Is Calvinism more Probable than Arminianism?
Debate Rounds (5)
Round 1 for acceptance and establishment of rules and definitions.
Rounds 2-4 for arguments and rebuttals.
Round 5 for rebuttals and summary ONLY. NO NEW arguments in final round please.
Superior: "higher in quality"
Probable: "having more evidence for than against, or evidence that inclines the mind to belief but leaves some room for doubt."
Calvinism: Here defined as the beliefs of John Calvin, summarized in the acronym TULIP, Total Depravity (or Total Inability), Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement (as opposed to universal atonement) (or Particular Redemption), Irresistable (Efficacious) Grace, and Perseverance of the Saints (not contested in this debate).
Arminianism: Here defined as opposition to the belief of Calvinism. Many Arminians subscribe to the 5 points of the Remonstrance, which I do not subscribe to, so they will not be argued in this debate. Arminians believe that man is not Totally Depraved to the point of Total Inability, man is not elected for salvation by God before time began, but has free will to accept the salvation that God has given to all sinners, atonement is granted as a limited gift (but not limited to the elect, but to the believers, and entrance into the realm of believers and subsequently, the limited gift of atonement, can be freely achieved by non-believers), and that God's grace is not "Irresistable" in the form that Calvinists believe (that once God selects a man for election, the man has no choice in his transformation into holiness), but rather, is transforming in nature as a consequence of belief out of free will. Many Arminians believe that the saved can fall away from salvation (as opposed to the Perseverance of the Saints) but in this debate, this point is ceded, with a few nuances which will be discussed in later rounds.
BoP is shared by Pro and Con.
I patiently await my response and give an early thank you to whoever may accept this debate. I want a good debate in which both debators may learn something new and gain a new perspective, so please only accept if you are willing to have a good argument and actually try.
I accept these terms, and will be arguing that Calvinism is more supported by evidence from the Bible than Arminianism.
The ideas of Calvinism are conveniently arranged into a logical argument that can be summarized in the acronym TULIP. As it is a logical argument, all of it's conclusions stem from the first claim made by the argument. Let's look at these in detail.
T-Total Depravity or Total Inability
Total Depravity is the basis for all arguments beyond itself. If this premise falls, it is safe to say that the other premises aren't able to stand. Total Depravity is a doctrine that states that God originally created Adam and Eve perfectly. They had no sin, no fault, no imperfections. The serpent led them into temptation and the sin that would ruin them. No Christian will deny that the Fall had terrible implications for mankind. However, the Calvinist believes that the Fall went much further than the Bible ever states. The Calvinist claims that mankind is so affected by sin, that every fiber of his being is filled with sin. There is nothing in man that is good, even his best deeds are seen as evil in the sight of God. Man becomes inherently evil and deserving of damnation. Man is so stricken by sin, in fact, that he has lost all ability to even seek and reach out to God, let alone ask for forgiveness and be saved. His sinful nature has no desire for God, He has no free will, this is the basis of Calvinism, and is completely enslaved to doing what is evil. He does not want to, nor does he have the ability to beg for mercy and to be saved from his sin. He cannot see God, hear God, reach out to God, or have any interaction with the King of Kings.
Seems like a solid case, right? Little do many realize, the fault in this argument lies in the idea that man was created completely perfectly before the original sin and the Fall. We have no exegetical reason to believe that Adam was created perfectly. He may have been created with innocence-- no knowledge of sin, and no sin marring his soul and keeping him from God-- but that is a far cry from complete perfection. In fact, if Adam was created perfectly, he would not have had the ability to sin! As we can see by the original sin, this cannot be the case. God saw his creation was "very good", a far cry from perfection. So if Adam was not created perfectly, does it follow that mankind became totally depraved? Let's look, shall we? There is no evidence in the Genesis account that mankind was totally depraved after the Fall. God gave mankind a list of horrible curses, including toil, pain in childbearing, and most importantly, physical death. If mankind was doomed to completely lose the ability to reach out to God, it makes sense that God would've included this punishment in his list of curses, right? I mean, complete spiritual death and inability to recieve forgiveness is no trivial matter. Why would he not inform Adam, or anyone for that matter, of this Inability to cry out for mercy? Calvinists cite 1 Corinthians 15:21-22 as proof of this Total Inability, "for since through man [is] the death, also through man [is] a rising again of the dead, for even as in Adam all die, so also in the Christ all shall be made alive."(YLT) Yes, sin has a horrible affect on humans, it keeps us from God, but nowhere in these verses do we see mention of the complete inability to reach out to God. I will address the final part of Total Inability, lack of free will, later in my argument.
Unconditional Election is a pretty simple premise: because humans can't reach out to God, God must reach out to humans. God's solution to Total Depravity is Unconditional Election, before time, selected those that he was going to draw to himself. This selection is [seemingly] arbitrary, it comes of no special merit of the elect, and is decided through "God's mysterious ways". Those who have not been selected for salvation, the non-elect, cannot become elect because of Total Depravity and the elect cannot become non-elect because of Irresistable Grace, a premise I will address later. Those who ask for forgiveness are not doing so of their own power, God has predestined them to believe and be saved and is the force causing them to change.
There are many objections immediately that can be raised towards this idea of unconditional election. Namely, the most important, does God love EVERYONE? Or only the elect? The idea that more closely relates to Calvinism is that he only loves the elect, for whatever divine reason he has. If this is the case, the entire Bible can be thrown out of the equation as a lie. Why does God tell us to love our enemies? Why did God "so love the world" as the Bible says in John 3:16? The only other option can be that he loves all, but saves some. That is completely contradictory. God is "not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance"(KJV). Is this another one of God's mysterious ways? He condemns to Hell those he does not wish to go to Hell because of some divine purpose? Would it not have been better to say that he is not willing that any should perish, but for lack of ability to do so, that his chosen people should come to repentance? This, ladies in gentleman, is not what God tells us in the Bible. No, God loves ALL of his creation, and gives everyone the choice of whether or not to return his love.
The Calvinist uses many examples from Scripture to attempt to prove their case. The two main ones I will address here are Revelations 17:8 and Romans 8:29-30. Revelations 17:8 says "The beast that thou sawest was, and is not; and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit, and go into perdition: and they that dwell on the earth shall wonder, whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, when they behold the beast that was, and is not, and yet is."(KJV) This talks about those "whose names were not written in the book of life". The Calvinist sees these as the non-elect, and it follows that the elect are those who have been predestined for life. However, The Calvinist makes one major assumption here, the assumption that "from the foundation of the world" means the same as "before the foundation of the world". The word from implies that this writing of names has been going on since the world began. This is very different than before the world began. It implies that the writing was a process that continued after the world was created. Then we have Romans 8:29-30. This verse is very troublesome. It seems as if the Calvinist has the game beat right here.
But let's look. "For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified."(ESV) Seems simple right? It even uses the word predestined! The key here is "foreknew" and "to be conformed to the image of his Son". "Foreknew" in Bible speak means that he [God] had a love and a relationship with the thing he knew [us]. But let's look at what he predestined for those whom he foreknew. He predestined them to be conformed to Jesus' likeness. He predestined his people, his Christian people to be transformed to be like Jesus. This does not mean he predestined individual people to be saved, no he predestined his church, the ones he foreknew and loved, to become more like Jesus.
I would again like to thank Pro for this debate, I really expect some great in-depth arguments. I apologize for not addressing all of the points of Calvinism in this first round, my character count got a little ahead of me, so I will address the final three points in a later round.
Thank you, Con. I will go through the first two points of Calvinism and explain why the Bible fully supports all of them.
Con's definitions are correct: Calvinism holds that the Fall at the beginning of creation caused Man not only to avoid choosing God over sin, but to be incapable of it. Biblically speaking, everything about Man is corrupt and sinful, and in this way they are slaves to evil. Con says that the idea of total depravity is flawed, since "man was created completely perfectly before the original sin and the Fall". The Bible, as Con pointed out, never describes Adam nor Eve as "perfect". The Book of Genesis is rather vague in details, but I have gathered this much: when God banishes Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden, he says "The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil." (Genesis 3:22). From this, one can infer that Adam and Eve were created with utter innocence, with no knowledge of what is right or wrong. Since they ate the fruit, they have become more in the likeness of God, with curiosity and knowledge about the world itself, but filled with corrupt sin at the same time.
In one point, however, Con was mistaken; the Calvinist of idea is not that God created Adam and Eve absolutely perfect. Rather, He gave them the freedom to choose - God showed them what perfection was like, a world utterly without sin and only bathed in His glory. But then he gave them an explicit command, not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, but allowed them to choose on their own. Succumbing to temptation, they did exactly that, and this represents the Calvinist idea that man, in his natural state, is incapable of choosing God over sin. Adam and Eve, considered by Calvinists to be only people in history with actual free will, chose to disobey God, and this supposedly caused the Fall of Man. As for your argument about inclusion of total inability to reach God in the list of punishments, it seems that this quote by God, also from Genesis 3:22, is stating it metaphorically: "[Man] must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever." While this could be taken to mean literal long life, as Adam and Eve lived over nine hundred years, their distant descendants also lived around as long, long after the Fall, so that is for another reason altogether. Man, God is saying, is now unable to achieve everlasting life, a phrase often used in Scripture to describe Heaven. This means they cannot contact God at all, though He will show mercy later on.
There is plenty of Biblical evidence that explains man's inability to reach out to God. According to the verse "There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.” (Romans 3:10-12), nobody can find God on their own volition and God must come to them; not one person is good at heart, but God forgives the sins of the elect if they repent and obey. According to 1 Corinthians 2:14, "The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit." If you are not chosen by the Holy Spirit, you cannot understand God's will, and thus are incapable of reaching out to Him. There is no way to tell if you are chosen or not, or indeed if anyone else was chosen, but since the destiny of all things is known to God and God alone, Calvinist doctrine says that you might as well follow all of the Bible's teachings in the hopes that you are one of them. All true believers will make it into Heaven, but the Bible makes it clear that these will be very few in number, and are predetermined by God.
The Calvinist idea of predestination comes from the Book of Ephesians, in this verse: "For [God the Father] chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves." (Ephesians 1:3-6). A key phrase they use is "before the creation of the world": this ties into predestination, that God chose whom would be saved before the universe even begun, and I will be using it later. God's selection is indeed arbitrary, or at least not comprehensible to mankind. While our fates, according to Calvinism, are already sealed in God's knowledge, this exists only in God's knowledge, and there is no way to tell if you are one of the elect. Besides, if God is omniscient and knows the future, then how would those who would go to Heaven not be chosen before the world was created?
God seems to love the world and His creation, as was put in John 3:16. However, God seems to treat the elect with a special type of parental love ("Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." -Matthew 18:3), favoring them over all others. This may possibly be because they return the love that God bestows upon everyone, though it was God who chose them to return it in the first place. 2 Peter 3:9 expresses that God wishes that He wouldn't have to send anyone to Hell, but because of original sin, almost all people are doomed, and God refuses to pollute His kingdom with any who don't appreciate His work. Everyone deserves Hell, "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23), but because of God's infinite mercy, He decided to break that rule, sacrificing Jesus and punishing him for the sins of the elect so that they may get into Heaven.
To your quoting of Revelations, I will again cite Ephesians, which says that before the foundation/creation of the world, those seen as "holy and blameless in his sight" were already chosen. The slight difference in wording is curious, but its use of "from" instead of "before" may simply be stating that God's "book of life" was already written and present during the foundation of the world. Nowhere did it say that it was still in the process of being written. In Romans, the apostle clearly writes that those that God foreknew, or those who were chosen to love Him before the world was created, will be saved and treated as if they are as free from sin as Christ himself ("conformed to the image of His Son"). God's predestination has nothing to do with Christian churches themselves, because the Bible states that many who call themselves Christians are not true believers: "Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven." (Matthew 7:21). Clearly, the verse in Romans is referring to the very small minority that are true followers of Christ.
That is fine, I prefer having the points of Calvinism spread out over the rounds anyway. I thank Con for a great initial argument, and now await his rebuttal.
I understand. If you are ever interested in continuing this debate in the future, don't hesitate to ask. I wish you the best of luck, and hope that everything works out for you.
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