Exposing Calvinistic Soteriology Point 1
Calvin was the theologian of the Reformers, second only to Arminius in the extent of his doctrinal influence
Calvin was the theologian of the Reformers, second only to Arminius in the extent of his doctrinal influence
Calvin was the theologian of the Reformers, second only to Arminius in the extent of his doctrinal influence upon believers today. Calvin's tenets were Bible-based, and could be classed as "far right." However, he had a tendency to extremism, and hence went too far in some areas of his theology. "Too far," whether right or left, usually results in heresy.
Conversely, Arminius, the one-time Calvinist, in his recoil from Calvin's extremes, went all the way to the left, and kept right on going over the edge into Semi-Pelagianism. In these two men we have the far right and the far left of theology among believers today.
The core of original Calvinism is seen in the following five doctrinal points, known as "TULIP"-- the tulip that never blossomed!
There are many "moderate" Calvinists today who do not adhere to some of the original extremes, such as point three. Hence there are three-point, four-point, and four-and-a-half-point Calvinists. We will simply comment on the more prevalent aspect of Calvinism, known as Covenant theology.
COVENANT CALVINISM -- We will only consider the first point of Calvinist error, Total Depravity. Calvin did not possess all-important doctrinal balance. By pushing the truth of God's sovereignty to an extreme in the realm of the new birth, he all but eliminated man's responsibility.
Calvinists define Total Depravity as "total inability." Their proof text is Ephesians 2:1, "And you hath He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins." Their illustration for total inability is a man physically dead, who cannot see, hear, feel, speak, or move. Hence he is totally unable to respond to God in any way--he cannot believe.
Calvinism's solution to their self-created problem is regeneration. It is taught that the Holy Spirit first regenerates those whom God has elected; He thereby gives them life so that they can exercise faith and live. In all of their writings it can be seen that they place regeneration before faith--one must be saved in order to be saved!
The Holy Spirit creates within the sinner a new heart or a' new nature. This is accomplished through regeneration or the new birth by which the sinner is made a child of God and is given spiritual life. His will is renewed through this process so that he spontaneously comes to Christ of his own free choice.
Because he is given a new nature so that he loves righteousness, and because his mind is enlightened so that he understands and believes the Gospel, the renewed sinner freely and willingly turns to Christ by the inward supernatural call of the Spirit, who through regeneration makes him alive and creates within him faith and repentance.
How simple is the refutation of this scholarly error: The corpse is not the man! Death is always separation, not obliteration. Paul wrote to Timothy, "But she that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth" (1 Tim. 5:6). James stated, "Of His own will begat He us with the Word of truth" (James 1: 18). The Lord Jesus said, "The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God; and they that hear shall live" (John 5:25).
"Being born again (regenerated), not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible seed, by the Word of God, which liveth and abideth forever" (1 Pet. 1:23). The new birth is "by the Word of God." That it is a sovereign act of God, by His Spirit, none can question. But this verse forbids us to separate, as has sometimes been done, new birth from faith in the Gospel.
It is often taught that new birth precedes faith; but here we are told that the Word of God is the instrument in the new birth. "Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God"; "the Word which by the Gospel is preached." John 3:3 and 3:16 must ever go together. There is no such anomaly possible as a man born again, but who has not yet believed the Gospel.
COVENANTISM -- Without benefit of Scripture, Calvinism is based upon a single "covenant of grace," whereby all of Israel's covenants are "spiritualized," thereby making the Church to be spiritual Israel: "the continuing covenanted community." As Martyn Lloyd-Jones put it, "Paul is asserting that the Church is now the Kingdom, that what the Jewish nation was in the OT the Church is now." (The Unsearchable Riches of Christ, p. 48)
VICARIOUS LAW-KEEPING -- Calvinist teaching concerning salvation is that Christ gained eternal life for the elect by keeping the Law on their behalf ("active obedience"), and, in dying ("passive obedience"), He paid the penalty of the broken Law. The heart of all Calvinism is the Law! Remove their doctrine from that center and there is total collapse.
Dr. Wm. R. Newell refutes this "vicarious" error as follows: "Christ is the end of the Law for righteousness to everyone that believeth" (Rom. 10: 4). The words "Christ is the end of the Law" cannot mean that He is the fulfillment of what the Law required. The Law required obedience to its precepts--death for disobedience. Now Christ died for our disobedience!
If it be answered, that before He died He fulfilled the claims of the Law, kept it perfectly, and that this law-keeping of His was reckoned as over against our breaking of the Law, then I ask, Why should Christ die? If the claims of the Law were met in His earthly obedience, and if that earthly life of earthly obedience was "reckoned" or "credited" to those who believe, the curse of the Law has been removed by "vicarious law-keeping." If so, why should Christ die? "For if righteousness come by the Law, then Christ is dead in vain" (Gal. 2:21).
It is because Covenant theology has kept us Gentiles under the Law--if not as a means of righteousness, then as a "rule of life,"--that all the trouble has arisen. The Law.; is no more a rule of life than it is a means of righteousness. Walking in the Spirit has now, in this dispensation of Grace, taken the place of walking in ordinances. The Father has another principle under which He has placed His saints: "ye are not under law, but under grace"! (Romans, Verse by Verse, p. 391)
WILDERNESS WANDERING -- Calvinism will go as far as the Cross for salvation, but then it turns back to the OT and the Synoptics, in order to have a rule for the Christian life. Like the Israelites whom it seeks to spiritually emulate, it fears the freedom of Canaan, only to turn back into the wilderness struggle. It is Romans Seven all the way for the Calvinist. Arminianism at least goes as far as Pentecost, only to turn back to its pre-Cross "Jesus."
The disqualification of Calvinism is in its failure to "rightly divide" between Israel and the Church, Law and Grace--it considers the Body of Christ to be "spiritual Israel." As John Stott put it, "Although Jesus was greater than Moses and although His message was more Gospel than Law, yet he did choose twelve apostles as the nucleus of a new Israel to correspond to the twelve patriarchs and tribes of old." (Christian Counter-Culture -- The Message of the Sermon on the Mount -- Inter Varsity Press)
In his Systematic Theology VII:211, Dr. Chafer struck down that error:"It should be made emphatic that to observe distinction between Judaism and Christianity is the beginning of wisdom in understanding the Bible. Theologians of past generations have made no greater mistake than to suppose, despite all the scriptural evidence to the contrary, that Judaism and Christianity are one and the same, or as some have put it, "One is the bud and the other is the blossom." Judaism has not merged into Christianity. This is a colossal error of Covenant theology perpetuated to the present day.
ECCENTRIC EXEGESIS -- Calvinism insists that Jesus taught the spiritual aspects of the Mosaic Law in the Sermon on the Mount, and that He instructed His disciples in that law. That is true. Since the disciples were saved, their reasoning goes, the Church is therefore subject to the law-teachings of the Sermon. That is untrue!
At that time, in that dispensation, the disciples were not Christians. There was no such thing as a Christian until the day of Pentecost. These believing disciples were Messianic Jews, "saved" unto the earthly kingdom. Their Messiah-King was instructing them concerning the laws of that coming millennial, theocratic kingdom.
No Christian ever was, ever is, nor ever will be under law, whether Mosaic, Sermonic, or Millennial! Arminianism and Calvinism may put the Christian under law, the believer may put himself under law as his rule of life, but the Lord Jesus never did, Paul never did, and the Holy Spirit never will!
Rather than put the believer under law, the Spirit places him into death via the Cross, and thereby positions him above the law and into the freedom of the life of the glorified Lord Jesus Christ. "Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be joined to another, even to Him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God." "Now we are delivered from the law, having died to that wherein we Were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter [law]" (Rom. 7:4,6).
LIFE, NOT LAW! -- Within the believer the Holy Spirit applies "the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus"; not the law of condemnation and death (Rom. 8:2; 2 Cor. 3:6-9). The Spirit of Christ does not write any law upon the heart of any Christian--He ministers life, "that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh" (2 Cor. 4:11).
The kingdom law will be written on the heart of the redeemed Jew in the millennial kingdom, but now it is "Christ in you" (Col. 1:27). The Christian is not under law, nor is he under promise; he has the effect of the accomplished fact: "for to me to live is Christ" (Phil. 1:21).
The believer, dead to the law and alive to God in Christ risen, looks upon his Lord, not Israel's law. Christians, "with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord," not "even as by the law of the Lord" (2 Cor. 3:18).
Just as the Ten commandments were the declaration of the mind of God under the dispensation of the law; so now the Church is the engraving of Christ, "written, not in tables of stone, but in fleshly tables of the heart," to show forth the virtues of Him "who hath called us out of darkness into His marvelous light."
Law demands everything, but gives and changes nothing--it is meant to condemn. We may even turn the Lord Jesus into that letter of condemnation; we may take His life, for instance, and make it our law. We may say, "He has loved me, and done all this for me, and I ought to love Him, and do so much for Him, in return for His love, etc." Thus if we turn His love into our rule of life, it becomes the ministration of death; for the only thing a rule can do is condemn. Christianity is a nature, not a regulation.
LAW-BOUND -- The entire realm of the believer's identification with the Lord Jesus in His death and ascension is not only misunderstood, but usually avoided by Calvinism. Although Paul explicitly wrote that "sin shall not have dominion over you, for ye are not under law but under grace" (Rom. 6:1-4), Calvinism insists that the Spirit will enable the believer to live by the principle of law.
Paul pleads especially with these Calvinists: "Know ye not, brethren (for I speak to them that know the law), how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth?" (Rom. 7:1). They fail to understand the believer's death to the law. Beyond justification they lose their doctrinal footing and slip back to the ground of death (law), failing to move forward onto the ground of growth (Christ, our life).
It is a new heart-righteousness which the prophets foresaw as one of the blessings of the Messianic age. "I will put my law within them, and I will write it upon their hearts," God promised through Jeremiah (31:33). How would He do it? He told Ezekiel: "I will put My Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in My statutes" (36:27).
Thus God's promises to put His law within us and to put His Spirit within us coincide. We must not imagine (as some do today) that when we have the Spirit we can dispense with the law, for what the Spirit does in our hearts is, precisely, to write God's law there.
It was not only to Timothy that Paul wrote, "Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of truth" (2 Tim. 2:15). Neither Jeremiah nor Ezekiel nor anyone else from Adam on down ever dreamed of such a thing as the Church, to say nothing of a Christian! That wondrous truth was God's hidden mystery, until Paul. We share Merrill Unger's thought:
The Church is said to be a "mystery" (Eph. 3:3), "the mystery of Christ" (Eph. 3:4). It was foretold, but not explained, by the Saviour (Matt. 16:18). was a truth unknown and unrevealed to anyone in OT times (Eph. 3:5), indeed a revelation and purpose "hid in God" throughout the ages (Eph. 3:9), first realized historically at Pentecost, and first revealed doctrinally to the Apostle Paul (Eph. 3:3-7). (The Baptizing Work of the Holy Spirit , p. 29)
Actually, God said through Jeremiah, "This shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel: I will put My law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be My people" (Jer. 31:33). And through Ezekiel He promised to His nation, Israel, "Ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be My people, and I will be your God" (Ezek. 36:28).
Dr. Chafer sets the record straight concerning Israel's kingdom: There is a dangerous and entirely baseless sentiment abroad which assumes that every teaching of Jesus must be binding during this dispensation simply because He said it. The fact is overlooked that the Lord Jesus, while living under, keeping, and applying the Law of Moses, also taught the principles of His future kingdom, and, at the end of His ministry and in relation to His Cross, He also anticipated the teachings of grace. If this threefold division of the teachings of Christ is not recognized, there can be nothing but confusion of mind and consequent contradiction of truth.
The teachings of the kingdom (as centered in the Sermon on the Mount) have not yet been applied to any man. Since they anticipate the binding of Satan, a purified earth, the restoration of Israel, and the personal reign of the King, they cannot be applied until God's appointed time when these accompanying conditions on the earth have been brought to pass.
The kingdom laws will be addressed to Israel and, beyond them, to all nations which will enter the millennial kingdom. It will be the first and only universal reign of righteousness and peace in the history of the world. One nation was in view when the Law of Moses was in force on the earth; the individual is in view during this dispensation of grace. The whole social order of mankind will be in view when the kingdom is set up on earth.
The teachings of grace are perfect and sufficient in themselves. They provide for the instruction of the child of God in every situation which may arise. There is no need that they be supplemented, or augmented, by the addition of precepts from either the Law of Moses or the teachings of the kingdom. Law cannot give life, nor have, therefore, any control over it. (Systematic Theology IV:207)
John Darby was clear on the all-important differentiation:I learn in the law that God abhors stealing, but it is not because under the law that I do not steal. All the Word of God is mine, and written for my instruction; yet for all that I am not under law. I am a Christian who has died with Christ on the Cross, and am not in the flesh, to which the law applied. I have died to the law by the body of Christ (Rom. 7:4).
We are not seeking to take away, nor negate any portion of the blessed Word of God. "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness" (2 Tim. 3:16). It is simply that the law as a rule of life for the believer obliterates the realization of identification with, and liberty in, the glorified Lord Jesus Christ.
BEWARE! -- Listed here are some of the better-known anti-dispensational, pro-law Calvinist authors whose theology has permeated the thinking of vast numbers of fundamental and dispensational believers today:Adams, J. Edwards, J. Mauro, P. Steele, G. Allis, O. Fletcher, J. Morris, L. Stonehouse, N. Bass, C. Fuller, D. Murray, G. Stott, J. Baxter, R.Gerstner, J. Murray, J. Thomas, C. Berkof, L. Gill, J. Nicole, R. VanTil, C. Berkouwer, G. Goodwin, T. Owen, J. Van Til, H. Boettner, L. Haldane, R. Packer, J. Vos, G. Boice, J. Hamilton, F. Payne, H. Warfield, B. Bonar, A. Hodge, A. Pink, A. Watson, R. Boston, T. Hodge, C. Romaine, Wm. Watson, T. Brown, D. Kromminga, D. Ryle, J. Wyngaarden, M. Bunyan, J. Kuiper, H. Schaeffer, F. Conn, H. Kuyper, A. Shedd, Wm. Cox, Wm. Lloyd-Jones, M. Smeaton, G.
STATEMENT -- Calvinism emerged from the dark ages, but is still in the twilight--half in the darkness and death of the law, half in the light and life of the Saviour. It has a fleshly affinity for fetters, hence it is the life of the 'hang-dog' heart, the wretchedness of Romans Seven . MJS