Calvinism 101: "Free-Will Choice" is not really "Free-Will" or "Choice"
A refresher course in what Calvinists really mean when they say what they do!
To truly understand what Calvinism really teaches and how it totally destroys God's Word and character, it is critical to understand their language. You see, Calvinists use the same words/ideas as non-Calvinists, but they have very different meanings behind them. But they won't let you know at first what they really mean. They know that if they reveal too much too soon, they might scare you off. And so they need time to subtly train you to see things their way, to stealthily reel you into Calvinism, to manipulate you into shutting down your "red flag" radar. And so, at first, they will agree with us about the things most of us Christians believe. They agree with us on the surface. But underneath that, they have a deeper, secondary layer of meaning for all those words/ideas which contradict/override the things they first said, the things we would agree with.
Example: They will agree with us that "God loves the world." And the non-Calvinist would assume that this means the Calvinist believes that God, in His love, sent Jesus to die for all people so that He could offer salvation to all people. But this is not what a Calvinist means by "God loves the world." What a Calvinist really means is that God loves only the elect (pre-selected people from all over the world) with a saving love, sending Jesus to die only for them, but that He "loves" everyone else (the non-elect) with a general "gives them food and sunshine while they are alive" kind of love (before He sends them to hell for being the unbelievers He caused them to be).
But when you hear them agree at first that "God loves the world," you'll think they're saying the same thing you are, and so you'll trust them and let your guard down, thinking you're both on the same page theologically.
And this is exactly what they want you to think. Because it buys them time to subtly weave Calvinism into the conversation, to slowly brainwash you into reinterpreting the Bible the way they do.
[Here is a for-fun "Calvinist dictionary" from an Arminian website (FYI, I am not Arminian) to help us decipher what Calvinists really mean: "Calvinist Dictionary".]
I don't think Calvinists, in general, intend to be deceiving or to spread heresy. In fact, most of them truly believe this stuff and think they are being humble and God-glorifying to accept it and spread it. (Some of our nicest, most wonderful friends are Calvinists. It was sad to have to let them go when we left the church, to tell them that we think their theology is unbiblical.) Most average, garden-variety Calvinists believe Calvinism is the gospel, and they are so deep into it themselves that they can't see how wrong it is. Sadly, they've let other Calvinists convince them that there are hidden, deeper meanings to what God said. They've been trained to find verses (taken out of context) that supposedly support Calvinism. They've let other Calvinists convince them to believe things that contradict what God clearly said, to ignore contradictions, to not think about the inevitable and terrible implications of their beliefs, to read the Bible through Calvinist glasses, and to set aside logic, turning off their "red flag" radar. In fact, Calvinist leaders and theologians have manipulated them into this, making them feel ashamed if they examine Calvinism too closely, convincing them that they are putting human logic over God's Word and that if they want to be good, humble, God-glorifying Christians then they can't question
Calvinism God but have to simply accept what they're told.
And so to help you know what Calvinists really believe, here are some of the words/ideas that we use and the different meanings Calvinists and non-Calvinists have. (And I am not necessarily speaking for all non-Calvinists, just for non-Calvinists in general.) This is just a taste. And I won't explain them fully. I will try - TRY! - to keep it brief (a challenge for me). And I will leave it to you to find more evidence in the Bible of who's right: non-Calvinists or Calvinists. I trust you to be smart enough to do this. Because God's Word isn't that hard to understand on its own, unless you let Calvinists tell you their version first, allowing them to convince you that God's Word is so mysterious and confusing that you need months of their Calvinist classes to be able to understand it. Don't go to a Calvinist for help in interpreting the Bible. Once you let them put Calvinist glasses on you, it's going to be very hard to take them off. Let God's Word stand for itself, and see what it really teaches.
The non-Calvinist says free-will/choice means that God has given us the right and responsibility to make real choices among real options. Our actions and choices are not predestined, caused, controlled by God, even though He can and does know what we will choose, and He can and does work our choices into His plans.
The Calvinist says free-will/choice means that God predestined which choice we will make and then He causes us to "freely choose" to make that choice, the only choice we could make. And He makes sure we "freely choose" it by giving us the human nature that contains the desire to do what He predestined. We either get the unrepentant sinner nature that can only desire to sin/reject God or the regenerated believer nature that desires to obey God. And we can't influence, affect, or change the nature God gives us. And so if you get the sinner nature, you can only desire to sin, which means you can only choose to sin, just like God predestined. You cannot desire/choose to do anything else.
Created to choose the only thing God predestined us to choose, with no ability or option to choose anything else!?!
Would you call this "free-will" or "choice"!?!
I didn't think so.
But Calvinists know they have to call it "free will/choice" to make it sound like they believe man is really responsible for his sins. Because if they admitted to themselves and others that this isn't really free-will or choice at all, then they would have to admit that they believe God is really responsible for man's sins, which would make Him unrighteous and unjust for punishing us for the sins He made us commit. But instead of admitting how wrong they are, Calvinists just keep digging the hole deeper.
2. Human Responsibility:
Non-Calvinists would interpret this to mean that we really do make our own choices (God does not control our choices or predestine/force us to choose what we do), and so we really are responsible for them and can justly be held accountable for them.
But when Calvinists say "human responsibility" (as in "The Bible teaches both God's sovereignty and human responsibility. How does that work together? I don't know. But the Bible teaches both, and so we have to just accept it."), they don't mean we get to make real choices among real options. They simply mean that even though God (Calvi-god) predestines, controls, causes everything we do, even our sins, we will still be held responsible for it. Because we "chose" it - even though God (Calvinism's god) made sure that's all we could choose by giving us the sinner-nature which contains only the desires to commit the sins He predestined us to do.
If I gave a guy a magic potion that gave him the desire to kick every puppy he sees, and if he has to obey that desire (he has no ability to change it or resist it) ... then who is really responsible for him kicking all those puppies?
Normal, logical people would say that I am responsible for it. But Calvinists would say that the guy is responsible for it because he "chose" to do the thing he "desired" to do, and so he can be held accountable for it.
Calvinists have to trick themselves (and others) into thinking that they aren't saying that God causes sin, when that's exactly what they're saying. They trick themselves into thinking that their cute, "clever" catchphrases of "God ordains sin but is not the author of sin" and "God predestines everything we do but is not responsible for our sins" fixes the problem, that it clears up the contradictions and terrible implications.
And this is why they have to try to shame you into not using logic to examine Calvinism, because they know Calvinism would fall apart under logical examination.
Everyone but Calvinists can see that, in Calvinism, God is really responsible for "our choices," not us. Everyone!
3. God's Sovereignty:
Non-Calvinists and Calvinists both believe that God is sovereign. We just define it very differently. And this is a critical, fundamental, defining difference between our theologies.
Non-Calvinists believe (rightly) that sovereignty is about the position of power that God holds. He is the most powerful being in the universe. He is over and above all. The ultimate authority, the final decision-maker. The One who decides what to allow and what to not allow, how to work things into His plans, what the consequences should be, etc. And He exercises His sovereignty in one of two ways: either He allows things to happen (and figures out how to incorporate them into His plans) or He causes things to happen (but never sin or evil, even though He can and does work man's self-chosen sins into His plans). God cannot cause sin/evil without compromising His righteousness, holiness, and justice. But He can still be righteous, holy, and just if He allows us to make our own sinful choices but then works them into His plans. Non-Calvinists believe that God is sovereign enough, wise enough, big enough, powerful enough to give us free-will, allowing us to make real choices, figuring out how to work our choices into His plans to get His overall Will accomplished.
However, Calvinists don't define sovereignty as "God is in the position of supreme power," but as "God must always be using His supreme power all the time to preplan, cause, control everything that happens, even sin and evil, or else He's not really a sovereign, all-powerful God."
Do you see what they're doing here?
They are telling God how He has to use His sovereign power in order for Him to be God. They are telling the King how He has to act in order to be King.
That's a dangerous thing to do.
And in the process of changing "position of power" to "how God must use His power," they destroy God's Word and character, making Him the ultimate cause of the sins He commands us not to do, that He punishes us for.
I wonder: If Calvinists are right that sovereignty means "God preplans, causes, controls all that happens," then how did these verses get in the Bible:
Hosea 8:4: “They set up kings without my consent; they choose princes without my approval.”
Isaiah 30:1: “Woe to the obstinate children,” declares the Lord, “to those who carry out plans that are not mine.”
Jeremiah 19:4-5, about the child sacrifice being done, God says it was “something I did not command or mention, nor did it enter my mind.”
1 Kings 20:42: “This is what the Lord says, ‘You have set free a man I had determined should die.'”
Acts 14:16: “In the past, [God] let all nations go their own way.”
Matthew 23:37: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem … how often I have longed to gather your children together … but you were not willing.”
Ezekiel 13:22 (KJV): "Because with lies ye have made the heart of the righteous sad, whom I have not made sad ..." And the CSB version puts it this way: "Because you have disheartened the righteous person with lies (when I intended no distress)..." (In Calvinism, God would be the one who preplanned and ultimately caused people to lie to the righteous people. He would have preplanned/intended to cause the righteous people to be disheartened, contradicting His claim that He never intended to do that. And so either God lies or Calvinism lies. Which one do you think it is?)
Who sounds like they are really taking Scripture as it was written: Calvinists or non-Calvinists?
Kevin from Beyond the Fundamentals (in “Calvinist Tactics Exposed”) points out that one problem with Calvinism is that they take a biblical idea and then they expand it or shrink it too far, beyond what Scripture says. Such as, if it's good to say "God is sovereign" then they'll expand it to say that "God is so totally sovereign that He causes and controls everything" - going beyond what Scripture shows about how God exercises His sovereignty. And then they try to convince you that it honors and glorifies Him to see it this way, and that if you don't see it this way then you're unhumble, fighting/dishonoring God, and stealing His glory. (Manipulation!)
Or if it's good to be humble, to honor/trust God in all circumstances of life, then it's even more humble to "honor/trust" Him in spite of terrible-sounding things, such as their idea that He ordains child abuse or predestines people to hell for His glory. "Look how humble I am to accept these terrible-sounding teachings, to worship God in spite of them, even though it sounds horrible and I can't understand it all."
If it's good to think lowly of ourselves, to be dependent on God, then it's even better to think so lowly of ourselves that we are so utterly helpless to do anything on our own, that we are dependent on Him for everything, even the thoughts we think and decisions we make.
If it's good and right to believe that God preplans and actively controls some things, then it must be better to think He preplans and actively controls all things, even sin and evil.
But all this goes beyond the teachings of Scripture. And it's in contradiction to the teachings of Scripture which clearly show that God works in more complex ways than that, that He does not preplan, cause, approve of sin and evil (though He does work it into His plans), and that He allows people to make their own real choices, among real options.
Pay careful attention to the assumptions, presumptions, and misconceptions that Calvinists start with, that they build their whole theology on. This, I believe, is the essence of Calvinism. It's not a biblical theology. It's a philosophical belief system built on their own ideas. And then they find and twist Bible verses to "support" their views.
4. Total Depravity/Dead in Sin:
Non-Calvinists do believe that mankind is depraved, that we are "dead" in our sins, which means we are fallen, sinful, separated from God, and can't get to heaven on our own. We need a Savior. We needed God to make it possible for us to be saved. And He did this by sending Jesus to die for our sins, making it possible for any and all people to believe in Jesus and to be saved. And He reaches out to all people - in creation (Romans 1:20), in our hearts (Ecc. 3:11), in His Word (John 20:31), etc. - to show us all that He is real, to give us all the chance to want Him, seek Him, believe in Him (Acts 17:27). But He leaves the choice up to us, whether we want to seek/believe in Him or ignore/reject Him (Joshua 24:15, Deut. 4:29, Amos 5:4, Is. 55:6, Heb. 11:6, etc.).
But when Calvinists say "total depravity," they do not simply mean that man is fallen, sinful, separated from God. They mean "total inability" - that people are so terribly, horribly depraved that there is nothing inside us that can want God or seek God or choose God or want to do good. Unless God makes us do it. And He only makes the elect do it.
Calvinists wrongly interpret "dead in sin" to mean "dead like a dead body that can do absolutely nothing on its own - not even think or want or seek - but can only lay there all dead until God makes them alive again, and He will only make the elect alive but leaves everyone else dead."
In Calvinism, we are totally unable to want/seek/believe in God unless and until He causes us to. And He will only cause the elect to seek Him and believe in Him. Everyone else can never and will never come to God because God made sure that they stayed "totally depraved, totally unable to come to Him."
(And so when God says "Seek Me" in the Bible, a Calvinist thinks "Sure, God calls all people to seek Him, but it doesn't mean that all people can seek Him, just that the elect will seek Him when He causes them to. And the non-elect will be held accountable for disobeying His call to seek Him, even though He predestined them to be that way." But a non-Calvinist thinks that "Seek Me" means that God wants/expects all of us to seek Him, and so He made it possible for all of us to seek Him, but He leaves it up to us to decide whether we will obey or disobey Him, and He will hold us accountable for our real decision.)
If being "spiritually dead in sin" means that we are braindead, that our brains can't function or think or want/seek God, then why does God tell people to "seek Me and live" (Amos 5:4)?
If they have to seek Him in order to live, then they are currently not living. They are "dead." God is telling "dead people" to seek Him, which means that ...
1. Dead people can/should seek Him - contradicting the Calvinist belief that "dead" means "unable to seek God".
2. People are not brought to life until after they seek Him, as a result of seeking/finding Him - contradicting the Calvinist belief that God brings the elect to life first, in order to cause them to seek Him.
It's seek first, then live. Not Calvinism's "live and then seek."
Also consider 2 Corinthians 3:16: "But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away."
It's turn to Jesus first, and then the veil is removed. Not Calvinism's "the veil has to be removed first (for the elect only), and then they can turn to Jesus."
(Satan's best tactics are to use God's exact words, but to twist them or reverse them so subtly that we don't notice the deception. The same words in a different order leads to a totally different meaning and, therefore, a totally different Gospel!)
5. Regeneration/faith/born again:
Non-Calvinists rightly believe that regeneration (being filled with and transformed by the Holy Spirit) happens after we choose to believe in Jesus. It's a result of choosing to believe in Jesus. We willingly choose to put our faith in Him (and not the Calvinist way which says that God predestines/causes us to want to choose to put our faith in Him) ... and then we are saved/born again/filled with the Holy Spirit, and the Spirit begins regenerating us, transforming our hearts and minds to grow in spiritual wisdom and to become more like Christ.
But Calvinists believe that being regenerated by the Spirit (born again) comes first, before believing in Jesus. In Calvinism, while we are still "dead like dead bodies, unable to do anything, even think," the Holy Spirit indwells the elect (and only the elect), bringing their "dead" spirit to life, giving them saving faith and making them born again ... and only after He does this can the born-again person seek God, want God, and believe in Jesus.
If someone says something like "In order for a sinner to be saved, they have to be regenerated by the Holy Spirit first," they are a Calvinist. But biblically, the Holy Spirit doesn't regenerate sinners to turn them into believers; He regenerates believers (and anyone can believe) to turn them into godly, mature Christians.
That's a big difference!
In Calvinism, faith isn't something we do; it's something that God has to inject into the elect to make them born again so that they repent and believe in Jesus. But non-Calvinists would say that having faith and believing are essentially synonymous, concurrent, and it's something we choose to do. When we choose to believe in Jesus, we are repenting (turning away from our sins) and putting our faith in Him (making Him our Lord and Savior), and then the Holy Spirit fills us and makes us born again.
So ... pay attention closely ... in Calvinism, people are injected with faith and are born again (filled with the Holy Spirit) before they repent and believe in Jesus. In fact, they are born again/filled with the Holy Spirit to cause them to repent and believe ... because they were prechosen to be saved (their salvation was locked in) before the beginning of time. Faith before belief. Born again/saved before turning to Jesus. Getting the Holy Spirit before repentance.
Does this sound biblical to you? Or does it sound like the elect have faith/are saved/are born again without Jesus, without repentance? (And I wonder who wants us to think that we can be saved without Jesus? Could it be ... Satan!?!)
In Calvinism, the elect are not saved because they repent and believe; they repent and believe because they are saved.
But what does the Bible say?
"But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name." (John 21:31)
"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16)
"Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God." (John 1:12)
"That if you confess with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.... Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." (Romans 10:9)
"Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved -" (Acts 16:31)
"Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved." (Mark 16:16)
"Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." (Acts 2:38)
"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 ..." (Ephesians 1:13)
Question: How can anyone "also be included in Christ" after hearing/believing the truth if all the elect are chosen for salvation at the same time, before time began? And does this sound like the Holy Spirit comes to people first, in order to cause them to repent/believe, as Calvinists say? Or does it sound like we repent/believe first, and then we get the Holy Spirit?
When are we born again (filled with the Holy Spirit): before or after we believe? Does repentance lead to or result from being born again? Do we believe because we are saved, or are we saved when/because we believe? Did God gives us the choice/responsibility to seek Him, repent, and believe in order to be saved? Or do the elect just have to sit around waiting for God to regenerate them with the Spirit to cause them to believe?
It is critical that you get the order of these things right. Because it makes all the difference in whether or not people are truly saved.
It's really not that difficult to understand what the Bible says about all this ... unless you let Calvinists convince you that it's so difficult, so mysterious, that you need them and their hundreds of pages of Calvinist writing to understand it all, and that when you get to the end of it all and still don't understand it and still think it makes God look bad and still think it contradicts Scripture, you just have to go, "Well, it's a mystery. I guess my brain is just too tiny to understand it all, and so I need to just humbly accept it anyway. Because that's what humble, good, God-glorifying Christians do, so says my favorite Calvinist theologians."
[Calvinists accuse non-Calvinists of thinking that God and the Holy Spirit don't have any part in salvation, that we "saved ourselves." Another false accusation and strawman argument. Non-Calvinists do not think we got to heaven all on our own. We believe that God alone made salvation possible, that He reveals Himself to us in various ways to draw us to Him, that the Holy Spirit convicts the world of sin, and that we are saved - not because we worked for it - but by grace through faith in Him.
It's just that we believe that this grace is for all people, that salvation is offered to all people, that the option to believe/have faith is open to all people (and that it's our responsibility, not God's - it's something we do, not something God does to us), but that God leaves it up to us to decide if we want it or not.
Whereas Calvinists believe that "accepting/believing in Jesus" is a work, and since we can't work for our salvation then it must mean we can't believe in Jesus on our own, which means that God has to cause the elect to believe.
But what does God say about believing?
That it's the one "work" we must do to be saved: "Then they asked him, 'What must we do to do the works God requires?' Jesus answered, 'The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent [Jesus].'" (John 6:28-29)
And so who are you going to believe: God or Calvinists?]
[Okay, I admit it ... I was wrong about keeping this brief. Sorry.]
Non-Calvinists would say that God gives grace to all people, meaning that He offers all people the opportunity to be saved. "For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men." (Titus 2:11)
But when Calvinists talk about grace, they are talking about two different types of grace. In Calvinism, God gives "saving grace" only to the elect, but He gives a "common grace" (food, rain, sunshine, breath) to the non-elect while they are on earth - before sending them to hell forever for being the unbelievers He predestined them to be. (If that's grace, then what's wrath?)
Calvinists say that God's kindness (common grace) to the non-elect is His way of showing them a kind of "love." They say this to try to trick others and themselves into thinking that Calvi-god really does "love" all people, when he really doesn't.
But what does the God of the Bible say about the purpose of His kindness towards unrepentant sinners?
"Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?" (Romans 2:4).
God's kindness is not meant to just show a little "love" to the non-elect before He puts them in hell for eternity for what He predestined them to do.
It's meant to lead them to repentance. At least according to God it is.
Important note about how Calvinists think: Calvinists think that if salvation was really offered to you, then you WILL BE saved. They have no ability to comprehend the idea that someone could be offered salvation but reject it. They are locked into their belief that "offer" equals "will irresistibly become a believer because they were predestined/caused to by God". And so therefore, since the non-elect don't believe in Him, it must be because they were never truly offered salvation in the first place - because if they were, then they would have inevitably become a believer.
And so when they see "the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men," they do not interpret this as an offer, an invitation, to all men to be saved, but simply as an "appearance" of grace that's merely seen by the non-elect but that's not an offer of salvation. They'll agree that grace "appeared" to all men, but they'll say it doesn't mean it's available to all men or that all men can truly perceive, understand, and accept it. Only the elect can. Kinda like how all people in a restaurant can "see" the food on my plate, but only I can eat it. Or how all people can "hear" the words a foreign person speaks, but only someone who speaks that language can understand it and respond to it.
In Calvinism, God makes offers of salvation to people knowing that He created them to never be able to accept those offers. (Fake offers)
And He commands people to do things (repent, believe, obey) knowing that He predetermined to prevent them from doing those things. (Fake commands)
And He warns people to not do certain things (sin, rebel, reject Him) knowing that He predestined/causes them to do those very things. (Fake warnings)
Do you see what this does to His character and His Word?
Does this sound like the kind of God He really is?
Is Calvinism really being faithful to God's Word?
Non-Calvinists rightly define foreknowledge as "knowing beforehand," and omniscience as "knowing all." God knows, even before we do, everything that we'll do and who will choose to believe in Him and who won't.
But Calvinists redefine foreknowledge (a component of God's omniscience) as "to plan beforehand." (I heard a Calvinist who literally said "Whenever I read in the Bible about God foreknowing something, I just reinterpret it as 'God fore-planned it.'" How nice to be able to twist God's Word to fit your theology any time you want! Well, nice until you're standing before God in the end giving an account for what you did to His Word, that is.) In Calvinism, God fore-knows everything that will happen because He fore-planned everything that happens. And so everything that happens, even sin, is because He planned it to happen that way, and nothing different could have happened.
I wonder: If God only knows what will happen because He preplanned it, and if He preplans everything that happens, then how could He know of alternative futures that would have happened if people had made different decisions: 1 Sam. 13:13-14, 1 Sam. 23:9-13, Luke 10:13?
How could He have plans that didn't happen, and how could people do things without His approval or consent: Hos. 8:4, Is. 30:1, Jer. 18:7-8, Jer. 19:4-5, 1 Kings 20:42, Matt. 23:37?
Why would He foil the plans of the nations - Psalm 33:10 - if He Himself first preplanned that they would have those plans? And if He foils the plans that He first planned, then how could Psalm 33:11 say that His plans stand? Which plans are those - the plans He caused the nations to make, His plans to foil those plans, His new plans that will replace those foiled plans? It doesn't make sense.
And what are we to make of God's promise to destroy Nineveh in 40 days unless they repented? If Calvinism is true then either God would have had to destroy Nineveh (the people could not have repented) because that's what He said He planned to do, or He'd have to be a liar for saying that He was going to destroy them when He really preplanned not to.
Calvinism makes a mess of God's Word and trustworthiness!
Just because God knows the future doesn't mean He preplanned it that way or caused it to happen that way or that nothing different could have happened. These are Calvinist presuppositions which destroy what foreknowledge really is and which, in turn, destroy God's character and Word.
[Calvinists accuse non-Calvinists of denying God's foreknowledge/omniscience because we don't believe God pre-plans/causes everything that happens. Another false accusation and strawman argument. But the problem here is that Calvinists wrongly define foreknowledge/omniscience as "preplanning/causing everything that happens." It's Calvinists who ultimately deny God's foreknowledge by changing it into something it isn't.]
The non-Calvinist would say that "ordains" is about God knowing what's going to happen and allowing it to happen. Either He chose to plan it/cause it (but never sin or evil) or He simply foreknew what was going to happen, what we were going to choose to do, and He allowed it to happen (sin and evil, bad consequences, etc.), and then He worked it into His plans. (God can preplan to use the evil/sin/disobedience He knows we will do, without preplanning/causing/forcing us to do it. Just like I can preplan how I handle it when my kids disobey and how I will turn it into a good lesson, but I don't preplan that they will disobey or cause them to disobey.) And because He didn't preplan/cause the evil and sin, He is not responsible for it (we are!), even if He incorporated it into His plans or worked something good out of it.
But when the Calvinist says "ordains," they always mean "preplanned, caused, controlled." (They'll say they don't mean this, but in practice they do, because it's inherent in their theology, despite their denials.) So if God "ordained" something evil (such as Jesus's crucifixion), it means He preplanned/caused every facet of it, including controlling the actions of the people, causing them to be evil, to think evil, and to do evil things (to crucify Jesus). But this makes God responsible for causing the sins He punishes the people for, which makes Him unjust, unrighteous, untrustworthy.
But the best way to understand all this, to keep God's Word and character intact, is to simply - and correctly - say that "ordained" does not have to mean "preplanned, caused, controlled," but that at times it simply means "God knew it would happen and allowed it to happen, and He worked it into His plans."
Regarding Jesus's crucifixion, God did indeed plan that this would be how mankind's sins would be atoned for, and He did orchestrate this event at that time of history. However, this does not have to mean that He caused those people to be evil or to choose to do evil, that they had no choice. And this is where God's foreknowledge comes in (the real version, not the Calvinist version)...
God knew what those people at that time would be like and how they would react to Jesus and what they would choose to do (to reject/crucify Him). He knew that the circumstances, the conditions, were just right at that time to accomplish His plans. And so He brought all the factors together at the right time: Jesus, Rome, the Jewish leaders, and the people whom God knew would willingly choose to reject/kill Jesus. And He worked it all together. He didn't cause them to choose what they did, but He did present them with opportunities to make their choices, and since He knew what they would choose, He knew how to use it for His plans. (God can and does manipulate circumstances to force us to make our choice, but He does not force/cause us to choose what we do. We always have a choice of how to respond to Him, to temptation.)
He incorporated the free-will choices of the people (that He knew they would make) into His plans, but He did not cause them to be the way they were or to do what they did. He just put Jesus on the scene at the right time, gave people opportunities to make their decisions, and then He let the people do what He knew they would do. This is how God can get His plans accomplished, people can make real choices, and God can still justly hold people accountable for their choices.
But as I said, Calvinists define "ordains" as "preplanning, causing, controlling everything, even sin." But this makes God the cause of all sin. (In fact, it makes Him the only real sinner in the universe because He causes all other beings to do what they do, to commit the sins they do, and they couldn't choose to do anything differently.)
My Calvinist ex-pastor gave a sermon once where he said (paraphrased) that "God ordained every tragedy that happened in your life, even any childhood abuse you went through, for His glory and for your good and because He knew what it would take to keep you humble. Whatever happened to you was God's 'Plan A' for your life! And you just have to trust Him."
To the untrained ear, this could sound like he's simply saying that God knew it would happen and allowed it to happen, but that He can work it into good anyway.
But now replace "ordains" with what Calvinists really mean: "preplanned, caused, controlled by God" to see the horror it becomes:
"God preplanned and caused any childhood abuse you went through. He controlled the actions of the abuser (but He will punish the abuser for it). And He did this for His glory and for your good and to keep you humble. Your abuse was His 'Plan A' for your life - there was never any other life in store for you than abuse because He deliberately planned it from the beginning and made sure it happened. But you should trust Him anyway."
(Oh my goodness, my blood boils every time I revisit this sermon of his! It's the moment I decided "I am done with this man, this church!!!")
And now carry all this out to its logical, natural, terrible conclusions - that God planned your childhood abuse from the very beginning, that He actively controlled the situation to cause someone to abuse you (to do what He commands us not to do), that the abuser couldn't do anything differently, that God will eventually punish the the abuser for doing what He caused him to do, and that God apparently does all this evil for your good and to keep you humble and for His glory (apparently child abuse glorifies God, in Calvinism).
And this is the kind of God we can trust!?!
How can you go to a God like this for comfort, help, justice, or healing when He is the very reason why you need comfort, help, justice, and healing to begin with? It's like telling an abused woman to seek comfort and help for her abuse from her abusive husband. And if He's a God who's glorified by something as evil as child abuse, what's to say He wouldn't also be glorified by rejecting your cries for comfort, help, justice, and healing? By causing the counselor or police or pastor you go to for help to abuse you too? By causing you more pain, kicking you while you're down?
Can you see how damaging this is to God's character, to our faith, to truth, to our ability to trust Him and His Word? What kind of a God is that? How can a God like that be trusted?
It's one thing to say that God didn't want/plan/cause the abuse to happen but that He (sadly) allowed it to happen (an inevitable consequence of giving people free-will: some people will use their free-will for evil), that He hurt with and for the abused person, that He can heal the pain, that He will someday exercise justice and punish the abuser for what they chose to do, and that He can and will work something good out of your tragedy, your pain. This kind of a God can be trusted.
But to say that God really did want/plan/cause the abuse to happen, that He causes people to do the sins He commands them not to do, that He punishes people for the sins He makes them do, and that He is glorified by sin and evil ... well, that's a God that cannot be trusted. Because He is no different from Satan. (But at least we know that Satan is supposed to be bad.)
The Bible says that God is love, but if Calvinism's god is what "love" looks like then I'd hate to see hate! And why would anyone want that kind of "love" anyway?
And ... if we are supposed to grow to be more like God and to bring Him glory in all we do, then what kind of people is that going to make Calvinists into - if God is the kind of God who first forbids sin but then causes sin, for His glory?
And yet Calvinists hide all this behind the easily-overlooked, easily-misunderstood word "ordains."
They try to make it sound like they're not saying God causes sin (when that's exactly what they're saying) by saying things like, "God ordains sin but is not the author of sin." Hogwash! Do they think we're idiots!?! If God preplanned it and caused it ("ordains" it) then He is most definitely the author of it. But they can see no contradiction in what they say.
[And if you think I'm making this up, the idea that Calvinists believe God "causes" child abuse, listen to this clip by James White, a weasely Calvinist (not sorry!) who's defending the idea that God causes child-rape by saying that if God didn't cause it then it would have no purpose. Calvinists say that if something can happen that God didn't actively cause then we can't trust Him because He wouldn't be "in control." But we can supposedly trust Him, even when bad/evil things happen, as long as we know He deliberately caused/controlled it for our good and for His glory.
If something like child rape is "for our good," then there is no evil out there that can be considered "for bad." Every evil is good then. Every evil is God-glorifying. Calvinism erases the line between good and evil, truth and lies, justice and injustice, God and Satan. (Do you really think it's God that's behind Calvinism? If not, then who do you think really is? Because I have a pretty good guess!)
It's sick! It's lunacy! And it's a complete affront to God's holy, good, loving, righteous character!
For more on the idea of God causing sin/evil/abuse, see "Does God Cause Childhood Abuse?" Also see "Do Calvinists Really Believe God Causes Sin? Let Them Speak For Themselves!"]
And now back to what we were talking about:
And it's not just "ordains." Whenever a Calvinist uses these words or phrases about God, what they're really saying is that "God preplans, causes, controls everything that happens, even sin and evil": ordains, determined, decrees, foreknowledge, foresight, plans, wills/willed, omnipotence, omniscience, sovereign, sovereignty, controls, God "agrees" to it, God "allows/permits" it, God "knew" it would happen, God "understood" what would happen, God is "in control," etc. (To Calvinists, "in control" doesn't just mean that He is "in control" over all, that He is watching over all, deciding what to allow or not allow, and working all things together for His plans. In Calvinism, "in control" means that He is actively controlling all things, even every speck of dust in the air, that He preplans/causes/actively controls every move/thought of everything on earth, causing everything to happen exactly as it does. Because if He didn't, He couldn't be God. According to them.)
Calvinists want you to think that they really do believe in free-will, that God merely "allows" sin and evil. They have to get you to think this so that you don't accuse them of believing that God causes sin. But ...
Calvinists never mean that He just "allows" something to happen (because that wouldn't fit their view of "sovereign," which is "God has to actively control all things, or else He's not God").
They always mean that He predestined it to happen and caused it to happen exactly the way it happened, and that nothing different could have happened.
(Can you see, though, how a verse like 1 Kings 20:42: "... 'This is what the Lord says: 'You have set free a man I [God] had determined should die''" would defeat their theology!)
[I hope you packed a lunch before sitting down to read this post. I tried to keep it brief. I really did. (Okay, no, I really didn't.) But hang in there, we're getting closer to the end.]
10. The World/All People:
When the Bible says God loves the world and that Jesus died for all people and that God wants everyone to be saved, non-Calvinists believe that this means that God loves the world (all individual people), that Jesus died for all individual people, and that God wants everyone (all individual people) to be saved.
But Calvinists define "the world/all people" to mean "all kinds of people, the elect from all different nations." Not all individual people. Therefore, in Calvinism, they mean "God loves the elect people from all over the world... Jesus died only for the elect people, from all over the world.... and God wants all the elect people (from all over the world) to be saved." (Or as my ex-pastor basically put it: "The Bible says that God loves people. He loves peoples. But it's clear that He doesn't love all people and that He doesn't love all people equally. He elected some to heaven and the rest to hell." If the Bible is so "clear" about this, why has this issue been fiercely debated for centuries?)
(Oh my goodness, Calvinism makes me want to cry. What a sad, sad, destructive theology. Do you see why I fight against it as strongly as I do?)
11. Whoever believes ...
"For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16).
Non-Calvinists say that, in this verse, God is telling people how they can be saved. It's an invitation to everyone to believe in Jesus. And anyone who chooses to believe in Jesus will have eternal life.
But to Calvinists, this isn't an invitation to all people or instructions about how anyone can be saved. It's merely a description of how the elect are saved: "For God so loved the elect of the world that He gave his one and only Son, that the elect (those predestined to believe) will believe in him and shall not perish but have eternal life ... and everyone else is out of luck because God doesn't love them and Jesus didn't die for them, and so they can never believe and be saved."
To support their views, Calvinists have wrongly translated "whoever believes" as "all the believing [people]/all the believers," as in "Jesus died only for all the believers (those predestined to believe, the elect) and so only all the believers (the elect) can be saved."
[Umm, no! Read your Bible, Calvinists! Time and time again, God confirms that Jesus died for all people, that salvation is for everyone: John 3:16-17, Is. 53:6, 1 John 2:2, Heb. 2:9, 1 Tim. 2:3-6, 2 Cor. 5:15, Titus 2:11, Romans 5:18. Where is there room for misunderstanding here!?! Of course, only those who choose to accept Jesus's death on their behalf will be saved, but Jesus died for all people and so all people have the chance, the opportunity, the offer to be saved.]
The concordance says that "whosoever" is made up of two Greek words, which are essentially "all/any/every/whole" and "the/who." And it says that "believes" is a verb which means "to be persuaded by something and, consequently, to commit to it, to put your faith in it".
Therefore, the Calvinist translation of "whosoever believes" does not work. Because in "all the believers," "believers" is a noun. And in "all the believing [people]", "believing" is an adjective.
But the concordance says that this word in the original Greek is the verb "believes." And since it is a verb, we can't use "the" before it (as the Calvinists do). "The" only comes before a noun or an adjective preceding a noun. So the Calvinist's "all the believing/believers" is wrong. (They deceptively say "believing" to make it sound like they are using it correctly, as a verb. But putting "the" in front of it shows that they are really using it as an adjective before a noun, not a verb.)
"Who" - not "the" - can come before a verb. And since "believes" is a verb, it needs to be "any/all who." Therefore, the correct translation is "any/all who believes." John 3:16 is saying exactly what it sounds like it's saying when read in a commonsense way: It's an invitation to anyone and everyone to believe in Jesus and be saved, not merely a description of how the elect are saved.
12. The Gospel:
Non-Calvinists believe that the Gospel message we need to share with everyone is that God loves them, Jesus died for them, and that they need to (and can) repent, believe in Jesus, and be saved.
However, Calvinists do not believe these things are true. They believe God only really loves the elect, Jesus only died for the elect, and only the elect can and will be saved. And so for them, the Gospel is not about calling all people to repent, believe, and be saved; it's about helping all the elect realize that they are one of the elect. It's about drawing God's elect out into the open, not about helping all sinners find salvation in Jesus.
I've heard this illustration before, and it's good one:
Essentially, in Calvinism, the elect are like tigers who don't know they are tigers. But one day, they walk up to a lake to get a drink, and they see their reflection in the water, and they realize "Oh, wow, I'm a tiger. I've always been a tiger. I just didn't know it until now."
This is the Calvinist Gospel message: that some people out there are tigers (the saved elect). And this is the Calvinist evangelistic mission: to make all the tigers realize they are tigers and that they always were tigers.
Nothing really changed. The elect don't go from unsaved to saved. They just realized what their true condition was (in Calvinism): that they always were saved and on their way to heaven.
But I wonder how many Calvinists are truly saved if they "came to faith" by simply realizing that they are one of the "elect," that God created them to be saved, without any decision or commitment on their parts, without them choosing to put their faith in Him? If they believe faith/salvation happens to them, that they don't have to do anything to get it, how many are deceived into thinking they are saved when they aren't? Because they haven't really done anything and haven't taken any real responsibility for their choice to believe.
Calvinist evangelism is not about bringing all people, all sinners, to Jesus; it's about drawing the elect out from the crowd.
Does this sound like the Bible's Gospel message to you? Like the Bible's version of our evangelistic mission?
[My ex-pastor wrote an article once on why he evangelizes. As a Calvinist, he couldn't see much point in it and was apathetic about it. Because, in Calvinism, the elect are already chosen and will become saved no matter what, and the non-elect can never be saved, no matter what. And so what's the point in evangelizing?
But he said he finally got excited about evangelizing when he figured out what it's really about: God wants to be famous among the nations.
So to him, evangelizing (spreading the Gospel) is not about drawing all sinners to Christ. (It's about drawing the elect to Christ, but not all sinners.) It's not about telling all people that God loves them, that Jesus died for them, and that God wants them to repent and be saved. (It's about telling the elect to repent, knowing that only the elect can repent.) To him, Calvinist evangelism is ultimately about "making God famous" - because, according to him, God loves Himself most and worships Himself above all (which is why it's okay for Him to predestine people to hell if it brings Him glory).
What a sad, lacking, broken, half-gospel he shares!
What a terrible version of God he spreads!
And how heartbreaking that the people miss out on the real gospel, the part that can save their souls!
(Anyone, any god, can be famous ... but for all the wrong reasons!)
"I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel - which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!" (Galatians 1:6-8)
Also, non-Calvinists say that the gospel leads to faith and being born again. That anyone can hear, understand, and respond to the Gospel. And when they do, when they put their faith in Jesus Christ in response to the Gospel, they will be saved.
But Calvinists say that God has to give the elect faith first (He makes them born again first), so that they can get the ability to hear/understand/respond to the Gospel, to believe in Jesus.
Having faith, being saved/born-again before hearing, understanding, responding to the Gospel and believing in Jesus Christ!?!
Does that sound biblical to you!?! Or does it sound like the Gospel is superfluous in Calvinist theology, unnecessary, a foot-note?
But what does the Bible say?
"But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name." (John 21:31)
[And a BIG FYI: Calvinists will agree with you that "Of course anyone can come to God ... if they want to." This "if they want to" is a huge qualifier, and it changes everything. Because they don't really mean "anyone can come to God" (that salvation is available to all or possible for all). They mean "anyone who wants to can come to God ... but only the elect can/will want to come to God. Because God makes sure the non-elect never want to come to Him, and so they can never 'choose' to come to Him." So deceptive, trying to make it sound like they agree that anyone can come to God when they really mean the exact opposite!
And they will say "anyone can believe and be saved," causing us to think they are saying that everyone has the ability/opportunity to believe and be saved (which is exactly what they want you to think they are saying). But they don't mean that it's possible for anyone and everyone to believe in Jesus and be saved, just that anyone can believe and be saved IF God wants them to and causes them to, which in Calvinism will be only the elect, those God predestined to heaven. Big difference! (And their "anyone can believe and be saved" also means that people from any nationality can be saved, but not that any and every individual person can believe and be saved. Once again, very different. And very misleading. Deliberately misleading.)
And they will say "Of course God doesn't force the elect to believe in Him. They do it because they want to, because they choose to." But what they really mean is "Well, God doesn't have to 'force' the elect to believe in Him because He gave them the regenerated-nature which contains the desire to believe, and so their nature makes them 'want' to choose to believe in Him all on their own. So He doesn't have to force them."
And they'll say "Of course God doesn't force people to sin." But what they really mean, once again, is "God doesn't have to 'force' them because He gave them the unregenerated nature that contains the desire to sin (and only the desire to sin), and so they 'choose' to commit the sins that they 'desire' to do."
(Does giving people a "magic potion" that makes them want to do the only thing you predestined them to do, with no chance/ability to choose any differently, sound like "not forcing" to you?)
In Calvinism, we have to obey the desires of the nature God gave us, and we can't do anything differently. So if you got the regenerated nature that the elect get, you have no choice but to want to believe in God, which makes you 'choose' to believe in Him. But if you got the unregenerated nature that the non-elect get, then you have no choice but to want to reject God, which makes you 'choose' to reject Him.
And yet Calvinists call this "choosing what you want to choose, making our own decisions" to make it sound like they believe (when they really don't) that we really do make our own choices, which makes us responsible for them and deserving of any punishment we get for sin/unbelief. So deceptive!
I bring this "nature" idea up again because it's so important to understand. It's how they try to convince you that they believe in free-will, that people "choose" to do what they "want" to do, which is how they try to put the blame on people for their sins and unbelief, instead of on God.]
Non-Calvinists would say that justice is giving an appropriate punishment to someone who legitimately deserves it. And so it wouldn't be justice for God to punish someone for something they had no control over, something that He made them do.
But Calvinists say that God can predestine someone to sin, cause them to commit that sin, and then punish them for what He predestined/caused them to do ... and they still call that "justice."
But does punishing someone for the sins He made them do sound like real justice? Like how God really is?
But when you question their understanding of justice or push back on it, they say "Well, we don't see things the way God does. His ways are higher than ours, and we can't really understand Him. And since He is sovereign, He gets to decide what's 'justice,' even though it might look wrong, unfair, and like injustice to us."
[Or they say, "Well, no one deserves heaven, do they, because we are all wicked, depraved sinners? And so 'justice' would be no one going to heaven. So you can't be upset that God graciously chose to save some people but to pass over the rest, letting them go to hell, which is what their sins deserve." (Do they really "deserve" the punishment for their sins if God made them sin?)
They shift focus from the bad (your accusation that it's not justice for God to predestine people to sin but then punish them for sinning) to the "good" (that the elect got to go to heaven even though they don't "deserve" it), trying to make Calvinism's god sound gracious and generous (at least to the elect), as if it makes it all better.
However, if we can't tell what real, godly justice looks like (if it can look just like injustice) then how in the world can God instruct people over and over again to practice/seek/administer justice (Micah 6:8, Psalm 106:3, Lev. 19:15, Is. 1:17, Deut. 16:19-20, 27:19. And Prov. 28:5 says that evil men don't understand justice but those who seek the Lord do, which contradicts the Calvinist's claim that we can't really figure out what godly justice is)? These commands for justice are meaningless if we have no way of knowing what real justice looks like and no way of differentiating it from injustice.
An unjust God cannot be trusted. And regardless of how strongly Calvinists deny it, Calvi-god is an unjust god!
But thankfully, Calvi-god is NOT the God of the Bible!
[Calvinists say that God shows His justice by sending people to hell for their sins (sins that He predestined).
But what does God say about how He demonstrates His justice?
That He demonstrates His justice by sending Jesus to the cross to pay for our sins so that we don't have to, so that we can live.
And so who are you going to believe: God or Calvinists?]
A non-Calvinist would say that a mystery, in the Bible, is either a newly-revealed bit of truth from one of the writers of the Bible (such as Colossians 1:26) or else it's spiritual truths Christians can understand but not unbelievers (Luke 8:10) or, in a general sense, it would be something that human minds simply cannot understand fully (such as what God looks like or what the highest heavens look like or how exactly the supernatural world operates or what God was doing before He created the world, etc.).
But to a Calvinist, "mystery" is how they try to explain away contradictions in their theology and to manipulate you into turning off your "red flag radar," to get you to accept illogical, irreconcilable contradictions, shaming you into feeling like an unhumble Christian who is questioning God if you examine Calvinism's contradictions too closely.
Calvinists say "How can God ordain sin but hold man accountable for it? How can He say He wants all people to be saved but predestined many to hell? We don't know. It's a 'mystery.' God's thinking and ways are higher than our thinking and ways, and so we can't figure it all out. But we can trust that He understands it. And that's what matters. And who are we to think we can peer into or try to solve the mysteries that God reserves for Himself? Who are you, O man, to talk back to God? He is the Potter and we are clay, and so He can do whatever He wants with us."
Sure, this almost sounds good and humble and godly. But do you see the manipulation here?
If this was about true, biblical mysteries - like what God looks like or how angels operate - then I could understand saying "We can't really know, so don't worry about it too much. Some things are not ours to know right now."
But this is the kind of response Calvinists give for every major contradiction and illogical problem in their theology - ones that contradict what God plainly said in the Bible, that destroy God's character and trustworthiness, that flip the Gospel on its head, and that ruin people's faith and chances for salvation.
And these cannot - should not - be explained away by Calvinists with a shrug, a wave of the hand, and a simple, "It's a mystery. You won't understand it anyway, so just accept what we tell you. That's what it means to be 'humble like a child.'"
(Yeah, my Calvinist pastor used the "you must be humble like a child" verse to tell us that we need to accept predestination without questioning it, just like how young kids trust him and accept predestination when he tells them about it. Manipulation! And it's not what the "humble like a child" passage is about at all! And besides, young kids also believe in Santa Claus. And why? Because some trusted adult told them it's true and that they should believe it.)
They also use the word "tension," as in "You might have tension with what the Bible teaches (meaning 'what Calvinism tells you the Bible teaches'), but the Bible doesn't have any tension with it. So you should just learn to live with the tension."
Tellingly, "tension" and "mystery" are almost always about their Calvinist views on predestination and about God controlling all things, even our sins, but not being responsible for sin, about Him holding us accountable for what He causes. These words are almost never used about true biblical mysteries. The thing is, they know that if people question the implications of those Calvinist ideas, many people would reject Calvinism. And so they have to keep you from looking too closely into it by shaming you into just accepting what they tell you. (See "MacArthur's Manipulations" for an example of this.)
15. God's Word/Scripture:
Non-Calvinists believe that God's Word is God's Word, that the Gospel message is straightforward, that God meant what He said and said what He meant the way He wrote it, and so He didn't need Calvinist theologians to come along hundreds of years later to clarify it for Him. We believe that we - that anyone, even a child - can understand what God meant to say about salvation just by reading the Word in a commonsense way, as it was plainly written.
But Calvinists believe that there is a deeper, secret level of meaning underneath everything God says (that God deliberately veiled the Gospel message to keep the non-elect from understanding/believing it, revealing it only to Calvinists) and that we need to spend months of deep study with Calvinist theologians, in Calvinist classes, reading hundreds of pages from Calvinists books to understand what God really meant to say.
But what do you think?
Does God not know how to speak clearly? Or did He deliberately deceive people by writing one thing but meaning another? Does He want the Gospel message to be hidden, to be unable to be understood by most people? Are there multiple layers to what God wrote, where one layer contradicts the other layer? Do Calvinists has some "secret knowledge" about what God really meant to say? And if Calvinism is true, then why didn't the people who wrote the Bible talk more like Calvinists? And how could anyone have accurately understood God's Word before John Calvin came along in the 1500's to clear it all up?
And keep in mind that to a Calvinist, Calvinism IS the Gospel. Calvinism IS God's Word. And so don't believe Calvinist pastors when they say things like "I don't preach Calvinism; I just preach the Gospel." They cannot get away from preaching Calvinism because they believe Calvinism IS the Gospel. And so all they really mean is "I don't want to scare you off or let you know that I'm pushing Calvinism on you. I want you to think I'm only preaching the Bible, as it is, without any theological bent. And so I am going to tell you that I'm not preaching Calvinism so that you trust me, so that you let your guard down, so that you shut off your 'red flag radar.' And then I will subtly, skillfully weave Calvinism into my sermons, using biblical words, phrases, and verses, so that you don't even realize that I am dragging you deeper and deeper into Calvinism." (See this post for an example: "'Saint' PJ's Deceptions and Manipulations.")
While no one can figure everything out about prayer and how it works and why God answers some prayers but not others, non-Calvinists would say that God often works in cooperation with man's prayers, that everything's not predetermined but that God does indeed respond to prayer, that it affects what happens. Some things that God wants don't happen because we didn't pray for it. Some things do happen precisely because we prayed for it. Prayer makes a difference in getting God's Will done. And we are responsible for whether or not we pray.
But Calvinists try to sound like they think prayer really does matter, that it makes a difference ... but it flies in the face of their theological beliefs that everything's already been predetermined by God, that everything is caused/controlled by God (which would include whether or not we pray), and that nothing different could happen.
(Calvinists are experts at convincing themselves that these contradictions don't matter, that they are nothing to worry about. And that they are being more humble and God-glorifying to not think about or examine them.)
And so the best that Calvinists can come up with is that prayer is a way to connect with God, to show our dependency on Him, and that "God ordains the means (our prayers) and well as the ends (the effects of prayer)."
I wonder how Calvinists would react then if we all said, "Well, I'm not going to worry about praying then. Because if God predestined me to pray, then it'll happen without me even trying. But if He predestined me to not pray, then I couldn't do anything to force myself to pray anyway. It's all predetermined/controlled by God, so let's just wait and see what God makes us do."
Think about this for just a moment.
A Calvinist believes that Calvi-god controls and causes everything that happens, down to our thoughts. Everything that happens is his Will, which was predestined from before time began. And nothing different can happen than what he predestined, than what actually happens.
But ... your prayer makes a difference!?! There are things Calvi-god willed for you that you won't get if you don't pray for them!?!
Do you hear how contradictory that is, how nonsensical!?! It's Alice in Wonderland-type nonsense!
Of course, I can believe that prayer makes a difference because I believe that God responds to us, that we make real choices that have real consequences, that He has chosen to not actively control everything (our decisions, thoughts, actions, prayers) but He leaves some things up to us. So I can believe that our prayers matter and make a difference and that we won't get certain things if we don't pray for them and that God's Will doesn't always get done if we don't seek it, pray for it, obey it, etc.
(To be clear, the things He Wills - His overarching plans - will eventually get done, either through other people who will obey Him or by incorporating our disobedience into His plans somehow. But we can refuse to be part of His Will, the way He wants us to. We can refuse to obey. We can miss out on His best plans for us and on the blessings that come with obedience. He will eventually find someone else to be part of getting His Will done or He'll use our disobedience somehow, and so His overarching plans will get done, but it’s our choice to get the blessings of obedience or the punishment of disobedience. Our choices are ours, and they have a real effect on our lives, with real consequences.)
But a Calvinist cannot say that prayer makes a difference without contradicting their theology. Because if God predestined you to get something, you'll get it. If He didn't, you won't. In fact, if you don’t pray, then it would have to be because Calvi-god predestined that you wouldn't pray and caused you to not pray. And so how could he have something he wanted to give you if you had prayed, when he is the very reason you didn’t pray?
Do you see what a tangled web this is?
If it’s all been predetermined from before time began and if everything that happens does so exactly the way Calvi-god planned it and causes it to happen, then there can be no alternative, "could-have-happened-if-you-prayed" plans.
When a Calvinist warns you of the need to pray, try replying like this, "So then what happens if I don't pray?" And see what they say.
If they say "Well, then you won't get what God wants to give you," then say "Then I guess everything isn't predestined by God, is it?"
If they try to convince you of the need to pray, as if it has some effect on what happens, then they are contradicting their view of God’s “sovereignty” and of everything being predetermined by God.
(If a Calvinist preacher tells you that you need to tithe or join a small group or help in a ministry or go on a missions trip, try answering “I can’t. God predestined that I wouldn’t do it, for His glory and for your good” or "Well, I can't decide that myself because God controls my decisions, so let's just wait and see what God causes me to do", and watch how they reply. If a Calvinist complains about you questioning or disagreeing with Calvinism, simply tell them "God 'ordained' that I fight against Calvinism, for His glory and for your good. I have no control over it.", and see how non-Calvinistic they can be.)
Okay, so I'm going to wrap up this section (there are more coming up, sorry) with a warning:
Calvinists will do their best to hide what they really believe, to make you think they are saying the same thing you are. They will agree with you on one level, while hiding the fact that they really believe in a secondary level which contradicts that first level. And they rely on your ignorance to give them time to subtly slip their Calvinism in, to stealthily reel you into Calvinism without you realizing it. And if they can convince you that they are saying the same thing you are (using words the same way you do), if you buy into their definitions of things like depraved, dead, sovereign, regeneration, faith, grace, etc., if you don't question them deeply to expose what they really mean or research the verses they use, comparing it all to what the Bible plainly says, then they've already got you beat!
You want to see what a conversation with a Calvinist might be like? Read this not-so-imaginary one:
Me: Do you believe God loves the world and that Jesus died for all people?
Me: So then can anyone believe in Jesus and be saved?
Calvinist: Oh, yes. Anyone can be saved if they want to. Everyone who desires to be saved will be saved.
Me: But doesn't Calvinism teach that God forces people to either believe in Him or to reject Him?
Calvinist: Of course not! People either believe in God or reject Him because that's what they want to do. They choose to do what they want to do.
Me: So then do we all have the chance, the ability, to believe in Jesus?
Calvinist: Well, it takes faith to believe, right? So those who don't have faith can't believe, right?
Me: But can anyone have faith?
Calvinist: Well, God is sovereign, and so He decides whom to give faith to (to regenerate with the Holy Spirit) and whom to withhold it from. (Unless you think that you're sovereign and that you saved yourself.) And those whom He gives faith to will believe.
Me: But can those He doesn't give faith to believe, if they want to?
Calvinist: If you don't have faith, you can't believe. You won't even want to believe. Faith is a gift [in Calvinism], and God gives it to whomever He wants to, to those He loves and has chosen for salvation.
Me: But I thought you said that God loves all people and that Jesus died for all people and that anyone can believe in Jesus.
Calvinist: No, I said that God loves the world. He loves the elected people from all over the world, not all individual people. And yes, Jesus died for all people, but it means He died for all of His people. All those who will believe. The elect. Why would He die for those predestined to reject Him? That would be a waste of His blood and make His death ineffective. His blood is sufficient for everyone (it's enough to cover all men's sins) but it's only efficient to save the elect (only the elect can be and will be saved by it). And I said that anyone can be saved - anyone can believe in Jesus - if they want to, if that's what they desire. But only the elect can and will desire to be saved. The non-elect can never and will never desire to be saved because they are totally depraved, unrepentant sinners. And totally depraved, unrepentant people don't want God. They will always want to sin and choose to sin. Basically, anyone can believe in Jesus, if God gives them faith to believe. And the elect will always believe, but the non-elect will never believe.
Me: But who determines if we are elect or non-elect? Who determines if we have the desire to be saved or not?
Calvinist: God does.
Me: So then whose fault is it when we sin and reject God and go to hell? If God predestined this to happen and we can't change it, then doesn't that mean it's His fault?
Calvinist: No, of course not. God ordains sin but He is not the author of sin. People choose to sin and reject God because that's what they wanted to do. And so they deserve their punishment.
Me: But if faith is a gift [in Calvinism] that God gives only to some people, and if He picks from the beginning who gets faith and who doesn't, and if we can't be saved without that faith, and if we can't change what God predestined for us ... then if God doesn't give us faith doesn't that make Him responsible for our unbelief, for us being in hell? And then isn't it unfair for Him to put us in hell for something we didn't deserve, that we had no control over, that He made us do?
Calvinist: Sinners want to sin and reject God, so if someone rejects Him, it's because that's what they wanted to do. And so God is just for punishing them for it. No one deserves to go to heaven anyway. We all deserve hell. So if you want "fairness" then we should all be in hell. But God, out of His abundant love and grace, didn't want all people to go to hell, so He graciously chose to save some people. But it's not unfair for Him to let the rest go to hell for their sins, because that's what we all deserve for our sins. God's actually being very loving and gracious to save any of us, when no one deserves to be saved. It's a mystery that we humans can't understand. But we don't have to understand it, because God does. And so you just have to trust Him.
Me: But didn't God make the sinner be a sinner in the first place and cause them to reject Him? And if so, then why does He command people to believe in Him and to obey Him when He made it impossible for them to do it? Isn't that just fake commands then and a fake offer of salvation?
Calvinist: It's real commands, but God commands things He knows we can never do. He commands us to be holy knowing we can never be perfectly holy, right!?! And it's a real offer of salvation, it's just that the non-elect can't accept it. Because they don't want to. Because they don't have faith. But God commands them to believe and obey so that they would be guilty of sin when they broke His commands, and then He could demonstrate His justice and wrath - and get glory for it - by punishing them for their sins.
Me: But how can it be real "justice" if God punishes them for what He caused them to do?
Calvinist: You're deliberately trying to twist my words and misrepresent my beliefs. He doesn't cause them to sin; He just allows them to carry out the sinful desires that are in their hearts, that come with their sin nature. Besides, God gets to decide what real justice is, not us. And who are you, O man, to talk back to Him anyway? He is the Potter and we are the clay, and so He has the right to do whatever He wants with us for His glory. Humble Christians don't question Him or the Gospel.
Me: But if God decides who to regenerate and who not to, doesn't that mean that if He doesn't regenerate you then He forced you to have the "sin nature" which made you want to ...
Calvinist: I'm done talking to you now. You just don't get it.
I'm not kidding, this is what conversations with them are like (except they throw in a lot of names/quotes from Calvinist authors and lots of Bible verses - taken out of context - thinking it triumphantly proves their case).
[Also, if you're interested, see "Is Faith a Gift God Gives (or forces on) Us?"]
We are not questioning God or the Bible when we question Calvinism. We are questioning their terrible, philosophical, self-contradicting theology which alters God's Word and destroys His character!
You MUST look for the "hidden layers" that are underneath what they say, the things they really mean but that they hide under more acceptable-sounding, biblical-sounding ideas. (Never take anything they say at face-value. The more probing questions you ask, the more their deception and the holes in their theology will be exposed.)
You MUST compare it all to what the Bible plainly says. (Which do you really think is the more accurate one: What God plainly says … or what the Calvinist tells you God meant to say? Does God mean what He says or not? Does God say what He means or not?)
And you MUST take Calvinist teachings to their logical and natural conclusions to see how wrong they are, how damaging it is to God's Word and God's character.
"Either He is in control or you are." [And yet, no one questions what they mean by "in control." Of course, God is "in control," in that He is over all things, knows all things, sees all things, holds all things in His hands, chooses what to cause (but never sin or evil) and what to allow and what to block, and will work all things together for good. But a Calvinist believes that "in control" means "actively preplanning, controlling, and causing all things that happen, even your thoughts and sins." Big difference! But they trap you by getting you to agree that "God is in control," and yet you never realize that you both see it differently. Every time they get you to agree with them about one of their ideas, they reel you one step deeper into Calvinism.]
"Either He controls everything or He controls nothing." [Calvinists want you to think that the only two choices are that God is "totally in control" (that He actively controls everything) ... or that He is "totally out of control" (meaning that He is up there helplessly watching everything that goes on down here, anxiously wringing His hands as He waits to see what people will choose, subservient to us). And of course, no Christian will say that He is helpless or that He controls nothing. And so we're trapped into "He controls everything," without being aware of their definition of "control." But how about thinking outside the dichotomy? How about realizing that neither of their options are biblical? How about ... God chooses to NOT actively control everything, even though He could, because He wanted to give people real choices that come with real consequences? How about He controls/causes some things (never sin or evil) but simply allows other things to happen, but He will work all things together for good? This is biblical. But a Calvinist can't allow that - the idea that God doesn't actively control all things, that He lets people make real choices - because it doesn't fit their idea of "sovereign." It always comes back to their idea of how they think a sovereign God MUST ACT in order to be the kind of sovereign God they think He is.]
"If you say there's one thing He doesn't control then you're saying there are things He can't control, and then you're calling Him powerless." (No! I'm saying there are things He chooses to not actively control even though He could if He wanted to. And there's examples of this all throughout the Bible!)
"If you say that we can make choices then you're saying that there's something outside of God's control, that He's not fully sovereign." (No, I'm saying that your definition of "sovereign" is wrong and unbiblical! I'm saying He can actively control all things but He chooses not to.)
"If you say that God doesn't elect certain people to save then you're saying that God has to choose to save everybody. But clearly everybody isn't saved, so it must be that God chooses to save certain people." [Very weak, pathetic attempt and bad reasoning. And it's clearly based on the faulty assumption that God actively chooses whom to save: either everybody or only specific people! Also, Calvinists think that if everyone really had the choice between heaven and hell, then everyone, without exception, would pick heaven because that's the best option and no one in their right mind would willingly pick hell. Therefore, since everyone isn't saved, it must be because they didn't really have the option of being saved, that God predestined them to hell. They have simplified human beings to an absurd, one-dimensional level, failing to realize that there are many factors that can and do cause people to reject Jesus: they don't want to submit to the Bible's rules, they like their sins, they want to be their own "gods," they don't take the Bible seriously or believe it's God's Word, they've convinced themselves that all roads lead to heaven or that all good people can get to heaven, they just don't care or even want to know if God is real, etc. But no ... in Calvinism, it's "everyone would definitely pick heaven if everyone had the choice, and so, therefore, since there are people in hell then it has to be because they didn't really have a choice." For being so "educated," Calvinists can sure be stupid sometimes.]
"If you disagree with Calvinism then you are disagreeing with God and the Bible." (No! I am disagreeing with your interpretation of the Bible. Big difference!)
These are some false dichotomies and false accusations - built on their own philosophical reasoning, NOT on Scripture - meant to lure you into accepting their way of thinking, their bad logic. And it completely ignores what the Scriptures show about God's true, complex nature and the different ways He operates.
Two Loves: Calvinism believes Calvi-god only really loves the "elect," which is why he saves them and only them. But the Bible says God loves all people, right? So how do they mesh this? By saying God has two different kinds of love - a "save your soul" love for the elect and a "give you food and water" love for the non-elect (before sending them to hell for eternity!).
Two Wills: The Bible says that God wills that no one perishes, that He wants all people to be saved. But Calvinists believe that God predestines most people for hell. So how do they mesh these two? By claiming that God has two different wills: a "revealed" one, where He says He wants one thing to happen, and a "hidden" one, where He really wants the opposite to happen. This is how Calvi-god can say one thing but cause the opposite thing to happen. Because he's got two Wills, you see. Two opposing Wills. There! Problem solved! And "It's a mystery! You can't understand how it all works, so just accept it, okay!"
Two Calls: The Bible shows God calling all men to believe. But Calvinists believe that the only people who can respond to God's calls are the "elect," those whom God predestined to believe and causes to believe. So then, how do they mesh that with the fact that God "calls" to all? Well, with two different calls, of course. There's a special, irresistible call for the elect that Calvi-Holy-Spirit causes them to respond to, and then there's a "general call" for the non-elect that they can never respond to because they are predestined to hell. BUT the fact that they were "called" and that they rejected the call makes them punishable (even though Calvi-god made sure they could never respond to the call anyway).
Two types of sinner: The Bible says that Jesus died for sinners (Romans 5:8), for the unrighteous (1 Peter 3:18), that God loved us and Jesus died for us while we were ungodly and His enemies (Romans 5:6, 10). Now, most of us would read this to mean that because we are all sinners, unrighteous, and enemies of God at first, then Jesus died for us all. Because He died for sinners. And all of us are sinners. But Calvinists believe that Jesus died only for the elect. (And how good Christians can get sucked into Calvinism after hearing this I'll never understand!) So if Calvinism is true, then either the elect alone are "sinners, unrighteous, ungodly enemies of God" … or there has to be two different types of sinners (the “sinning, unrighteous, ungodly enemies” that Jesus died for and the “sinning, unrighteous, ungodly enemies” that Jesus didn't die for). But does this sound like what the Bible's saying when it talks about sinners? Seriously!?! (FYI: Calvinists don't actually say there's two types of sinners, but it's inherent in their theology.)
Two Sources of Sin: Calvinists believe that God causes/controls all things - ALL THINGS, which includes sin - but they know they can't accuse God of sin, so they have to make it sound like man is really responsible for his sin even though Calvi-god controls all that we think and do. And how do they do this? With two sources of causation! To them, God is the ultimate source/cause of everything that happens (preplanning, controlling, causing everything) ... but down here, we are the secondary source/cause, the ones who "choose" to do what God predestined us to do. Much like a robot carries out the commands that the programmer programmed it to do. Or how if I picked up a stick and poked someone with it, the stick was the thing that actually touched the person, and so the stick is "responsible" for "causing" the pain. And they think this gets Calvi-god off the hook for being the ultimate cause/programmer of sin, that it makes man responsible for his sin even though Calvi-god preprogrammed us to do what we do and we could never choose to do anything differently. Frickin' insanity!
Two Effects of Jesus's Death, Sufficient vs. Efficient: Calvinists will say "Yes, Jesus died for all sins, but while His death is sufficient for everyone, it's only efficient for the elect." (Which verse teaches this!?!) Do you know what this gibberish means? Imagine that I have a restaurant full of food, enough to feed all the starving people in the country. But I only allow 20 people into the restaurant to eat, while I block everyone else from coming in, never offering them all that abundant food that I have available. The food in my restaurant is sufficient for all people - there's more than enough to feed everyone - but it's only efficient for 20 people, because I only allow 20 people to eat that food while preventing everyone else from touching it. When Calvinists say "sufficient for all," they are trying to sound like Calvinism fits with all the verses that say Jesus died for all sins. But it's deceptive. Because what does it matter if Jesus's death was enough to cover all sin if God prevented most people from having any access to it, from benefitting from it in any way? In fact, that would just be cruel - more cruel than if Jesus's death was only enough to cover a few people and so all God could save was the few elected people because there was no more sacrifice to go around. At least then all of Jesus's blood would have been used, as much as it could. God would have saved as many people as He possibly could. (It's funny, though, because Calvinists accuse non-Calvinists of wasting Jesus's blood for believing that Jesus died for people who reject Him, but it's the Calvinists who waste Jesus's blood by saying that there's more than enough of it to cover everyone but that God only applies it to a few people while preventing everyone else from having access to it! What a waste of Jesus's sacrifice!) Calvinism is nonsense and hogwash! And "sufficient vs. efficient" is just a Calvinist attempt to sound like they affirm "Jesus died for all people," when they really don't!