John Calvin or the Bible
Man is born with the inherited depravity of Adam’s sin and without God’s direct influence and divine grace he will be eternally lost in his sin. John Calvin wrote hundreds of years ago, but the influence of his erroneous doctrine is still perpetuated throughout the ecumenical community that surrounds us. Calvin once said, “What is to be will be, and we can do nothing to change it.” Calvin viewed mankind as destined to revel in sin and without God’s intercession, eternal condemnation in hell will be man’s eternity. Are these statements correct? Has man been born with a totally depraved mind, absent from any chance of choosing to do good? Is a child born into a depraved state of eternal sin and without being one of the chosen elect, predetermined to live eternally in a devil’s hell?
Calvinism and its proponents have long taught and promoted the idea of man’s complete and helpless estate. Beginning with Adam, sin has been handed down to all men and all are predetermined to sin. While the inspired prophet James wrote, “But each one is tempted when he is carried away and entice by his own lust;” Calvinists presuppose that man truly has no other alternative (1:14). Man is completely unable to choose not to sin but rather is fulfilling prophecy when he sins. The Calvinist believe in a sovereign God who is both responsible for the saving of the elect and the punishment of the non-elect, but is this the God found in the Bible? Has God created the billions only to extend salvation to His chosen few?
We cannot deny the fact that man in his flesh has sinned against God. Paul said, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). The apostle John wrote, “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8). Therefore, it is impossible to deny man’s guilt before the heavenly Father, but does this automatically mean that man has no freewill in the matter, or that man is completely unable to change his situation?
We must understand in the concept of sin and inherited depravity that no sin can be extended beyond the one who has committed the act. Therefore, the doctrine of inherited depravity is completely false. The prophet Ezekiel said, “The person who sins will die. The son will not bear the punishment for the father’s iniquity, nor will the father bear the punishment for the son’s iniquity; the righteousness of the righteous will be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked will be upon himself” (18:20, emphasis mine, bcj). In one verse, the entire concept of inherited depravity is proven as contradictory to the Bible. God has clearly demonstrated that no sin will be held to the account of another person’s soul. Therefore, Adam’s sin cannot be transferred upon all of mankind. What then has been transferred?
The apostle Paul said, “For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:17, emphasis mine, bcj). First, Paul clearly states that what has been transferred upon all of mankind from Adam was not his sin but death. Death is the finality of all men. When the Lord returns, the last enemy, death, will be triumphed (1 Corinthians 15:26). Secondly, there is a clear indication of salvation being extended to those who receive the abundance of God’s grace. Again the Calvinist will want to point out that this grace is only extended to the chosen elect, but is that what the Bible teaches?
The Apostle Paul said, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men” (Titus 2:11). Again Paul said, “This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). The apostle Peter wrote, “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). The apostle John wrote, “and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world” (1 John 2:2). Finally, Jesus said Himself, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16). To limit the grace of God or to teach these verses only referring to the elect would not only contradict their basic interpretation but would also deny the power and love of God for all of mankind. Certainly the price paid for the forgiveness of our sins was tremendous and any attempt to limit the power of Jesus’ split blood would be a disgrace and dishonor of His supreme sacrifice.
Finally, is man incapable of escaping his sinful life without the divine intercession and miraculous working of the Holy Spirit? The Calvinist advance the idea that because of man’s inherited depravity he is without any moral compass and thereby incapable of doing any good. One such Calvinist wrote, “This is the reality about humanity. We are each born with an evil, God-hating heart” (Platt, David. Radical: Taking Back Your Faith From the American Dream. p. 30). Is this a true statement or another example of Calvin’s false doctrine and its erroneous outcome?
In the book of Acts, we have recorded by the prophet Luke the “acts” of obedience and “work” of the first century church in its infancy. It is at the very beginning, in the recording of the first gospel message ever preached that the answer to this question will come. On the day of Pentecost, Peter, inspired by the Holy Spirit, stood with his fellow apostles and proclaimed the deity, messiahship, and savior of all of mankind, Jesus Christ (Acts 2:22-36). Peter stood and boldly proclaimed for the first time in man’s history, that forgiveness of sins was offered through the blood of Jesus Christ. Peter had convicted his listeners of their sin – “Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ – this Jesus whom you crucified” (Acts 2:36). Their response to Peter’s conviction was a question, “Brethren, what shall we do?” If the Calvinist is correct that God divinely intercedes in the salvation of man, why was the question ever asked? Would not the Holy Spirit had fallen upon these people and miraculously washed away all their sins? But this is not what is recorded, but rather a choice was presented to them.
Peter said, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit…Be saved from this perverse generation” (Acts 2:38, 40). Why would Peter offer a choice and then admonish them to be saved, when neither from the Calvinist viewpoint is possible? Man is born with a “God- hating heart,” he is utterly incapable of making the correct choice. Man is born totally depraved and without hope of salvation without God’s divine intervention. The response of these Jews on that fateful day, once again prove the Calvinist’s viewpoint as false and in contradiction to the Bible. Luke went on to recored, “So then, those who received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls” (Acts 2:41). The Jews who believed and were baptized were saved by the grace of God (Mark 16:16; Ephesians 2:8).
These same conditions of God’s grace and salvation have been extended to us. Will you choose to be saved? Your life prior to being saved by God’s grace is like living in your own prison. The cell walls and door that enclose you are not inherited from sins committed by others, but rather your own. We have not inherited “depravity” but have freely chosen it as the course of our lives, but this does not have to be our end. We must find faith in the words of Jesus, “For God so loved the world.” It is this love, manifested by God, that offers to man a way of escape from the bondage of his sin. God does not miraculously intercede and save only the elect, but He has given to all men the freedom to choose Christ or reject Him. Therefore, the choice has been left to you; will you accept God’s grace or reject it?
Peter warned, “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Paul speaking of the same said, “No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14). The devil’s influence still exists and by his trickery and deceit continues to disguise false doctrines as giving hope and salvation to the masses. Our task has never been more important to search the scriptures and uphold those things which are faithful and true. False doctrines have always existed and we need to be constantly aware of their ideas and teachings, ensuring ourselves that we are not following something contrary to God’s Word. May we strive to faithfully obey God and His Word. May God bless our efforts to stand for the truth and expose those who are in error.
By Colby Junkin