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What if Calvin was wrong? Created 26 December 2014

Some of my best friends are staunch Calvinists. The idea is not to offend anybody, but to point out that the writings of mere men (like me) do not trump the writings of the Holy Spirit. It is up to us - lay people, theologians, priests, pastors, elders and everybody who calls themselves a Christian - to be spending more time in the Word of God than in any other work. Sadly, so often when we listen to sermons, it is clear that whilst the priest or pastor may profess the Word of God as the ultimate standard they prefer to quote extra-biblical writers rather than the Holy Spirit himself. The point I am making here is that we cannot trust in the writings of mere men. We must trust only in the writings of the Holy Spirit, as contained in the Bible.

What if Calvin got it wrong? What if the Westminster Confession of Faith [4] got it wrong? What if Augustine of Hippo got it wrong? What if the Synod of Dort got it wrong?

You see, unlike the Apostles Peter and Paul, John and others, we have absolutely no guarantee that whatever these well-meaning men above said or wrote or preached is actually right by God. Now of course they all used Scripture. And of course they all believed Jesus rose from the dead. But did they use Scripture correctly - did they “rightly divide the word of truth”? [5] Many assume that they did, but we just cannot be sure.

The trouble is; where we make assumptions - where we have no guarantee of knowing for sure that these men accurately and completely heard of God - there we stand to lose the integrity of what we believe. The key here is completely, not accurately. Satan quoted Scripture accurately when he tried to lure Jesus away from God’s truth. What kept Jesus 100% in God’s will was the completeness of his understanding of Scripture.

During the English Civil War (1642 - 1649), the English Parliament raised armies in an alliance with the Covenanters who by then were the de facto government of Scotland, against the forces of Charles I, King of England, Scotland and Ireland. The purpose of the Westminster Assembly, in which 121 Puritan clergymen participated, was to provide official documents for the reformation of the Church of England. The Church of Scotland had recently overthrown the bishops imposed by the King and reinstated presbyterianism (see Bishops' Wars).

For this reason, as a condition for entering into the alliance with the English Parliament, the Scottish Parliament formed the Solemn League and Covenant with the English Parliament, which meant that the Church of England would abandon episcopalianism and consistently adhere to Calvinistic standards of doctrine and worship. The Confession and Catechisms were produced in order to secure the help of the Scots against the king. (source)

Westminster Confession of Faith image

Say I read the Ten Commandments where it says, Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you (Exodus 20:12)[1] and I am ignorant of Jesus’ teaching that says, He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me (Matthew 10:37) [2] , we might actually conclude that Exodus 20:12 is a truth that is absolute, meaning that it cannot be tempered by anything including any other part of Scripture. As such, we might conclude that honouring father and mother is on equal footing with honouring Jesus.

It is a sad fact that many within Christianity believe that loving their fellow human beings is as important, if not more important than loving God. Compare what God says through Jesus: 29 Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is: Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. This the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these. (Mark 12:29-31).

So, in seeking to love God with all their hearts, many, seemingly, try to love their neighbor first. Notice, loving your neighbor is the second commandment, not the first. There is no greater commandment than loving God first; everything - including loving your neighbor, your husband or wife, your children and even your parents - that comes in the way of loving God first is an idol. God hates idolatry. His sovereignty demands devotion to Him first and foremost.

The writings of John Calvin and Augustine of Hippo

How this relates to Calvin is that Augustine of Hippo, John Calvin, the Westminster Confession of Faith, Creflo Dollar and many other contemporary teachers and preachers profess a doctrine that correctly quotes Scripture, but which fails to completely quote Scripture.

The problem is obvious; distorted truth lead people to believe another gospel.

Now, that's quite something for me to point the finger at esteemed men of faith such as those mentioned above. So, I will point the finger at myself as well; what you may be absolutely sure of is that my own writings are not 100% inspired by the Holy Spirit. My own hurts, hang-ups and ignorance - and the fact that I am still in the process of being sanctified - has caused me to at times hear my own heart, which is a dangerous thing to do[6] . That's why I always point people to read Scripture for themselves, and to learn to hear the Holy Spirit for themselves also. Nevertheless, there may be sufficient truth in what is written here for you to search God for yourself and get revelation from him on the issue.

The 'Once saved, Always saved' doctrine

(To bring perspective to my own writings, here's a Reformed website, which takes a view contrary to mine (clearly, where they state "no evidence" I beg to differ)).

John Calvin by Holbein.png Perseverance of the saints (also referred to as eternal security as well as the corollary - though distinct - doctrine known as "Once Saved, Always Saved";) is a teaching that asserts that once persons are truly "born of God", or "regenerated" nothing in heaven or earth "shall be able to separate (them) from the love of God" (Romans 8:39).

Let's look this doctrine - written by mere men - which, at best, is questionable. The premise of the "Once saved, always saved" doctrine (also known as "the Perseverence of the Saints") states that 'because God was solely responsible for the salvation of a person and because such a person is held 'n His hand', he or she can never ever lose their salvation - no-matter what'. It is found in Chapter 17 of the Westminster Confession of Faith. The men who wrote this confession were highly influenced by John Calvin who in turn was influenced by Augustine of Hippo:

  1. Those who have been saved by God cannot ever fall out of God’s salvation: I. They, whom God hath accepted in His Beloved, effectually called, and sanctified by His Spirit, can neither totally, nor finally, fall away from the state of grace: but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved (Phil 1:6, 2 Pet. 1:10, John 10:28-29, 1 John 3:9, 1 Pet. 1:5, 9).
  2. those who are saved did not choose to be saved - God chose them: II. This perseverance of the saints depends not upon their own free will, but upon the immutability of the decree of election, flowing from the free and unchangeable love of God the Father; upon the efficacy of the merit and intercession of Jesus Christ; the abiding of the Spirit, and of the seed of God within them; and the nature of the covenant of grace; from all which ariseth also the certainty and infallibility thereof (2 Tim. 2:18-19, Jer. 31: 3, Heb. 10:10,14, Heb. 8:20-21, Heb. 9:12-15, Rom 8:33 to the end, John 17:11,24, Luke 22:32, Heb. 7:25, John 14:16-17, 1 John 2:27, 1 John 3:9, Jer. 32:40, John 10:28; 2 Thess. 3:3, 1 John 2:19).
  3. it is true that true Christians can misbehave: III. Nevertheless, they may, through the temptations of Satan and of the world, the prevalency of corruption remaining in them, and the neglect of the means of their preservation, fall into grievous sins; and, for a time, continue therein: whereby they incur God's displeasure, and grieve His Holy Spirit, come to be deprived of some measure of their graces and comforts, have their hearts hardened, and their consciences wounded, hurt and scandalize others, and bring temporal judgments upon themselves. (Matt. 26:70,72,74, Ps. 51. title and verse 14; Isa. 64:5,7,9, 2 Sam. 11:27, Eph. 4:30; Ps. 51:8,10,12, Rev. 2:4; Cant. v. 2, 3, 4, 6; Isa. 63:17; Mark 6:52, Mark 16:14, Ps. 32:3,4, Ps. 51:8, 2 Sam. 12:14, Ps. 89:31-32, 1 Cor. 11:32)

Now what should strike the reader about this confession is the number of Bible verses quoted in order to back it up. These (may) leave the impression that the confession is an irrefutable truth simply because the Bible repeats this one truth so often. But therein lies the issue; the verses quoted repeat the same truth over and over. So, the doctrine neglects to bring other verses into the equation which temper (or bring perspective to) this one truth.

Therfore, we need to see the above truths in perspective. The way to do that is to look at relevant verses from the Bible, much like the example given above where Jesus taught that whilst it is right and true and godly to honour your father and mother, you should not love them more than God.

First, let me say that I do not believe the authors of the Westminster Confession of Faith or any other person noted here deliberately attempted (or do attempt) to offend God or deceive people. That would not be a true reflection of what I’m trying to say here.

Better perspective of the Scriptures quoted

To summarise Chapter 17 of the Westminster Confession of Faith:

  1. true Christians do still transgress - they do so on account of their sinful nature which has not yet beeng cleansed, and also on account of temptation. With this part of the confession, I think, the Bible agrees: In 1 John 1:9, John encourages existing believers to be confessing their sins so as to receive forgiveness and to be cleansed.
  2. God chose these true believers; thus, they cannot 'unchoose' themselves, meaning they did not deserve salvation in the first place, so how can they then do something to 'undeserve' it? With this part of the confession, I think, the Bible agrees: In Ephesians 1:4, Paul states that existing believers were chosen by God before the foundations of the world were established.
  3. that which is in God's hand - because He is almighty and because He is sovereign - cannot be snatched from it; believers can never lose their salvation. With the first part of the confession, I think, the Bible agrees. But not with the second: In the Gospel of John, Jesus states emphatically that no-one can be snatched from His hand. But, as for believers never being able to turn against God, there is plenty in the Bible that says we are capable of exactly that. We'll look at that; Footnote 7 deals with that, as well as Footnote 9.

First, from the above, I particularly like this verse in which I find much comfort: "For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38-39). It is clear; nothing can separate us from the love of God.

Hang on! The book of Romans also says, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Chapter 3). And Paul says, 22 If anyone does not love the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be accursed. O Lord, come! (1 Corinthians 16). And further, Jesus – after famously proclaiming John 3:16, says in John 3:18 - He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

Thus, there are people who are "condemned" and "accursed" because they do not have the righteousness of God in Christ. I believe that is correct. So, how then did mankind end up being 'unrighteous' in the first place? How did we end up being seperated from God to start off with?

We know the story of Adam: that though God created Adam as a flawless creature, and though God loved him, and though God kept him in the ‘palm of His hand’, Adam - by a decision of his own will - rebelled against God and sinned. God did not force him. Adam acted on his own accord. So, Adam - despite his God-given righteousness and personal, protection by God - chose to become unrighteous. And that's how we all ended up being unrighteous.

Is it therefore possible that a person - saved and being made holy (much the same as Adam before he sinned) can turn against God and rebel? Yes, the Bible says so. It gives Adam as the primary example. But it cites others too, not the least of which is this passage where the Holy Spirit himself says that it is possible to depart from faith in Christ: Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, 2 speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron, (1 Timothy 4:1-3) [see also footnote 7 for more detail on this statement] . A man can choose to turn against God. It would not be anyone who would 'snatch him from His hand', but it would be something a person would choose to do - either on the basis of having been deceived or on the basis of making an utterly foolish decision. It is the equivalent of 'jumping from his hand'.

I know, it makes no sense at all for anyone to want to do that. But, tell that to Adam and he'll probably tell you that, at the time, it made sense to him to do so anyway. Note, whilst Eve was nonethewiser - she was decieved [8] - Adam was very clear on what he was doing. Eve did not rebel, she was deceived. Adam was not deceived, he rebelled. And that is what lost him and all of mankind our fellowship with God.

So, the argument that it makes 'no sense at all that a saved person would rebel against God' does not hold water because Adam proved that it was possible, even without any frame of reference for doing so. Adam showed that even those who are very intelligent; even those who have received tremendous grace; even those who have come to know God first-hand, are capable of doing something immensely foolish.

God's covenant with believers.

The point I make here is that God's covenant with a person can be broken by that person. In Psalm 51 the Psalmist calls for a new heart and a new spirit within him. Through Ezekiel, God then promises that new heart and new spirit. And then in Hebrews 8 and 10 He confirms this covenant. It is a covenant that was initiated by God - an act of love, mercy and grace that is congruent to His nature. No-one can annul that covenant. It was instituted by God.

But, you may choose to 'opt out of the covenant' if that's what you want to do; not being able to annul the covenant and not being able to opt out of the covenant is not the same thing. Whereas the covenant is between God and mankind, salvation is a personal - individual - thing. So, as far as it pertains to you, you can 'opt out'.

The Bible uses two phrases to deal with what I call 'opt out'; to 'not endure' and to 'fall away'.

This brings us back to the Westminster Confession of Faith. One of the 'pillars' that supports this doctrine is this verse:

10 Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; 11 for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 1)

But did you spot the reality in these verses? They cut both ways; if you are dilligent to make your call and election sure, then you will never stumble and then an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord.

There is a condition to the promise: dilligence to make sure of your call and election.

Logic dictates that the opposite statement must then also be true: that 'if you are not dilligent to make sure of your call and election then an entrance will not be supplied to you into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord'. It is the same principle applied in John 3:16 and John 3:18, as quoted above: they state opposite sides of the same truth.

Therefore, if you accept as true the first statement then by neccessity you have no choice but to believe the second statement as well. Because there is a condition to the promise, those who do not fulfill the condition will not receive the fruit of the promise. God is true to His promises; He does not set conditions only to wave them 'willy nilly'. He is a God of utmost integrity.

See what 2 Timothy 2:12 says, If we endure, We shall also reign with Him. If we deny Him, He also will deny us. Clearly, unless you want to make the questionable argument that the Holy Spirit had stuff written in the Bible that is totally irrelevant to mankind, then, you must agree that if we deny Him, He will also deny us. Practically, what that means is that if we choose to rebel against Him, we will die in unrighteousness thus having been denied entrance the Kingdom by Him. What makes this verse so important is that Paul is speaking here to born again, Spirit-filled believers exclusively.

So great was this truth about it being totally possible to lose your salvation to the writer of Hebrews that he counted it as one of the fundamental truths on which all Christianity rests:

4 For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 if they fall away to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame. (Hebrews 6). The key word there is "impossible", not 'unlikely'. Indeed, as much as it was impossible for Adam to re-establish his connection to the life-giving Spirit, so it is impossible for him or her who turn from their salvation to turn back to God in repentance; it is impossible for them who were once saved to again be saved "since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame.".

Lastly, assuming once again that no argument is made that the Holy Spirit wrote things in the Bible that are totally irrelevant, let us address this question about a personal covenant with God being brought to none. Let us be clear though, God has promised that He will never do it. But the Bible says it is entirely possible that a believer may do it. Consider that he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never be forgiven - he or she can never become righteous (again); they can never enter the Kingdom of God: he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is subject to eternal condemnation (Mark 3:29). Again, what makes this verse so important is that the Holy Spirit is speaking here to born again, Spirit-filled believers exclusively.

In Conclusion

There is clear evidence from various parts of the Bible - stating different truths - that a believer can indeed lose their salvation. Sadly, when something like the writings of John Calvin or the statements contained in the Westminster Confession of Faith comes up for debate, some within Christianity simply cannot fathom that these may in fact be based on error; they cannot see that age-old 'truths' may in fact not be truths at all. They subscribe to the qualifications of the men (or women) involved. They sell out to their experience, their circle of influence, the aparent standing of their ministries. But they consult not with Scripture to find the truth.

Christian living and Christian books image

"The Religious Book Publishing industry suffered when consumers lost faith in the economy and thus dialed back on their expenses. However, the downturn is expected to reverse as revenue starts to gain back some of its losses through 2018. During the next five years, more consumers will purchase e-readers, thus hindering growth as printed books are in less demand...."

IBISWorld estimates the "Religious Book Publishing" industry to exceed $1 billion every year. There is no doubt - Christians and people from other religions read almost everything in addition to (or except?) the Bible.

'What if Calvin was wrong?'; if Calvin was indeed wrong - as I believe I have shown here - then the Synod of Dort got it wrong. Then the Westminster Confession of Faith got it wrong. Then every other 'church' or 'body of faith' that have based their teachings on these writings - including Creflo Dollar, John MacArthur[3] and others - got it wrong. As such, they may be wrong in other things (read 'other doctrines') as well.

In the end, what it all means is that it is encumbant upon the "dilligent" Christian to search God and to search His Scripture, and to trust NOT on the writings of mere men.

Footnotes:

[1] Some people believe the Ten Commandments carry extra weight in terms of the need to adhere to God's commandments. There seems no justification for this belief. It is true that New Testament writers reference the Ten Commandments. Then again, they just as easily reference David or Isaiah or other writers as well. [back]

[2] Refer Matthew 10: 11 "Now whatever city or town you enter, inquire who in it is worthy, and stay there till you go out. 12 And when you go into a household, greet it. 13 If the household is worthy, let your peace come upon it. But if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. 14 And whoever will not receive you nor hear your words, when you depart from that house or city, shake off the dust from your feet. 15 Assuredly, I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city! 16 "Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. 17 But beware of men, for they will deliver you up to councils and scourge you in their synagogues. [back]

[3] No disrespect intended to these men. [back]

[4] The Westminster Confession of Faith was modified and adopted by Congregationalists in England in the form of the Savoy Declaration (1658). Likewise, the Baptists of England modified the Savoy Declaration to produce the Second London Baptist Confession (1689). English Presbyterians, Congregationalists, and Baptists would together (with others) come to be known as Nonconformists, because they did not conform to the Act of Uniformity (1662) establishing the Church of England as the only legally approved church, though they were in many ways united by their common confessions, built on the Westminster Confession. [back]

[5] 15 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15) [back]

[6] "The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it? (Jeremiah 17:9) [back]

[7] The writer of Hebrews warns the existing, born again believers, not to "harden their hearts" as the Israelites did in the rebellion in the dessert: 7 Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says: "Today, if you will hear His voice, 8 Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, In the day of trial in the wilderness, 9 Where your fathers tested Me, tried Me, And saw My works forty years. 10 Therefore I was angry with that generation, And said, 'They always go astray in their heart, And they have not known My ways.' 11 So I swore in My wrath, 'They shall not enter My rest.'" (Hebrews 3:7-11). More tellingly the same writer states this truth emphatically in the very next verse: 2 Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; (Hebrews 3:12). In fact the entire Hebrews chapters 3 and 4 are almost exclusively devoted to this topic: 'Today, if you will hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts. So I swore in My wrath, 'They shall not enter My rest' Bear in mind, the writer of Hebrews is speaking to existing, born again believers exclusively. This is not to speak of John 15 where Jesus himself says taht those who are in fact alraedy in Him (the Vine) - if they do not produce fruit they will be "cut off" (John 15:1-8) [back to passage] [back to "Better Perspectives of the Scriptures quoted"]

[8] But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. (2 Corinthians 11:3) [back]

[9] This is a lengthy passage, but it makes the point very clearly that the writer of Hebrews encouraged his audiance not to "draw back" from their faith. Because, should the do so (clearly he believed it was entirely possible!), they would end up in "perdition" - a lost state. He goes on to say 'God will repay them in vengence' for having "trampled the Son of God underfoot":

26 For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries. 28 Anyone who has rejected Moses' law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know Him who said, "Vengeance is Mine, I will repay," says the Lord. And again, "The Lord will judge His people." 31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

32 But recall the former days in which, after you were illuminated, you endured a great struggle with sufferings: 33 partly while you were made a spectacle both by reproaches and tribulations, and partly while you became companions of those who were so treated; 34 for you had compassion on me in my chains, and joyfully accepted the plundering of your goods, knowing that you have a better and an enduring possession for yourselves in heaven. 35 Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward. 36 For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise:

37 For yet a little while,
And He who is coming will come and will not tarry.
38 Now the just shall live by faith;
But if anyone draws back,
My soul has no pleasure in him.
"
39 But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul.

Seriously, who will take these warnings lightly, resting in the 'comfort' that they have been saved and can never do anything to lose their salvation?

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Please consult the Bible and test what is written here. Ask the Lord to give you wisdom in this area. Keep that which is good and reject that which is not Scriptural. Should you come to a different understanding than I please let me know - perhaps I can learn from you.

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