Calvinism

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Calvinism Part II B -  Unconditional Election 

According to this doctrine, people are saved, not on the basis of their own merit or choosing, but solely according to whether God wills it or not.

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.
  2A. Total Inability
You Are Here 001orange 2B.  Unconditional Election
Limited Atonement
Irresistible Grace
Perseverance of The Saints

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

Part 7: The Sins of Augustine. Early Church Theologians


On This Page

Unconditional Election
According to this doctrine, God unconditionally and "sovereignly" elects who will or will not be saved. This is totally irrespective of anything the sinner does or will do in the future.

Many of the Biblical verses the Calvinist uses as 'proof-texts' involve some form of the word predestinate. Ephesians 1:11 is a prime example. However, it does no such thing - if you pay attention to the pronouns.

The Book of Romans
A number of proof texts have been drawn from Romans, but not only have they been misinterpreted or viewed in light of preconceived theories, but the Calvinistic interpretations of many of these verses stands in direct contradiction to the theme of the book as a whole.

The Gospel of John
Several verses in the sixth chapter of the Gospel of John are often used as proof-texts for Unconditional Election several of which seem to pretty clearly state that God sovereignly chooses who will come to Jesus. But do they?

The Second Epistle to Timothy
What did Paul mean when he said God "grants" repentance

Persuasive Preaching
Calvinism renders "persuasive preaching" redundant, since what it boils down to is the elect don't need persuading and the non-elect can't be persuaded.

Acts 13:48 - Where The Bible Lays The Blame
Paul with more than a hint of dry sarcasm told the Jews that they had judged themselves unworthy of eternal life' and 'their blood was on their own heads'

Revelation 20:11-15

Unconditional Election
is represented by the second letter of the acronym TULIP.

According to this doctrine, God unconditionally and "sovereignly" elects who will be saved and who will not be saved. This election has nothing to do with anything the sinner does or will do in the future (including how he will respond to the gospel), but is according to some mysterious plan God made before the foundation of the world. People are saved, not on the basis of their own merit or choosing, but solely according to whether God wills it or not.

Like so much else in Calvinism, there is a lack of consensus on the details. Those who teach "double predestination" assert that God elects both who will be saved and who will be damned while others, perhaps in an effort to protect God's reputation, maintain that God merely disregards those whom he has not elected to salvation, so that their own natural depravity damns them.

However, this is not exactly consolation to the 'unelected' who face exactly the same fate regardless of the technicalities of how they got there.

Which brings us to the heart of the Gospel.. the justice of God.

A Skewed View Of Justice
Moderate Calvinism claims that the non-elect deserve to be damned.

I am not sure where this comes from because my Bible makes it very clear that no one is sin free and deserving of eternal life.  Much to the contrary, all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), all believers were once "children of wrath" (Ephesians 2:3) and the wages of sin is death. (Romans 6:23)

NOTE: Romans 6:23 continues on to say "but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord". What should be noted is that the word 'free' does not exist in the Greek. Christians (rightly) make it a point to say that we should never ever add or take away anything from God's word? Yet, it is done all the time. See Salvation - Part III

But I digress. Here are some of the Biblical verses the Calvinist uses as 'proof-texts' beginning with some of those that contain...

The Word Predestination:
Predestinate was translated from the Greek word proorizo - used a mere four times in the New Testament in regard to salvation.

Ephesians 1:5:
He predestined (Gk. proorizo) us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will.

Like every other verse in the Bible this one cannot be read as a stand alone, but has to be understood in conjunction with the whole of Scripture. Romans 8:29-30 (below) clearly states that God elected people to salvation based on His foreknowledge.

    Romans 8:29-30: For whom he foreknew (Greek Proginosko), he also foreordained (Greek Proorizo) to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren: and whom he foreordained (Greek Proorizo), them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified. (Emphasis Added)

In other words, God has always known who would believe on Christ, and predestined only those people to salvation. 

Note that although predestinate (Proorizo) is only used twice in the above quote, I have also underlined foreknew - translated from quite another Greek word. Calvinists often claim the word foreknew and foreordained are comparable in meaning, which is not true. The only similarity is they are both preceded by the preposition pro, which simply means before and can be attached to many words. As the verse above shows there is a clear distinction between the two.

 001orange Ephesians 1:11: also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will.

These verses are often taken as a proof text for Predestination. However, if they are read very carefully they actually debunk Calvinism. You have to read verses 11 through 13 to catch the full import of what Paul is saying...

    (11) also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will,  (12)  to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory.  (13)  In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation - having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise. (Emphasis Added)

There is a distinct difference made between the 'we' of verse 11 and the 'you' of verse 13 (both in bold above). In fact, verses 3-12 use the first person plural personal pronouns - we and us. It isn't until verse 13 that  Paul switches to the  second person - you.

It is largely assumed by most commentators that when Paul used the word we, he was referring to Christian converts in general. However, the fact that he says we are the ones "who first trusted in Christ makes it far more likely that he was speaking of himself along with the disciples and other apostles. This is further exemplified in verse 13 where Paul switches to you (the Ephesian Christians) and says AFTER they believed they were "sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise".

In other words, the apostles and disciples were predestined to a crucial role in God's overall plan of salvation which is hardly surprising. In order for God's plan to work there is little question that certain individuals have to be predestined to do something which if left undone would throw the whole scheme into jeopardy. Take Mary for example. God didn't just look around Israel a few months before He wanted the Savior born and do "Now there a nice young lady who fulfills all My requirements". With His foreknowledge God knew Mary was perfect for the job and predestined her to give birth to the Messiah.

Similarly, in the Old Testament, Joseph told his family

    "Now do not be grieved or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. "For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are still five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvesting. "God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant in the earth, and to keep you alive by a great deliverance. "Now, therefore, it was not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh and lord of all his household and ruler over all the land of Egypt. (Genesis 45:5-8 NASB)

 If Joseph hadn't held a position of importance in Egypt, Jacob's entire family would probably have perished in the famine and, with them, any chance the Messiah would be born into Abraham's lineage. Also See God's Foreknowledge  

The Book of Romans
The book of is Paul's masterly outline and defense of the Gospel.

All too often isolated verses get a person so bogged down in detail that they neglect to see the big picture. The person walking through the woods will see a lot of trees and beautiful as they may be, he has no idea what the forest as a whole looks like. Similarly, one cannot appreciate a painting by focusing on individual brush strokes. The viewer has to step back and let the entire scene come into focus before he can appreciate what the artist has accomplished.

Which is precisely the problem with Calvinism and the book of Romans.

A number of proof texts have been drawn from Romans, but not only have they been misinterpreted or viewed in light of preconceived theories, but the Calvinistic interpretations of many of these verses stands in direct contradiction to the theme of the book as a whole.

The big picture of Romans is on a separate page HERE, however here are the problems with some of the proof texts.

Romans 9:10-13 - Jacob and Esau

    And not only this, but there was Rebekah also, when she had conceived twins by one man, our father Isaac; for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God's purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls, it was said to her, "the older will serve the younger." just as it is written, "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated."

In this the ninth chapter, Paul wishes he could be separated from Jesus if that could somehow bring about the salvation of his people who were blessed with countless privileges. They were "Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption as sons, and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the temple service and the promises  (Vs. 3-4)

 However, not all who are descended from Israel are Israelites, and not all of Abraham's descendants or physical seed could count themselves children of the promise (Vs.6-7)

 In other words, Jews could not count on the favor of God based solely on the fact that they were Jews. Lineage did not guarantee salvation. Paul used the example of Ishmael who was a physical descendant of Abraham, but a child of the flesh who did not receive the blessing given to Isaac, who was a child of the promise [Vs. 7-8]. Paul then makes another parallel with Jacob and Esau, Rebecca and Isaac's sons. Jacob the younger son was chosen over Esau before either had had a chance to prove or disprove themselves (Vs. 10-12).

So why Jacob chosen? This had little or nothing to do with the two brothers themselves, but was based on God's foreknowledge of the path their descendants would take. Evidence of this comes from God's words to Rebecca when she was pregnant with the twin boys.. He said (Emphasis Added)

    The Lord said to her, "Two nations are in your womb; And two peoples will be separated from your body; And one people shall be stronger than the other; And the older shall serve the younger."  (Genesis 25:23 NASB)

Jacob went on to father the twelve tribes of Israel, but Esau became the father of the Edomites. Although in Deuteronomy 23:7 God instructed the Israelites to not abhor an Edomite who was their "brother", he warned the Edomites that if they treated the Jews badly their dealing would return home to roost (Obadiah 1:11-15). However, they ignored all warnings and often attacked the Jewish nation. Eventually the Father responded that He would 'stretch out His hand against Edom and cut off man and beast from it" and lay it waste (Ezekiel 25:13). Also see Amos 1:11.

The Messiah could not come from such a nation. In other words, God was choosing, not the salvation of the respective men, but the Messianic lineage.

Love and Hate: When in Romans 9:13, Paul quoted the prophet Malachi saying "Even as it is written, Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated", it did not mean that God felt strong dislike for or hostility toward Esau which is how we understand the word 'hate'. In ancient Israel the terms "love" was used in the sense of strong positive attachment, and "hate" in a comparative sense implying less love. This is evident in several places in the Bible. In the first example below, Jesus was not telling people to "hate" their families. but to put Him first. The point the second verse is making is that you are not doing the child any favors by being lenient.

    "If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.  (Luke 14:26 NASB)

    He who withholds his rod hates his son, But he who loves him disciplines him diligently.  (Proverbs 13:24 NASB)

In the overall context of salvation being offered to the Gentiles, Paul was simply saying that God has the right to make choices. Regardless of what the Jews thought, He could offer salvation to the Gentiles even though they were not physical descendants of Abraham, but by faith would be grafted into the tree (See Romans 11:16 on). This is summed up in verse 9:15

    For He says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom i have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion."  (Romans 9:15 NASB)

Paul then points to Pharaoh and says

    For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, "for this very purpose I raised you up, to demonstrate My power in you, and that My name might be proclaimed throughout the whole earth."  (Romans 9:17 NASB)

Many assume that Pharaoh (like the unelected), had no choice in the matter but was raised up only so God could demonstrate His power, which is wrong. God did not just wake up one fine morning and decide to make His name known through all the earth by hardening the Egyptian ruler and showing him who was boss. There are two points to be made here

    1) Why in the world would God need to harden Pharaoh's heart if he was already totally depraved? Surely there can not be degrees of Total Depravity?

    2) The account in Exodus says that Pharaoh hardened his own heart five times (Exodus 7:13, 7:22, 8:15, 8:19, 8:32 and 9:7) before God got fed up and decided to not give him any more opportunities to do the right thing. After Pharaoh's persistent and stubborn refusal to listen, the Scriptures tell us that God hardened Pharaoh's heart (Exodus 9:12, 9:34-35; 10:1, 10:20, 10:27; 11:10 and 14:8).

All of which makes it very clear that that the Pharaoh had a hand in his own doom. God knew from the beginning of time, exactly how bull headed the Egyptian ruler was going to be and used the man's stubbornness to demonstrate His own power.  However, God did not act on his foreknowledge, but waited until the Egyptian did what God already knew he would do.

One of these days it will be too late for those who, like the Pharaoh, have dug their heels in and refused to turn to God. At some point in time God will abandon them to their own wishes and desires. (Romans 1:24).

Romans 9:20-25
Paul goes on to ask (All Emphasis Added)

    On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, "Why did you make me like this," will it?  (21) Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use?  (22) What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared (Gk. katartizo) for destruction?  (23) And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared (Gk. proetoimazo) beforehand for glory,  (24) even us, whom He also called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles.  (25) As He says also in Hosea, "I will call those who were not my people, 'my people,' and her who was not beloved, 'beloved.'

In these verses Paul is still talking about the Jewish controversy swirling around the fact that God has saved believing Gentiles and rejecting unbelieving Jews (Acts 28:26-29). He emphasizes that God has been extremely patient with those who were "vessels of wrath" prepared for destruction (9:22).

Calvin comment on verse 22 showed that he believed God hardened people (the unelected) thus preparing then for destruction. (Emphasis Added)

    it is not without cause the vessels of wrath are said to be fitted for destruction, and that God is said to have prepared the vessels of mercy, because in this way the praise of salvation is claimed for God, whereas the blame of perdition is thrown upon those who of their own accord bring it upon themselves. But were I to concede that by the different forms of expression Paul softens the harshness of the former clause, it by no means follows, that he transfers the preparation for destruction to any other cause than the secret counsel of God. This, indeed, is asserted in the preceding context, where God is said to have raised up Pharaoh, and to harden whom he will. [01]

 The word 'prepared', used once each in verses 22 and 23 was translated from the Greek Katartizo. However, it can also be used as an adjective which would mean that these people were fit to be destroyed, or perfect/suitable for destruction. Vincent Word Studies says the katartizo is a participle denoting a present state previously formed, but giving no hint of how it has been formed... an agency of some kind must be assumed. In other words they were 'perfect for destruction', but we are not told here how they got to that state. The fact that God endured them "with much patience" implies that they themselves were responsible.

However, God's involvement is clear in the next verse (23) ... "And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared (Gk. proetoimazo) beforehand for glory.

However, the preparation here (proetoimazo) is related to being prepared for glory, not being pre-ordained to salvation. In other words, God foreknew who would believe and then predetermined that they would "be conformed to the image of his Son". (Romans 8:29). As 1 Corinthians 15:52 says

    in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.

In summary, the overall message of Romans 9 is that Gentiles could be saved along with believing Jews and that no man could argue with this as it was the Potter's privilege to do as He wished with the clay. The Jews failed to attain salvation because they tried to achieve it by works, not faith. It was their disbelief that they could be saved by the Messiah, that proved to be their stumbling block

    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, (Romans 9:31-32 NASB)

Also note, the fact that the Jews were seeking salvation, regardless of how they thought they would obtain it, directly contradicts Calvinism’s doctrine of Total Depravity. Apparently un-regenerated men can attempt to find God and save their souls.

Romans 11:2-7
In the 11th chapter of Romans Paul refers to an event in Elijah's life

    (2) God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew (Gk. Proginosko). Or do you not know what the Scripture says in the passage about Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel?  (3)  "Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have torn down Your altars, and I alone am left, and they are seeking my life."  (4)  but what is the divine response to him? "i have kept for Myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to baal."  (5)  In the same way then, there has also come to be at the present time a remnant according to God's gracious choice.  

The Calvinist claims that Paul was saying that what was true in Elijah's day was also true in his day, i.e. when God saved for Himself a certain number of people in Israel in Elijah's day, He was also sovereignly saving some people for Himself in Paul's time. However, this does not hold water if you carefully read what Elijah said to God and the Father told the prophet.

If you step back in time to the book of Kings you will see a very discouraged and distressed Elijah running away from Jezebel who wanted him dead (Ch. 19). God sent the prophet to Mt. Horeb from where he told God...

    "I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the sons of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars and killed Your prophets with the sword. And I alone am left; and they seek my life, to take it away."  (1 Kings 19:14 NASB)

In answer to this God told Elijah

    (15) ... "Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus, and when you have arrived, you shall anoint Hazael king over Aram; (16) and Jehu the son of Nimshi you shall anoint king over Israel; and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah you shall anoint as prophet in your place. (17) "It shall come about, the one who escapes from the sword of Hazael, Jehu shall put to death, and the one who escapes from the sword of Jehu, Elisha shall put to death. (18) "Yet I will leave (Heb. shaar) 7,000 in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal and every mouth that has not kissed him."

The prophet was mistaken in supposing that he was the only loyal one left... there were seven thousand more that had not bowed the knee to Baal. All the others would be put to death by one of the three men - Hazael, Jehu and Elisha. The only ones God left alive and whom God kept for Himself would be the 7,000 in Israel, who had saved themselves by staying faithful.

Similarly, in Paul's time there were still a remnant of Jews who had not rejected God. Their faith was counted for righteousness (Romans 4:1-17).

Also See Romans 11:17-24 in Perseverance of the Saints. According to Calvinism, God chose everyone who was going to get saved long before man was even created. In Romans Paul speaks of the chosen of Israel. However, he also makes reference to the "rest" of Israel that still have the opportunity to come to faith in Christ.

The Gospel of John
John 6
Several verses in the sixth chapter of the Gospel of John are often used as proof-texts for Unconditional Election sbecause they seem to state that God sovereignly chooses who will come to Jesus. But do they?

    "All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.  "For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. "This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. (Emphasis Added) (John 6:37-39).

    No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day (John 6:44).

    And He said, "Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father" (John 6:65).

John 6:44
"No one can come to me unless the Father draws him"? See John 6:44 in Part 2A- Total Inability

    John 6:65
    And He said, "Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted (Gk. didőmi) to him by My Father" (John 6:65).

So how is it determined who the Father "gives" to Jesus. The Gospel of Matthew provides a lot of insight into the subject telling us how we receive and respond to God's word is important. In Matthew 13, Jesus uses the same Greek word telling the disciples that God had granted them the ability to know the mysteries of the kingdom, but the same ability had not been granted to many of those who heard Him.

And this was not an arbitrary decision made by God. Jesus clearly stated that if His listeners had some light to begin with they would understand. However, all of Jesus' parables would not penetrate the hard exterior of those who did not have an iota of light and grace to begin with and had closed their eyes and ears to the truth.

    "He who has ears, let him hear." And the disciples came and said to Him, "Why do You speak to them in parables?" Jesus answered them, "To you it has been granted (Gk. didőmi) to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted (Gk. didőmi). "For whoever has, to him more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him. 

    "Therefore I speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. "In their case the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled, which says, 'you will keep on hearing, but will not understand; you will keep on seeing, but will not perceive;  for the heart of this people has become dull, with their ears they scarcely hear, and they have closed their eyes, otherwise they would see with their eyes, hear with their ears, and understand with their heart and return, and i would heal them.' "But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear. (Matthew 13:5-16 NASB)

The same sun that softens the wax hardens the clay which means that the very same gospel message would soften the hearts of those open to Him, but harden the hearts of those who were not. The spiritually sensitive (for want of a better term)  would understand, but the hardened whose hearts were dull and eyes were closed, would merely hear a story.

The Second Epistle to Timothy
2 Timothy 2:24-26 - God "Grants" Repentance

    The Lord's bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant (Gk. didőmi) them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.

Taken in isolation, the verse above certainly indicates that repentance is not something the sinner can initiate, but is sovereignly given or granted by God. However, note two other verses that use the same Greek word in speaking of God giving or granting repentance to both the Jews and the Gentiles 

    He is the one whom God exalted to His right hand as a Prince and a Savior, to grant (Gk. didőmi) repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. (Acts 5:31 NASB)

    When they heard this, they quieted down and glorified God, saying, "Well then, God has granted (Gk. didőmi) to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to life." (Acts 11:18 NASB)

So are we to believe that not only every single Israelite, but every single Gentile was granted His Irresistible Grace and was saved. If this is the case, we can pack in all evangelizing and retire all missionaries. However, we know that salvation is not universal therefore God "granting repentance" does not necessarily mean that He sovereignly causes the person or people concerned to repent and believe in the Gospel.

The parable of the sower (Luke 8:5-15) clearly indicates salvation depends on the sinner's response to the gospel. If he (or she) does not pay sufficient attention and the Gospel never so much as gains a foothold, if he has a faith too shallow to successfully resist temptation, if he allows the cares and pleasures of the now to supplant the hope of the future, all is lost. However, he who not only hears the Word, but holds it fast and brings forth fruit with patience will be saved.

Thus it is extremely unlikely that Paul was telling Timothy to be gentle and kind with those that opposed him in case God had divinely ordained them to salvation. What is more likely is that Paul is emphasizing God's part in man's repentance, while stressing that man should not mess it up by being arrogant or harsh. The non believer is far more likely to be more receptive to the Gospel if they have not already been rubbed up the wrong way by a discourteous believer.

Persuasive Preaching +
Calvinist doctrine holds to the idea that God's election precedes faith. However, the Bible is clear that salvation cannot be achieved unless the person first hears the Gospel being preached. 

for "whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved." How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, "how beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things!" (Romans 10:13-15 NASB)

Paul told king Agrippa that the purpose of his mission was "to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me.' (Acts 26:18)

One Calvinist confirms that there is no salvation without the Gospel (Emphasis Added)

From our perspective there is a 50/50 chance the person we encounter may be elect, but a 100% chance that without Christ they will die in their sin. There is a 100% guarantee that if nobody shares the Gospel with them, they will not be saved (Romans 10:17).  [02]

Which, in view of the Calvinist belief of Unconditional Election, brings up a couple of questions....

    A. Did God elect only those individuals whom He knew would one day hear the good news? or

    B. Did He arrange for someone to preach the Gospel to the people He had already elected?

If either of these is the case then I have to further wonder why Paul made every possible effort to persuade his audience to believe in the Gospel, often spending days reasoning with them from the Scriptures. (Acts 17:2-4, 28:23-24, 2 Corinthians 5:11)

Calvinism renders "persuasive preaching" superfluous because what it boils down to is the elect don't need persuading and the non-elect can't be persuaded. But here is what John Piper, founder of desiringGod.org, says about this .. (Emphasis Added)

    It should be obvious from this that irresistible grace never implies that God forces us to believe against our will. That would even be a contradiction in terms. On the contrary, irresistible grace is compatible with preaching and witnessing that tries to persuade people to do what is reasonable and what will accord with their best interests.  [03]

Which leads me to a two more questions...

    1. Doesn't Irresistible mean impossible to resist? If " irresistible grace is compatible with preaching and witnessing that tries to persuade people to do what is reasonable", how does the word 'irresistible' come into it?

    2. Doesn't the word 'unconditional' in Unconditional Election mean without conditions or limitations. So why is it that as John Piper and John L. Rothra both say, even a person elected to salvation cannot be saved if he does not hear the Gospel?

Incidentally, ANY attempt to "persuade" an unbeliever to repent and come to faith in Christ conveys the impression that he can choose to do so which, if Calvinism is true, is totally misleading since the person concerned may or may not be one of those "elected" to salvation. See Chapter When The Gospel Becomes a Lie.

Paul's Other Methods
Besides persuasive preaching, Paul used a variety of methods in his effort to convince the Jews (and others) that the Gospel was the truth that they needed to accept.

Beseeching Paul beseeched people to be reconciled to God as Peter did on the day of Pentecost. If Calvinism is true, then both these pillars of the Apostolic church, were severely misleading many of their listeners.

    Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. (2 Corinthians 5:20 NASB)

    And with many other words he solemnly testified and kept on exhorting them, saying, "Be saved from this perverse generation!"  (Acts 2:40 NASB)

Praying for the Lost The tenth chapter of Romans begins with the words “Brethren, my heart's desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation”

Why would Paul pray that his fellow Jews may be saved, if every individual's salvation or damnation has already been pre-determined - his  prayer for the unsaved accomplished nothing.

Paul goes on to say his "heart's desire" is that all Israel may be saved (V.1), but the Jews have zealously attempted to establish their own righteousness, not subjecting themselves to God's true righteousness in Christ (Vs. 3-4). He then goes on to say "if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. (Vs. 9-10. Emphasis Added)

If Calvinism is true then Paul was a very confused man. His use of the word If clearly indicates that he believed salvation is dependent on a person believing and confessing that Jesus is Lord. 

But there is more. If people hear but do not heed the Gospel, the New Testament clearly show that they only have themselves to blame and their blood was on their own heads.

Acts 13:48 - Where The Bible Lays The Blame
When the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed. (Acts 13:48 NASB)

The context of this verse is that, on invitation, Paul and Barnabas preached very successfully one Saturday in the Antioch synagogue with the result that the following week "almost the whole city" gathered to hear the apostles. But this did not sit well with the Jews who seeing the multitudes of people "were filled with jealousy, and contradicted the things which were spoken by Paul, and blasphemed" (V. 45). Upon which Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, and said...

    "It was necessary that the word of God be spoken to you first; since you repudiate it and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles. (Acts 13:46 NASB)

The argument will be made that the Jews rejected what the apostles had to say because they were not among the elect that God had pre-destined to eternal life, and had no choice but to do so. However, this does not square with Paul's accusation (made with more than a hint of dry sarcasm) that they had judged themselves unworthy of eternal life'. The Jews (particularly the leaders) thought they already had the inside track to God, which is probably why they dismissed a crucified Messiah.

As Dr. Cottrell professor of Biblical Theology at Cincinnati Christian University explains (Emphasis added)

    This verse (Acts 13:46) is important because it shows that the exclusion of the Jews from the ranks of the saved was their own choice, not the result of some predestining activity of God. The Jews specifically judged themselves unworthy of eternal life... Verse 48 then describes the reaction of the Gentiles to this preaching. It was in fact just the opposite of the Jew's reaction: "And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord.” Then follow the crucial words: and as many as set themselves toward eternal life believed. How did they set themselves toward eternal life? By hearing and heeding the word of God (see Romans 10:17).

    We cannot ignore the symmetrical contrast between the reaction of the Jews in v. 46 and the reaction of the Gentiles in v. 48. Whereas the Jews rejected the gospel and judged themselves to be unworthy of eternal life (v. 46), the Gentiles received it gladly and embraced the message of eternal life (v. 48). In both cases the decision was a matter of free choice. There is no support for Calvinism in v. 48. [04]

Their Blood Was On Their Own Heads
In another later incident in Corinth, Paul reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath trying to persuade Jews that Jesus was the Christ (Acts 18:4-5) but when the Jews "resisted and blasphemed", he shook out his garments and said, "Your blood be on your own heads! I am clean. From now on I will go to the Gentiles." 

He was very clear that they were the cause of their own destruction

When the Thessalonians, convinced that Paul had brought them the word of God, responded to the gospel, they became the targets of persecution. However, they were not alone. The Lord Jesus was killed, the Christians in Judea were persecuted as was Paul and the other apostles. About those who both killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets and drove the apostles out, Paul said,

They are not pleasing to God, but hostile to all men, hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved; with the result that they always fill up the measure of their sins. But wrath has come upon them to the utmost. (1 Thessalonians 2:15-16 NASB)

Can anyone believe that the Jews had the ability to thwart God's plan by stopping some people from being saved.  And no, this 'hindering' did not happen because the people the apostles would have spoken to were not part of the elect because, as the verse goes on to say, they incurred Divine displeasure for impeding the spread of the Gospel.

Last, but certainly not least there is...

Revelation 20:11-15

    (11) Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them.  (12) And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds.  (13)  And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds.  (14) Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire.  (15) And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. (Emphasis Added)

Calvinism claims that God has already chosen those who will be saved, so what are we to make of the "according to their works" bit?  See Good Works

End Notes - Unconditional Election
[01] John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, translated by Henry Beveridge (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans), reprinted 1983, vol. III, Chapter 23. Pg. 2226. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/calvin/institutes.v.xxiv.html

[02] Dr. John L. Rothra. An Evangelistic Five Point Calvinist is Possible.

[03] John Piper. What We Believe About the Five Points of Calvinism.

[04] Dr. Cottrell. The Society of Evangelical Arminians (SEA. http://evangelicalarminians.org/acts-13-48-and-calvinism-dr-cottrell-explains/


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