Election, and Predestination – Breaking it down so easy a cave man can understand it.
By Pastor Tony Butler
Whenever you study Calvinism it is easy to be overwhelmed with all the theological gobbledygook, big words, and well educated people who seem pretty smart (Some are educated well beyond their intelligence). I am going to implement the “KISS” theory on this little paper (Keep It Simple Saint). Below is how I would begin to explain the central idea of Calvinism to one of my deer hunting friends who ran into their first Calvinist but didn’t know what in the world Calvinism was. The primary thing I want to say in this paper deals primarily with the subject of "Predestination/Election".
The following is what John Calvin taught concerning predestination/election.
A lot of people today love to call themselves by Calvin's name BUT DON’T AGREE WITH ALL HE TAUGHT, especially with the statements you will see below. A whole bunch of Calvinists love to boast they are God centered and teach those that aren’t Calvinists are man centered. Hmm, Bless their hearts (Southern for, Poor little things). ☺
The following are some of Calvin's own statements on God picking people to go to heaven and hell:
• "Predestination we call the eternal decree of God, whereby He had determined with Himself what He willed to become of every man. For all men are not created to like estate; but to some eternal life and to some eternal damnation is fore-appointed. ( Institutes of Religion, Book3, chapter 21, section 5)
• “God preordained, for his own glory and the display of His attributes of mercy and justice, a part of the human race, without any merit of their own, to eternal salvation, and another part, in just punishment of their sin, to eternal damnation.”
• “We say, then, that Scripture clearly proves this much, that God by his eternal and immutable counsel determined once for all those whom it was his pleasure one day to admit to salvation, and those whom, on the other hand, it was his pleasure to doom to destruction. We maintain that this counsel, as regards the elect, is founded on his free mercy, without any respect to human worth, while those whom he dooms to destruction are excluded from access to life by a just and blameless, but at the same time incomprehensible judgment.” (Institutes of Christian Religion, Book 3, Chapter 21, Section 7)
Translation – God picks and chooses (decrees) who he wants to go to hell and heaven. This is called "Double Predestination". No one who has ever lived or will ever live on our planet has any say in the matter. God decided who would be saved and who would be damned to eternal fire before he created anything. People who believe in Jesus are made to believe by God because God chose them; they have no ability to choose by making their own decision under any circumstances. In other words, anyone who believes in Jesus, believed because it was impossible for them not to believe .This is called Unconditional Election, which is just a religious philisophical term in Calvinism which means man has no choice in salvation (no free will) at all because man has no ability to seek God, due to Total Depravity. Total depravity is a Calvinist term which means that all humanity is so totally messed up in sin that no man could ever, nor would he ever choose God unless God chose him and made him choose God. Therefore it is by God’s sovereign choice that a person is saved. From a human perspective the ones that get saved think they are the ones choosing God but in Calvinistic reality, it only appears they make the choice. However, the truth is that none of the elect/chosen had any choice because it was all God’s choice. Wild huh? No kidding, a lot of people believe that idea.
Truth be known – This double predestination stuff is so repugnant (That means It really stinks) that most of the people that use Calvin’s name today say they don’t believe in it. Instead of double predestination they believe in single predestination that chooses people to heaven. (They aren’t true Calvinists). They are just a mini-me of Calvinism. We call them mongrels in the south. They aren’t pure breeds.
There were some in Calvin’s day that taught that as well, but of them Calvin said, "Many indeed, as though they would drive away the malice from God, do so grant election that they deny that any man is reprobated; but this they do too ignorantly and childishly for, as much as election itself could not stand unless it were set contrary to reprobation; therefore, whom God passeth over He rejecteth; and for no other cause, but for that He will exclude them from the inheritance which He doth predestinate to be His children." Chapter 23 section -1 )
What Calvin is saying is simply that the un-conditional choosing of some to go to heaven automatically rejects everyone else to hell and therefore it is God's will for all others to perish. Calvin saw it as impossible to see it in any other way. He dogmatically saw both aspects of predestination as God's decree.
Calvinism is hard to chew
Most Calvinists believe in what they call a “Tulip”. Basically it is five ideas that all Calvinists tend to agree upon. Two of those ideas that are hardest to swallow (some choke on them) is “Unconditional election/ predestination” and something called “Limited Atonement”. A basic understanding of limited atonement is simply that Jesus doesn’t love everybody and didn’t die for everybody. Jesus only loves the ones God chose to salvation and only died for them. You might ask where Calvin came up with that idea. Well some say calvin didn’t teach it overtly in his "Institutes".
I can’t find in any of his writings where he taught limited atonement specifically/overtly ( I could have missed it somewhere) but he did infer it using his words very carefully. He did teach that Jesus died for all in a limited general sense. He never taught that Jesus died for all men specifically or individualy.
Over time, followers of Calvin made clearer statementsconcerning limited atonement declaring; Jesus only died for the few elect instead of dying for all men . I know it makes your skin crawl when you first hear people say Jesus didn’t die for everyone and you may be tempted to get upset when you hear people say such things. As I mentioned before, when you begin to study this subject you need to get ready for some drawn out philosophizing (Mostly well intended though) as these folks try to explain it to you. Some dear friends of mine believe Calvinism and I love them deeply. I just have fun with them and call their view of predestination something they couldn’t help because God decreed them to believe that way (tongue in cheek).
A bit of common sense – Don’t get lost in all the fancy theological footwork as Calvinists dance around with all kinds of long drawn out explanations, and word parsing to the point that when they are done you may forget what the original statement was. That is a dead giveaway right there something is wrong. I know there are some things in the bible that are hard to understand but when it comes to Calvinism things can really get lost in the fog. Anytime one begins to delve into the eternal with a finite mind it can seem like the cerebral circuits will blow. It is common for people who call themselves Calvinists to discuss this topic of election but have done little study. Like most people in church these days they just parrot and regurgitate what they got from a preacher, teacher, or a book. I think most people would be better off just not talking about the subject, lest their ignorance is seen proceeding from them.
As to who is man centered or God centered, let’s look at the bible. Do you call yourself after some fallen in sin human’s nameby saying, "I am of Calvin or I am of Arminius?" If you do then it sounds like you might be theone who is “man centered” according to the bible.
1Co 3:3-4 For you are yet carnal. For in that there is among you envyings and strife and divisions, are you not carnal, and do you not walk according to men? (4) For while one says, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are you not carnal?
OK, that’s what all the big tadoo is about. Calvinists interpret scripture differently than non Calvinists in some areas. However, we all have to remember that all scripture has but one interpretation, and that is what God intended it to mean. Studying the bible and getting the right answers isn’t always easy; as a matter of fact, it is a lot of hard work to do it right.
Now, I want to ask y’all to be careful about developing a wrong attitude. People are always going to have different opinions and say some things that just go against love. I hope you won’t be like that. Always try to speak the truth in love. Do your best to study and try to figure out the truth the best you can. Everybody, Calvinists and Non-Calvinists alike all claim the truth of the Holy Spirit has guided them in their conclusions. The truth is, not all are guided. Somebody is flat wrong. It’s your job to try and not be wrong.
This is the simple fun paper. I am going to write some more on the subject, but it will be more complicated. I will not tip toe through the "TULIP" and I will rebut the philosophical tenets and conclusions of Calvinism. Concerning my congregation, I call you to grace. We all have the right to our opinions and I sure have my own. To me Calvinism equals fatalism ( I will explain why in another paper). Evangelism and Calvinism are strange bedfellows in my opinion. A Calvinist would be hard pressed to look at a whole goup of people and tell them, "Jesus loves you, died specifically for you and desires each one of you to be saved." Needless to say I am no Calvinist. I always refer to myself as a “Bibilicist”. I am not sure if that is a legitimate word or not but it is the term I use. I go to the scripture for my answers. Calvinists that read this may call me by another human name but if they do it is because they are “man” centered. ☺