Arguments for Calvinism

Content Author: 
Will Hoit

Argument from God Hating Esau 

A case in point on this issue is the belief that God literally hated Esau in Romans 9, in the sense of despise or loathe, before Esau did any wrong.  This ignores the fact of how Jesus told us that to love Him we must hate our families in Luke 14:26.  “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.”  But the Bible also says in 1Timothy 5:8 “But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.”  So we see that despising our families was not what the Lord was commanding.  Hate was not literal in the sense of despising or having animosity, but said in a comparative sense.  This was figure of speech common at that time and was not to be taken to mean despise, but to mean choose above.  I take the Bible more literal than probably 99.9999% of Christians, but I don’t take it literal where it is obviously figurative, and I do not define terms and expressions outside their biblical usage, especially when that puts them in direct contradiction to a vast body of other scripture.  This figure of speech delineates choosing one above another, plain and simple.   This is proven contextually in Genesis 29:30-31 where it is said that Jacob loved Rachael more than Leah in verse 30, and the Lord said in verse 31 that Jacob hated her. Obviously this was not hate in the sense of extreme dislike for someone, but rather choosing one above another.  My pastor explained it like this.  If you tell your wife you love her, but then tell her there is a woman at work you love more, that sure doesn’t feel like love to your wife.  The point is that you have chosen one above the other.  The usage in Romans 9 is identical and does not indicate that God hated Esau unto damnation for no good reason, but rather chose Jacob above him with regard to national election, which is the context.  The fact that Paul is quoting the Old Testament here should give the honest exegete a desire to return to where the quote occurred and study the context.  The quote comes from Malachi 1:2-3.  Just as in Romans the context here is one of national election, not personal salvation.   

Argument from Pharaoh’s Reprobation 

Another case in point is that Romans 9 goes on to say that Pharaoh was raised up to resist God.  The Calvinist would say that God is referring to making or forming Pharaoh into his enemy, possibly from a young age, by eternal decree before he was even born.  In doing this they are building upon the erroneous conclusions they have drawn from the prior passages on Jacob and Esau and applying them here.  But this is not what the passage is saying.  It is saying that God “raised up” Pharaoh to a position of power.  This is probably in the sense of uplifted and sustained, rather than getting him there, but either view does not libel God’s character.  It says nothing about Pharaoh’s personal choices throughout life.  If you go back to Exodus 8 and 9 where God’s dealing with Pharaoh during his rule you will see that Pharaoh is being hardened for his actions.  This is obviously what Paul is refereeing to here in Romans 9.  God is actively using Pharaoh for his purposes, which is the point of Romans 9, but he is not predetermining to damn Pharaoh and failing to provide a mechanism through which he could repent, believe and be saved.  This is an extra biblical presumption forced on the passage by someone stuck within a Calvinistic paradigm.   

Argument from Predetermined Mercy and Hardening 

Yet another case in point is how the Calvinist defines passages like Romans 9:18 “Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.”   They apply this to the issue of personal salvation.  Well, didn’t God already say who he would have mercy on?  Didn’t He say who He would harden and why?  This is not some mystical eternal decree, it is in His word.  The word “mercy” is used 261 times in the Bible.  National election and God dealing with His enemy Pharaoh is the context that mercy is used here in Romans 9.  Of course He hardened Pharaoh.  God said in Proverbs 29:1 “He, that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy.”  God hardens those who harden themselves. There is a point where God’s mercy is pulled back, and this is a prominent example.  But God is merciful to a fault, and to say any less of Him is offensive.  The Pharisees thought that God did not extend his mercy to certain people.  Here again we see another commonality between Calvinism and Pharisaism.  In Matthew 9:10-13 we see the Pharisees berating Jesus for associating with sinful people (from their hypocritical, self righteous, and sinful position).  Look carefully at what Jesus says in verse 13.  Jesus said: “I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”  Did he say some sinners?  Is this not what the Pharisees thought, that only some sinners are eligible?  In Matthew 12:7 he further admonishes them for condemning those He would have mercy on.  “But if ye had known what this meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless.”  In Matthew 20:30-31 the two blind men cry out for mercy.  He asked “What will ye that I shall do unto you?”   They replied “Lord, that our eyes may be opened.”  And He opened their eyes and they followed Him.  God has mercy on those that ask for it.  And in Matthew 23:23 Jesus rebukes the Pharisees for leaving this weighty matter of mercy undone.  Those who ask for mercy should receive it is point one.  And point two is that if you are a minister of God, you better not leave it undone, either in your life, or your interpretation of scripture and definition of God’s character.  In Matthew 5:7 in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus makes it clear that it is the merciful that obtain mercy.  Now if Jesus made so much out of this, it is inconceivable to me that He exempts himself from providing mercy to those who ask.  Or even worse, sets things up in such a way so as some people could not even ask.  How troubling that Calvinists would falsely teach about God the very same thing God condemned the Pharisees for. 

Argument from “Vessels of Wrath Fitted to Destruction” 

Now on to one of my favorites; the “vessels of wrath fitted to destruction.”  The Calvinist would have us believe that this is referring to personal salvation, even though the context is national election and God dealing with an enemy in bringing this election about.   What is meant here in this passage about being “fitted?”  Well, as you can see, by now the Calvinist, having completely thrown out the love, mercy and fairness of God discussed throughout the Bible sees this along the same lines of despising (hating) before birth for no reason.  He sees it as being raised up from birth to be God’s enemy.  He sees it as withholding mercy from people for arbitrary reasons that must fit with their mystical interpretation of God’s sovereignty.  Yes, they see this as God foreordaining, preparing, and bringing to pass the eternal damnation of people without giving them a fair chance at repentance and salvation.  No greater libel against God’s character could be brought.  Grammatically we know that in the English as well as the Greek “fitted” can be an adjective or a verb.  Even as a verb you do not have to assess all this Calvinistic bias on the passage.  Pharaoh fitted himself, and was fitted by God, but because of Pharaoh’s heart, not due to God being cold hearted and not giving him a fair opportunity.  As an adjective it means “appropriate for” destruction, which is probably the accurate sense here anyway.  Either way you have to read a great deal into this passage for it to support the Calvinistic view on personal salvation that regeneration precedes belief and is dispensed arbitrarily by God. 

Argument from “Who Hath Resisted His Will” 

Finally, let’s discuss another very prominent misinterpretation of Romans 9.  Verse 19 says “who hath resisted his will?”   The obvious answer is nobody.  But the Calvinist would have you to also interpret this in light of their heretical view of God.  In other words, everyone going to heaven and hell were willed there by God, without any opportunity afforded them by God to choose.  After all, Romans 9:16 says “it is not of him that willeth.”  Instead of viewing this through the lens of Calvinism, why don’t we refer to what the Bible says God’s will is in reference to personal salvation to answer this question?  God said He was “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” in 2Peter 3:9.  But of course the Calvinist would fit this into their framework by claiming that this epistle is written to the elect, and it only refers to them.  Well, how about elsewhere.  Can we learn about the will of God from other places in the Bible?   How about John 3:16?   “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”   Here we have God giving His wholly righteous Son to be humiliated and tortured to death for our sakes.   But of course the Calvinist has this wedged within the narrow confines of his legal system also.  Of course “whosoever believeth” refers to all the elect that will be regenerated and thus caused to believe.   What about the context of the book of John?  Look near the beginning of the book in John 1:7.  This is why John the Baptist came, he “came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe.”  All men?  Now let’s look in verse 12 where it says “as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.”  So the ones that received Him were the ones he gave power to become the sons of God?  What power is this He gave them, the power of supernatural regeneration perhaps?   But this puts regeneration after believing on His name and receiving Him, and that is precisely the point.  The Calvinist may contend at this point that the “effectual calling” of “irresistible grace” is not regeneration, but rather some other mysterious supernatural mechanism they cannot define.  Here they step beyond the Bible and into this “Gnostic” mystical realm of the knowledge of God that you have to be spiritual like them to understand.   

Argument from “It Is Not of Him that Willeth” 

Call it “free will” or not, but it is a certainty that we have enough will to be able to choose.  The passage in Romans 9:16 that says “it is not of him that willeth” is not excluding your choice to believe and have faith.  Central to this concept of will in the context of Romans 9 is someone bringing about things contrary to the will of God.  This is true, that is something you cannot do.  But choosing to believe in Jesus as your Saviour is something provided for you in God’s will.  God’s sovereign will is that you have the ability to choose and a chance to receive Him of your own volition.  That is why He is pleading with us all through His book to use this wondrous latitude we have wisely and from the heart.  We are thinking and breathing sentient creatures with an eternal soul given us by the almighty.  Even though our thoughts and activities must occur within the environment framed for us by God, that framework gives us a wide margin for good and evil.  This framework is clearly more than sufficient to provide sentient beings like us a choice.  But that seems to be the whole point of the Bible, that we are capable of right and wrong, and choice.   

Are God’s Judgments Unjust? 

The Bible clearly teaches that we have a will that can make choices within the latitude provided us by God.  I think that this is ubiquitous and lies implicitly in the underlying fabric of our experience, whispering to us “you can choose.”   This is an issue of justness and fairness.  How could God judge us worthy of eternal damnation if we were not deserving of it?  Such an extreme punishment demands an equally extreme justification.  That is why I am utterly convinced that God, in His infinite wisdom, has done the exact opposite of what Calvinists claim.  We must obviously have extraordinary latitude in accepting God or not.  Irresistible grace implies that the opposite must be true, that reprobation must be irresistible too.  If that is so, God would have no just basis upon which to judge man.  This is in stark contrast to the punishment and rewards at stake.  This fact alone indicates to me that we have been given a tremendous capacity to either embrace God in love, or utterly despise Him if we wish.  And this is the biblical picture painted for us regarding God’s judgment.  God’s judgment is fair and righteous beyond all human comprehension.  An all knowing and all loving creator does not take the issue of eternity lightly.  To quote Dave Hunt: “We may rest assured that no one will suffer in hell who could by any means have been won to Christ in this life. God leaves no stone unturned to rescue all who would respond to the convicting and wooing of the Holy Spirit.” 

Is Will and Choice Necessary for Love? 

Yes, yes, most emphatically yes, a thousand times yes.  Before I was saved I am not sure I truly loved anyone.  I was so consumed with myself and all aspects of self-interest that people were just pawns in a game that determined my happiness.  But one very special person came into my life and over the course of years I hurt her repeatedly.  She loved me, but I did not return her love and did as I pleased.  I was not a Christian.  But she had been raised in a good Christian home and there was just something different about her.  I told her I loved her, but over time my love was crushing the life out of her.  The persistent evil in my heart slowly but surely chipped away at her before my eyes.  I knew I was destroying her.  This old hard heart of mine waxed sore, and I found myself pleading her case in my heart.  She was so lovable that I searched the depths of my soul for a reason why I did not love her.  If this was my sister or mother I reasoned, I would literally beat someone to a pulp for treating them as I treated this person, for hurting them so.  But what if you are the one who is the perpetrator of evil?  What if you are the devil behind blue eyes?  How do you get clean of it?  How do you rid yourself of the vermin that infest your soul?  The inconsistency was too great; the hypocrisy of pretending to love someone you hurt daily was overwhelming.  I saw the man in the mirror for who he really was…..a devil with a heart of evil.  It was at that point that I asked Jesus to save me.  I didn’t know the first thing about the Bible, but I knew my heart, and I had heard that Jesus saves.  That’s all you really need to know.  You see, at that moment I chose love.  Not Hollywood love, not lust, not slap you on the back Tremendous Jones love, not the love of self-interest, but love that is based on someone’s character and who they are as a person, a love that produces as a natural consequence sacrifice and unselfish giving.

My Lord said: 

Matthew 5:38 Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: 39 But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also. 41 And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. 42 Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away. 43 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. 44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; 45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? 47 And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? 48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

What amazing words from the mind of our creator.  You see, love is not forcing someone to act a certain way (Calvinism), and it is not coercing someone into working for it.  Love is a deep caring and admiration for someone for who they are.  That is what God wants from us.  When you understand God for who He is and love Him, you will want to be like Him.  That is why the Bible says that he who says he loves God, but does not love his neighbor is a liar (1John 4:20).  God is not zapping people into being believers.  He is not looking for people to earn merit with Him.  It was this unconditional love, a love that endures hardship and even great evil that softened my heart and brought me to Christ.  This is the love of God folks.  There is nothing more powerful on this Earth than these words from our Lord.  Some think nuclear bombs are powerful, but they do not hold a candle to the power of God’s words.  Listen, He knows that if you love Him you will have His best interests at heart.  You will work, and you will try not to do things that hurt Him, but you will do this because you love Him for who He is.  I love God for who He is.  He is the author of love.  I see very little of my God in this theology of Calvinism, and that is why I will oppose this as the false doctrine it is as long as breath is in my body.

Conclusion 

I know that if you take stock in Calvinism this hits a little like a hammer, but as a preacher friend of mine says “God has different tools for different jobs."  Just keep in mind that this was written in a spirit of love and concern by someone who considers this a fatalistic doctrine capable of immense damage to highly valued friends and potentially future great servants of the Lord God.  If you are considering making this your dominant view of God, I sincerely pray that the eyes of your understanding be opened, and that your hearts be softened to the fact that you can choose to love God or not.  Choose love my friends, choose love.  It is the first and great commandment, and by Jesus’ own words, it is what everything in the Bible is about. 

(Matthew 22:34-40) But when the Pharisees had heard that he had put the Sadducees to silence, they were gathered together. Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, Master, which is the great commandment in the law?  Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.  On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

Will Hoyt

Daily Proverb

Proverbs 25:9

Debate thy cause with thy neighbour himself; and discover not a secret to another: