Question: In the July ’05 Letters section, “TF of Ireland,” a self-proclaimed “Calvinist,” acknowledged that Tom and Dave are saved. Is it possible for someone who believes only in the soteriology of Calvin to be saved? Specifically, that God has to first change a person’s heart. Then…with the gift of grace, faith and salvation in Ephesians:2:8-9, man afterwards, by God’s decree, will come to Him (John:6:37), and fulfill God’s requirement for him to believe and repent. Again, assuming that the fruits and works that follow are genuine, could this soteriology allow for salvation, apart from attributing any part of it to man’s free will (John:1:12-13)? Can you extend a statement of being a fellow believer to TF (and other Calvinists) as he has to you?
Answer: I have been criticized for spending too much time on Calvinism, but I cannot ignore questions such as yours. Yes, there are many shades and colors of Calvinists. Like Lutherans, many but not all Calvinists (most Presbyterians) have been baptized as babies. They believe, as did many of their parents, that infant baptism saves. Calvin even declared that the children of the elect are themselves automatically among the elect—and whether one’s parents were elect or not, if one was baptized as a baby, even by an unsaved Catholic priest, that act made one a child of God. “Confirmation” only confirms this delusion. Obviously, anyone believing such a false “gospel” is not saved.
Rejection of infant baptism for salvation was one of the two charges brought by Calvin as the prosecuting attorney and for which Servetus (only one of dozens executed for alleged heresy in Geneva under Calvin) was convicted and burned at the stake. Calvin was never baptized as a believer after his separation from the Catholic Church but opposed such baptism as “heresy worthy of death.” Surely a multitude of Calvinists have been led into hell by following Calvin’s teaching that infant baptism marks one as among the “elect,” just as circumcision marked male Israelites as among God’s chosen people.
One can easily see the relationship between “infant baptism saves without believing the gospel,” later to be “confirmed,” and the teaching that the elect are regenerated by God without even knowing it and then given faith to believe the gospel as a sovereign gift in order to be saved without any act of their own will. Is this a false gospel? Of course it is! The Bible repeatedly emphasizes that salvation is for “whosoever will” (Dt. 18:19; Ezr 7:26; Mk 8:34; Lk 9:5, 24; Rv 22:17, etc.).Man must come to God of his own free will and offer himself willingly. This is stated dozens of times in the Old Testament alone (Lev:22:18, 21, 23; 23:38; Nu 15:3; 29:39; Dt 12:6, 17; 16:10; 23:23; 2 Chr:31:14; Ezr 1:4; 3:5; 7:13, 16; 8:28; Ps:119:108, etc.).
You cite Eph:2:8-9, but faith there is not the gift—salvation (the subject of the entire passage) is the gift of God. Faith is a feminine noun, while the demonstrative pronoun that (“it is” is not in the Greek) is neuter and could not refer to faith. The Greek will not permit “faith” to be the gift. Moreover, “your faith” (“according to your faith”- Mt 9:29; Rom:1:8; 1 Cor:15:17, etc.) is found 24 times; “thy faith” 11 times; and the disciples are rebuked for not having faith, etc. These are odd expressions, if faith is not one's own but only from God.
Calvinists emphasize “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me”(Jn:6:37)and “no man can come to me, except the Father…draw him” (v. 44). They forget that those given by and drawn by the Father still must come, take, eat, anddrink of the water and bread of life, which is Christ. Throughout Scripture, the emphasis is upon coming of one’s own will. In John 6, the emphasis is upon believing, coming, eating, and drinking—clearly the responsibility of the person. Yes, the Father draws and gives, but to eat and drink requires an act of one’s will—God does not force-feed anyone, but the Calvinist avoids this fact.
There is no regeneration before faith in Christ, as dozens of verses declare. Yet Calvinism says regeneration precedes faith—clearly unbiblical and irrational. The Bible states: “But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name” (Jn:20:31); “Being born again…by the word of God…and this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you” (1 Pt 1:23-25).
We are regenerated by believing in Christ. But Calvinism insists upon regeneration before one believes—a “regeneration” that gives life without believing the gospel! Are we regenerated twice? Without believing the gospel, there is no new birth, no life in Christ, so Calvinism’s “regeneration” as a prerequisite for receiving the gift of faith from God in order to believe the gospel is unquestionably heresy.
Ah, but we are “dead in trespasses and in sins,” quotes the Calvinist to justify this doctrine. Yet even A.W. Pink rejected equating spiritual death with physical death. If the spiritually dead cannot hear, understand, and believe the gospel, but first must be regenerated, then the entire Bible becomes nonsense. God’s countless appeals to mankind to repent and come to Him are a mockery if those to whom He speaks are dead and cannot hear—if they are totally depraved and cannot repent and turn to Him without the grace He withholds while blaming them for not repenting. The dozens of verses in which God commands all mankind to seek Him and in which He promises that all who seek Him with all their hearts will find Him—these become a mockery if the unsaved cannot seek God and if He only extends the grace to seek Him to an “elect.” God pleads endlessly through His prophets not only for Israel to repent but declares, “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth”(Is 45:22). Yet no one can respond to His pleas unless He regenerates them first, which He refuses to do for multitudes with whom He continues to plead—and rebukes and punishes them for not doing what they can’t do?
Calvinism makes a mockery of God’s Word. It has Joshua crying to those who can’t choose, “choose you this day whom ye will serve”; and it has Christ pleading with men, “come unto me,” while withholding the ability to come.
You counter, “But all are commanded to keep the Ten Commandments though none can, so what is the difference?” God does not cause a select group to keep the Law and leave the rest in their sin. All sin and are condemned, and all need salvation. According to Calvinism, God could save everyone if He so desired, but chooses to save only some, i.e., whoever is saved and whoever is lost is because God willed it, not because they chose. So you believe in a God who deliberately damns millions (perhaps billions) whom He could save if He so desired. This is the issue. Calvinism maligns God’s character, making Him less loving than He requires us to be!
We are clearly told that He “will have all men to be saved” (1 Tm 2:4). Of that passage, Spurgeon said, “I was reading just now the exposition of [one] who explains the text so as to explain it away [as] if it read, ‘Who will not have all men to be saved….’ [In fact,] the passage should run thus—‘whose wish it is that all men should be saved….’ As it is my wish…so it is God’s wish that all men should be saved; for, assuredly, He is not less benevolent than we are” (“Salvation by Knowing the Truth,” 16 Jan 1880).
Commenting upon 1 Timothy:4:2, John MacArthur attempts to justify Calvinism by saying (in his study Bible) that God has two wills in conflict, a will of desire, a will of decree: He wills for all to be saved but doesn’t decree it! So God frusrates His own will? Amazing!
Calvinists quote Jn:1:13: “Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” to “prove” that man’s will has no part to play in regeneration, but that God regenerates the elect, then causes them to believe. Of course, no one can give himself the new birth; but verse 12 makes it very clear that God regenerates only those who “received him [and] believe on his name.”
Search through books by today’s leading Calvinists. Old Testament examples of Christ and His sacrifice for sin are almost totally missing (in MacArthur’s The Love of God, Piper’s The Justification of God, White’s The Potter’s Freedom, etc., etc.). Why? Because these “ensamples…written for our admonition” (1 Cor:10:11)utterly refute Calvinism. All Israel were sheltered by the blood of the Passover lamb, all went through the Red Sea, all were led by the pillar of fire and cloud, all partook of the manna and of the water from the rock, etc–but all were not saved. So Paul declares that Christ “is the Savior of all men, specially of those that believe” (1 Tm 4:10).
Calvinists say “world” means “the world of the elect” in Jn:3:16. They avoid verses 14-15 with which Christ introduces the Cross: that just as the serpent was lifted up so that whosoever would look to it would be healed, so He, Christ, would be lifted up so that whosoever would believe on Him would be saved. There is no indication that the serpent (that was lifted up to bring healing to those who looked to it) was for an elect within Israel—it was for whosoever would look in faith.
Could someone who believes this false gospel of Calvinism be truly saved? Fortunately, many Calvinists (you among them) were saved before becoming Calvinists. They now malign God by saying that He is pleased to damn multitudes though He could save all—and that He predestines multitudes to the Lake of Fire before they are even born. But having believed the gospel before becoming Calvinists, they “shall not come into condemnation, but [have] passed from death unto life” (Jn:5:24). Those who only know the false gospel of Calvinism are not saved, while those who are saved and ought to know better but teach these heresies will be judged for doing so.