Calvinism, Controversial Issues, Religious Movements

Examining the Doctrine of Unconditional Election and Predestination – Is it true or false? What does the Bible teach? Official quotes from John Calvin and Canons of Dordt

Have you ever heard of the doctrine of Unconditional Election? Have you ever heard of the doctrine of Predestination? You will not find the doctrine of  Unconditional Election in the Bible, however you will find the doctrine of Predestination.  The doctrine of Unconditional Election comes from the doctrines of Calvinism known as the “TULIP.” The “TULIP” stands for: “Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace, Perseverance of the Saints.” The main teachings of Calvinism come from John Calvin and the Canons of Dordt which are considered official Calvinism theology. Below will be information and quotes from John Calvin and the Canons of Dordt on the doctrine of Unconditional Election.

  • Some of the common questions that people ask are:   What does the Bible teach on Predestination and Unconditional Election? Does the Bible teach Predestination and Unconditional Election are the same thing? Is the doctrine of Unconditional Election true? Is the doctrine of Unconditional Election false? What is the the doctrine of Predestination? 

This doctrine teaches that before God created anything He chose those who would be saved and those who would be damned for all eternity. The doctrine of Unconditional Election stresses that man has no choice (no free will) at all because man has no ability to seek God, (Total Depravity) therefore it is by God’s sovereign choice that anyone is saved.

John Calvin: “By predestination we mean the eternal decree of God, by which he determined with himself whatever he wished to happen with regard to every man. All are not created on equal terms, but some are preordained to eternal life, others to eternal damnation; and, accordingly, as each has been created for one or other of these ends, we say that he has been predestinated to life or to death.” (Institutes of Christian Religion, Book 3, Chapter 21, Section 5) Another way of saying Unconditional Election by a Calvinist is “Predestination.” Predestination according to John Calvin is that “the eternal decree of God is that some are preordained to eternal life and other to eternal damnation.

What the Bible teaches in response to the doctrine that “God has chosen some to eternal life and some to eternal death

The Bible speaks of Predestination, but nowhere does it indicate Unconditional Election. The doctrine of Unconditional Election is a doctrine that was created by those who are Reformed in theology. John Calvin’s theology on Predestination is not Biblical or logical. The Bible speaks of Predestination in reference to those who are foreknown by God and that they are predestined to do good works. Nowhere does the Bible speak of Predestination in the sense that God has predestined some to eternal damnation.

“29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; 30 and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.” (Romans 8:29-31) These verses clearly state that those who are predestined are those whom God foreknew and that they were predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son. Calvinists teach that “foreknew” does not mean those whom God knew would choose Him but rather those God ordained to eternal life by His own decision. It is clear from the English that “foreknew” indicates a knowledge of something in advance. What is the Greek word and definition of “foreknew” here? The Greek word is “Proginosko” which means, “to perceive or recognize beforehand.” (Lexical Aids To The New Testament, Dr. Spiros Zodhiates, #4267 Proginosko) Dr. Spiros Zodhiates states the following concerning Romans 8:29 and the word “foreknew”: “This foreknowledge and foreordination in the Scripture is always unto salvation and not unto perdition. Therefore, it could be said that the Lord never foreordains anyone to be lost, but those who are saved as a result of their exercise of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ were known ahead of time and thus chosen unto God.” (Lexical Aids To The New Testament, Dr. Spiros Zodhiates, #4267 Proginosko) It is clear that the Greek supports the understanding that God knows those who would come to Him. Dr. W. E. Vines states the following concerning Romans 8:29 and the word “foreknew”: “Foreknowledge is not the same as predestination; the very sentence before us distinguishes the two. His foreknowledge marks out the persons, His predestination determines His purposes and acts on their behalf.” (W. E. Vines Commentary on Romans 8:29) Dr. W. E. Vines makes a clear distinction between “Foreknowledge” (foreknew) and “Predestination.” “Foreknowledge” is what God knows in advance and “Predestination” is what God works out in the believer’s life to serve Him. The word “predestined” in Romans 8:29 is the Greek word “Proorizo” which means, “to determine or decree beforehand.” The way that believers are “Predestined” is by God’s “foreknowledge”, therefore it is clear that the Bible teaches Predestination but not in the way that John Calvin or Calvinists teach.

Another passage of Scripture that clarifies “foreknowledge” and believers in Christ being “chosen” (elect of God) is in 1 Peter 1:1-2: “1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, who are chosen 2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood: May grace and peace be yours in the fullest measure.” The “chosen” are those whom the Holy Spirit has convicted (convinced) to believe who Jesus Christ is, to accept the message of the Gospel, and to be sprinkled by the cleansing blood of Jesus Christ. Peter is addressing the “chosen” by God’s “foreknowledge” not on the basis of Him choosing them without them not having a responsibility to choose from, but on knowing them in advance.

John Calvin: “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) John Calvin makes it very clear concerning Predestination by his statement, “that Scripture clearly proves.” John Calvin is stating that the Bible teaches the following: “God by His eternal counsel determined all those who would be saved by His own decision and for His pleasure; God by His eternal counsel determined those who would be damned to destruction by His own decision and for His pleasure; those who are doomed are judged by God on a just and blameless judgment. These are the teachings of John Calvin concerning the eternal determination of God and that His decisions in this are just without any respect to human worth.”

What the Bible teaches in response to John Calvin on “God’s eternal counsel and judgment”

The following Scriptures refute John Calvin’s teachings on Predestination: “14 “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; 15 so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life. 16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. 17 “For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. 18 “He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” (John 3:14-18) John the Apostle records the discussion that took place between Jesus and Israel’s religious leader Nicodemus. Jesus made it clear on how a person is saved or judged for eternity. Jesus states, “as Moses lifted up the serpent”, which was from the book of Numbers 21:6-9 where God’s judgment was coming on those who were rebelling against God, and all those who “wanted to be saved” were told to look to this serpent which Moses was holding. Those who looked to the serpent which Moses held did so out of their own free will and Jesus taught this same truth for all those who want to be saved from the judgment to come, and that people will have make a choice. Jesus states this in such a way that a young child can understand, that is, God loves the whole world (John 3:16) and all those who choose to believe and accept Jesus will be saved and have eternal life. All those who refuse Jesus will die in their sins and will be eternally separated from God. Jesus states that the Father did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but rather that they “might be saved.” It is clear that God does not force anyone to be saved but gives them the choice so that they “might be saved.” Calvinists will say that the word “world” is in reference to the “elect or chosen” of God, but reading this in context it is clear on what Jesus was teaching concerning Moses and that the heart of the Father sent the Son to save the “world.” This was is in reference to anyone being saved and is not speaking of some special elect group.

The Canons of Dordt agree with what John Calvin taught concerning Unconditional Election known as the doctrine of Predestination: “By predestination we mean the eternal decree of God by which he determined with himself whatever he wished to happen with regard to every man. All are not created on equal terms, but some are preordained to eternal life, others to eternal damnation; and accordingly, as each has been created for one or the other of these ends, we say that we have been predestinated to life or to death” (Canons of Dordt, First Head of Doctrine, 3:21:5) “We say, then, that the scripture clearly proves this much, that God by his eternal and immutable counsel determined once for all those whom it was his good pleasure one day to admit to salvation, and those whom, on the other hand, it was his good pleasure to doom to destruction.” (Canons of Dordt, First Head of Doctrine, 3:21:7) These quotes are in complete agreement on the teachings of Calvinism on the doctrine of Unconditional Election.

More Scriptures that refute the false doctrine of “Unconditional Election”

The Apostle Peter in his Epistle wrote the following: “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9) Peter was speaking about the return of Jesus Christ and that the Lord’s desire is not that any perish, and this is very important to see. If the Lord’s desire is not for any to perish then why were they predestined or ordained to eternal damnation by His good pleasure as John Calvin and the Canons of Dordt state? If the Lord truly desires all (anyone) to be saved and come to repentance then why were they elected for eternal destruction as John Calvin and the Canons of Dordt state? The truth is Peter is teaching that the Lord does not want any to perish, that is, to be eternal damned. Peter states that the Lord has desires for anyone to be saved which refutes the unbiblical teachings of Calvinism on the doctrine of Unconditional Election.

Paul states the following: “Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent.” (Acts 17:30) If the doctrine of Unconditional Election was true why does Paul state that God is declaring or calling all men to repent? According to Calvinism only those who are of the Elect or are Chosen of God can repent. This shows that the teachings of Calvinism on Unconditional Election are not Biblical or logical because that would make God declaring something for men to do but are not given the ability to do. Either this verse is true or it is not. If it is true then God is stating through the Apostle Paul that all people everywhere have the ability to repent. If this is not stating that all people have the ability to repent and to turn to God then what is it stating?

The prophet Ezekiel revealed that God does not take pleasure in anyone dying or in the death of the wicked:  “21 “But if the wicked man turns from all his sins which he has committed and observes all My statutes and practices justice and righteousness, he shall surely live; he shall not die.  22 “All his transgressions which he has committed will not be remembered against him; because of his righteousness which he has practiced, he will live.  23 “Do I have any pleasure in the death of the wicked,” declares the Lord GOD, “rather than that he should turn from his ways and live?…32 “For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies,” declares the Lord GOD. “Therefore, repent and live.”” (Ezekiel 18:21-23 & Ezekiel 18:32)  The context of these Scriptures states that anyone who turns to God and repents of his or her wrong ways will be forgiven by God.  God states here that He takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, which shows that the teaching of Calvinism on God taking pleasure in choosing people to eternal damnation is not true, but false.  God states He finds no pleasure in anyone who dies which would include those who are not of God, therefore the doctrine of God choosing people to be saved for His good pleasure and others to eternal damnation is unbiblical and against the heart of God.  These verses also show that God is desiring for people to turn from their wicked ways and declares for them to repent and live.  If God wants people to repent and live than common sense says they were not created for eternal destruction.  As the Bible clearly teaches in many places God wants people to come to Him, to choose Him, and to be saved.

Jesus taught that eternal fire or hell was not created for mankind but for the devil and his angels:  “Then He will also say to those on His left, `Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels.” (Matthew 25:41)  Do Calvinists believe that we have a pre-existence in which we were angels that took on flesh?  Jesus does not say “eternal fire” was prepared for those whom God chosen to eternal destruction, but it was prepared for the devil and his angels which was those that rebelled against God.

This information was shared to show the unbiblical and illogical teachings of Calvinism on the doctrine of Unconditional Election. It is clear that the Bible teaches the doctrine of Predestination which means God knows all those who would come to Him by His guidance and them receiving the truth, and that God worked out things in their lives to bring glory to Him. It is clear that the Bible does not teach that God has chosen people to be predestined or ordained to eternal destruction and damnation. There is much more that could be written on this topic, but this is sufficient to show that the teachings of Calvinism concerning Unconditional Election are not true.

Discussion

One thought on “Examining the Doctrine of Unconditional Election and Predestination – Is it true or false? What does the Bible teach? Official quotes from John Calvin and Canons of Dordt

  1. The Arminianism argument was first argued by John Calvin’s son-in-law, Jakob Hermanszoon – and is the biblical one in my opinion. The TULIP doctrine arises from an unbiblical presupposition about a particular idea of divine sovereignty. This is an archetypal example how our presuppositions control and limit what one can understand. It is an important lesson for all who seek to understand.

    God is Sovereign in that He is supreme authority, power, and preeminence. Every particular idea of sovereignty has implications on biblical interpretation. Here are the oversimplified extremes within western Christianity.

    If Sovereign God has absolute power and authority and practices unlimited dominion over everything from the sparrow, the weather, and the ages, then there can be no free will or choice, accidents or coincidences. This is the theology of Aurelius Augustinus (Bishop Augustine of Hippo 354-430) and John Calvin (1509-1564). Particularly, it is the inclusion of an absolute divine providence and resolute, omnipotent superintendence as necessary inclusions to the idea of sovereignty.

    On the other hand, if the idea of Sovereign God having absolute power and authority within the limits of divine possibilities; then, there are things impossible for even Sovereign God. Such limits include: God cannot lie, deny Himself, or contradict truth – as in a logic contradiction. As Creator, He created a particular reality. Within the reality of creation He cannot act in a manner contrary to the reality – as in man having free will or choice. This is a view of sovereignty associated with the Dutch reformer Jakob Hermanszoon (Latinized Jacob Arminius 1560 -1609).

    The opposing ideas of Arminianism and Calvinism are about different presuppositions of divine sovereignty. A successful debate by either side must demonstrate which view of divine sovereignty is biblical.

    Posted by gboydsmith2015 | August 26, 2016, 1:58 PM

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