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  • Writer's pictureRick LoPresti

Some questions on Calvinism

Updated: Dec 26, 2023

John Calvin is commonly cited as the main proponent of the doctrine which now carries his name. It is often expressed through the acronym T.U.L.I.P.:

T stands for total depravity. This is the teaching that not only is man's nature tainted with sin,

but he is so totally depraved that he is even completely incapable of choosing to believe and repent. The Bible does teach that God initiates this process, but it does not teach that He does this independently of human will and forces it on us.

U stands for unconditional election or unconditional eternal security. The Bible does assure us that there is eternal security for believers, but it does not say that it is unconditional.

L stands for limited atonement. This says that since God preordained the eternal destiny of each individual, Jesus only died for those who God foreordained will be saved. The Bible teaches that Jesus died to give all the opportunity to be saved, but each individual must choose salvation to partake of it.

I stands for irresistible grace. This is the teaching that since God chose beforehand who will be saved, they have no choice but to receive His grace. The Bible teaches that God offers it but we choose whether or not to receive it.

P stands for perseverance of the saints or what is called "once saved always saved". This means that once a person is saved, they cannot lose salvation no matter what. The Bible teaches that there are three phases to salvation. The first is initial salvation received through faith, repentance, water baptism in the name of Jesus Christ, and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost. The second is continuing in faith through sanctification and faithfulness. The third is the final salvation which happens at death or the rapture.

This is just a brief summary of these topics. There has been much said and written about these doctrinal points, and they cannot be exhausted here. For example, you can get the book "Faith and Works" on this website.

Although this an involved topic, here are some questions for those who adhere to Calvinism to think about and assess their doctrine:

If God predetermined everything including who is saved and who is not, and it is not their choice, then why should people pray, repent, be baptized, preach, and evangelize? Calvinists say that God predetermined these actions. That leads to many other questions and does not really answer the problem.

Does predeterminism mean that God is to blame for our sins?

Does predeterminism mean that we are just robots?

Does predeterminism mean that all the verses in the Bible that speak of human choice are not true, and therefore neither is the Bible?

If predeterminism is true, then what does the phrase "made in His image" mean?

If predeterminism is true, then what is morality?

Does God predetermine individual behavior or His general plan?

Does God predetermine human behavior or incorporate it?

Why would we need forgiveness if God predetermined our behavior and there is no choice?

Is there a difference between God predetermining our behavior and Him foreseeing it?

Are there such things as atheism and reprobation?

What does the word "if" mean?

What is the meaning of truth?

Can a logical fallacy be true?

Can two contradictory statements both be true?

Can something be logically incoherent and be true?

Do there need to be preconditions of intelligibility for us to know truth?

Should we use positional tension and mystery to explain foundational Biblical doctrine about salvation?

Is the Bible meant to be understood, especially about foundational doctrine regarding salvation?

Is circular reasoning a valid approach in the pursuit of truth?

Should we test the validity of teaching by carrying out its implications to their end and by applying it practically (where the rubber meets the road)?

Should we examine our interpretation of scripture by using the context of the passage, the book of the Bible it is in, and the Bible as a whole, reconciling all the scriptures on a topic in a sound and balanced way?

Is Biblical faith more than mental assent and verbal acknowledgement?

Although these questions are targeted at Calvinism, the principles behind them should be applied to all doctrine.

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