12 Tips on How to Think Critically about Calvinism

Here are 12 tips (for the average Christian, not necessarily seminary theologians) on how to study critically, to read Scripture critically, and to think critically about Calvinism, to see that Calvinism does not fit with Scripture.  (Excuse the random red letters and weird white highlighting; I can't seem to undo it):

1.  Before you start researching, 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, or not.  

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 simply want to stubbornly cling to your own ideas of what's "true," then you will not be able to see God's Truth.    

And so ask God to examine your heart.  Ask Him to show you what's in your heart, to reveal to you if you really want the truth or if you just want to keep believing whatever you want to believe.  

But if you really do want God's truth, ask Him to show it to you.  To make it clear to you.  Ask Him to surround you with His heavenly angels to keep evil away, to protect you from being misled.

There is one dogmatic Calvinist whom I've challenged to give God permission in prayer to correct his theology if he's wrong.  And he refuses to do it.  Instead he constantly replies with "I ask for wisdom.  And that obviously includes correction."  

My reply is that even Satan has and gives "wisdom."  The Pharisees had wisdom, and look how far from the truth they were.  It's entirely possible to be getting "wisdom" from the WRONG source, especially if you've been unwittingly listening to the wrong voice to begin with.  

I don't get why - if this Calvinist insists that he's indirectly asking for wisdom already - why he can't just ask for it directly.  Why keep finding excuses to not pray clearly and directly for correction?  What is he afraid of?  There should be no reason not to explicitly pray for God's correction if he's so sure that he already has the wisdom that comes from God.

Seriously, what does he have to lose?

Consider Paul's warning in 2 Corinthians 11:13-15:  For such people are false apostles, deceitful workers, masquerading as apostles of Christ.  And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.  It is not surprising, then, if his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness.  Their end will be what their actions deserve.

And 2 Timothy 4:3-4For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.  They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.

2.  When you research a verse or passage, only use a Bible and a good concordance.  That's basically the way I did it.  DO NOT look up what theologians say (particularly Calvinist theologians), at least not until after you first do your own research and come to your own conclusions.

As I set about to research Calvinism and to find out what the Bible really says (see "Links To Other Anti-Calvinism posts"), I did it first and foremost by studying the Bible for myself, without looking up what others said about the verses I was studying.  I heard the wrong/questionable things my Calvinist pastor was preaching, I wrote them down, and then I went right to Scripture and a concordance to see what God said.  I wanted to know what God said about it first, before I sought out what others thought.  

[Trust yourself when you sense a "red flag" in what someone is preaching.  (You might be surprised at how many "red flags" you let slip by, how many questionable things you excused or rationalized, before you started to realize something is very wrong and that you need to face it.)  

If they say something that doesn't sit right, if you're not absolutely sure it squares with Scripture, don't just brush it off, assuming that you must just be missing something or that you're not smart enough to understand the lofty "truths" they're teaching.  Write down the "red flags," look them up in the Bible, and see what God says about it plainly and clearly.  

And when you're faced with the dilemma of choosing to believe what God plainly and clearly said OR choosing to believe the Calvinist's "secret understanding" of what God supposedly meant to say ... choose the clear, plain truths of Scripture, as God wrote them.  

I believe that He said what He meant and meant what He said.  And that's why we can trust His Word!  

But Calvi-god (the name I gave Calvinism's god, who is NOT the God of the Bible) always has double meanings for what he says and a different layer of meaning for the verses he wrote which actually contradict what he wrote.  

How can you trust a god like that?  

A god who says "seek me and believe in me" when he knows that no one can seek him or believe in him unless he causes them to, and when he's already predestined who will seek him and who won't, and there's nothing you can do about it.  

A god who repeatedly said in the Bible that Jesus died for all people but who really meant that Jesus died only for "all of the elect" or "all kinds of people," but not all people.  

A god who says "don't sin" but who controls everything we do, even when we sin.

A god who told Adam and Eve not to eat the forbidden fruit (his "spoken" Will) but who then caused them to eat the forbidden fruit (to fulfill his "secret" Will).  

How can you believe anything a god like that says, when everything he says means something else, when there's a secret layer of meaning that contradicts what he actually said, and when he says that his Will is one thing when it's actually the opposite!?!]

Anyway, back to my point ... 

It's all-too-easy to be swayed by someone else's ideas, to read the verse the way they tell you to - if you read their ideas before you study God's Word and before you fully understand what God is saying.  

(And don't ask a Calvinist to show you how those "red flags" fit with Scripture.  Don't accept their offer to take you through a study of Systematic Theology (Wayne Grudem, see here for a bit about his theology) to help you "understand it better."  May as well ask a fox to guard the hen house or trust the snake-oil salesman to tell you if his product really works!  See also "What's the best way to make people agree with your Calvinist views?")  

So no referencing Calvinist authors or theologians to see what they say or how they interpret a verse.  Study this issue thoroughly at first using a Bible and concordance only.

I wonder ... How many Calvinists out there became Calvinists ONLY by reading the Bible?  Or did you become a Calvinist only after other Calvinists told you how to read and understand the Bible in a Calvinist way?  

(For those at my ex-church, did you become Calvinists only after the pastor took you through a special, small-group study of Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology?  It's much easier to brainwash people when they feel honored to have been invited to be part of the church's spiritually-elite, theological-upper-class.)

My theory is that Calvinism needs Calvinists to find Calvinism in the Bible.  Because without Calvinists telling you how to interpret God's Word (telling you what God supposedly meant to say when He wrote the words He supposedly didn't really mean), you wouldn't find Calvinism in the Bible.  

(FYI, Be very careful about researching Calvinism online.  When I was trying to look up Wayne Grudem and Systematic Theology, almost all of the search-results on the first several pages were for Calvinist websites.  So of course they will approve of him and Calvinism.  And be careful of the wording you use in a search.  Typing something like "Is Calvinism true" will come up with a lot more pro-Calvinist sites than "Why is Calvinism wrong" or "Calvinism is heresy".  Do searches with several different phrases, worded in different ways.  And get to know which websites are Calvinist.  See "Avoiding Calvinist Websites" for a list of some of the more popular Calvinist websites you'll stumble across.)

3.  But it has to be more of a "word for word" translation of the Bible, such as RSV, NASB, KJV (the version that Strong's concordance references).  

And use a couple different versions 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 strongly prefer the ESV.  There must be a reason why.  I would totally avoid the ESV Study Bible, because its general editor, Wayne Grudem, and its theological editor, JI Packer, are both huge Calvinists.  And avoid the MacArthur Study Bible, as in John MacArthur, Calvinist hero to many.  And avoid 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.  

Do not trust that someone is teaching Scripture accurately just because they are "educated" or because they say they are "teaching from Scripture only."  

Calvinists love to do this, to tell people "I'm only teaching right from Scripture."  But then they teach (not outright, but carefully hidden) that God didn't really love all people, that Jesus didn't die for all people, that God causes sin but punishes us for it, that God creates people specifically so that He can hate them and send them to hell for His glory, that we can't seek God even though God tells us over and over again to seek Him, that we can't accept Jesus as Lord and Savior (because to them, "accepting" is "working for salvation") even though the Bible calls us to choose whom we will serve, etc.  

A complete reversal of what the Bible teaches, hidden under layers and layers of pieces of biblical truth, full of secret "double-meanings" that Calvinists have for the Bible's verses and words, so that you don't really hear what they really believe.  Not until it's too late.  

(Also see "Why Is Calvinism So Dangerous?")  

[And I'm just curious ... If Calvinists believe you can't "accept" Jesus as Lord and Savior, that you can't decide to follow Him (because they believe God made that decision for you a long time ago and that becoming a believer simply happens to you when God causes it to happen), then what moment do they trace their salvation to?  

I mean, they cannot point to a moment in time when they said "I chose to follow God" or "I accepted Jesus in my heart."  For them, it's simply "Well, God elected me to be saved and caused me to be saved," without them having to make a personal, conscious, active decision to believe in and follow Jesus.  Being saved supposedly happens to them, without any decision on their parts.

How then can they know they are saved?  If they had no part in it, no moment of consciously, willingly choosing to put their faith in Jesus?  

I don't get it.

Besides, according to John Calvin himself, Calvi-god likes to trick some non-elect people into thinking they are elected, making them feel saved until they die and find out they're not.  How then can any Calvinist be assured of their "election"?  How can they be sure that they weren't chosen to be tricked into thinking they're saved when they're not?  How can they know they are saved, especially since they have no moment of choosing to follow Jesus because it supposedly just happens to them?


(Read the "Evanescent Grace" part of this post.)]  

4.  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, about the people of only that day, 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.  Keeping things in context pretty much destroys a Calvinist interpretation of Romans 9.)

(Watch just about any video from Kevin at Beyond the Fundamentals to see how Calvinists constantly misinterpret Scripture and take it out of context.)

5.  Read more of the Bible 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.)

Doing this (and using the concordance, preferably with an Expository Dictionary) helps explain Ephesians better.  The first few verses of Ephesians are used to "prove" Calvinism because it talks about God predestining people.

"For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.  In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ ... In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will ..."  (Ephesians 1:4-5,11)  

First off, Calvinists say this means that God predestined who would be believers and who wouldn't.  But I don't know why this can't mean that God planned for mankind, in general, to be His children (but we choose whether to accept or reject that "destiny").  That God created us with the purpose and goal of saving us and bringing us to heaven with Him.  But it's up to us to follow Him in this plan or not.

But if it isn't talking about His plans for mankind in general but only about believers ("chosen" people only), there's nothing here that says that "chosen" means God specifically picked you and caused you to believe or that "unchosen" means God rejected you and you can never believe (as Calvinists see it).

In fact, let's look up "chosen" in the concordance.  When we do this, we see that "chosen" basically means that God selects someone for something or that He chooses to put His favor on them ... BUT it does not necessarily mean, according to the concordance, that He rejects the "unchosen" ones.  (This is also what the word "elect" is based on, as in "God's elect ones.")

To me, this isn't saying that if you are not chosen then you are rejected, as in "predestined for hell".  It's not saying that there are "elected" people who are predestined to believe and "non-elected" people who can never believe.  It seems to be saying that anyone can become a "chosen one" because no one is born eternally-rejected.

And Ephesians 1:13 helps explain how one moves from "unchosen" to "chosen":  "And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation.  Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit..."

(How could they "also" be included- after they heard the Gospel - if their eternal destiny was supposedly predestined from the beginning of time, at the same time Paul's would have been, if Calvinism was true?)

To be part of the "chosen group," we have to hear and believe.  "Believe" (according to the concordance) isn't something that just happens to us as we wait passively.  But it involves allowing ourselves to be persuaded by what we hear and, consequently, choosing to put our faith in it and to commit to it.  We do the believing.  We put our faith in the thing we believe.  We commit to it.  It's not forced on us - on only the special, pre-chosen "elect" ones - by God.   

Additionally, I think what's been predestined is NOT the eternal destiny of individuals, but the generation that would be the first to be able to trust in Jesus and be saved through the Holy Spirit, and the path a believer takes after they believe.  True believers are destined to "live for the praise of His glory" (Ephesians 1:12).

It is so important to take whatever verses a Calvinist uses to "support" their views and to look them up in context and to see what else the author has to say in the rest of the book.  Never let a Calvinist trap you with a piece of a verse taken out of context.  What a horrible way to formulate a theology!

Never let a Calvinist (or anyone else) think for you! 

6.  Look up words, especially those that supposedly confirm Calvinism, in the concordance (I prefer Strong's concordance with Vine's Expository Dictionary), even words you assume you know the meaning to.  

For example, as I said above, one version will say "elect," but another says "exiles."  And the Calvinists take the word "elect" and run with it.  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/elected" for salvation.  

(Yes, the Bible talks about "predestination," but not in the way Calvinists believe.  So don't let them trap you with the whole "See, predestination is in the Bible so you have to believe what I'm saying" tactic.  Do some research to find out exactly what has been predestined.  See "Predestined For Salvation?  Or For Something Else?")  

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.  Sometimes "saved" and "salvation" in the Bible isn't even about eternal salvation.

How about the word "hardens," which Calvinists love to use to "prove" their belief that God hardens people's hearts, arbitrarily deciding whom to make unbelievers?  Look that word up and it says that "hardens" is a retributive hardening.  It's punishment for first hardening your own heart, even after God has been patient and long-suffering with you.  (And this fits with the example of Pharaoh and the plagues.  For the first several plagues, Pharaoh hardened his own heart.  And then, God makes it permanent, giving Pharaoh the hard-heart he wanted and chose.  And yet my Calvinist pastor says, "Yeah, it says that Pharaoh hardened his own heart, but it's that God really hardened it first."  Really!?!  'Cuz that's not what my Bible says!)  And this is completely opposite the Calvinist idea of God choosing whom to harden, whom to create as unbelievers, without any influence from us.

We need to read the Bible more carefully and critically in order to know what it's really teaching.  (And hint:  It's not teaching Calvinism!  It's just not!)

Do not just assume that you know what a verse is saying.  Do not let Calvinists tell you how to understand verses and words.  Look up the words in the concordance!  Doing that has been truly eye-opening for me.  (See the post "According to the concordance, it's NOT predestination" for more on that.)

7.  In the concordance, find other verses that have the same word (the same number assigned to them) so that you can cross-reference the verse you are researching 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 that same word in other verses can't mean "the believers."  (See near the bottom of this post for more on that.)

8.  If you have to, as I said earlier, look up other people's interpretations of the verses only after you've come to your conclusion or if you are truly stumped.  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 simply can't understand it.

And don't think that just because someone is highly educated then they must be understanding the Word correctly.  There are smart, educated people on both sides of this issue.

(You know who else was highly educated? The Pharisees.  And look how far from the truth they were.  They missed the Truth, even when He was standing right in front of them, talking to them.  Too blinded by their own "wisdom" and "knowledge."  As Kevin at Beyond the Fundamentals says about Calvinist theologians: "It takes a lot of education to be that stupid!")  

And check out several opinions on a verse to see what ideas are out there, but be careful to note which ones are coming from Calvinists.  (See again "Avoiding Calvinists Websites.")

9.  Always ask yourself if there is anything about the verse that you are assuming, if you are reading it with some sort of presumption or 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 understanding 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 supposedly "should" mean?

Also ask yourself if you are making a "negative inference" about what a verse says.  (I learned this from Kevin at Beyond the Fundamentals.  See "Calvinist Tactics Exposed" - a must watch video! - for an excellent look at how Calvinists go wrong and how they mislead people.)

This is a huge mistake Calvinists make.    

They read a verse like (hypothetical example) "God loves those who obey."  And then they make a negative inference, inferring that the opposite must also be true, that if God says He loves the obedient then it MUST MEAN He doesn't love the disobedient.  

But that's not what the verse says.  Does saying "I love chocolate ice cream" necessarily mean that I hate vanilla ice cream?

They read a verse that says something like (hypothetical example) "Jesus came to save those who believe," and then they would assume that it MUST MEAN that Jesus ONLY came to save those who believe, that He didn't come for those who don't believe, that He ONLY died for the believers (the "elect," in their theology) but not for anyone else.  

But is that what the verse says?  If I tell you that I went to the store and bought carrots does that necessarily mean that I ONLY bought carrots or that I didn't also buy potatoes?

But Calvinists assume certain things MUST BE true based on what they think the verse is implying about something it doesn't talk about.  And this is a dangerous way to formulate your theology.  

(And can you see how easy it is to manipulate people about what verses are saying?  Sometimes all they have to do is tell you how they read it and then - abracadabra - suddenly you see it that way too, even though you never read it that way before.) 

Another example are verses about God opening someone's eyes or enlightening someone.  Calvinists hear this and infer that if God opens someone's eyes then it MUST MEAN that He blinds everyone else or that He blinded that person until He opened their eyes.  

But is that what the verse says?

In particular, they do this with the verse about Lydia:  "One of those listening was a woman named Lydia ... The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul's message."  (Acts 16:14)

Calvinists use this as a key verse to "prove" their idea that God gives people faith so that we can believe.  HOWEVER ... they are inferring a few things here.  And it's detrimental to their theology.  

They infer that "opening hearts" is "God causing someone to have faith/believe."  They infer that if He doesn't open your heart then you can never believe (that Lydia COULD NOT believe until God opened her heart).  And they infer that Paul's message was a "how to be saved" message.  They infer that Paul preached the salvation message to her, that God "caused" her to believe, and that she became saved because of it.

But this is not what the verse says.  It simply says God opened her heart to respond to Paul's message.  And it is entirely possible that the message she responded to was the need for a believer to be baptized, because the next thing she does is get baptized.  

Also, God "opening her heart" may not have had anything to do with "giving her faith to believe," because the part of the verse I left out (the "...", which is the same part the Calvinist always leaves out) calls Lydia a "worshipper of God."  

God didn't open her heart to believe in Him ... because it's evident that she already believed in Him.  

Nor is there any support for the idea that God "opening her heart" means that you're out of luck if God doesn't open yours.  That's a negative inference.  Maybe "opening hearts" is what God does to those whose hearts are already sensitive to Him and seeking Him.  He helps those who are truly, willingly seeking the Truth to find it!  

This isn't about God opening the heart of a non-believer (forcing faith on an unbeliever) to cause them to believe the Gospel message, as the Calvinist infers.

I believe it's about God helping a believer to see the next step they should take, and in her case that would be baptism.

Be very careful about the inferences you make about Scripture!

When Calvinists tell you what they think a verse is teaching, always ask yourself "Is that what the verse actually, clearly, plainly says?"  Do not go beyond what Scripture says!   

So many times we read the Word through some kind of theological glasses we put on first.  Calvinists, especially, read the Bible while wearing their super-special "Calvinist glasses."  And they need to take off the glasses before they can read Scripture as it is written, if they want to understand what God is really saying.  (We all do, in fact.)

10.  Likewise, when reading Calvinist writings from Calvinist theologians, authors, or pastors, look for the things that they are assuming.  Always ask yourself, "What verse confirms this?"  
Such as, Calvinists say that when Adam ate the fruit, mankind became "totally depraved," which, to Calvinists, means that humans can't possibly think about God, seek God, want God, or believe in God on their own, unless God makes them do it.  They compare spiritual death to physical death, saying that a spiritually-dead person is as dead as a dead body, and that since a dead body can't do anything but helplessly lay there all dead then God has to be the one to cause the dead person to seek Him and believe in Him.  Because "dead bodies" can't do anything on their own.  And since He is "sovereign," God is in control of who gets saved and who doesn't, and everything that happens is the way God planned it to happen and caused it to happen.  Because a "sovereign God" HAS TO control everything ... or else He's not God.

Where is this in the Bible?  Where is the verse which says that losing the ability to make decisions was a consequence of the Fall?  Where is the verse that confirms their definitions of "depraved" and "spiritually dead" and "sovereign"?  (They will find verses here and there to support their views, but always look at the verse in context, look up words in the concordance, find the assumptions/presumptions they are basing their interpretation on, and ask yourself "Is this what the verse really, clearly, plainly says?")

If Calvinists can convince you to agree to their definitions of "depraved" and "dead" and "sovereign" - if you don't question it - then they've already got you beat!  

Never let a Calvinist define the terms or convince you of their definitions of things.  He who defines the terms dominates the conversation!  

(Check out the comment section of just about any post from Soteriology 101 - try this one and that one and this other one and one more - to see how this plays out in conversations between Calvinists and non-Calvinists.  FYI, some of the dogmatic Calvinists are rhutchin and jtleosala.  It's eye-opening!  And yes, the Heather in the comment section is me.  Unless there's another one I don't know about.)  

You MUST question every term a Calvinist uses, look for the "hidden layers" that are underneath what they say, compare it to what the Bible plainly says, and take Calvinist teachings to their logical and natural conclusions to see how wrong they are, how damaging it is to Truth and to God's character.  (But Calvinists will try to stop you from looking into it more deeply by accusing you of questioning God or the Bible, of talking back to God, of being unhumble, of worshipping free-will, of wanting to be in control over God, etc.  They are very cult-like in their attempts to manipulate and control you!)

Such as, a Calvinist will use the word "ordains" to say something like "God ordains everything that happens in your life."  Many of us will hear that and think it simply means that God knew what would happen and chose to allow it, even if it was a bad thing.  

But what a Calvinist really means by "ordains" is "preplanned and causes," that He preplans and causes everything to happen the way it does.  

God even "ordains" any childhood abuse you went through, for His glory and for your good and to keep you humble.  

This is what my Calvinist pastor preached one day.  This is Calvinist theology!  

Now carry all that out to its logical, natural conclusions - the idea that God actively causes a parent to abuse a child, that He causes the sin He commands us not to do (and that He will eventually punish us for), and that He does all this for your good and, apparently, because child abuse glorifies Him.  (See "Does God Cause Childhood Abuse?")  

Can you see how damaging this is to God's character, to our faith, to truth, to our ability to trust Him and His Word!  

And yet they hide all this behind the easily-overlooked, easily-misunderstood word "ordains."

[And it's not just "ordains."  Whenever a Calvinist uses these words or phrases about God, what they're really saying is that "God preplans and causes everything that happens": ordains, decrees, foreknowledge, foresight, plans, wills/willed, omnipotence, omniscience, sovereign, sovereignty, controls, God "agrees" to it, God "allows" it, God "knew" it would happen, God "understood" what would happen, God is "in control," etc.

Everything always comes back to "God preplans/causes everything that happens," even if they're trying to make it sound like they're saying that God simply "allows" what happens.  

They never mean that He just "allows" something to happen (because then He wouldn't fit their view of "sovereign," which is "He has to actively control all things or else He's not God.").  

They always mean that He predestined it to happen and caused it to happen exactly the way it happened, and that nothing different could have happened.  

But, be forewarned, they hide this idea - their belief that God causes sin - even deeper by saying that there are two causes of sin, that God is the proximate/ultimate source of sin but that we are the remote/secondary source of sin, that we willingly choose to carry out the sin that God ordains for us.  Therefore, they conclude, we are really responsible for it ... even though Calvi-god preplanned it that way and we couldn't have done it any differently.  And therefore, they say, it's totally just for God to punish us for our sin.  "We don't have to know how it all works out, but we have to believe it because the Bible teaches both God's sovereignty and mankind's responsibility."  This is how my Calvinist pastor put it.  (And yet no one stopped to question his definition of sovereignty.)

They go to great lengths to hide the fact that Calvi-god causes sin, to make it sound like he's not really responsible for our sin when he really is, because they know they can't accuse God of sin.  And so they come up with all sorts of convoluted ways to put the blame on us and not on Him.

(You could sit under a Calvinist pastor for years and not really know it.  Because they are so good as disguising their beliefs and appearing to back up everything they say with Scripture.  And they are usually powerful, dynamic, bold speakers who sway the congregation with their zeal and knowledge and confidence.  See "How to Tell if a Church, Pastor, or Website is Calvinist.")    

Calvinism is nothing less than a slippery, slithery, evil theology!

See this post and this post and one more for more on that.]  

It's exhausting.  It really is.  

But you have to realize that talking with dogmatic, educated Calvinists is like talking with pathological liars who spin everything they say, who never really mean what they say or say what they mean, who know how to tell you what you want to hear to suck you in more and make you believe them, who have many different tactics to manipulate you, who are really good at the old "bait and switch" routine to get you to bite onto one small truth so that you swallow whole the enormous lie hidden inside, who can backpedal out of almost any jam, and who know how to skillfully weave together bits of Scripture (always taken out of context) to "support" their views, etc.

This is why I say DO NOT go to a Calvinist for answers to your concerns about Calvinism.  If you are not prepared with your own research into Scripture and if you are not aware of their tactics, you WILL come out the other end a Calvinist!

Another example of their assumptions: Calvinists 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.  And so therefore, according to them, God only really loves those He saves and only really saves those He truly loves.  

And so then to make the verses about God "loving everyone" fit with Calvinism, they redefine "God's love" by breaking it into two types of love: a "save your soul" kind for the elect and a "gives you food and water while you're alive" kind for the non-elect.  And then, to make sure Jesus's blood wasn't "wasted" on those who would reject it, Calvinists say that Jesus couldn't really have died for those who would reject Him, for the non-elect.  So, they say, Jesus only really died for the elect anyway.

But ... where is any of this clearly stated in the Bible?  What verses teaches any of this nonsense?  It's all based on their own assumptions of what God's love is and how He shows it.  

But if you go to the Bible, you'll see that God's love sent Jesus to the cross to pay for all men's sins.  God's love is what made salvation available and possible for all men.  But it's up to us to accept or reject that gift of salvation.  God's love doesn't mean you WILL BE saved; it means you all have the opportunity to be saved because your sin was paid for on the cross, too, because God loves you and wants you with Him in heaven.  But He will not force it on you.  You have to want it and accept it.

This is what God's love did for us, according to the Bible!

But according to the Calvinist, His love is only for the elect and Jesus's sacrifice was only for the elect.  And Calvi-god decides who the elect are who the non-elect are, and there's nothing you can do about it.  And you have no part in "having faith" or "believing in Jesus"; it's something done to you.  

This is why I say that Calvinism is a whole different Gospel than what the Bible teaches.  Calvi-god, Calvi-Jesus, Calvi-Holy-Spirit, and that Calvinist way to salvation are VERY DIFFERENT than what the Bible teaches.  

Calvinism isn't just a deeper way to understand the Bible; it's a completely different, false way of understanding the Bible!  

The true Gospel is good news to all people.  But Calvinism's Gospel is good news for a few people who may or may not really be saved because Calvi-god might be tricking them into thinking they're saved when they're not, but they won't know for sure till they're dead.  

Yep!  Sounds like trustworthy "good news" to me!

Pay careful attention to the assumptions, presumptions, and misconceptions that Calvinists start with, that they build their whole theology on.  This, I believe, is the essence of Calvinism.  It's not a biblical theology.  It's a philosophical belief system built on their own ideas.  And then they find and twist Bible verses to "support" their views.  

But if you look past all the twisted, out-of-context verses that supposedly "support" their views, you'll see that their theology is actually built on their own ideas of who God has to be in order to be God and how He has to act in order to be the kind of "sovereign" God they think He is, according to their definition of "sovereign".  (See also "Problems in John Calvin's Institutes ...".)

11.  Also pay close attention to the contradictions in their theology.  See "Some of Calvin's Contradictory Nonsense."  Calvinists will say one thing in one sentence, but say the complete opposite several sentences later.  (So NEVER trust a quote from a Calvinist that makes it sound like they believe we really do make our own choices.)  DO NOT allow them to convince you that these contradictions are not real, that they don't matter, or that you are "talking back to God" or "disagreeing with the Bible" if you question them on it.  These contradictions turn God into an illogical, untrustworthy, unjust, unloving monster.  And so we had better question them!  

Such as...

They say "God controls everything we do, and everything that happens is because He planned it to happen that way and caused it to happen that way.  But He 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, contradictory, nonsensical ideas to try to make man the cause of sin while still holding to the idea that God causes everything that happens (such as I pointed out above).  But 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.  They believe that in order for Him to be sovereign, He has to control every tiny detail and every event that happens, even our sins.  Because if He doesn't, they say, then He's not God.

Well, I may be crazy but if God is truly sovereign then I think He can decide how He wants to be, how He wants to exercise His sovereignty.  "Being sovereign" is about the position God is in, not about how He MUST ACT in that position.  And, as clearly seen in the Bible, He has chosen to NOT control everything, to give people real choices with real consequences.  

He is definitely sovereign, as in "in control over all, choosing what to cause and what to block and what to allow, and He will work all things together for good, for His plans, and for glory," but this doesn't mean He is controlling/causing everything that happens the way it happens.  That is an assumption that the Calvinist starts with.  And it's detrimental to the Gospel Truth, to God's character, and to our faith.

Calvinism's contradictions can't be brushed away so easily (or even at all).  And they cannot be meshed into one seamless, reliable, logical 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 with 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!

12.  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 them manipulate you into agreeing with their errant views when they tell you "Truth is truth, even if you don't like it.  You don't have to be afraid of truth; you just have to accept it, even if you can't understand it.  It's a wonderful thing to learn more about God's sovereignty and His perfect Will, and to learn to humbly submit yourself to Him.  Humble people have no problem accepting that God is God and that He can do what He wants.  It's only proud, unhumble people who fight against this because they want to be their own master instead of submitting to God."  

(Question:  Yes, truth is truth.  But what if what you're being told isn't truth? And yet you're letting someone convince you that it is?

And a few other questions:  If Calvi-god supposedly predestines everything that happens and controls everything we do and every choice we make, then how can Calvinists plead with people to believe in Calvinism?  Hasn't that already been decided by Calvi-god?  Who are they to think they can thwart or have an effect on Calvi-god's predestined plans, that they can help save anyone when he's already decided who will be saved and who won't, and there's nothing anyone can do about it?  How can we choose to "humbly submit" to Calvi-god if Calvi-god controls our choices for us?  How can it be said that we who "fight against this" are fighting against God and His Will when Calvi-god supposedly causes everything to happen according to his Will, which would obviously include our "fighting against him"?)

Our pastor would repeatedly say "You don't have to like the idea of [Calvinist] predestination; you just have to accept it.  Because it's truth.  It's what the Bible says!"

Doesn't leave much room for feeling like you can disagree with him, does it!

[It seems like our Calvinist pastor has swayed most everyone at our church, almost like casting a spell over the congregation.  Even people who previously had doubts about Calvinism seem to be buying it hook, line, and sinker, being convinced of how smart and humble they are to finally see that "Calvinism is true."  My husband and I have tried to help them, but they won't be helped.  And I think that's why I write about it as much as I do.  I can't help them, but I might be able to help you.  

It makes me sad, about my church.  It really does!  It's like watching a ship go down, and the people on board don't even know it.  And I'm standing there on the side, frantically waving my hands at them, trying to get them to see that they are headed to disaster.  And I'm throwing life-jackets at them, in the hopes that someone might grab onto one or that they might at least stop and question why I'm throwing life-jackets at them, why they might need one.  But no one listens, and no one cares.  And all I can do is watch the ship go down while the people are blissfully unaware.

It sucks!  It really does!  Not only to be an outcast now for the stand we took and to be seen as someone who "just doesn't get it," but also to be seen as divisive and obtrusive for trying to help them.  But I have had to take comfort in the fact that it's not my job to "save them."  All I can do is share truth when I can, challenge them to think about what they're being taught, study deeply so I can have answers if and when they ask, and stand strong in the decision we made to leave that church.  Even if we are the only ones standing on the side we took!  

God is over and above that church and those people's hearts.  He cares about them more than I do.  And He will deal with them in His way.  And I trust that even if they won't listen to me, God will continue to try to wake them up from the spell they are under.  

And for the record, I understand why it's hard for someone to consider that their pastor might be wrong.  I understand what's at stake.  If you start researching your pastor's theology and you find out he's teaching unbiblical things, then you might end up realizing that you can't be there anymore.  You might have to confront your leadership, your friends, yourself.  And you could end up losing your church, your friends, your ministry positions, respect, all the things that have grown to mean so much to you.  

I understand ... because we lost it too.  

And so I know why someone would not even want to consider that their pastor might be wrong or look into it too deeply, and why they'd rather just "trust" their pastor to lead them right.  Because they fear that looking into it too deeply could lead to all their carefully-stacked dominoes being knocked over.  

But ... would that excuse hold up before God?  Can you image Him going, "Oh, that's okay.  I can see why you allowed lies to overtake your church and your life, why you didn't even stop to question it.  You had too much to lose.  It's so much better that you simply tolerated it, compromised, and that you just let the pastor convince you he's right."?

I doubt that excuse will hold up.

Calvinism destroys the Gospel that Jesus Christ died for.  And if there's anything worth looking into deeply, if there's anything worth losing all those things over, it's the truth of the Gospel!  Take this seriously.  Because I believe that if you haven't faced Calvinism in your church yet, you will.  Someday.]

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.  The Bible itself calls us to carefully study the Word so that we can handle it correctly.

Be a Berean!

"Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true."  (Acts 17:11)

"Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth."  (2 Timothy 2:15)

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!

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

Are you going to take the blue pill, continuing to live in blissful ignorance about what Calvinism really is?  Not really know what you believe or why you believe it?  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?

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 really teaches, and see if you can really reconcile the two!  

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