Why Is It So Hard For Calvinists To Get Free From Calvinism?

From the end of my post "If Calvinism is true, then God is a liar."  But I think it deserves its own post:

I read something once about how very few people end up freeing themselves from the clutches of Calvinism because of the strong hold it has on people.  I think this is partly because ...

1.  We [I am not a Calvinist, so this is a generalized "we"] would have to admit that we were misunderstanding Scripture this whole time, and no one wants to admit they could be wrong.

2.  Calvinism appeals to the prideful intellectuals.  (And prideful intellectuals have the greatest aversion to admitting they could be wrong.)  It makes these intellectuals feel like they alone understand the "deeper, hidden meanings of Scripture," while the simple-minded Christians can't understand it.  And it makes them feel more "humble" for accepting these "difficult teachings," like their idea that people have no control whatsoever.  It's like "Look how humble I am to accept such unpleasant teachings and to submit myself so fully to our all-powerful, totally-controlling God."  (How do you get a prideful intellectual who believes he's being truly, appropriately humble to see that he's wrong?  It's near impossible.  It's easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle!)

3.  Calvinism also appeals to those who genuinely do want to humble themselves before God, and they are led to believe that Calvinism is the way to do it.  

My heart goes out to these people, the ones that are just trying to live a humble life before God, to honor Him.  They are just doing their best to live the "truth," as they have been told it is by Calvinists.  But, sadly, they don't realize they are being told a twisted version of Scripture ... because the Calvinists have so much smart-sounding babble and mumble-jumble to "validate" their view of Scripture that it starts to sound believable.  

And, surely, anyone who has that much babbling, mumble-jumble knowledge must know what they are talking about, right?  

The faster and more confidently a person talks, the more we tend to think they know what they're talking about.  The more information they throw at us - even if it's nonsense - the smarter they appear and the more we trust what they're saying.  And it all makes our heads spin so much that we simply start to nod our heads in agreement, never noticing their errors and contradictions.  We let them think for us.  

Please, good humble Christians, consider all that I say and what the Bible says, for yourselves, apart from the Calvinistic garbage you're being fed.  Calvinism isn't just another way to read the Bible and understand God.  It's a wrong way to read the Bible and understand God!  (And if you think I'm wrong and Calvinism is right, then how about taking my "Defend Your Calvinism Challenge" below.)

4.  Because we don't ask God to help us understand Scripture.  We don't give Him permission to correct us and to guide our thinking.  We just plow through on our own.  (Or we resist asking Him to correct us because we don't want Him to.)

5.  Because Calvinism is so common, and so many "great" theologians teach it that we don't stop to even consider that it can be wrong.  And besides, Calvinist preachers, authors, and theologians are so forceful, educated, confident, and sure of themselves that they must be right, right!?!  I mean, they couldn't possibly be wrong, could they!?!

(You know who else was educated and confident?  The Teachers of the Law, the Pharisees, the religious leaders in Jesus's day, the ones who were so blinded by their own knowledge that they missed the Truth, even when He was standing right in front of them.)

6.  Because we always put on our "Calvinist glasses" before we read the Bible.  We have trained ourselves to fit Scripture into Calvinism, so we never see a problem with it.  (And if we do see a problem with it, we simply remind ourselves of what Calvinism says, "We won't be able to understand it anyway.  So be a good, humble Christian, and just accept it.  If you question it, you are questioning God's Word itself because this IS what the Bible teaches.")

Calvinism sounds so close to the truth.  In fact, a Calvinist could preach many messages that you agree with, before any red flags are raised.

"Mankind is fallen and is separated from God.  We can't save ourselves because of our sin.  We needed Jesus - a perfect sacrifice - to make salvation possible for us.  Those who believe in Him will inherit eternal life.  He is the only way to heaven.  Etc."

All of this I would agree with.  But behind all this, the Calvinist believes "But you don't get to decide if you want Jesus in your life or not.  God has made the decision for you, from the beginning of time.  And there's nothing you can do about it.  Jesus died only for the elected people, and the elected people will come to Him because He makes them come to Him.  But the unelected people are predestined to hell, for God's glory and purposes and good pleasure.  In fact, God causes - not just allows, but causes - everything that happens, even sin and evil and unbelief and child abuse, for His glory, purposes, and good pleasure."


[There's no nicer way to put it.  

If Jesus says He loves all men, that He came to die for all men, so that anyone who wants it can find eternal life in Him ... and then someone goes and says "Nope!  Jesus didn't die for everyone, just for a few people.  He only loved a few prechosen people enough to die for them.  And only for them.  And, nope, you can't have eternal life unless God has prechosen you.  And don't bother seeking God, because you can't seek Him unless He's already prechosen you.  And everyone who's not prechosen, well, they will bring God glory by burning in hell for all of eternity.  Oh yeah, and you know those wicked sins you commit, the ones God commands you not to commit ... that's God's fault.  He's the one who makes you do them.  But you are still responsible for them and so He's gonna punish you!" ... yeah, I'd say that deserves a "hogwash"!  

I'm not kidding here!  I'm horrified by what Calvinism has done to Jesus's precious sacrifice, to God's amazing love, to God's saving grace, to the truth of the Gospel, to people's faith in God and view of God.  There's a huge difference between the Bible's message and Calvinism's message.  One is the Gospel truth, leading people to salvation, to the Way, the Truth, and the Life ... and one is hogwash, destroying God's character, people's faith, Jesus's sacrifice, and the truth of the Gospel!]

Yes, God does sometimes cause things to happen, even sometimes things we might consider "bad."  Yet I think it's usually more that He allows the bad things (the consequences of the Fall of Adam and Eve, of Satan's work in the world, and of mankind's decisions), not necessarily that He causes all the bad things.  

Remember that when God initially created this world, He created it perfect.  And God promises to fix and heal the bad things, to work them into good, to get rid of them in the end.  The "bad" things were never part of His original design for the world.  We let evil loose in this world through the Fall, when we chose to listen to Satan instead of God in the Garden of Eden.  (And don't kid yourself, any one of us would have done the same as Adam and Eve, given enough time in the Garden.)  And we have been dealing with the consequences of it ever since.  And we will continue to deal with the consequences until God makes it all perfect again in the end.  But until then, bad things will happen.  And I think they happen, for the most part, because God "allows" them to happen.  And in His wisdom and sovereignty, He knows how to work them into His plans, to bring good out of them.

BUT, contrary to Calvinism, I do not believe He ever causes sin or unbelief or wickedness or disobedience, the things He commands us not to do.  He doesn't command us not to do something, and then turn around and cause us to do it, and then punish us for it when He's the one who made us do it ... as Calvinism teaches.  But He does allow us to do these things.  And then He works it into His plans and turns it into something good.  This gracefully, biblically melds mankind's responsibility with God's sovereignty.  It's how He exercises control over what happens, while still allowing us to make decisions, and then justly holding us accountable for our decisions.  

And this is much different than the Calvinist view that God causes all sin for His purposes, and then He holds us accountable for the sin He causes us to do.  Can you see how twisted that is!?!  

(However, if someone has chosen unbelief and hardness of heart, He can make their decision permanent.  He can - and has, in the Bible - hardened those who have chosen to be hard-hearted.  He can - and has - further blinded those who chose to be spiritually blind.  But they chose it first!  He first gives us the chance to follow Him.  He gives us many calls and challenges and opportunities to find Him.  But if we repeatedly refuse Him and reject Him, He might just give us what we want, permanently - a resistant heart, unbelief, rebellion, a life without Him!  But make no mistake ... we chose it first.  We wanted it.  We asked for it.)

7.  Because Calvinist theologians have made us believe we can't really understand the Bible without their interpretations (Oh, how many false religions do the same thing!).  Calvinists are always saying, "Oh, yeah, well, John MacArthur says ..." or "Wayne Grudem says ..." or "RC Sproul says ...".  

But you know what I want to know:  "What does the Bible say?"  

I do not think it's possible - if you read only the Bible, along with the help of a good concordance - to come to the Calvinist conclusion about God and salvation and mankind's responsibility, etc.  I think Calvinism is only possible when you add in all the extra-biblical teachings of Calvinist authors, when you let them fill your head with all the "secret wisdoms" and "hidden messages" and "alternative word meanings" of Calvinism.  But these theologians put a spin on what the Bible says.  They add other layers of meaning to what the Bible says.  And without these "layers," without the Calvinist glasses they put on your head, you wouldn't find enough in the Bible to truly support Calvinism.  

Calvinism needs Calvinist authors/theologians to find Calvinism in the Bible, to make the Bible teach Calvinism.     

Does the Bible not speak for itself?  Is God so clumsy in His communication that He needed Calvinist theologians to clarify His message for Him?  

[Calvinists are great at sounding like they are speaking only from the Bible, by using phrases like "What does the Bible say?  We always have to go back to the Bible."  But, as Calvinists, they would have to look right at the Bible that says "For God so loved the world, that whosoever believes ..." and "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved" and "the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men" ... and then change "the world" and "whosoever" and "everyone who" and "all men" to "only the elect."  What the heck!?!  That's not what the text says!  So stop making it sound like you always go right back to what the Bible says!  How misleading!  

They also try to come across as humble when they talk about their beliefs, like they can't really understand how it all works, so they just accept it in faith.  Such as the idea that God ordains evil and sin but that we can still be held accountable for it.  They'll say things like, "How does that work?  How can God ordain evil but we are still accountable for it?  I don't know.  I don't know how it works, but I have to accept it because the Bible teaches both God's sovereignty (by this they mean God controls/causes everything) and man's responsibility."  

But inside, I am jumping up and yelling, "I know how it works!  You don't know how it works because you believe God causes evil and causes people to sin, yet He then holds us accountable for the evil and sin He causes.  No wonder you don't know how it works; you can't reconcile those two things.  You are misunderstanding God's sovereignty.  But I know how it works ... because God doesn't cause the people to be evil and to sin.  He just works their self-chosen evilness and sin into His plans.  That's how He can use evil in His plans and yet still hold us accountable for it.  We choose to be evil and to sin; He just lets us be evil and sin, and then, in His wisdom and sovereignty, He incorporates our evil and sin into His plans!"  

Think of an undercover sting by police where they use a criminal, who doesn't know he's being used, to lead them to the Bad Guy Boss.  They didn't make the criminal be a criminal or do bad things; they just used his criminal nature and acts (the person he's willingly chosen to be) to accomplish their purposes.  And in the end, the police can arrest the criminal along with the Boss, because they both chose to be criminals.  It's not that hard to understand when you look at it correctly.  Sadly, though, Calvinists complicate and twist the things that are simple, and misunderstand or brush off the things that are confusing.]

8.  Because it's a difficult, confusing topic, so instead of investing the time and energy to really study it for ourselves, we would rather let the "great Calvinist theologians" tell us what to think.  Because we trust them.  We trust them so much we don't even think to question them.  (Look up how many of today's popular theologians are Calvinists.  You might be surprised by how many there are.  It's truly an epidemic.  No wonder so many people believe in Calvinism.  It's everywhere.  And no one thinks to question it because we trust these popular theologians to lead us right.)  

Did you know there was a psychological experiment years ago where someone drew a perfectly straight line on the board, and they had a bunch of people come in and say if they thought the line was straight or crooked.  The thing was, all of the people, except one guy, were in on it.  They were testing to see if they could pressure the one guy into seeing something that wasn't there, into denying what he knew to be true.  And all these people said the line was clearly crooked, while the one guy said it was straight.  They debated with him for a long time and gave their reasons for why it was crooked and why he must not be seeing it ... and by the end of the experiment, they had this guy agreeing that the perfectly-straight line was crooked.  Interesting!

9.  Because we want to honor God by submitting to His sovereignty, and Calvinists are all about God's sovereignty.  BUT ... Calvinists misunderstand "sovereignty."  And "ordains" and "predestination," etc.  

Also, they start with the assumption that "elect" has to mean that God specifically chose particular individuals to go to heaven.  And that the "elect" believe because they were pre-selected by God, instead of the possibility that He chose to give mankind the option of having eternal life in heaven and that we become one of His "elect" when we choose to believe.  (And then they have to change the meanings of "the world" and "all men" to fit their view, to make it say "only the elect.")  

They build their theology around an incorrect, unbiblical understanding of these things.  But we don't know to question it because it sounds biblical enough to convince us that it must be true, despite the red flags that pop up in our minds.  And they convince us that those "red flags" come from our pride and our own feelings and our own desire for control and our desire to understand things we are "not supposed to understand yet," etc.  So we shut up and don't question it anymore.

10.  And they don't just build their theology around misunderstandings of words but also around their own preconceptions and misconceptions of how things must work.  And if you start with misconceptions, you are building a house of cards on a foundation of Jell-O.  But they never think to question the foundation of misconceptions.  They just keep trying to make the building on top more stable.

Such as, they start with the idea that "For God to really be in control means He has to control everything.  If you believe He doesn't control everything, that He gives people a choice, then you are saying He is not an all-powerful, sovereign God.  You are reducing Him and elevating humans."  That's a big fat presumption on their part, equating "in control" with "must control and cause everything."  God is much bigger than that and can work all things, even our self-chosen sins, into His plans.  And it's not reducing God at all if God Himself decided to allow mankind the right and responsibility to make choices, to have an effect on things that happen.

"Well," they say, "if you believe we can makes decisions, that God responds to what we do or what we pray, then you're saying we are controlling God."  No!  I am simply saying that God gave us the right to make choices, that He responds to the choices we make.  Because He wanted it to be this way!  

"But if we can 'believe' in Jesus or 'accept' Jesus, then that means we are working for our salvation.  So we can't believe in or accept Jesus because we can't work for salvation.  That's why God has to do it all.  If He doesn't do it all, then He's not really in control or fully sovereign."  But equating "accepting/believing in Jesus" with "working for our salvation" is a wrong premise to start with.  That's their own illogical reasoning.  You find me ONE VERSE in the Bible that warns us against "working for our salvation" by accepting, believing in, or agreeing with Jesus.  Here's a tip:  There isn't one.  They are simply starting with their own definition of "working for salvation," including things that are clearly not "good works to earn salvation."  Accepting a free gift that someone made available, that someone else sacrificed for, is not "working to earn it."  It's simply accepting it in humble thankfulness.  It's letting them give it to you, acknowledging their sacrifice and their gift, knowing that you did nothing to earn it, create it, or deserve it.  Calvinist reasoning is pure nonsense!  And yet they build their theological views around that kind of illogical, nonsensical garbage!  And how wicked is it - how very wicked it is - to tell people that they can't accept Jesus's sacrifice on their behalf when the very reason He died was so that they could accept His sacrifice on their behalf!  

They also like to say "Well, if God really loved everyone, He would save everyone; but since He didn't save everyone, it must mean He doesn't love everyone the same."  They assume God's saving love necessarily ends in saved people, when what it really does is make salvation possible for all people.  And then they go and redefine God's love and "whosoever" and "all men" to fit with this idea.

They say "God didn't send Jesus to die for everyone and He can't give people a choice to accept or reject Jesus ... because if people could reject Jesus, it would be a waste of Jesus's blood.  And God won't waste Jesus's blood on those who won't believe."  FIND ME ONE VERSE THAT SAYS THIS!!!  You'll be looking forever because THERE ISN'T ONE!  This is purely man-made reasoning.  

They say "God has to be the one to cause evil to happen, or else there is no real purpose for it.  There's purpose in the things that happen only if God deliberately causes them."  In Calvinism, God causes all that happens.  Calvinist James White even justifies the existence of child rape (scroll down till you see James White's picture, or listen to what he says here), by saying that God causes it for a purpose.  And if God doesn't cause it, then it has no purpose.  It's just senseless violence then.  

So, let me get this straight ... then you're saying that, for some reason, child rape makes justifiable sense as long as God causes it!?!  What the %&$#!!!  And maybe to Calvinists it does make more sense of evil, but at what expense?  At the expense of Truth and God's character!  They turn God into a monster - into the causer of all evil acts, all horrible sins, the very things He commands us not to do - simply so they can sound like they have a "good reason" for evil.  

(And yet it is so much easier and more understandable and more biblically-accurate to simply believe that God works sovereignly in two ways: sometimes He causes things that happen (but never sin and rebellion, the things He warns us against), and sometimes He simply allows things to happen, even the bad things we choose to do, but He promises to work it all into good.  This is the biblical way to mesh God's sovereignty with mankind's responsibility, while still representing God's character correctly.)  

And aren't Calvinists actually limiting God's abilities when they say He has to be the causer of all bad things for there to be reasons for them or good that comes out of them?  Is God not omniscient enough and wise enough and powerful enough and good enough to take the bad things that people choose to do, and work them into His plans?  To make something good out of the evil we choose to do?  Is He only able to use what He causes?  

To say that God has to cause it for it to have a purpose, some value, some use to Him, is using man-made logic to justify it.  Find me the verse that says this!  There isn't one.  Instead I see "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God ..." (Romans 8:28, KJV).  NOT "God causes all evil for good."  God is big enough to allow people to make decisions, and to work those decisions into His plans, to turn them around for good.     

They also start with the assumption of "When Adam and Eve fell, it totally destroyed any good in us.  It made us 'totally depraved.'  And being totally depraved means we are so wicked and fallen inside that we can't even want God in our lives or think about God or seek God or understand the Word, unless God makes us do it."  They manipulate your desire to be humble by making you feel like the only way to be truly humble is to admit that humans are "totally depraved."  And that because we are totally depraved, we are totally incapable of wanting or seeking or believing in God, and so God has to do that in us.  God has to choose who to "force" into believing in Him.  Because our depraved nature makes it impossible for us to do it ourselves.  Once again, this is completely from their own imagination, their own reasoning and misconceptions.  You find me ONE VERSE that supports this idea, this conclusion.  Yes, the idea that we are totally fallen is in the Word, as in mankind is now filled with wickedness and as in we are fully separated from God because of our sinful nature.  But NOWHERE does it say that this fallenness has led to a complete inability to think about, desire, or seek God.  Calvinists made this up!  And then they built their whole theology on this false assumption.  In fact, the exact opposite is in the Word - God expects us to seek Him and calls us to seek Him over and over again and He gave us the ability to reason, to think, to desire, to make decisions.  My goodness, how wicked Calvinism is!  

(Notice I said "Calvinism" not "Calvinists."  You have to remember to separate the people from the bad theology.  Many Anti-Calvinists hate Calvinism so much that they throw out the people with their views.  They hate them both.  Do not do that!  You can hate the view but love and respect the person.  That person is deeply loved by God, Jesus died for them, and God wants them to come to a proper understanding of the Gospel and salvation.  Help them, don't hate them!)  

(And of course, Calvinists will use Romans 3:10-11 to support their idea of "total depravity/inability."  They say that "There is no one righteous, not even one.  There is no one who understands, no one who seeks God" means that we are so depraved that we CANNOT seek God or understand.  But the verses don't say that.  It's simply a commentary on general human nature, how selfish and self-centered we are, how much we love our sin, how all humans are fallen, how we have no righteousness of our own to earn our salvation.  This is why God had to make it possible, to pay the price for our sins, and to offer salvation to us.  Because we couldn't do it ourselves.  It's not saying we CAN'T seek God or understand, just that in general we don't, we choose not to.  Besides, this "there is no one righteous" verse would contradict Calvinism's whole idea of God electing some to salvation before the beginning of time.  If someone is elected, they are born elected.  Righteousness was already bestowed on them by God before they were born.  How then can they say that no one is righteous, when supposedly the elect are born with this righteousness already credited to them?  The elect would have to be born in a different condition than the unelect.  So how can they be lumped in with everyone else?)
A lot of Calvinist theology is based on their own ideas of how they think things should work, instead of basing it on the Bible.  So listen carefully for the assumptions, misconceptions, illogical human reasoning, and misunderstood words that they base their theology on.

11.  Because some of us find comfort in the idea that God causes everything.  It makes some people feel comforted and protected, safe from anything God doesn't want to cause.  It's "Everything happens for a reason.  God caused this for a reason."  For some people, it helps them relax during the trials of life.  And they don't want to give up this idea that brings them so much comfort.  

(However, it's a double-edged sword.  This idea that God "causes everything" is horrifying to some people, because it means that God caused all the bad things that happened to them, such as any childhood abuse they went through.  It destroys their faith, making them wonder how they can possibly trust a God like that.  And some people might use "God causes everything" to absolve themselves of any responsibilities for the things they caused, the trouble they caused, the consequences they brought on themselves.)

I do not want to ruin people's feeling of security if they find comfort in the idea that God causes everything.  But I do think it's important to have a correct view of how things happen in life.  Sometimes God does cause things to happen (but not sin and unbelief, the things He commands us not to do and warns us against).  But sometimes God just allows things to happen.  (God allowed Satan to do whatever he wanted in Job's life, for God's reasons, but God Himself didn't cause the things that happened.  He just allowed Satan to do what Satan wanted, within the boundaries He put up around Job's life.)  

Everything has to go through Him first, to get His "go ahead."  And yes, sometimes this means allowing "bad things."  But whatever He allows, He does so because He knows how to work it into good, because He can use it.  And this is what we can trust Him for - that He knows everything that happens, that whatever He allows is because He can use it for His glory and His purposes, and that He can help us through anything and can heal anything and can turn anything into good, for those who love Him (Romans 8:28).  

God never promised a pain-free life, but He does promise to comfort us in our pain, carry us through our pain, and to use our pain to make something beautiful!

12.  And because Calvinists make you believe that it's unhumble to question Calvinism.  They act like questioning Calvinism is questioning God and the Bible.  "Now just run along and be a good, humble Christian by not questioning what we're teaching.  Only prideful, unhumble Christians question Calvinism.  Calvinism is Scripture.  And if you argue with Calvinism, you'll be arguing with Scripture and with God."  (Oh, how many cults do the same thing!)  

Calvinists manipulate us through our fear of dishonoring God, our fear of being too prideful, our desire to be humble, our desire to lift God up as high as we can, etc.  

But Calvinism is not Scripture; Scripture is Scripture.  And I think if people read the Bible alone (with the help of a good concordance), without a Calvinist's commentary or interpretations of Scripture, they would find that Calvinism has very little Scriptural basis, that the Word actually teaches the opposite.

Calvinism is not Scriptural.  But it sounds close enough to being Scriptural that we don't question it.  We just keep drinking the Kool-Aid they give us, never stopping to question if it's poisoned!

But I'm here to say ... NO!  

No ... no ... no ... no!!!

Just ... NO!!!

Don't drink the Kool-Aid!  

Put it down and run away!

The Bible tells you what you need to know.  And God wasn't confused when He wrote it!

Just ... NO!!! 

And an excerpt from another post:

A challenge for dogmatic Calvinists out there (or for those who just think they're Calvinists but haven't really studied what Calvinism really is):

If you are so sure about your Calvinism, then how about taking my "Defend Your Calvinism" Challenge:   

1.  Read my blog posts on this issue.  I suggest these two very-long ones, in particular:  "We Left Our Church Because of Calvinism (Things My Calvinist Pastor Said)" and "Why Is Calvinism So Dangerous?"  (You can find others in "Leaving You With Links To Anti-Calvinism posts").  

Read them carefully, thoughtfully.  Write down the arguments against Calvinism.  Look up the Bible verses quoted, and read them in context.  And research what Calvinism is really about, so that you can truly understand it.  (I also suggest reading these posts from other people: "What's Wrong With Five-Point Calvinism" and "Why I Disagree with All Five Points of Calvinism" and "Basic Reformed Theology Explained and Exposed", a "book" against Calvinism.)  

Basically, study what Calvinism really is, study what people say against it, and study what the Bible really says, in context.  And then ...

2.  Do your best to defend your Calvinism against what I say, to find loopholes in what I say, to try to defeat what I say, and to find biblical support for your Calvinism.  (Defend it in your own head, not to me.  This is between you and God.)

If I am wrong and you are right, you should be able to do this.  And it should only help to strengthen your position.  (Or how about giving this challenge to your church, making it a church-wide study?  Challenge the people to seriously study this issue to figure out what the Bible says.)

3.  BUT ... you can only do this using the Bible and a good concordance.  That's basically the way I did it.  I didn't quote commentaries or theologians or authors or use my own reasoning as a foundation for my beliefs.  I formulated my view, specifically and first-and-foremost, from the Bible and a good concordance.  So no referencing Calvinist authors or theologians to see what they say or how they interpret a verse.  Study this issue using a Bible and concordance only.

[And you must keep Bible verses in context, reading it as it was meant to be interpreted, without trying to squeeze your own assumptions and preconceived ideas into it.  God said what He meant the way He said it.  And so don't go looking for hidden "double meanings" or "second layers" to verses that aren't there, especially if the verse makes sense when read as it's plainly and clearly written.  You'd be surprised how often we assume the meaning of a verse, reading into it things the verse doesn't say, all because we were pre-taught to read it that way.  Calvinists, in particular, are experts at putting Calvinist glasses on other people, telling them ahead of time what God "meant to say" in Scripture.  And so when they read Scripture after that, they read it through the lens of Calvinism, having been pre-taught to read Calvinism into it by Calvinism theologians.  And yet the Calvinist interpretation contradicts the clear, plain understanding of Scripture and totally contradicts what God said.  See "The Calvinists Big Ugly 'But'".]

But the Bible you use to study has to be more of a "word for word" translation of the Bible (the most reliable is the KJV).  And I would use a couple different ones for cross-referencing because each version has its own "issues" - such as where the NIV says "elect" in one verse (sounding Calvinistic), the RSV says "exiles" (sounding like it's talking about the Jewish exiles at that time).  Big difference!

DO NOT use one of those recent, conversational-style Bibles like The Message or The Living Bible or The New Living Translation.  The way they write, you won't be able to look up words in the concordance.  Those translations were not trying to be true to the original words.  They are simply trying to get across the general thoughts of the Bible verses.  It makes it hard to do a serious study.  Click here for a quick comparison of Bible Translations (this is only one person's review, you can find more online), to see which versions are going for word accuracy and which are just trying to get across the general thoughts of the authors.

[I just found this, and I'm still thinking about it ... but it shares some concerns about the ESV and the NIV, about how they are Calvinist-leaning.  Apparently, it seems like most Calvinists prefer the ESV.  There must be a reason why.  Also be careful with the ESV Study Bible, because its general editor, Wayne Grudem, and theological editor, JI Packer, are both huge Calvinists.  And with the MacArthur Study Bible, as in John MacArthur, Calvinist hero to many.  And with the HCSB Study Bible (updated to CSB), a Study Bible meant for those in the "reformed" tradition, a code word for "Calvinist."  Be careful about where you get your theology from.  (UPDATE: I just did my own research into the ESV translation and - wow! - was it eye-opening.  See my post "... Is the ESV a Calvinist Bible?")]

4.  BUT ... before you start this challenge, before you read my posts, before you study what the Bible says, you have to pray.  Sincerely pray and ask God to open your eyes to the truth about what the Bible says, about what Calvinism teaches, about if Calvinism accurately reflects the Word and God's character.  Ask God to reveal to you if you are willing to see the Truth, if you are willing to find out you might have been wrong all this time.  If you are not willing to find out you might be wrong and if you are not willing to see the Truth because you want to cling to your own beliefs about what the Bible says, then you will not be able to see the truth.  If you want to stubbornly cling to your own views, twisting the Bible to say what you want it to say, then you won't be able to see what the Bible really says.

Ask God to examine your heart.  Ask Him to show you what's in your heart.  And if you are really willing to see it, ask God to open your eyes to His Truth.

So, what will it be?  The red pill or the blue pill?

Are you going to take the blue pill, continuing to live in blissful ignorance about what Calvinism really is?  Saying you believe it without really understanding what it says?  Not knowing why you believe it?  Not able to really defend it because you haven't really studied it for yourself?  Trusting that the Calvinist theologians have correctly taught you what the Bible really says?

Or are you going to take the red pill?  To really study for yourself what the Bible teaches, in context, to see if it really does support Calvinism?  To deeply study the Calvinism you say you believe in, so that you can figure out if you really do believe it?  Enough to stand by it?  Enough to defend it?  Enough to shut down the arguments against it?

Don't just let someone else - Calvinist theologians, or even me - tell you what to believe about the Bible, about God's character, about the Gospel Message, about Jesus's sacrifice!  Find out for yourself!

Don't just say "I'm a Calvinist" ... unless you really understand what it is and can defend it!

I am challenging you, right now, to take the red pill, even if it makes you feel sick to your stomach at first!  Let God open your eyes to the truth of what Calvinism teaches and what the Bible teaches, and see if you can really reconcile the two!

A few tips on how to read Scripture critically:

1.  Read each verse you look up IN CONTEXT.  Read the entire section, not just the supposed "Calvinist" verse.  Who is speaking?  Who are they speaking to?  Are they talking to Jews or Gentiles, about Jews or Gentiles, about all believers, about mankind in general, etc.?  What is the message they are trying to get across, for the people they are speaking to, in their time period?  (And only after this should you try to figure out what it means for us today.)

2.  Read more of the book (or read the whole book) that the verse is from.  See what else the author says about the issue you are studying.  This gives a fuller picture of what the author is really trying to say.  (In fact, read other books in the Bible by that author.  Or read books by other authors, taking note of the times they refer to what you are researching, to see what the Bible in general says about it.)

3.  Look up the verses in other translations of the Bible.  Cross-reference other translations to get a better idea of which one is the most accurate.

4.  Look up words, especially those that supposedly confirm Calvinism, in the concordance, even words you assume you know the meaning to.  [For example, as I said above, one version will say "elect," but another says "exiles."  But when you look up the word that's in the concordance, it's talking about strangers who are wandering in a strange land.  And metaphorically it's about Christians, whose true home is in heaven, being residents on this earth.  In the world, but not of the world.  It says nothing of being "chosen" for salvation.  Another example is 2 Thess. 2:13 which says that we were chosen to be "saved," which could sound very much like predestination.  But when you look up "saved" in the concordance, it's not talking about eternal salvation in the "heaven or hell" sense, but it's basically about God promising to spare believers from the end-times wrath He will pour out on staunch unbelievers.  [See "A Quick Study of Calvinism's Favorite Words"]

5.  In the concordance, find other verses that have the same word meaning (the same number assigned to them) so that you can cross-reference the verse you are considering with others that use the same word.  (When I did this, the "whosoever believes" in John 3:16 couldn't possibly mean "just the elect" or "the believers," as Calvinists like to say.  Because the use of this same word in other verses can't mean "the believers."  See near the bottom of this post, "According to the Concordance, It's NOT Predestination".)

6.  If you have to, I suggest after studying it on your own, look up other people's interpretations of the verse online.  But do not put too much weight on them.  It's just what others think the verse means.  But it might shed some light on a verse, especially when you are stumped.

7.  Always ask yourself if there is anything about the verse that you are assuming, if you are reading it with some sort of preconceived interpretation (of your own or from someone else, like a Calvinist theologian).  And then reread the verse (and the whole passage) AS IF you are reading it for the first time, as if you have no previous assumption of what it means, as if you were in the audience while the author was preaching it for the first time.  How would you interpret it if you had no previous ideas of what it should mean?

8.  When reading Calvinist interpretations of verses, look for the things they are assuming.  Always ask yourself, "What verse confirms this?"
      Such as, Calvinists says that when Adam ate the fruit, mankind became "totally depraved," which, to Calvinists, means that humans can't possibly think about God on their own, want God in their life unless God makes them do it, and that they can't seek God unless He causes them to seek.  Where is this in the Bible?  Where is the verse that says this was a consequence of the Fall?
      Calvinists also say that if God really loved all people then He would save all people.  But since He doesn't save all people, it must mean He doesn't love them all in the same way.  They say this because they assume that God's true love has to always end in saved people.  Where is the verse that says this?  God's saving love doesn't always end in everyone being saved.  What it did was buy salvation for everyone - it paid for everyone's sin - but it's up to us to accept or reject it.
      They also so that if anyone could reject Jesus then it means His blood was wasted, that it would be a disgrace to Him and His sacrifice.  And so therefore, they conclude, people cannot reject Jesus, which means that Jesus only really died for those who would surely be saved, that Jesus only died for the elect.  Where is this in the Bible?
      Pay careful attention to the assumptions and misconceptions that Calvinists start with, that they build their whole theology on.  This, I believe, is the essence of Calvinism.  It's all built on their own ideas of who God is and how He has to act, in order to be considered the sovereign God they think He is, according to their definition of "sovereign".  (See also "When Calvinism 'Bad Logic' Traps Good Christians" and "Problems in John Calvin's Institutes ...".)

9.  Also pay attention to the contradictions in their theology.  See "Some of Calvin's Contradictory Nonsense."  DO NOT allow them to convince you that these contradictions are not real or that they don't matter.  It's these contradictions that turn God into an illogical, untrustworthy monster.
      Such as they say "God is not the cause of sin, but He controls everything we do and everything that happens is because He planned it to happen that way."  "But," they say, "God is not really the cause of sin.  We are still responsible for our sins because ..." and then they come up with all sorts of confusing, rambling, nonsensical ideas to try to make man the cause of sin while still holding to the idea that God causes everything that happens.  And when you try to dig deeper, they say, "Well, you don't have to understand it because it's a mystery.  So you just have to accept it.  Because it's what the Bible teaches."
      NO, IT'S NOT!!!  It's what THEY SAY the Bible teaches because they are basing their interpretation of the Bible on their own ideas of how God has to be.  These contradictions can't be brushed away so easily.  And they cannot be meshed into one seamless, reliable, accurate theology.  Do not accept these contradictions and the Calvinist's twisted efforts to weasel out of them.  If something doesn't make sense and doesn't seem to fit with God's character and the rest of the Bible, research it more deeply, until you find a way to read it that does fit, that keeps everything in harmony.
      The Bible makes sense and God's character makes sense and it's all consistent ... when you throw Calvinism out!

10.  Also, when reading or listening to Calvinist theologians, authors, and pastors, take careful notice of the ways they try to manipulate you into agreeing with them, into not questioning them, into feeling unhumble if you dig too deeply into this issue or if you disagree with it.  See "Predestination Manipulation" for more of this.  Don't let Calvinists bully you into agreeing with them, into making you feel like a "less than" Christian because you disagree with them or want to look into it more.

These are just a few ways to critically research this issue and read the Bible.  If you do this, it will open your eyes in ways you didn't even know they needed to be opened.  And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.  From the contradictory, nonsensical prison of Calvinism.

You do not need Calvinist theologians to tell you what God meant to say in His Word.  Let God tell you what He says, right from His Word!  

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