Westside church of Christ - Irving, Texas

Why I Can't Believe In Calvinism

by Todd Banning

Calvinism is back! (Can you believe it?)

Yes, you read it correctly. Calvinism is making a strong charge back into the religious spotlight. What is the cause? People are increasingly unhappy with the lack of substance coming from their preachers. They want something stronger; something that is challenging. I must admit, it is of some comfort to see that people are abandoning the soft, weak, and vanilla-flavored teaching that too often fills pulpits. But unfortunately, in seeking a more objective, rigid, and “tell-it-like-it-is” doctrine, much of the crowd has turned to Calvinistic theology.

Let me be clear as you begin reading this article: I cannot write with the backing of years spent in researched argumentation against the falsity of Calvinism. I cannot claim brilliant expertise regarding every intricacy of the Calvinistic doctrine. I do not have decades upon decades of experience debating Calvinist’s greatest proponents. But what I do have is this: I have the word of God; and I have an honest heart seeking to know the truth about the will of our Creator.

It is because of that desire that I write this article. The error of Calvinism is gaining support and I am not content with sitting on the sidelines while that happens. (And neither should you!) My intent in this article is two-fold: First, to inform you about the teachings of Calvinism. And second, to present Bible truth that will equip you to confront the errors of Calvinism.

The doctrine of Calvinism can be summed up into five main points, often referred to as the “TULIP.” The five points of the “TULIP” are tightly intertwined and build upon one another. The “T, Total Depravity,” teaches that man is hopelessly sinful; that we are, by nature, corrupt and incapable of any good. “Unconditional Election,” states that God has predestined those who will be saved. Because of God’s predestination, it is to be assumed that Jesus died merely for the elect few; the “L, Limited Atonement.” Furthermore, the elect cannot resist God’s grace through Jesus. Therefore they enjoy “Irresistible Grace.” And finally, the saved cannot lose the predetermined salvation granted to them. They are once saved for all time; the “P,” “Perseverance of the Saints.”

In most religious conversations, “Calvinism” probably isn’t a word you hear every day, but this set of beliefs flow through much of the “religious” community. Do you know anyone who was baptized as a baby? That’s Calvinism! In the Calvinist’s eyes, a baby must be baptized because all are born into sin. Have you talked to a friend who believes in “once saved, always saved?” That too, picked straight from the “TULIP.” (Perseverance of the Saints). Call it whatever name you like, but the teachings of Calvinism form the foundation for so much of today’s popular doctrine.

But I’m not interested in what is popular. I’m not interested in the trend. I want the truth. When I look at Calvinism through the lens of God’s word, the “TULIP” is quickly uprooted. Calvinism does not work for me because Calvinism does not work for God. Let me share with you why I cannot believe in Calvinism.

My unbelief begins where Calvinism begins: at the “T.” Simply put, Total Depravity is not a Biblical principle. Romans 5:12 states that death spread to “all men because all sinned.” Additionally, in Ezekiel 12:23 God declares through the prophet that “all souls are mine,” and “the soul that sins shall die.” The idea that we are born into or inherit sin doesn’t mesh with Bible teaching. Total Depravity also claims that man is so corrupt that he is incapable of doing any good. If that is the case, it would then be impossible for man to choose to repent. (Something we are commanded to do by the Lord). God’s instruction is clear – repentance is essential for salvation. (Acts 2:38; 2 Peter 3:9). But if man is incapable of good, how is repentance possible? (It’s not!)

I cannot believe in Calvinism because it undermines so many principles outlined specifically in the Bible. In fact, the doctrine of Unconditional Election attacks the very nature of God. If God allows only the elect to be saved, and God predetermined those elect, then naturally, God also chose to condemn every soul who was not elected; effectively creating some men for the purpose of condemnation. That is not the God we read about in 2 Tim. 2:3-4. “God...who desires all people to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth.”

Consider this: If God has chosen those who will be saved and Jesus died only for a select few, why does the Bible reflect such a strong need for evangelism? In Matthew 28:19, Jesus told his apostles to go into the world in preach the gospel to “all creation.” If only an elect few are to receive salvation, and those few have already been determined by God, then why evangelize? Why teach the truth? Why attempt to follow God’s path at all? Accepting the error of Unconditional Election, in effect, nullifies the ministry of Jesus and the teaching of the Bible’s inspired authors.

Building upon that, the Bible is unmistakably clear about who can receive salvation. The idea of “Limited Atonement,” that the death of Jesus was only meant for a certain group of people, cannot be supported by scripture. I would first draw attention to Romans 1:16 – the gospel is the “power of God to salvation for everyone who believes...” Or what about 1 Timothy 2:6 – Jesus gave himself as a ransom “for all.” Scripture is clear – Christ died for everyone!

The error of Calvinism is definite. We can know with certainty that this doctrine is supported by neither God nor His inspired word. Because we know that, we must be able and ready to engage, inform, and persuade the followers of Calvinism. I cannot believe in Calvinism, but I certainly do believe that God desires all to know the truth!