Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Analysis of "Calvinist" Verses - A Letter to Makenna

Makenna and I have been having something of a friendly debate on Calvinism. This is my latest email to her. It is very long and complicated, because I did a great deal of research for it. It took me several days and months of research to put together.

Hey Makenna,

Glad you sent a long response, actually... it's a deep topic! In this email I will be picking apart what you've said, but please note I'm trying to do it as nicely as possible, I don't want to sound offensive in any way. I will use the term "Calvinist" a lot, almost as a derogatory term, but I know your beliefs differ from traditional Calvinism, so I am not in any way pointing fingers at you! I just disagree with Calvinist philosophy.

On the predestination/evangelism thing, I did very much disagree with the article there. I really have to apologize for that, because it was a low blow by the article writer and I thought that maybe I should have warned you about that. Please know that I was not aiming that part of the article at you! Actually I have personally seen some great evangelism efforts by the predestination camp, including you, the first teen I've ever run into to have a genuine interest in evangelism! And I agree about the false converts thanks to the sinner's prayer. I myself was one for a long time.

The colleague the man talks about believes in fatalism, the belief that mankind is fated to do whatever is planned for them (which could definitely lead to that kind of attitude), and the "sixes go to Hell sevens go to Heaven" thing referred to double predestination. I know you don't believe in either, and again, those parts of the article had nothing to do with your beliefs.

The part that really excited me about the article was the part about Pharaoh and why his heart is hardened. See, the thing the article says is that the Egyptians believed that the hardening of the heart brings salvation. So Pharaoh intentionally hardened his heart against the Israelite's distress and especially against their God. (I believe he does it eight total times in Exodus before God does it.) He thought that it would bring salvation for himself, but it actually brought him to ruin.

You know how every plague was a direct attack on an Egyptian god? The plague of darkness, for instance, was against the Egyptian sun god (Ra, I think), etc. Well, the hardening-of-the-heart thing seems to be a direct attack on the Egyptian means of salvation. So it may not necessarily be "salvation procedure as normal". And if it is normal for God to harden hearts in the salvation process, then that's double predestination. Besides, if you read Exodus, you'll notice that Pharaoh got plenty of chances before God hardened him!

I think most of the verses you mentioned are misunderstandings or mistranslations. Keep in mind that there are a number of ways verses can be translated, and the biases of the translators come into play. Look at all the different translations of Ephesians 1:5.
John Calvin formulated the doctrines of Calvinism upon verses from a Latin version of the Bible. Latin is a root language that was the basis for English, meaning the Latin and English versions of the Bible will have many similarities. When a lot of Greek words are translated to Latin, they take on their literal meaning, not their Grecian meaning. We use a lot of words in English that have a literal meaning that is different from what they mean in certain contexts. That is why for complicated theological issues it is good to look at the Greek.

As for Romans 9, I did some study on it and I don't actually think it's about salvation at all. Take a look at these videos. It's a rather long series, but definitely a hundred percent worth watching. The guy does take God's name in vain a couple times, which was totally wrong, but the material he presents is excellent. This is absolutely a must-watch and crucial for understanding Romans 9.
Part 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w1VPDhgIw24
Part 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IWTniSfNrKY
Part 3: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aQ9FQv2Xv3g
Part 4: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RRCTL_GPXuU
Part 5: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X9po3rHxzlU
Part 6: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WaktlTz6Qfg
I do have a question, I would just like to know how you believe predestination and free will work together? I mean, I understand that we're never going to be able to comprehend some of the things of God, but I do know well that that's not an excuse to deem something impossible to understand and stop trying. I think that human beings can understand the concept of election and the concept of free will, and can understand that they're contradictory. God is not a god of disorder or of confusion, and He does not deny or contradict Himself (2 Timothy 2:13).

As on the total depravity point, do you believe that man is totally depraved in the sense that he cannot do perfect good all his life, or that he will not? In the sense that his evil overrules all the good he does, or in the sense that he cannot do anything good, period?

Good catch on Ephesians 1:5, I thought something was off but I just assumed the guy was using a different translation. However, I think the key here lies in context and maybe in the phrase "in Him". Who is Him? My first thought was that it would be Jesus, but I looked at the context and it probably means God the Father. "He chose us in Him." What does "chose us in Him" mean? I think it can mean God ordained every single specific believer, or just the group of believers, not necessarily a set group.

Now, how can one be "in God"? If someone's sin is not cleansed, then they are not "in God", right? They can't be! So "us in Him" must mean believers, Christians, Christ-imitators.

Context tells me it probably takes the second meaning. Notice verses 13-14. "And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession—to the praise of His glory."

"You also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation."

So, the specific believers Paul refers to actually became included in the group of believers when they heard the word of truth. Context defines the meaning of this passage to be the second meaning.

See, like in the document you sent me said, the Calvinists read Ephesians 1:4 like this:
He chose us...
in Him...
before the creation of the world...
They end up with "in Him" sort of tacked on there, not doing or meaning anything really. Also, they forget that believers were not just chosen, they were chosen for something particular. How I read it:
He chose...
us in Him...
before the creation of the world...
to be holy and blameless in His sight...

I think it makes more sense (without having the "in Him" dangling all by itself). And it doesn't refer to unconditional election at all!
And, of course, the meaning of "us" in Ephesians 1:4 will be carried to Ephesians 1:5.
John 15:16: "You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name."
Some say Jesus was referring to his disciples here, but only eleven of them. Judas left the room two chapters ago. Judas was not appointed to bear fruit, he had a different purpose, I say that the Father foreknew. By the way, Judas' betrayal of Jesus is a total theological headache we could also explore.

However, based on the context I think that maybe Jesus was referring to all true believers. But even in this case it does not support Calvinism. Look at the context of John 15. The whole thing talks about how we are supposed to remain in Christ and then He will remain in us. It also says that the Father cuts off every branch in Christ that does not bear fruit. This is directly against "once saved always saved" (Calvinists call it "perseverance of the saints") and thus refutes the idea of election. For election to be true, Christians cannot fall away, otherwise God's "purpose in election" would not stand, to quote a Calvinist misinterpretation of Romans 9.

I would say that of course it is true that Christ chose us and we did not choose Him! Christ chose, of His own will, not man's, to come and save us, and He calls us and appoints us. God, in His sovereignty, however, allows us to say yes or no to the calling, and so either become or refuse to become the chosen believers. I would say this is the same case as Ephesians 1:4: God chose those who believe for specific purposes and tasks.

Also see 1 Peter 1:1-2.
1Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,
To God's elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, 2who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood:
Grace and peace be yours in abundance.
(Oh, if you're using an older version of the NASB to look this verse up, see this link: http://www.christianmonthlystandard.com/index.php/1-peter-11-2-and-the-nasb/)

At the very least this verse does away with unconditional election! We're chosen according to God's foreknowledge. That does not mean unconditional election, it very clearly means conditional election! If you haven't already, have a look at "Chosen Does Not Mean Calvin" on my blog. It goes over one of Jesus' parables and how He chooses people.

1 Peter 1:1-2 uses the same sort of language Ephesians 1 does. These verses can mean one of two things:
1. God elects specific people for the graces and duties of believers based on His foreknowledge of their accepting Christ's gift. (The Arminian view.)
2. God elects the group of believers for the graces and duties of believers based on His foreknowledge of their accepting Christ's gift. (More of the view I take.)
But both essentially arrive at the same destination. The believers are the elect, and they are chosen conditionally. This is my view. Now, notice that God is outside of time, but He is still able to work chronologically. I suppose in a way He is in 1995 and 100 B.C. right now just as much as He is in 2009 - because He's not limited to chronological order. When He does something, it does not have to be limited to a particular time frame, right? So if He chooses someone in 1995, He chose them just as much in 100 B.C. as He did in 1995. I think it probably means something like that.

Now, moving on to the next verse...
Acts 13:48: "When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed."
Our modern use of these word "appointed" assumes that an outside force did the appointing. However, the Greek word, τεταγμένοι (tetagmenoi), in context, can also mean that they appointed themselves to eternal life. Again, the biases of the translators are present.

When Paul uses a word from the same Greek root, τεταγμέναι (tetagmenai, a different form of tetagmenoi), elsewhere, he adds stuff to clarify who has done the appointing.
Romans 13:1: ...the authorities that exist are appointed by God. (tetagmenai + by God)
Why does Luke add "who were appointed for eternal life"? So he'll be clear that all the Gentiles did not believe!
If you look at the uses of ὅσοι (osoi), the word for "all" in Acts 13:48, you'll notice that it's usually coupled with something else to clarify that all does not actually mean everyone.

Next verse.
Matthew 13:10-15: "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 to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted. "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.
First, this does not allude to Calvinism. There are people living in the 10/40 window who have not been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven because they've never heard the Gospel.

Notice Jesus' allusion here to another parable of His, the parable of the servants who were given talents according to their ability. (Matthew 25:14-30.) In this parable, the servants were given the money at the beginning and could use their free will to do something with it. Some of them decided to gain more money for their master with the money they were given, but one of them simply hid his money and did nothing with it. So his master took the little that he had. To the ones who had gained more money, the master gave more.

There's a similarity to what's happening in Matthew 13:10-15. The way I see it, everyone has been given a small knowledge of God, and they can grow that knowledge, or they can just bury it and do nothing with it. To those who do the former, they will be given more. That's what happened to the disciples, for instance. To those who do the latter, even the knowledge they have is taken from them. That's what happened to the people prophesied about by Isaiah. At least, that's what Jesus seems to be saying.

Isaiah 6 is the passage that Jesus refers to, and it is one of the most confusing passages in the entire Bible to me. Why God would have Isaiah tell a people to be confused and not understand, I don't know. But I do know the Septuagint text (the first Greek translation of the Hebrew) was translated like this instead:
'You will be ever hearing, but never understanding; / you will be ever seeing, but never perceiving.' / 10 This people's heart has become calloused; / they hardly hear with their ears, / and they have closed their eyes
I wonder if that might be the correct translation. The Septaugint translators were Jews who of course were familiar with the Hebrew words and what they meant in certain contexts. In Hebrew, what we translate just "hear" (shama') could well mean "you will hear". I think I need to find a Hebrew expert on that one.

If you have any insight on Isaiah 6, please do let me know.

On whom Christ died for, Dr. Paul Rieter has analyzed the scriptures and concluded that Christ died:
1. For all (1 Tim. 2:6; Isa. 53:6).
2. For every man (Heb. 2:9).
3. For the world (John 3:16).
4. For the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2).
5. For the ungodly (Rom. 5:6).
6. For false teachers (2 Peter 2:1).
7. For many (Matt. 20:28).
8. For Israel (John 11:50–51).
9. For the Church (Eph. 5:25).
10. For "me" (Gal. 2:20).
I checked the contexts on all of these and I think they're pretty much correct. Romans 5:6 I think he took out of context. Not sure about 2 Peter 2:1 either. The rest remain to deal with, though. It sure seems like Christ died for the sins of a lot more people than the Calvinists say He did.
Mark 13:20: "If the Lord had not cut short those days, no one would survive. But for the sake of the elect, whom He has chosen, He has shortened them."
"Elect" here is the Greek word "eklektos", and it doesn't necessarily mean "chosen". I don't know as much about this as this guy, Jacques More, who has put together an excellent short video:


The literal meaning of "eklektos" is "chosen". However, it can take on other meanings. Check out the video!

One warning on the video, though. At the end he writes, "so you think you're chosen?". Please don't take offense, I can definitely see where you're coming from with the whole election thing, and I am not about to lob a comment like that at you!
Luke 24:44-45: "He said to them, "This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about Me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms." Then He opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures."
My question here is this: who closed their minds? Did God close their minds? Did they close their minds? Or did Satan close their minds? And did He open their minds supernaturally, or did He explain things to them, or both? This verse could have a variety of meanings.
Jude 1:1: "Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James, to those who have been called, who are loved by God the Father and kept by Jesus Christ."
I agree that people are called, and they can accept or reject that call. Of course, God the Father loves the believers, and in a special way too, because we are sinless to Him through Christ. And yes, Christ will keep us. We remain in Him and He remains in us, as I quoted from John earlier. Now, check out Acts 7:51.
"You stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are just like your fathers: You always resist the Holy Spirit!
If people can reject the Holy Spirit, then that's not irresistible grace as the Calvinists define it. The Reformers knew that the Holy Spirit could be resisted as this verse says, so they differentiate between "inward" and "outward" calls. The "inward" calls appeal to salvation in irresistible grace and are always accepted, the "outward" calls appeal to salvation and leave man to choose to accept or reject them, and they are always rejected. So the Reformers say. However, the inward/outward call business is a rather large concept, and it is found nowhere in the Bible. You know how sometimes when you lie you have to cover it up with another lie? I'm not saying that the Reformers/Calvinists meant to be liars or anything (I know many of them genuinely believe in the Calvinist doctrines!), but this seems to me like one of those cases. The Reformers went after the irresistible grace doctrine, and to keep that doctrine, they had to make up the inward/outward call thing.

One more thing, it's not just God and man in this universe. There is also Satan, demons and angels, which are usually forgotten by the Calvinist/Reformed doctrine. Look at this parable from Jesus. I absolutely love Jesus' parables, because they just totally help clarify stuff about salvation.
Matthew 13: 1That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. 2Such large crowds gathered around Him that He got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. 3Then He told them many things in parables, saying: "A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. 8Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. 9He who has ears, let him hear."
Then the disciples ask why Jesus speaks in parables, and He says it is because they fulfill the prophesy in Isaiah 6 that the people's understandings are darkened. So He uses parables to get through to them. Then He explains His parable further:
18"Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: 19When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the seed sown along the path. 20The one who received the seed that fell on rocky places is the man who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. 21But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away. 22The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful. 23But the one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it. He produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown."
Notice that when anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one (Satan) comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. So if someone does not understand the gospel, it is because Satan is messing up his heart, snatching away the truth.

The second type of person, the seed that fell on rocky places, heard the word and received it with joy. This pretty much means that he is saved! But he had no root, so he lasts only a short time, and falls away. I'm not sure what the root represents here, maybe a strong foundation in Christ? A rock? But it seems to me that if someone hears the message of the kingdom of heaven and receives it with joy, they come into Christ, but then they fall away. I might be misunderstanding this here, but it seems to me that this speaks against once-saved-always-saved - you can accept salvation and then reject it again. And if once-saved-always-saved is not true, then election is not either.

Also, here's another question: how were people saved in the Old Testament? The Holy Spirit had not yet come, so if the Calvinists are correct, since the Holy Spirit was not there to work with irresistible grace, then Old Testament people could not inherit eternal life. However, we know that this is not true. Abraham is recorded by the Bible as being in Heaven!

In Galatians 3, we're told that Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness. Essentially he was saved the same way we are. It is up to the Calvinist to show that not only can there be predestination in the New Testament (the Greek all too easily translates that way) but that there can be predestination in the Old Testament. And the Old Testament is very Jewish. The Jews were definitely a free will kind of people! People forget that Christianity is actually an extension of Judaism. In the early church Christianity was viewed as a sect of Judaism, as opposed to a separate religion. The Old Testament does not just get thrown out because we have the New Testament now! I'll quote Mark Cahill: "Don't be what I call a New Testament Christian. If Deuteronomy was good enough for Jesus, it should be good enough for us too."

The stuff we have in the New Testament must line up with the Old Testament. Obviously some OT stuff has been nullified and is outdated and such, but not all of it. They still must be united, and you can't do that so much with the doctrine of Calvinism, it doesn't fit the OT (which, by the way, was originally Hebrew, not Greek, and translates with a different effect).

There's also real-life evidence against election. This is dynamite stuff:
John 12:39-40: "For this reason they could not believe, because, as Isaiah says elsewhere:
When dealing with complicated passages, it's Greek, Greek, Greek! The Greek word translated "could" is δύναμαι (dunamai), coupled with a negative, οὐ (ou). Dunamai means "Of uncertain affinity; to be able or possible -- be able, can (do, + -not), could, may, might, be possible, be of power." So dunamai ou is literally translated "could not". But I believe the Greek has a figurative meaning, too. There are several uses of the word dunamai in different forms in the Bible. Take a look at them.

Most notable for my point is this page:

Notice these two:
Luke 11:7 κἀκεῖνος ἔσωθεν ἀποκριθεὶς εἴπῃ, μή μοι κόπους πάρεχε ἤδη ἡ θύρα κέκλεισται καὶ τὰ παιδία μου μετ' ἐμοῦ εἰς τὴν κοίτην εἰσίν· οὐ δύναμαι ἀναστὰς δοῦναί σοι.
and he from within will answer and say, 'Don't bother me. The door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I can't get up and give it to you'?
Verb: First Person Present Middle Indicative Singular

Luke 14:20 καὶ ἕτερος εἶπεν· γυναῖκα ἔγημα καὶ διὰ τοῦτο οὐ δύναμαι ἐλθεῖν.

"Another said, 'I have married a wife, and therefore I can't come.'

Verb: First Person Present Middle Indicative Singular

The two people here are very clearly saying "I won't", not "I can't"! We do the same thing in English. We say, "I can't take this anymore!" but we really mean, "I won't take this anymore!" So as I can see, ou dunamai could really mean either can't or won't depending on the situation.

Also, even if this does mean "couldn't", then maybe this is the same sort of situation as Pharaoh's. Look at Romans 1.

21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.

24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen

26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.

28 Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. 29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them."

OK, the people here went through three phases. They didn't glorify God, so God gave them over to sexual impurity. They allowed themselves to be deceived, so God gave them over to shameful lusts (homosexuality). They didn't think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so He gave them over to a depraved mind.

Does this mean that He gave them sexual impurity, shameful lust, or depraved minds? Did He force these things upon them because of their sin? I think not. All God has to do to "give them over" to sin is just to let go, let them slip further out of His grasp. (More on this later.) And I think that's something like what happened to Pharaoh. Pharaoh kept hardening his heart until God finally gave him over to a hardened heart entirely. And Pharaoh's heart was hard.

There's a parallel here between the hard-hearted Pharaoh in Exodus, the wicked in Romans 1, and the unbelievers of John 12. They just kept refusing to believe, refusing to turn from wickedness, refusing to soften their hearts, until finally God just let go and thus gave them over. Perhaps that's why the people of John 12:39 couldn't believe.

If God is drawing us toward Him as it says in John 6:44, and Satan is also trying to deceive us, and we have an evil, sinful heart and nature, if God stops drawing us toward Him, then all that is left is Satan's deceit and the heart's wickedness. Yikes. No wonder we can be given over to sexual perversion or hard hearts or unbelief.

Oh, one more thing, if the heart is so wicked and depraved by itself that it can do no good (total depravity), only evil, and man cannot come to Christ on his own, then why does Satan tempt us? And why does Satan tempt us if he knows that the elect will be saved?

And Paul says that Gentiles by nature do things required by the Law, proving that the Law is written on their hearts (Romans 2:14). So man does have some remnant of God's Law on their hearts (I'm assuming from before the Fall), not just sinful nature. And per this verse, they can do things from the Law.
"But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteous acts are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away." Isaiah 64:6
Not positive, but I think in context the "we" here refers to those without God. Actually, it probably does, because those truly with God (through Christ) are righteous! Now, notice one thing here. "All our righteous acts are as filthy rags." This seems to teach that people can do righteous acts, even without God. However, righteous acts that are spoiled by other unrighteousness are stained like filthy rags.

Definitely note what I'm saying here... I believe that everyone has sinned, everyone has fallen short of the glory of God, everyone is totally depraved in the sense that he cannot possibly do enough good to make up for the evil he has done, and that men are fallen, wretched creatures. But I do think that they have retained the ability to do good, not just the ability to do evil. Actually, if they have not, then they can't be blamed for sin! If man cannot do good, and can only do evil, then he is not to blame for his sin, and it makes no sense for God to punish him for it, right? Scripture is extremely clear that man is to blame for sin... I don't even need to quote on that!

Also, if God forces people to Christ against their will with unconditional election, and it has nothing to do with man, and God desires for everyone to be saved, why is everyone not saved? If God desires for everyone to be saved and God is absolutely the only instrument necessary for salvation, it does not depend on man's will at all... then why is everyone not saved?

Next verse:
John 5:21: "For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it."
This does not support unconditional election. The question is: to whom is the Son pleased to give life? The answer is found in another of Jesus' parables. Like I said, if you have not read my article, "Chosen Does Not Mean Calvin", please do.

I think I also know one of the other scriptures you will cite. John 6:37, perhaps? It is one I have personally struggled with for a long time, but again, the Greek has been analyzed and it does not support unconditional election!

Now, think of Jesus' parable about the prodigal son, in Luke 15:11-32. Who is the prodigal son? We sinners are. The prodigal son left his father, squandered his inheritance, and got himself in a whole bunch of trouble. Finally, he realized he needed to go back to the kindness of his father. So he swallowed his pride, came to his senses, and started heading back. But he had a long way to go before the father got to him first and showered him with mercy! The father allowed his son to rebel and squander his inheritance. But once his son realized that he was better off with his father, he went back. And the fatted calf was killed in celebration (I'm assuming that refers to Jesus).

A few final points. First off, note that Calvinism is a theological system created by John Calvin. I have seen no extrabiblical evidence (or even biblical evidence) that anything close to Calvinism existed up until Calvin did. Calvin was a philosopher with ideas. A lot of people use Calvin's ideas as their starting point and then read the Bible. So they view everything in it in a Calvinist sense. If you go looking for anything in the Bible, you will usually find it.

Hermeneutics (the study of Bible interpretation) teaches to always use exegesis, not eisegesis. Exegesis means taking meaning directly from the text, and eisegesis means inserting meaning into the text. Most Calvinists take their Calvinist philosophy with them when they read the Bible, which is the wrong way of going about things.

Another huge point is that the Greek is often different from the English. And the translators are often biased, and that's OK. Everyone is going to have a bias, and that's a good thing. If we had no bias and no worldview we would be hopelessly lost and unable to understand anything. However, we should be aware that there are incorrect biases and one correct bias. The question is, what is that correct bias? The more knowledge we gain, the closer we get to that correct bias, that correct worldview.

The point is, the Bible was written in Hebrew, Greek, and a little Aramaic, it was written in a different time period to people of a different understanding. They had the advantage then of understanding the Bible with their own knowledge on their own terms in their own language. Now, we have the advantage of the internet and a world of information that can tell us about how these people lived and spoke and understood things, which helps us to dig deeper into what the Bible really means.

I can see where the Calvinists are coming from if they are basing their ideas off of their English/Latin understanding and language. But that's not the right way to go about it. I hope my analysis of the Scripture on its own terms will help you to think about these things. Calvin, in my opinion, was quite a bit off base to what the Bible teaches.

I have also noticed that Calvinists tend to think that anything short of unconditional election is not almighty. Like one Calvinist said, "God just 'knew it was going to happen'? That sounds so... un-almighty of Him." Well, if everything about salvation must sound almighty, then I guess the manger and the cross are out.

Calvinists often use the argument, "if salvation depends on man's belief, it is not of God! It gives man the glory for his own choice and allows man to boast." Not so much. I agree that focusing too much on man's part of salvation is very deadly, but believers rarely make this mistake, whether they believe in Calvinism or not. Can you honestly imagine anyone earnestly, wholeheartedly, tearfully praying to God for forgiveness through Christ, and then walking off thinking, "oh yeah, I'm so awesome, I just came off clean to God"? No way. If someone is serious about being saved through Christ, then they will realize that it's not about them, it's about Christ. Yes, man's acceptance or rejection of Christ is the hinge of his salvation. But if he does accept Christ, he can only agree with Luke 17:10.
"So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, 'We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.'"
What I mean here is that those who believe are doing the right thing, but they can't get credit for it, because that's what they're supposed to do. Plus, they only believe because they miserably failed to keep the Law (or even try to!) in the first place, so they needed a second chance!

Calvinists forget that non-Calvinist believers are well aware that Christ is our salvation and our hope. Yes, we believe, but we give all of the glory to God, because without Christ's atoning death on the cross, we would not even have the opportunity to believe! Plus, whether we cultivated and grew our faith or not, it was God who gave us the ability to have faith in the first place! He gave us our lives, our wills, and the hope of our salvation! Yes, it was all by Him!

One of my biggest reasons for disagreeing with Calvinism is that it basically states that even after Christ's atoning death on the cross, mankind is still too evil and wicked to come to God. While claiming the non-Calvinists are adding works to salvation, the Calvinists add their own unconditional election to salvation. All over the Bible it says that grace + faith = salvation. Nowhere in the Bible does it say grace + unconditional election = salvation.

And I certainly hope I haven't overwhelmed you now! Please do carefully read over all of this material and give it some thought and prayer. I believe I dealt with all nine "Calvinist" verses you gave me (they're all in bold), but if you do have more, then please let me know.

Your brother in Christ,

Later on, after I wrote this article, I added an amendment at the request of Sam. Please do read, "An Amendment to my Long Letter".

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