Why I am not a “Calvinist”

Building on a Building

The ideals embodied by Calvinism in general are well and good. The rebuttal to the 5-points of Jacob Arminus given by the Synod of Dort provides a good starting point in framing a Biblically founded personal theology. This has been conveniently turned into an acronym to summarize its tenants: Total Depravity of Man, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace, and Perseverance. TULIP is more correctly known as the Doctrines of Grace. Were it enough to characterize Calvinism by the Doctrines of Grace alone there would be no problem in being identified as a Calvinist. The following short list contains views typically held by Calvinists with explanations. These views are “why I am not a Calvinist.”

  • Paedobaptism: This view of baptism holds that infants can be baptized and be considered Christians.

This is bad doctrine. Correct doctrine is the foundation for healthy assemblies of believers. Anything that promulgates bad doctrine should not be considered as valid. Paedobaptism actually becomes a non-issue when viewed in its correct setting as “bad doctrine” and “credo-baptism” (Believer’s Baptism”) is taught and practiced.When even a cursory review of the New Testament (NT) is taken the reader cannot help but to notice what causes divisions in the NT churches, particularly at Corinth. The one repeated ground for divisions in the NT is when someone is regarded as unregenerate.Believer’s Baptism is the only outward presentation a believer is commanded to make. If we cannot expect a potential member to do this one simple thing (or provide some kind of proof he has done so as a believer) then why build a “church” membership base on it? Modes of baptism not withstanding, the “whens and whys” have to becarefully observed. If someone refuses believer’s baptism, then what are we to conclude? We are to conclude they are unregenerate and hence SHOULD be excluded from the Lord’s Table and “church” membership.

  • Covenant theology view of salvation: This assumes that the covenants of God from the Old Testament (OT) are still in force and allow the covenanters to receive salvation in Christ and hence are part of Jesus’ church.

This view is the primary reason there is not a Puritan church alive and well today. It is actually quite ironic that many leading Calvinists push Puritan beliefs even though those beliefs led to the downfall of that belief system. Legacy church membership became a norm for the Puritan church and stagnation led to the downward spiral that would eventually become Unitarian/Universalism.This view holds that anyone in a home is granted salvation by the salvation granted to the head of that home. The Passover story in Exodus 12 is often used to substantiate such a position.With the initiation of the New Covenant (Luke 22:14-20; Matthew 26:26-28) Jesus showed the salvation that is only possible by His blood. It was made at a specific point in time and applied to a specific group of people – the church (Matthew 16:18) which Christ said He will build.

    Eschatology: Generally speaking, Calvinists often believe an amillennial position. Some even go as far as to declare a preterist view point. Rarely will a Calvinist hold any form of a dispensational view.

Most typical Calvinist eschatology again comes from the Covenant theology view of salvation that believes the church embodies saints from the Old Testament as well as the New Covenant (word choice made on purpose). This is often wrapped up in the inclusive term of Kingdom of God to be understood synonymously with the Church.While a dispensational view of eschatology is far-fetched at times and often stretched to some unbiblical substantiated conclusions, the idea itself of dispensations is quite Biblical unless Paul is wrong (Ephesians 3:2 KJV and others). Some translations have stewardship, others have administration but the idea that there is some kind of division in God’s plan is evident.The Kingdom of God is simply the whole of God’s plan. It is comprised of three dispensations (or stewardships, administrations): OT saints, the Church, and Jews brought to salvation during the Great Tribulation (Revelation 7).John the Baptist typifies the OT saints (John 3:28-30) as being separate from the bridegroom and yet friends of the bridegroom. Paul understands the church to be the wife of the bridegroom (Ephesians 5:22-33) while John provides apocalyptic imagery of the bride of Christ (Revelation 19:6-9). Therefore the Kingdom of God is composed of the three: OT saints, the Church, tribulation Jews and saints.

God has made Himself and His plans well known.  While we will never know nor understand everything about God and what He does, He involves us in His salvific purposes. God and God alone should hold our allegiance since we are members of His church and hence His kingdom. Therefore a better term for characterization is “sovereigntist” to show our fealty to our Sovereign.

That is “why I am not a Calvinist.”


22 thoughts on “Why I am not a “Calvinist”

  1. Excellent points. Your title grabbed my attention and thus, I am here commenting. I agree whole heartily with your reasons why the label, ‘Calvinist’ has too much baggage. However, until I fully read through Calvin’s Institutes understanding the man and his theology better, I will continue to call myself a Calvinist. It certainly beats what I was before, a confused Arminian as RC has rightly remarked.

  2. Pingback: Stetzer Said What?! Blog Roundup for 10-12 2007 | Said At Southern Seminary

  3. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you.

    YOu have articulated what I cannot. As a believer in the Doctrines of Grace, I am grieved by all the talk and references of Calvin in reformed circles giving him the Glory that is reserved for our Lord.. Let us talk of Christ!

    There are other reasons I cannot be a Calvinist:

    The state church and it’s magistrates
    The burning at the stake of heretics
    The persecution of those fleeing the state church

  4. This whole argument seems so devisive. At one point last year I could have given a pretty good argument for either side. Which tells me that the problem is with my understanding. There are plenty of scriptures to support either side. Start at EZ 18:24 there is certainly choice involved….but then who is the author and finisher of my faith? Is the Holy Spirit moving me to the correct choice?

    With me and my walk, it seems that through a deeper search of the Word and Holy Spirit teaching, these arguments have resolved and move toward the elemental things such as baptism and such that Paul talked about…I have moved on to the position that I know that it is Christ that works within me. I have been justified. I am being sanctified. I sin less and less, become more holy….walk closer to Him…On His path. In His fold.

  5. What a mess! I just always called myself a Christian. Little did I know I for the sake of ‘the baptist church’ that I had to choose between (A) Armenianism, or (B) Calvinism. So, what if I want to go to (C) neither of the above? Where does that leave me?

    Answers please…


  6. Ima,
    Thanks for stopping by and for your comment.

    I understand your conundrum. It plagues me as well. Make no mistake, I make no decision for the sake of “the baptist church.”

    Choice (A) is a poor choice in that while it seems be proactive, it is too horizontal in its God/man orientation.

    Choice (B) was the whole point of the post.

    Choice (C) was also addressed in the post.

    As we give God our fealty we will be recognized for what we are and we will not have to worry about calling ourselves Christians — the world will do it for us (Acts 11:26)

  7. Ima and Scott, I have thought of these five points as being on a continuum, rather than being a false either/or dilemma. Those who believe in all five points of TULIP are generally considered Calvinists, Scott’s excellent points in this article notwithstanding. Those who believe in none of the five points are full Arminians.

    But there are many Christians who believe in one, two, three, or four of the five points along this continuum. Do we have to label them? I realize that some Calvinists will label everyone other than a full 5-pointer an Arminian, but is that really a fair assumption? I think not.

    I have wavered on the “L” for a long time now, going back and forth, but I would still consider myself a Calvinist (this author’s excellent points notwithstanding again) FAR more than I would an Arminian. In fact, I have very little in common with typical Arminian understanding of doctrine. So, I guess there are labels for the various points, such as Amyraldian for a 4-pointer who rejects Limited Atonement, but I’m not sure the label is always necessary.

    I used to be strongly opposed to labels, but now I find them quite useful in helping me to understand the other person’s point of view. If we use them for purposes of understanding one another, then I am currently in favor of them.

    Good post!

  8. Thanks for that Scot!!

    I believe God’s WHOLE truth goes way beyond Calvanist or Arminian teaching. We look through a glass dimly.
    As I read in a little book called “Hey God, this is Anna” by Fynn…. “Man has many points of view, but God has many viewing points.”

    One day we will see it all clearly.

    As for me, I’ve been on both sides of the fence… grew up with Arminian teaching, but in recent years have been involved with a church fellowship who tend to be rather Calvanistic.

    But it has made me look at both sides, and I’ve often wondered how it all fits together, ’cause both have their valid points.

    So thanks for helping clear the fog a little bit!! Thank the Lord, one day I will see it as He does!! 🙂

  9. Maybe the above view can be said to be:
    1) All are sinners in need of mercy (Full Deprativity but still choice)
    2) Election of believers to be like Christ (not to get saved)
    3) Unlimited Atonement for all (but applied to believers)
    4) Gift of Grace depending on human choice (in God’s sovereign plan)
    5) Security in salvation through Christ (but with the theoretical opportunity to have the choice to abandom Christ)

  10. It has come to my attention that this post has been linked to a pro-Arminian website and that website has this posted listed as an Arminian resource.

    In no way should this blog be construed as supportive of Arminianism. I am sympathetic to what is known as Calvinism though I have listed its shortcomings.

    Thank you.

  11. I regret to say that never in all my years of being saved have I come across such a devisive, twisted and elitist view of salvation than that of Calvinism. I was given A Pink’s book The Sovereignty of God to read, and it made me feel saddened to think that this man could distort the love of Christ in such a selfishly motivated way. I am of the view that Calvinists see themselves as being singled out for enlightenment which gives them a sense of superiority and “election” hence if someone does not accept TULIP as a sound doctrine they are lacking in ability to grasp it (according to the Calvinists). I have found them to be intellectually smug, condemning and judgemental. In fact, I am of the opinion that this doctrine which advocates limited atonement (Christ died for some but not for others) as being evil in origin and very destructive in application. It is important to understand the history behind this doctrine as it should help people to see the deception wrapped up in it.

  12. Thanks for stopping in, Gilly. (sorry for the late reply but family duties come first aka…vacation!)

    Pink is one of only a few men who actually understand how God saves the lost. It is sad you think otherwise. You see, I am of the view that Arminians see themselves as superior not only in there perception of obtaining salvation for themselves on their on merit but especially in that they often come across as being able to manipulate God — even when I know they do not — it just comes across that way.

    As for limited atonement being evil…to answer that yourself, ask yourself this question — are there people in hell? If so, then why did not Christ’s atonement apply to them? Seems pretty limiting.

    Your website would not open. Though a much better site for a good read about the history of Calvinism is http://www.mongerism.com.

    Again, thanks for stopping by.

  13. Hi Scott and thank you for your reply. I don’t think I mentioned at any time that I was in favour of the Arminian view..did I? As it happens, I take my understanding of scripture from the bible and leave it to the Holy Spirit to interpret it for me. So I think it is important to say that I am not an “either or” theologian but rather saved by the blood of Christ who died that “none should perish but that all should come to repentance” I don’t think any linguist could argue a semantical distinction or differential in that context concerning the use of the word “all” and therein lies the problem with Calvinsim (not the Gospel) as it would purpose to give a different interpretation as we know ie limited atonement. My question based on this view is as follows; if Christ died for some and not for others then it must deduced that some are damned while others are not, correct? If this is so, then what happens to a baby or infant that dies or someone who has brain damage and does not have the cognitive skills to understand redemption? Isn’t God a just God and an unchanging God and ultimately one of love, that He allowed His Son to die for US on the cross. As for those in hell..they rejected salvation Heb 2:3 I completely believe in God’s sovereignty and his being in total control over all things at all times, but there seems to be morbid fatalistic view held by Calvinists which cannot be upheld by scripture. There is a difference between foreknowledge and predestination.

    Thank you for the website you posted, I already know of it ; )

    • Hi Gilly,

      I think one of the problems with understanding the use of the word “all” is that it doesn’t necessarily mean every single person that has lived, that is living, and that will live without exception. The New Testament emphasizes “all” because he died for the sins of the whole world and not just the Jews and the Samaritans (think all types vs. all objects). The use of the word “all” needs to interpreted in its local context and also in the context of the whole word of God.

      > Christ died for some and not for others then it must deduced that some are damned while others are not, correct?

      Yes, correct.

      > If this is so, then what happens to a baby or infant that dies or someone who has brain damage and does not have the cognitive skills to understand redemption?

      One could argue these people are automatically considered elect. I suggest that it is within the character of God to save these individuals. I have had 2 of my children die before they were born so you might consider me biased.

      Anyway, I’m glad Jesus didn’t just die on the cross and leave it at that. In my experience I found that believing in spiritual freewill brought me to a sense of despair and would have driven me to fatalism if it hadn’t been for ‘Calvinist’ Christians.

      I hope I don’t come across condescending or anything like that. Most ‘Calvinist’ Christians I’ve met are really nice people. I would say the same for ‘Arminian’ Christians and the ones in the middle too.

  14. Gilly,

    The Doctrines of Grace can most certainly be upheld by scripture.

    36But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. 37All that the FATHER GIVES me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. 38For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. 39And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that HE HAS GIVEN ME, but raise them up at the last day. 40For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.”

    43″Stop grumbling among yourselves,” Jesus answered. 44″NO ONE CAN COME TO ME UNLESS THE FATHER WHO SENT ME DRAWS HIM, and I will raise him up at the last day. (John 6)

    (Romans 9) is great text.

    16″You did not choose Me, but I CHOSE YOU and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last.” (John 15)

    Naturally, one will say…but hey!! God can’t violate our free will to choose him or deny him.

    7Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe,
    “The stone the builders rejected
    has become the capstone,[b]”[c] 8and,
    “A stone that causes men to stumble
    and a rock that makes them fall.”[d] They stumble because they disobey the message—WHICH IS ALSO WHAT THEY WERE DESTINED FOR. (1 Peter 2)

    God created these very people…unbelievers….and destined them to stumble. Why is that? For HIS glory!!!

    But I agree, that it’s not going to be our theology that saves us….but God’s grace and mercy in the redeeming work of Jesus Christ.

    Though, I would rather be held guilty of giving God too much glory/credit theologically (Which is impossible by man) than not enough.

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