I became a Christian in 1985 solely from reading the Word of Christ, separate from any association with Calvinism. Upon my second year as a Christian I was introduced to Calvinism and was overcome by its seemingly irrefutable Scriptural arguments and consequently became a Calvinist and a member of a Reformed Baptist Church. For nine years I was a member at Livermore Reformed Baptist Church in California [LRBC], then for two years my wife and I were members at Immanuel Baptist Church in Sacramento, California [IBC], then for five years we were members at my father-in-law’s church in Perth, Western Australia [CBC].
What is a Calvinist?
Calvinism or the Reformed Faith is a popular view among Christians in which God’s complete sovereignty or rule over all things is emphasised. Of particular importance to those who are Reformed is the understanding that salvation is totally of the Lord, in the sense that only God decides who will be saved and then He alone enables those who are the elect to be saved.
Consequently, the problem of why some believe and why some do not is a tension that does not exist in Reformed churches, simply because those who do not believe are considered to be those whom God does not want to be saved. Those who do believe are those alone for whom God predestined to believe and for whom alone Jesus came into the world to die for.
There are many variations among “Calvinists”, from hyper-Calvinists to what I would identify as Evangelical Calvinists. For the most part I would identify my experience of Calvinism of the evangelical variety. Though I have recanted Calvinism, I nevertheless experienced many blessings from the Lord while in fellowship with those of the Reformed faith. While I am persuaded that Calvinism is a serious error I am also persuaded that God does bless those who are truly converted, though doctrinal error negatively impacts them. I have returned to my original position I had when I first became a Christian, though at the time I was not able to articulate it as I am now able to do so. I do love those who are Reformed, but I am also passionate that my dear brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus, who are Reformed, might join with me in recanting Calvinism.
Why Recant Calvinism? (not exhaustive)
We Should Recant Calvinism for the Sake of God’s Word.
The Calvinist is presented with a problem in the face of clear passages of Scripture that either expressly say or necessarily imply that God desires everyone to be saved [e.g., Ezek. 18:23; Matt. 23:37; Luke 7:30; Luke 19:41; John 3:16; John 6:51; Acts 17:30; Romans 11:32; 1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9]. While the Calvinist has some complicated answers to particular texts, such as the ‘all’ in 1 Tim 2:4 as meaning ‘all kinds of men’, he has to undermine the authority of the revealed Word of God in order to get out from under the weight of the Biblical testimony that God desires all to be saved. Martin Luther introduced the overcoming of the Scriptural testimony by arguing that there was a hidden or secret will of God that overruled the revealed will of God in the Scriptures.
We should recant Calvinism simply because we must not adhere to a system of theology that undermines God’s Word by any means whatsoever. When all is said and done, we must adhere to what the Scriptures say regarding what God’s will is.
The revealed will of God is the hidden will of God and the hidden will of God is the revealed will of God.
Any other position is to undermine the authority of God’s Word. To adhere to a hidden or secret will of God that renders what is revealed void is to take away the things that God has revealed to us [Deut. 29:29]. If we accept that there is a secret and hidden will that can override the revealed Word of God, then we can know nothing for certain. If there is a secret will of God that is contrary to the revealed will of God, then it could be that God actually does not will the salvation of any at all.
We Should Recant Calvinism for the Sake of Salvation by Faith or Justification by Faith.
The Calvinist is presented with the problem that faith is rendered ineffectual for salvation because of his insistence that unregenerate sinners cannot exercise faith. What looms so large in the Reformed mind is the inability of man to believe, because of the doctrine of Total Depravity. The Calvinist solves the perceived problem of man’s inability by means of the Effectual Call, which is nothing less than the Holy Spirit’s work of Regeneration.
Putting aside how a dead sinner can believe, who is totally depraved and without freewill, we need to understand what is in jeopardy with insisting that a permanent work of the Holy Spirit must occur prior to Justification.
Faith is rendered inconsequential by the Calvinist because of his insistence that a superintending grace of God must regenerate a dead sinner in order that he then has that faith necessary for Justification. The Calvinist has rejected the biblical truth that when a sinner looks by faith upon Jesus that he then obtains salvation.
The Calvinist has exchanged a faith in Jesus that saves for a “faith” in a sovereign God who decreed his or her salvation unconditionally before the foundation of the world.
The transition in the Calvinist’s object of faith is serious and cannot be ignored in its effect upon the doctrine of Justification.
As far as how a dead sinner, who is totally depraved and without freewill, has an ability to believe without any prior permanent work of the Holy Spirit upon his nature – the answer is that the gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes [Rom. 1:16]. The gospel is the means by which a sinner can have faith and be saved. The great maxim of Scripture regarding salvation says that the righteous man has his very life by faith. That is, it was and is by faith (‘from faith to faith’) that he has that life that is in Jesus, which is salvation.
Romans 1:17 – For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “BUT THE RIGHTEOUS man SHALL LIVE BY FAITH.”
Here are passages that clearly say that faith results in salvation and in the first reception of the Holy Spirit:
- Galatians 3:2 – This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?
- Ephesians 1:13 – In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation–having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise….
- 1 Peter 1:9 – obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls
Evangelical Calvinists will argue that they do believe in salvation by faith and insist that faith proceeds Justification. Nevertheless, they ignore the significance of their error. To assert that a sinner must be Regenerated, Born Again, United to Christ by the Holy Spirit, so that they are truly and really saved – in order for that sinner to have faith – leaves nothing else for salvation. The subsequent “faith” that they insist is necessary for Justification is inconsequential.
Once it is maintained that a dead sinner is made alive in Christ without personal faith, then it cannot be ignored that faith is only a passively received subsequent grace, instead of a means by which salvation is obtained. The momentous point of salvation – Justification by faith – is rendered by Calvinism as the ultimate anticlimax of being in Jesus!
Justification is the only legal basis for becoming a child of God. Becoming a child of God is Regeneration or becoming Born Again. John 1:12,13, says, ‘But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.’ Receiving and believing occurs first and then the authority or right to become a child of God. Many have misread this verse as though it said that those who believed in Him were those who were born of God. On the contrary, it is imperative to understand that becoming a child of God is synonymous with being born of God.
Justification is never done for those who are already counted godly, or for those who are saved, or for those who are born again, or regenerated. God only justifies the ungodly [Rom. 4:5]. The Calvinist cannot be correct because a prior permanent work of the Holy Spirit would make a sinner godly before he then has faith and is justified. Is that not exactly what the Calvinist insists must be the case? The Calvinist insists that an ungodly sinner cannot have faith, and therefore, the sinner must be made godly so that he will have faith.
Both Paul and Jesus say that men believe while dead and with unregenerate hearts.
Paul says in Romans 10:10, ‘for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation’. Paul clearly says that believing proceeds ‘righteousness’ and ‘salvation’. Without qualification as to the nature of the heart, Paul simply says, ‘with the heart a person believes.’
Jesus said in John 5:25 “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.” Jesus did not have the problem that the Calvinist has, that dead sinners cannot believe. Jesus said that “the dead will hear”. It is while they are dead that they hear! He did not say that they would hear after having been made alive, but rather, that upon believing (i.e., the second ‘hear’ in the verse) they will then live. Living comes after hearing.
How Can Dead Sinners Believe? Only By Means of the Power of the Gospel!
Romans 10:17 – So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. The gospel is the means by which dead sinners can believe, only as they hear ‘the word of Christ.’