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Servetus was considered
a heretic, a teacher of false doctrines because he denied biblical
Christianity. Executions for heresy were common in Calvin's
time...after the Peasants' War in Germany, after the siege of
Munster...In England 39 people were burned at the stake for heresy
between 1547 and 1550, etc. If one says that Calvin was in error in agreeing
with the execution of heretics then why is there not equal indignation
against all the other leaders who did the same thing? Furthermore,
Calvin went France to meet Servetus to try and convert him to the
Christianity. In Catholic France Calvin would have been executed as
a heretic himself if he had been caught. Yet, Calvin went to
France at the risk of his own life to
speak to Servetus. Is this the work of an "evil" man who
"murdered" Servetus as so many anti-Calvinists proclaim?
think they accurately represent Calvinist doctrines completely and
faithfully, and that it is we who are not representing Christ properly. They
speak about the freedom of choice, about God's love for all people, how He
died for everyone, and about how Calvinism often presents God as a
horrible, uncaring, and unfair being.
What we Calvinists believe about sin
We Calvinists see the reality and the severity of sin upon us. We recognize and we admit that sin is so powerful that it has incapacitated our ability to be holy. It has removed our ability to please God in any way (Rom. 3:10-12) even by our sincerity of choice. We believe that even our so called sincerity is touched by sin and is, therefore, unacceptable to God. We believe that our sinfulness kills us, insulates us, and makes us unable to freely choose God of our own free will (John 1:13). We believe this because we believe the Scriptures teach us that the sinner, the unregenerate, is a slave of sin (Rom. 6:14-20), dead in his sins (Eph. 2:1), cannot understand spiritual things (1 Cor. 2:14), and does not seek for God (Rom. 3:10-12). We believe that such a person described in scripture is necessarily unable to believe by his own free will because his own free will can only follow its sinful tendencies. Remember, the unbeliever is full of evil (Mark 7:21-23), possess a sinful and deceitful heart (Jer. 17:9), and cannot understand spiritual things (1 Cor. 2:14). Therefore, we believe that the unregenerate sinner will act in a manner consistent with his sinfulness and that he does have the freedom to choose whatever he desires - and he desires to choose sin. We believe God's word.
Then why does God command that people believe?
Why would God then tell people to believe and repent of their sins if they are slaves of sin and cannot? Wouldn't that would be cruel to require someone to do that which they cannot do? Such is the anti-Calvinists complaint. Nevertheless, God requires that we be holy. He says, "You shall be holy, for I am holy,” (1 Pet. 1:16). Who among us would claim that we can be holy even when God commands that we be? Not I. The simple fact is that God does require of us what we cannot do, not because He is mean, but because He is the standard of righteousness and holiness. The standard does not become invalid because of someones failure to keep it. He commands that we repent (Acts 17:30), yet it is God who grants repentance (2 Tim. 2:25). He commands that we believe in Him (Exodus 20:1-3), yet He grants that we believe (Phil. 1:29). God commands that which is holy and right even if we cannot accomplish it. Yet, He grants the ability to people to do that which they cannot do themselves. Therefore, God gets the glory. Merely saying that God tells people to believe doesn't mean they can believe anymore than God commands that we stop sinning means that we can.
the anti-Calvinists respond by saying that the Bible tells us
"... whoever believes in Him should not perish,"
(John 3:16). Therefore, the "whosoever"
proves that the unbeliever can freely choose God - in spite of his
sinfulness. But this is no proof of their position. It is proof
only that whoever believes in Jesus will not perish. Who are those who
believe? The ones who believe are those who have been appointed to
eternal life, "And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and
glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to
eternal life believed," (Acts 13:48). The ones who believe are
those who have been granted to believe, "For to you it has been granted
for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His
sake," (Phil. 1:29). The ones who believe are those who have been
born again not of their own wills, "who were born not of blood, nor of
the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God," (John 1:13). The ones who believe are
those who have experienced the work of God in them - for our believing is
God's work, "They said therefore to Him, “What shall we do, that we may
work the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered and said to them,
“This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom
He has sent,” (John 6:28-29).
What we Calvinists believe about predestination
further believe that the enslavement of the wills of the sinner to sin (Rom. 6:14-20) and that
it has incapacitated the freedom of the unregenerate so much that this necessitates the
intervening work of God. We believe that if God did not intervene by
predestining sinners to salvation, that no
one would ever be saved. We rightfully admit that the cross
of Christ is the only way by which anyone can be saved from the righteous
judgment of God's wrath upon the sinner and that this salvation is by grace
through faith (Eph. 2:8-9;
Rom. 5:1). Therefore, we believe that God must
predestined us to salvation according to the kind intention of His will
according to His purpose (Eph. 1:3-5). This means that we see God's predestination as a very loving
act of His will because without it, all of us would be lost. Yet, the anti-Calvinists
refuse to see this. They claim that the Reformed doctrine of
predestination shows favoritism on God's
part, all the while failing to see that their own interpretation of
predestination (that God looks into the future to see who would pick Him) is
exactly what shows favoritism. How so?
If God looks to the future to see who will pick Him and then He picks them
based on that criteria, then God has predestined someone based on what is in
them! This means that God picks one person over another based on a
quality in them. That is favoritism.
What we Calvinists believe about believing
As stated earlier, we Calvinists believe that our believing is the work of God (John 6:28), that we are
granted to believe (Phil. 1:29), that we are granted repentance (2 Tim. 2:25), that we are appointed to eternal life
Acts 13:48), and that we are
born again not of our own wills (John 1:12-13).
Calvinists believe in the strength of the atoning work of Jesus on the cross. We believe that it
is so strong, so powerful, so perfect that all for whom Christ died will be
saved. We do not believe that the blood of Christ was wasted. We
do not believe that even one drop of his precious blood was for no avail.
do not believe that the atoning sacrifice of Christ becomes powerful upon someone's
believing. We maintain that the atonement is powerful and effectual by the nature and fact of its very occurrence
- because it was God who died on the
cross. Therefore it will save all who are covered by it. We believe that the sheep
for whom Christ said He laid down His life (John 15:11,15) will be saved and
that the goats (Matt. 25:33-34) are not atoned for. We believe that
even the sin of unbelief has been paid for on the cross, thereby negating
the idea that those thus atoned for, that those whose sins have been paid
for by Jesus, go to hell due to their unbelief, for the sin of unbelief is
also born by Christ in His body on the cross (1 Pet. 2:24). If this
were not the case, then anyone who has ever disbelieved God could never be
We Calvinists believe that we are eternally secure
Christ. We believe that when we have eternal life that we will never perish,
just as Jesus said, "I give eternal life to them, and they shall never
perish; and no one shall snatch them out of My hand,"
(John 10:28). We believe that God knows who are His (2 Tim. 2:19). He knows whom
called and predestined, and He makes no mistakes because He is all knowing. He does not give us eternal
life only to remove it if we are not faithful because when we are not
faithful, He remains faithful (2 Tim. 2:13). We do not believe that what is
begun by God in our hearts is maintained by man in the flesh (Gal. 3:1-3).
We believe that God receives the glory for our believing and that He is
faithful, and that He is true, and that we are sinners who are saved by grace.
Therefore, because God atoned for us (1 Pet. 2:24), God grants us belief
(Phil. 1:29), and God says we will never perish (John 10:28;
3:16), then we
believe we will never perish.
Holiness before God
We Calvinists do not believe that our security in Christ means that we can go and sin freely without worry or consequence. On the contrary, we believe that since we have been redeemed by the precious blood of the Lamb, and this by His great grace, we are to love and serve Him by honoring Him and bringing glory to Him. We do not glorify God by using His grace to do that which is contrary to His will. We have been redeemed and do not desire to use His grace for our sin. May it never be! We value Christ's sacrifice for us and we seek to demonstrate our love and appreciation before God. Therefore, we seek to be holy even as God is holy (1 Pet. 1:16) because we are new creatures in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17). We Calvinists believe what the Bible says.
Who brings discord?
anti-Calvinists help to sow division in the body of Christ by setting the
Christian against the Christian in their misrepresentations and attacks upon Calvinism.
They help to bring discord and resentment in the body of Christ by focusing on in-house debates
and do not follow Rom. 14:1-13 that speaks of allowing
differences of opinion among Christians.
We Calvinist believe that our salvation is God
centered, that the very act of our believing is granted to us (Phil. 1:29),
and that God shows His mercy to whom He will and He hardens whom He will
(Rom. 9:14). We Calvinist believe in the sovereignty of God, the holiness of
God, the omniscience of God, and His right to do with His creation as He
desires. We believe that God loves us and is His love is the motivating
factor behind the cross of Christ - that and His glory. We trust in Jesus. We
accept Jesus - because He has enabled us to. We do not trust in our own
ability to choose God, nor in our own ability to keep our own faith in Him.
We do not hold ourselves in such a high regard as to assert that it is we,
while in our sin-enslaved and sin-dead state, who possessed the wisdom and
ability to have trusted in Jesus. On the contrary, we hold
ourselves in such lowness of opinion, that we dare not assume that we
are wise enough or capable enough in our sinful state to have chosen God - for we believe
never would since they are by nature children of wrath (Eph. 2:3), dead in their sins (Eph. 2:1), slaves of sin (Rom. 6:14-20), full of evil (Mark 7:21-23), and incapable of understanding
spiritual things (1 Cor. 2:14).
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Copyright by Matthew J. Slick, B.A., M. Div., 2012