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I recently was listening to a Christian reformed podcast by chance called Pipes and Piety. The episode in question was the second of their reformed theology overview on the concept of unconditional election, the 2nd part of TULIP. I was interested in responding as a Christian who doesn’t ascribe to Calvinism but after checking their social media didn’t see an adequate place to reach out. So I decided the best course of action was to reiterate some insights that address some of my hangups with reformed theology and why the systematic approach doesn’t exactly keep in spirit with the totality of the Scripture.

Firstly I strongly disagree with the notion that man is totally depraved and incapable of doing good actions or actions not of an evil nature. Man is not purely evil. For if man was indeed purely evil, it is easily seen that man cannot possibly obey God’s command to repent. God threatens to eternally punish those who do not repent. But if man is purely evil and thus cannot repent, then God is not just. Rather, man can indeed repent. Even Moses declared to his hearers that what he is commanding them to do is not too difficult or beyond their reach. Moses simply commanded them to love God, to walk in his ways and his commands, decrees, and laws. Yet, if man is totally incapable of any non-evil-motivated action, then man surely cannot whole-heartedly repent, and man surely cannot obey God’s laws with all his heart and all his soul as is commanded in Deuteronomy 26:16. Moreover would there be any reason for God to expect repentance at all given that He would know we are incapable of repenting? Did God create Adam totally depraved? That would set a bad precedent for God to create a being incapable of doing good actions and incapable of repenting.

Since man is totally evil, man’s salvation is completely dependent upon God. This part is somewhat biblical; God chooses who He chooses. No matter how hard man tries, his actions alone cannot get him into heaven; God is the only one who has control. However, I believe that God will save those whose hearts are totally dedicated to Him, thus granting some influence to man. After all, God is just. However, Calvinists see it otherwise. Calvinists believe that man has no free spiritual will. Finally how does the idea of an unconditional elect square with verses that describe Jesus as the savior of the entire world. 1 John 2:2  καὶ αὐτὸς ἱλασμός ἐστιν περὶ τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν ἡμῶν οὐ περὶ τῶνἡμετέρων δὲ μόνον ἀλλὰ καὶ περὶ ὅλου τοῦ κόσμου et ipse est propitiatio pro peccatis nostris non pro nostris autem tantum sed etiam pro totius mundi and He Himself is the [fn]propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world. 

Yes, God is omnipotent and omniscient. He knows what will happen before it will happen. But foreknowledge does not imply predestination. Our problem is that we cannot fathom time the way God knows it. We see time as a constant stream from point A to point B. This is why we cannot fathom that there is no beginning to God and no end to God. God is infinity. God simply is.

I’ll also leave some bits from a good site I found many years ago on the subject.

1. Total inability is the concept clinged to by Calvinists that states due to Adam and Eve’s sin, man is forever a slave to sin. That due to “the fall”(not biblical by the way), man is unable to receive spiritual truths and is essentially doomed to doing evil or sin. This is falsehood. Surely if this were the case there would be some example of such a thing in Genesis where all the other consequences of Adam and Eve’s sin are located. If you read Genesis, you will see the consequences established by God are physical death, manual labor, and painful childbirth. No where is there any mention of man’s inability to do good. No where is there a mention of a 4th suffering- removing mans moral nature. Two primary texts adduced to prove the doctrine of Original Sin (Rom. 5; 1 Cor. 15) say nothing about Total Inability. Nowhere are we told that an invincible tendency to resist God was imparted to the race through the offense of one. If there were a place we would expect to find the doctrine, it would be in one of those passages dealing with the relationship between Adam and his descendants. But there is not a trace of such teaching there.

2. The idea of moral perfection is not found in scripture. It is reasonable to affirm that Adam and Eve were created with an original innocence. Our first parents did lose innocence when they sinned. Their eyes were then opened to good and evil, prompting them to hide from their Creator (Gen. 3:7-8). But it is another thing altogether to say that they fell from a state of moral perfection to total depravity. There’s a big difference between being good and being perfect. The fact that God called His creation “good” does not mean it was all morally perfect. Man is a sinner. Every person has folly bound up in the heart from their earliest days (Prov. 22:15). But was Adam any different? The Calvinist’s entire system of soteriology is founded on the grand assumption that Adam was created morally impeccable. He lost perfection through sin and assumed a nature totally corrupted and alienated from God, a nature imparted to all mankind as a curse. But the Scriptural evidence for these contentions is, at best, scant. For the most part, the doctrine is assumed unquestionably. Adam’s fall from moral perfection was established by Augustine’s polemics against Pelagianism and passed on, without alteration, through the barren centuries of the Middle Ages. Calvin received it in toto from his medieval legacy, as has each successive generation of theologians since. A doctrine that forms such a colossal foundation-stone for the system should have unequivocal proof in the Bible. If a theology is based on an unproven philosophic assumption how can the rest of the system be trustworthy? The Calvinist cannot expect us to believe him unless the consistent tenor of Scripture tells us: (1) God made man morally perfect; (2) Adam’s sin immediately corrupted him and rendered him unable to respond to God; (3) God transmitted this inability to all his descendants.

 

3. Election is true, but is shrouded in deep mystery. It is one of the secret things that belong to the Lord our God (Deut. 29:29). Calvinists and Arminians both err when they make precise statements about the nature of election. God has not told us whether or not there are conditions attached to it and we should not venture into it with such bold assertions. The Calvinist, however, does need to temper his view of election with the clearly revealed truth in Ezekiel 18:23: “Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign Lord. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?” Too often, we hear Calvinists say that the damnation of the non-elect is “the good pleasure of His will.” But here, God states explicitly that He takes no pleasure in damning anyone but prefers that they turn from sin and live. How this idea fits into the Calvinist scheme is not at all clear. Nor is it clear, from a Calvinistic standpoint, why Jesus should weep over Jerusalem in Matthew 23:37: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.” This poses a thorny difficulty for the Calvinist. First of all, he must assume that the reprobation of Jerusalem was “the good pleasure” of the Father. If that is so, why was it so displeasing and heart-rending to Jesus, who was always in agreement with the divine will? Shouldn’t Jesus have also been “pleased” with the Father’s reprobation of these people? Secondly, Jesus is here attributing the lost condition of Jerusalem to her own unwillingness, not the want of election. Jesus was willing to receive them but they were unwilling. This seems to contradict the confident assertions of Calvinists about Unconditional Election. So what doctrine do we put in the place of the Calvinist’s Unconditional Election? Do we opt for one of the many Arminian forms of election? Tempting as that may be, I must now settle on the mysterious Biblical Election, the details of which have not been fully disclosed as we look into our “glass, darkly.” Perhaps further theological works by thoughtful Christians will reveal a more satisfactory resting place for our convictions.

 

Calvinism is one more illustration of the futility of systematic theology. God’s truths, particularly relating to soteriology, are too lofty to be put into concise formulae. The Five Points of Calvinism oversimplify the profound truths of God. They derive their force from proof-texts rather than the general tenor of Scripture. More than that, the doctrines frequently create a spirit of division, elitism and theological snobbery. The system erects walls between believers. It creates a class of Christians within the church general who are supposedly part of a worthy “inner circle.” May our brethren see fit to adopt a Berean spirit (Acts 17:11) and honestly rethink their Calvinism. We would urge them to, for a time, lay aside the commentaries of Calvin and Gill, the theology of Warfield and Hodge. With an open Bible and mind, may they take a second look at the so-called “doctrines of grace” to see if they truly are the doctrines of Christ.

http://www.auburn.edu/~allenkc/openhse/calvinism.html

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James 1:22-27

BE ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass. For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed. If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain. Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.

Iacobus 1:22-27

estote autem factores verbi et non auditores tantum fallentes vosmet ipsos quia si quis auditor est verbi et non factor hic conparabitur viro consideranti vultum nativitatis suae in speculo consideravit enim se et abiit et statim oblitus est qualis fuerit qui autem perspexerit in lege perfecta libertatis et permanserit non auditor obliviosus factus sed factor operis hic beatus in facto suo erit si quis autem putat se religiosum esse non refrenans linguam suam sed seducens cor suum huius vana est religio religio munda et inmaculata apud Deum et Patrem haec est visitare pupillos et viduas in tribulatione eorum inmaculatum se custodire ab hoc saeculo

rogamus autem vos fratres corripite inquietos consolamini pusillianimes suscipite infirmos patientes estote ad omnes

1 Thessalonians 5:14

I would be curious what the prevailing Bible version of choice is. If I had to guess at least in the US then NIV would be the primary choice. Personally I’m not a huge fan of NIV due to its sing songy phrasing as I prefer meticulous literal translation. KJV gets a bad reputation due to its history and morphology/syntax. Recently I have been fluctuating between the Latin Vulgate and the Orthodox Study Bible. 

If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.

James 1:5

iustificati igitur ex fide pacem habeamus ad Deum per Dominum nostrum Iesum Christum (Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ)

Romans 5:1 (Latin Vulgate)

I compiled this list mainly due to vast amount of misinterpreting of scripture in particular old testament laws. There is nothing more cringe worthy then someone who learns something but lacks understanding. It appears many are unable to comprehend what is moral law, ceremonial law, and civic law as well as the establishment of the new covenant. So I will only post new testament laws this time. I typically use the Latin Vulgate Bible in my own reading but I will use a more modern translation the English Standard Version. 

1 Corinthians 6:18Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body.

1 Corinthians 6:9-10Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

1 Thessalonians 4:3-5For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God;

Matthew 5:28But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

Hebrews 13:4Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.

Colossians 3:5Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.

Galatians 5:19Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality,

Mark 7:20-23: And He [Jesus] said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”

Jude 1:7Just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.

1 Timothy 1:9-10: Understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine,

 

I implore you to not just take my own word for it but to research these passages yourself. Its good to go read the context in order to get a full understanding of their meaning. Remember these are not condemning people rather their behavior. All people are capable of asking for God’s forgiveness and God will forgive all who come before him with true contrition. 

Baldwin IV