Monday, August 17, 2009

five-point calvinism

First, this is not a rant against the Calvinism/Arminianism debate. I still think that this debate causes much needless division in the church, which is a terrible testimony to the world. But this isn't a rant about that.

Background: I think I've mentioned before (if not here than in person) how amazing my Sunday school class is. It's a church history class, we've been doing it for the past two semesters, and it's amazing. Damien, the guy who teaches it is really cool... tattoo cool. I think he's the only person in our church cool enough to wear short sleeves and have forearm tattoos at the same time. Anybody else would get kicked out, but he rocks like that. He used to cage fight, then he was in the navy, now he's a college research librarian. On top of all this, he's pretty much an expert at church history.

Yesterday we covered Zwingli, Calvin, and the Anabaptist movement. Since you weren't there, I'll summarize.

Zwingli was basically a Swiss version of Luther, only more radical. Also, they could have caused an actual reform (instead of a split) if they had worked together, but since they disagreed about transubstantiation, they achieved far less than they could have.

The Anabaptist were kinda crazy.

But, about Calvin. We talked about the TULIP thing, which further reinforced why Calvinism just doesn't work for me. I didn't want to derail the entire class, so I didn't say this in class... but it was boiling inside of me. I need to get it out. So this is a rant of sorts, but I hope it comes out more like "honest concerns about Calvinism, questions unanswered."

That was background.

First, there's something that must be understood. Of Calvin's five points, you can't just accept some and reject others. If you accept one, the others follow logically. So, a four point Calvinist has some serious work cut out for them explaining how they can accept some things and not others. So, even though I think that I could agree with some of Calvin's points, until my questions about the others are answered, I find I must reject all of them.

The problem is Limited Atonement. Basically, Jesus died to pay for the sins of the elect, not for the sins of the whole world. Obviously, I could hurl John 3:16 at this one, but I don't really see the point. Now, since (according to Calvin) God chose who he would save and who he would not before creating any of them it follows that some were created for redemption. Everyone else, then, the "reprobate" were created for condemnation. Follow me? God created some people to live forever heaven and some for hell.

An interesting thing that my Sunday School teacher said was that Calvinist theologians argue (Damien hardly ever puts his own theology in there, though he does admit to being a Calvinist) that the purpose of limited atonement is to demonstrate both God's mercy, through the elect, and his justice, through the reprobate. Essentially, God created some people for heaven so that he could demonstrate his mercy, and some he created for hell to demonstrate his justice.

But, and this is my main question, didn't Jesus demonstrate perfectly both God's mercy and justice? Even supposing Jesus died only for the elect, he still had to die for them. That means that the wages of sin, death, were paid. That's justice, but it's also mercy. Why would God need to further demonstrate his justice by creating people just to send them to hell? Some people ask, "Why would a loving God send people to hell?" And the answer is because he is also a just god, and can't allow imperfection into heaven. But I have to ask, "Why would a loving God create people only to send them to hell?"

I realize that this is God I'm talking about. He is too much for me to comprehend, and his ways are not my ways. To question "why" is to ask a question that I will probably never understand. But it is my question.


  1. Yes.


    Limited atonement is the only Calvinist doctrine that makes me angry. Which is why I probably shouldn't say any more about it.

  2. It doesn't even make me mad... I just don't want to believe in a God that would do that.

  3. I have the same question. But it seems to me that he does. The conclusion I've come to is based on Romans 9. This is from Romans 9:22 "What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction?" The rest of the chapter clarifies further on this subject. The honest question I have is "why?" I am, at the moment, unable to disbelieve its truth, but I do not like the idea that God created people for the purpose of sending them to hell. On the same subject, slightly earlier in the chapter (verse 20) Paul says "Who are you, O man, who answers back to God?". That verse seems to speak directly to me. I don't understand it, I don't even like it. But it seems blatantly true to me. And who am I to answer back to God?