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Is Calvinism Taught in the Bible?

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 12/28/2017 Category: Religion
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Debating Period
Viewed: 568 times Debate No: 106165
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I have been studying the issue for a while, and I have reached the conclusion that Scripture does not teach Calvinism. I am looking for a Calvinist to explain why they believe Calvinism is true. I would prefer to stay mostly on what scripture says, but we can additionally use philosophy to establish our worldview.

You and I will each have the burden of proving or disproving Calvinism respectfully. You may go first with your positive evidence for Calvinism.

So that you may know my position, I reject all 5 points of Calvinism. I also reject the Calvinist view of sovereignty and compatibilist free-will.


I am a Calvinist. I do believe Scripture clearly teaches the beliefs of Reformation theology (i.e., Calvinism). And to state my position further, I accept all five points of Calvinism (often referred to as 'TULIP'), and believe humans do not have libertarian free will, on the contrary, I accept the Westminster's confession that 'God foreordains all that comes to pass'. As you request, I will argue mostly from the sacred Scriptures, but we will also focus a little on philosophical arguments.
First, let me first address, Calvinism is not just five points. (Not that you said this, but critics of Calvinism often limit it to 'TULIP'). Let us first go through each of the five points, and the Scripture that supports them.
1. total depravity:
Humans are in total depravity; that is, everything about us has been affected due to sin. We are sinners by nature (due to original sin, which is a result of our father Adam's first sin in the garden), and we sin on our own 'free will' (I will explain later what I mean by 'free will' here):
'All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God' (Rom. 3:23). - Depravity has affected every human being.
'But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin' (Rom. 4:23). - Naturally, apart from faith in the Christ, everything we do is sin - for we are in total rebellion against our Maker. Those whom are not saved, have no faith - and so, are living in sin.
'What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, as it is written: "None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. . . There is no fear of God before their eyes"' (Rom. 3:9-11, 18). - Apart from God's grace, we are in total rebellion against our Creator; no one naturally desires God above sin. We will always choose sin when compared to the Divine (unless the Spirit opens the eyes of our hearts).
'But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness' (Rom. 6:17-18). Since we are born slaves to sin, it is impossible for us to submit to God and his law, naturally.
'among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind' (Eph. 2:3). - Saint Paul could not be any clearer; by nature, we deserve wrath. Adam's guilt is imputed on us, and we are born sinners, and for our treason against the Creator, we naturally deserve eternal damnation for sinning against our eternal God.
Now would be a good time to define one out of three definitions of 'free will': I do not believe humans have free will in the sense that we can submit to God or do sin on our will alone; this is because we are slaves to sin, and so, we have no free will because we have an inclination to do evil and rebel against God. Apart from God changing us and leading us to Christ by his Sprit, we will naturally be condemned for our total rebellion against the Most High.
2. unconditional election:
'For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God' (Eph. 2:8). Even our faith is a gift that comes from God.
'No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day' (John 6:44). - No one will accept Christ, unless the Father has chosen them to.
'though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad - in order that God's purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls - she was told, "The older will serve the younger." As it is written, "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated"' (Romans 9:11-13). God chose Esau to serve Jacob before they did anything good or bad; it was based on his will alone.
'What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God's part? By no means! For he says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion." So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, "For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth". So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. You will say to me then, "Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?" But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, "Why have you made me like this?" Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory' (Rom. 9:14-23). - The clear reading of this passage is 1. God choses whom he choses based on his will - not humans'; 2. He hardens who he wants to (e.g., Pharaoh); 3. This may appear confusing how God can will someone to sin without himself sinning, but we must trust his perfect justice and acknowledge him as our Potter, as Saint Paul addresses; 4. He has prepared vessels of wrath to show the glory of his justice and power to his vessels of mercy, which 'he prepared beforehand'.
Now for some philosophy: humans cannot have free will in the sense of ultimate determinism (this is the second of third definition of 'free will') if God is omniscient. If God knew this discussion would happen, it *had* to happen; the future is fixed and cannot change, because God knows what the final decision will be. God is also timeless, and so there is no before nor after for him, technically. (God is eternal; he is the Creator of time and so is not limited by it. He experiences our past, present and future in all times all the time from eternity to eternity). Now, this does not necessarily prove God chooses all things to happen, but it does show we are not the one who ultimately decides and we do not have libertarian free will, as we will inevitably choose what God knows we will choose; there is no other way this can change - our future is not open, but fixed.
Now, there are verses that support God foreordains everything:
'The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps' (Prov. 16:9). - we may make plans, but God chooses where we step.
'A man's steps are from the LORD; how then can man understand his way?' (Prov. 20:24). - Where a man walks is ultimately God's decision - not ours.
'The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD' (Prov. 16:33). - The Lord is the one who ultimately decides what the dice/lot will roll on.
'I know, O LORD, that the way of man is not in himself, that it is not man who walks to direct his steps' (Jer. 10:23). He knows it is God who directs his/her steps.
'Is a trumpet blown in a city, and the people not afraid? Does disaster come to a city, unless the LORD has done it?' (Amos 3:6). If a disaster happens, it is ultimately due to it being part of God's sovereign will.
'Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade ad make a profit" - yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that"' (Jam. 4:13-15). - I will only live another second 'if the Lord wills'. I will be going to New York sometime this year (it was a plan), but, only, 'if the Lord wills'. How long I stay there will be what 'the Lord wills'.
So ultimately, it is not Satan who controls everything, nor humans, but it is the Sovereign, the Almighty, the Creator - God, the Author of history (everything that happens is part of his 'book' that he wrote down will absolutely happen), the Storyteller (reading all things to make them come to pass in his story), and the Protagonist (the Author became the character in the person of Christ Jesus - very amazing, indeed!). And the Hero of the story (the Author himself) will one day defeat the dragon (Satan), destroy evil and death, and save his 'princess' (i.e., his bride - the church).
So I will now address the three definitions of 'free will':
1. Humans do have free will in the sense that the decisions we make are us actually making decisions based on what we want, what we incline towards, what we desire to happen, etc. We are not robots. We are actually making decisions that affect the world. And we can truly be held accountable and responsible for our actions, and be judged justly by the Judge of mankind.
2. Nonbelievers do not have free will in the sense that we cannot choose God on our own; we will always choose sin rather than God on our own free will. We are slaves to sin, and can only choose God if he chooses us. And so therefore, Christians do have free will in this sense because Christ has set us free from the chains of sin.
3. No human, believer or not, has free will in the sense of ultimate determinism. Only God has foreordained all things according to the counsel of his will.
'even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he *predestined* us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the *purpose of his will*, to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has blessed us in the Beloved. . . [we have been] predestined according to the purpose of him who works *all* things according to the counsel of his will' (Eph. 1:4-6, 11).
I'll have to finish next round.

In Christ,
Debate Round No. 1


Thank you for your reply. I will try to address as much as I can of what you said, but first, I need to lay the preliminary work. It is my goal that you understand where I am coming from in my analysis.

The Main Issue:
I believe that if you start with the revelation of Jesus Christ, you cannot reach Calvinism. Calvinists generally seem to ask how can a sovereign God love? The question should be how does a loving God express His sovereignty? While we should never view God one-dimensionally, love is God's most primary attribute. Jesus came to demonstrate His love, not His power.
The following is the biggest problem with Calvinism:
1. God truly loves all persons.
2. Truly to love someone is to desire their well-being and to promote their true flourishing as much as one properly can.
3. The well-being and true flourishing of all persons is to be found in a right relationship with God, a saving relationship in which we love and obey him.
4. God could give properly all persons "irresistible grace" and thereby determine all persons to freely accept a right relationship with himself and be saved.
5. Therefore, all persons will be saved.
Since neither one of us believes all persons will be saved, we must reject one of the premises of the argument. I reject premise 4 because I believe in libertarian free will. The only viable option that I can see for Calvinists is God does not truly love all persons. In my view, if you reach the conclusion that God does not love everyone, you have missed something. You should go back and find where you went wrong. The most beautiful definition of God found in scripture is "God is love." It seems difficult to imagine how God could be all loving unless He loves all.

Here, you would probably say that God loves everyone in the sense that He gives them food, water, and air before unconditionally damning them. But, is this real love? "If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned but have not love, I gain nothing." (1 Cor 13:3). According to scripture's own definition, benevolence is not love. "Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things." (1 Cor 13:4-7). This describes love as not self-seeking, yet Calvinists believe God damns people in the pursuit of His own glory.

Also, if God unconditionally elects people, He also unconditionally damns people. If this is truly unconditional, it is not based on anything in ourselves. Therefore, one of the conditions cannot be our own sin or desire to sin. We are punished unconditionally by a God who seeks His own glory. Instead, God is most glorified when He shows mercy to creatures, not by inflicting His wrath. Jesus said, "Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13). Does God not have this kind of love for all people? If you start at the revelation of Christ, you must answer yes.

Total Depravity
I think you conflated a few things in your defense of Total Depravity. I actually agree with nearly everything you said on this subject, but I do not affirm Total Depravity. Total Depravity is depravity + total inability. I believe all of humanity is completely depraved and wicked, but I do not accept total inability. Also, total inability means the inability to do the following things: follow all of the law, seek God, understand God's word, realize that we need saving, or respond positively to God. I accept that we are unable to follow the law or seek God, but I do not affirm the rest. Just because a leopard can't change his spots, it doesn't mean he is unable to realize he has spots that need changing when confronted by the truth. It also does not mean he cannot ask for the spots to be removed when he runs unto a savior.

While we cannot seek God, I submit that there is not one verse in scripture that teaches we are unable to respond positively to God if He first seeks us. Further, there is no passage that says our inability is something decreed by God. We are certainly slaves to our sin and cannot fulfill the demand of God. We are unable to please God because we are in rebellion, but that does not mean we have the inability to respond to God's Spirit-inspired word. We are certainly deserving of wrath (Eph 2:3), but depravity does not prove inability. They are two very different concepts, so we should not conflate the two.

Romans 9: (I will be using ESV as it is a Calvinistic word for word translation)
Verses 1-5 expresses Paul's remorse that Israel is in such a fallen state. God's covenant people are now rejecting the Messiah. Paul tells us that his sorrow has come from the Holy Spirit. This tells us that God truly has remorse that the Israelites are not coming to Him. This seems inexplicable if Calvinism is true. This also establishes that the subject of the entire chapter is the nation of Israel. If you miss this, you misunderstand the passage.

Verses 6-13 explain why God's word has not failed. It says that not all who are called Israel are actually a part of Israel. Paul then goes through the history of Israel to explain his point. Not all children of Israel were counted, only the children of the promise. This same analogy is explained by Paul in more detail in Galatians 4 in which Paul says the child of Hagar represents slaver while Isaac represents freedom. He then explains how Israel was refined further to only be the children of Jacob. God chose Jacob and not Esau "in order that God's purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls" (verse 11). This leads us to ask what does "God's purpose of election" mean? The purpose of election is God's redemptive plan to save the world including Christ's sacrifice on the cross. God chose one through whom the Messiah would be born based on His omniscient wisdom. This is God's plan, and it is not dependent on the wills or actions of those He chooses to make it come to pass. The passage is not talking about the salvation of Jacob or Esau. In fact, we have no reason to believe Esau was not saved. The quote "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated." is actually a quote from Malachi, which was written long after Jacob and Esau.

Verses 14-18: There is no injustice on God's part because He has the right to choose whomever He wants to bring about the Messiah. Verse 16 is a major point of disagreement, so let me quote it: "So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy." What is "it" in this context? The Calvinist automatically assumes "it" refers to salvation, yet this is not what the passage has been talking about. The focus of the whole chapter is on God's redemptive purpose, or his plan to save the world. It is the covenant He gave Abraham when he said: "in you all the nations shall be blessed" (Gen 22:18). "It" refers to God's plan to become a man and die on the cross for the world. It is this that does not depend on the human will or exertion. God will fulfill this plan no matter who stands in His way. Even if Israel becomes hardened and disobedient, He has the right as creator to use this hardened clay for His plan of redemption. It is not unfair for Him to choose a few disciples out of the Jewish nation and use them to deliver salvation to the world. It is also not unfair for Him to harden whom He chooses. The question is, who does God choose to harden? I believe it refers to an already hardened Israel (Romans 11).

Verses 19-23: One may ask why does God find fault with the hardened Israelites if they were actually used for God's purpose. Paul rejects this reasoning both here and in Romans 3:5-8. God as the potter has the right to take some of the lump of clay (representing hardened Israel) for the noble purpose of proclaiming the Messiah and the rest for the dishonorable purpose of killing the Messiah. "What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory"" (Verses 22,23). God has endured with much patience the nation of Israel. Even though they would not obey nor listen to Him, God endured with patience so His redemptive purpose would be fulfilled as He promised Abraham. Because of their rebellion, now that the redemptive plan has been fulfilled, God has no need of hardened Israel and has prepared them for destruction. God is now done being patient with them.

Verses 24-29: Now that God has carried out the redemptive purpose, the focus shifts to how this affects the Gentiles. It is not evident that the Gentiles are eligible for the redemption the Christ bought. The rest of the passage explains that only a remnant of the nation of Israel will actually be saved. In fact, if they got what they deserved and God abandoned them, they would be like Sodom and Gomorrah.

Verses 30-33 Provide a basic chapter summary of what was said. This passage repeats what Paul previously said by claiming that the Gentiles are attaining righteousness by faith, but those of the nation of Israel without are not being counted. Israel was trying to achieve righteousness by their own merits, so they were unable to follow the Savior when He came.

Therefore, I believe that it is clear that the Calvinist interpretation of this passage is not the correct one. The passage is about the use of hardened Israel to bring salvation to the world, not God's plan to save some and not others. For more information on Romans 9, I recommend looking into Romans 11. They both deal with many of the same issues.

In my next reply, I shall examine God's role in judicial hardening.


1. I think you confuse the term 'sovereignty'. It does not necessarily mean 'power' (though it does include his omnipotence, for he is the sovereign King and Creator of his universe), but it basically means he is in control. Which of course, I believe sincere Christians must accept this to at least an extent (I'm sure you do), and that is when the discussion happens. I would like you to address more specifically what you mean by love being his 'primary attribute'. Indeed, God is love, but that does not mean he is more loving than he is omniscient, or sovereign, or powerful. For we could basically proclaim he is infinite in all his attributes! (e.g., he is infinite loving, just, good, powerful, wise, and so on).
2. I will now go through what you assert is the 'biggest problem with Calvinism'.
1. 'God truly loves all persons' - Depends what you mean. If you mean it in the sense that God unconditionally offers forgiveness and salvation to all peoples, regardless of who they are or what they have done, then they are loved in this sense. Christ's atonement is sufficient for all, I believe. 'For God so loved the world If we mean God's love in his providence, this is most definitely taught in Scripture. 'For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life' (John 3:16). If we are referring to God's providential love for everyone, I believe this is also clearly taught in Scripture. 'For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust' (Matthew 5:45). So God's love is unconditional in this sense; and I think that is generally what people mean by his unconditional love. Because obviously God does not have unconditional love concerning his special grace (distinguished from his common grace given to all people), as he damns those who reject his Son (not unconditional, but based on whether the person accepted or rejected the Christ). And Scripture obviously teaches God has a special love for those who are in his family (which this love becomes unconditional, as I believe we promises to keep us in his family forever). 'As it is written, "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated"' (Romans 9:13). Now, you can try to redefine hate all you want, but it does not matter - there is obviously a distinction between the two - God loved Jacob in a special way, in contrast to his older brother. But indeed, God has unconditional love for his elect: he chose them by unconditional election based on his loving and choosing. Why does he love us? Because he chose us. Why does he choose us? Because he loves us. 'Choosing' and 'loving' are used interchangeably here in referring to God's children through Christ.
2. Well, God can flourish one with infinite amounts of gifts. But he doesn't. We glorify God when we are satisfied in him. For the chief end of man is to glorify God by enjoying him forever. He does not promise wealth and health and prosperity. He promises an infinitely satisfying treasure and pleasure, himself, for those who accept his Son. Indeed, the Giver of all gifts is the true gift. If we believe God is satisfying because of his gifts this is idolatry. (I am addressing the prosperity gospel is false; I am not asserting you believe this).
3. I believe 'flourishing' can only be found in God through Christ when we accept him as Lord and enjoy him and bring glory to him in all circumstances, good and bad. And of course, this is found only in a relationship with our Maker.
4. God has a perfect sovereign will, which includes people rejecting him. Why God does not choose to lead everyone to Christ is a mystery, ultimately. (But Scripture does offer some basic explanations.)
5. Yes, I definitely agree this is false.
I have given Scripture addressing God's love. I ask you to attempt to offer a rebuttal with biblical evidence.
It is true that providence is never really referred to as love. I don't see how 1 Cor. 13 supports the claim that God's providence is not a loving act. Saint Paul says if he gives but has no love, he gains nothing. But God has love when he gives, as he is omnibenevolent is gladly gives his gifts unconditionally. But no one is in genuine pursuit of God's glory; people naturally center themselves at the center of their life. Rom. 3 says, 'No one seeks God; no, not one'. God damns those who hate him and sought after their own glory - seeking pleasures in their sin, when God offered them an infinitely satisfying pleasure in himself. God created the universe for his glory. Now, God is the only being in existence who can morally seek his own glory. Because it is his glory that *can only satisfy us*. If God did not seek his own glory, he would not be loving us, because he would be withholding that which can satisfy our souls for eternity. But when we seek our own glory, it is sinful; for we are truly withholding from people something better - i.e., God. For God to love us, he must exalt himself. For us to love others, we must exalt God. But Scripture does address his punishment of peoples brings him glory (surely you would agree, and I think you'll agree with what I say after this as well - referring to the apex of his glory). God created the universe so that the full range of his perfections - from mercy to wrath - would be displayed. And I offered an answer from Romans 9 (see round one): God, in *preparing* vessels of wrath, helps his vessels of mercy see the *riches of his glory*, and both vessels were *prepared beforehand*.
So, we must of course accept double predestination if God elects unconditionally. However, this means, I believe, that is God is basically 'passing over' those who reject him. Let me use an illustration: Let's say God saw all of humanity in a boat, and we are all going to the same place in that boat - over a waterfall (representing hell). I believe God is saving people by pulling them off that boat. I do not believe he is pulling some off the boat and then picking up the rest and chunking them over the waterfall. So basically, God saves us, and changes our heart, and "permits" everyone else to continue in their natural rebellion against him and therefore are justly condemned.
Now God is most glorified in showing his mercy and grace; his grace is the apex of his glory. But his wrath does as well, and he displays all his glorious attributes to his creation.
Christ laid down his life for his friends. This is indeed "apage" love demonsted by God - sacrificial love. But this verse does not prove God is going to choose to save some unconditionally (and much less save everyone). His sacrifice is sufficient for all but effective for the elect. For his own blood puraches the blessings of the new covenant. This would be a good time to address definite/limited atonement. Who actually limits the atonement though? Both Calvinists and Arminians. Calvinists believe its effectiveness is limited to the elect, and it his blood purchases them and their faith completely (hence, definite). Arminianism limits its effectiveness. They believe his atonement is effective for no one until we do our part - faith from free will. And so they believe in "Indefinite atonement". I believe his death effectively secured the eternal salvation of God"s elect, including the promises of the new covenant.
Ezekiel 36:26"27: "I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules." - in the new covenant, even our faith is purchased by his blood. We hve faith because of Christ.
"I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. . . I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep" (John 10:11, 14-15). - Christ died for his sheep - the sheep his Shepherd gave to him (see round one where no one will come to the good Shepherd [Christ] unless the Father draws them to the good Shepherd).
John 11:51-52: "He did not say this of his own accord, but being high perfect that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad". - God"s elect are scattered around the earth, and as the children of God, they are gathered into one through Christ,

Concerning total depracity:
It appears you do not believe everything has been depraved, though. (E.g. our will). I believe we cannot follow the Divine"s law, I believe we do not seek God naturally. Now, I would like clarification as to what you mean by understanding Scripture. An atheist could be a biblical scholar, if he like, but he will not understand Scripture in its precious truth and beauty. Comparable to the Pharisees: they knew Scripture front-to-back, but our Lord often spoke to them as if they knew absolutely nothing (e.g,, "Have you not read?. . ," ). And they did know nothing in the sense that, as Christ says, seeing, they did not see. They did not see the beauty of the word of God with the eyes of their heart. I believe we truly realize we need salvation when God soften our hearts by the Holy Spirit. Now, there appears to be a contradiction in what you say (please specify, of course), but you claim no one seeks God, yet they can respond positevely.
People can know they have done bad. We have a conscience. We all know we have "spots". But as leopards (I mean, humans), we naturally embrace our spots over the Lord as we do not seek him; but God changes our heart and opens our eyes to the truth that sets us free, and so we plea with him to remove our spots in that we accept the blood of Christ removes all spots.

Also, when someone geneiuenly seeks God, he will save them to clarify; God denies no one who repents.

I"ll have to finish later. .

Debate Round No. 2


"I think you confuse the term 'sovereignty'. It does not necessarily mean 'power'"
I did not mistake the two although, after reading my last reply, I could have made the distinction more clear. I agree with your definition of sovereignty. I agree that God has the right to control whatever He wants, the point in question is what does He want to control? Another way of defining sovereignty that I have heard is simply the use of power.

Imagine watching two chess players. The first one plays against himself so as to ensure his victory by controlling both sides. The second one faces a long row of opponents and manages to beat them all because of his superior skill. Which chess player is more impressive? The one who controls both sides or the one who only must control one side of the board? Similarly, by making His will go through even against the free intentions of man, God's glory is better displayed by controlling only one side of the equation.

"Indeed, God is love, but that does not mean he is more loving than he is omniscient, or sovereign, or powerful."
What I mean by primary attribute is that God's love is the most important thing about Him. I am not merely saying it is the most important characteristic of God to me; it is the most important attribute according to God Himself. Since God came down in the form of a man, God's attributes are best displayed in the person of Christ. DId Christ come down to show God's power or His strength? Christ came down as a slave to display God's love for all people. God's self-sacrificial love is what was on full display in the person of Christ.

I agree with you that God loves those in a saving relationship in a more intimate, personal way than those who are lost. I also understand your point about God's providential love, however, my point is that this providential "love" does not meet the minimum requirements to even be called love. I believe that God loves even the worst sinner more than any other person is capable of loving. Is it loving to offer someone something good and then force them not to accept it? If God truly rigs the system like this, then you couldn't call this a bona fide offer. God doesn't really want them to accept it, otherwise, He would make them. In fact, many Calvinists including Calvin Himself believe that God uses this offer as an excuse to punish the reprobate even more.

The point in question is does the providential love actually count as love if God unconditionally damns people for His own glory? I maintain that love must be sacrificial or it is not love. "Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13). "By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. " (1 John 3:16). "Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love." (1 John 4:8). You call it love because God gives people good things while on earth and then torments them forever based on nothing they have done. It logically cannot ultimately be because of their sin because their sin is only an effect of their damnation. "If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing." (1 Corinthians 13:3). Paul, speaking under the authority of the Holy Spirit tells us that giving people good stuff does not equal love. Therefore, providential "love" alone cannot be considered love. The purpose of this verse was not to show that God's providence is not love, but providence alone is not love. Love is self-sacrificial, not other-sacrificial. That defies everything about the character of God revealed in scripture.

"As it is written, "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated" (Romans 9:13).
As I already explained in by an explanation of Romans 9, this is a quote from the book of Malachi. Jacob and Esau in context refer to the nations Israel and Edom, not unconditional election.

When we glorify God, are we actually increasing His glory? I think we would both say no. God's glory cannot be dependent upon His creation. God is glorious by nature, thus He does not need glory from us. Giving glory to God is like giving a drop to an ocean. If we are not actually giving God any benefit from our glory, why would He do anything to seek our glory? Such makes no sense. On the other hand, if God is motivated by love rather than glory, this all makes sense. Love is not self-seeking, yet Calvinists believe God seeks to damn people to seek His own glory. Furthermore, why would God be glorified by displaying His wrath if He would be more glorified by giving everyone "an infinitely satisfying treasure and pleasure, himself" as you stated? This would give God the most glory if that was indeed what He was after. Also, even if I accepted that God seeks His own glory above the wellbeing of others, and if I accept that He is most glorified by displaying His wrath, why doesn't He just damn one person? Why doesn't He damn 5 people? Why does God choose to damn the overwhelming majority of people if His wrath could be displayed on one? What a twisted version of the gospel this is. Do you have any scriptural support for your claim that God is most glorified by displaying wrath, or that He seeks Himself above the wellbeing of others, or that being self-seeking is consistent with being loving, or that He seeks His own glory at all? The beautiful story of the gospel is that Jesus came out of a position of power and shed His glory out of love so that He could give up His life for the very people who cursed Him. How can that God be consistent with the idea Calvinists have of God?

I want to be clear that I do maintain that God has the right to do this, but I deny that He has the character to do so. Also, we will not enjoy heaven because of God's glory; we will enjoy it because of His presence and goodness. Let me ask you a question: how can you tell the difference between God and an all-powerful demon? Would God unconditionally damn people? I say no because it goes against everything in the character of Jesus, and I will need really clear scripture to show me wrong. I provided my interpretation of Romans 9 in my last reply. I would be interested in your thoughts on it.

"Well, God can flourish one with infinite amounts of gifts. But he doesn't."
Yes, to clarify, that is what I meant by true flourishing. You may give children tons of candy, but if you truly love them, you will not. You are correct that true flourishing is not to be found in health and wealth; it is to be found in a relationship with God.

"But no one is in genuine pursuit of God's glory"
I agree, but the difference is you believe that was decreed by God. They don't pursue God because God commanded them not to.

"However, this means, I believe, that is God is basically 'passing over' those who reject him"
You may say that, but Calvinism really doesn't offer you that luxury. Under your view, God permits nothing; He is the direct cause of all things. Calvin Himself hammered this point as hard as He could. God both caused them to reject Him. God is the one who put the boat on the river to be destroyed. God is the direct author of all evil if your view of sovereignty is correct. God is the one who made us depraved and hardened us then forced us to sin. This is a possibility scripture does not allow.
"Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am being tempted by God," for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one." (James 1:13).

"Now, I would like clarification as to what you mean by understanding Scripture."
By understanding scripture, I mean understanding the gospel message and what one must do to be saved.

"Now, there appears to be a contradiction in what you say (please specify, of course), but you claim no one seeks God, yet they can respond positevely."
Seeking is different than responding. I could walk around not seeking treasure but then pick it up if I happen to pass by. I can live my life without seeking God, but if God comes down and offers a new hope called the gospel, I have the ability to repent and live. I maintain that there is no scripture that goes against this. Also, I do believe our wills are corrupted, but they can still respond in the face of the gospel.

"but God changes our heart and opens our eyes to the truth that sets us free"
The question is: are our hearts changed before or after we accept Christ? In other words, do we have the ability to humble ourselves to salvation? Scripture answers with a resounding yes.

1 Peter 5:5-6
Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble." Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you,

Isaiah 66:2
All these things my hand has made,
and so all these things came to be,
declares the Lord.
But this is the one to whom I will look:
he who is humble and contrite in spirit
and trembles at my word.

James 4:10
Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.

2 Kings 22:19
because your heart was penitent, and you humbled yourself before the Lord, when you heard how I spoke against this place and against its inhabitants, that they should become a desolation and a curse, and you have torn your clothes and wept before me, I also have heard you, declares the Lord.

Matthew 18:4
Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

James 4:6
But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble."

From these passages, we learn that 1) we can humble ourselves 2) once we humble ourselves, we will be granted salvation. The above passages are only a small portion that claim we have the ability to humble ourselves.

"God denies no one who repents."
Yes, but God is the one who decides whether they repent.

AI will have to continue this later...


1. I"ve heard of this chess analogy before from Leighton Flowers. I do not find it convining because it is not based on Scripture, but on how you feel. I do accept Calvinism because it is so easy to understand everything. I accept it because I believe Scripture teaches. So with respect, it doesn"t matter what you *think* appears better; what matters is what God says he has done, and I think we can agree, what he has chosen to do will bring him the glory. The best possible universe is the one God created (a 5 min. video by John Piper on this:
2. I completely agree that the love and mercy and grace of God is the apex of his glory. But his wrath also displays his glory (verse after verse after verse confirms this). God"s Justice does not make him less worthy of worship, but brings him glory. Now, just because the grace, love, and mercy of God displayed to sinners is the apex of his glory, does not mean he has more love than anything else. We can say, I believe, that God is infinitely powerful, knowing, sovereign, just, etc.
3. Psalm 11 and 5 and many other passages state God hates the wicked with a passion. I"m sure you"re aware of the seven things the Lord detests - humans are included (specific "types", that is). The burden of proof lies on the person that claims God "loves the sinner, hates the sin". Verse after verse literally says God hates. Not one verse says God loves the wicked.
4. God doesn"t force anyone into hell. He saves many bases on his will and grace and mercy alone, and allows the others to others to continue freely in their wicked deeds and therefore be justly condemned (see my waterfall analogy). God also doesn"t force anyone into heaven; rather, he softens the heart and opens the eyes to the satisfaction and beauty they have been seeking for by the Holy Spirit, and therefore, by irresistible grace, accept Christ as Lord. No one will hate spending eternity with God.
5. God desires all men to be saved. He takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked. But he does have a perfect, sovereign will which he knows is the best possible plan. We could simply state, God often decrees that which displeases him (e.g., the murder of his Son).
6. Time-out. He punishes based on nothing they have done? We all deserve hell. And God chose many to accept Christ. The rest he "passed over" and allowed them to continue in their rebellion. He did not twist their arm into hell; he allowed them to do what they wanted to do, and so will rightly be judged on the last day.
6. Providience, I believe, can be considered love. He did not grind his teeth, so to speak, when providing Hitler with his next meal. He did it out of love. With respect, Saint Paul is not saying that at all. He says it is not love if he gives to the poor for his glory, so he may boast. He gains nothing *if* he has no love. We *can* have love if we give to the poor (I.e., don"t do it in boasting spirit, don"t do it while complaint, but do it to show the love of Christ).
And I"m not sure what you are getting at with "other-sacrifing". God did indeed sacrifice himself in the person of Christ. God is not "sacrificing" people to hell. Based on their will, they sin against God. And many God did not choose to save them from sin, so they will continue in rebellion based on their free will (i.e., they hover the waterfall themselves; God is not picking them up while they beg for forgiveness and then chuck them over the waterfall - feather, naturally, they don"t want forgiveness).
7. You dodged the point about Jacob and Esau, why does Saint Paul refer to them in Romans 9 as being elected by God? It doesn"t matter what passage Saint Paul is referring to in this context; for his point was concerning God"a sovereignty. So please address why he says God chose Esau to serve the younger so, (quote from Saint Paul): "So his purpose of election might stand"? Yes, it is a quote from Malachi, that Saint Paul is using for his argument of unconditional election and God"s sovereignty that he speaks about the entire chapter.
8. Our glory? Calvinists (and I would assume most Arminains) believe "sola deo gloria" - to God alone be the glory. I think we can agree God made the universe for his glory. Now, is glory not love? Like I said, God"s glory satisfies our soul and cravings in life. If God loves us, he *must* exalt himself. If we love others, we exalt God, not ourselves.
Again, I think you"re confused on the nature of God sending people to hell. Yes, ultimately he chose who would go, because logically, those he didn"t choose to be saved will go to hell. However, he is allowing them to continue in their sin, which will inevitably let lead to punishment - he is not forcing them, but permitting them to continue in their sin.
9. I can"t answer every mystery. God created the "best of all universes". Sin is included in it, so I trust God"s plan is indeed holy and perfect. You have not addressed the verses concerning God"s vessels of wrath and mercy, which sort of hint at one reason why God allows people to go to hell, and how even his justice brings him glory. Now, I believe you are creating a bigger problem for yourself. You seem to think God created people, and leaves it completely to them to accept the Christ. And those who don"t accept (The majority) will go to hell, and this was just a flunk in God"s plan - he didn"t will it to happen, but it just happened. And I think it boils to this. . .
10. I was listening to John Piper talk about an Arminian who is a philosopher (PhD, I believe) and the Arminian claimed the majority of exegetes of Scripture are Calvinists while the majority of Christian philosophers are arminains. Why? (Not my words): It"s because Calvinists take the Scripture plainly, and Arminans try to solve all the mysteries and twerk a few of the "plain meanings" so they don"t cause any apparent contradictions.Now, he said this; I don"t know if he thought this helped his case, but I don"t think so. I think we should look at Scripture, and when something doesn"t make complete sense, let"s not change anything, let"s just believe. "I don"t get it, but there it is!" I don"t know how we have free will in that we are truly responsible for our actions, yet God is completely sovereign; I don"t know, but I read this planinly in Scripture, I don"t change anything, and just accept it. This next point is important: If we try to bring philosophical assumptions to the Bible (e.g., "But God sounds evil if he predestined people, so it can"t possibly be true!") I don"t think we are being exegetically loyal to the text. We must read, and accept the author"s intent. And just believe it. No matter how hard it is to accept, we accept it, and trust the goodness of our Creator.
11. Competely agree that heaven"s King of glory came in humility by becoming human - the Creator became the creation, the Master of the universe became his slaves" slave. Christ did die for everyone in that he offers it to everyone (no matter the race, gender, class, etc.) and it is sufficient for all. But it is effective for the elect, and definitevely purchases their faith, secures their eternity, and includes the promises of the new covenant - all by his blood. Arminians don"t believe his blood does anyone of that, *and* it is completely ineffective until we do our part - our own free will produces faith. So, the beauty of the gospel is that we all deserve hell, but God sent his Son for the whole world to die, and was raised again. Anyone - literally anyone - who puts their faith in him will be saved. We just believe God has a chosen people who will have their eyes opened by the Holy Spirit and will accept Christ.
12. Romans 8 says that nothing will separate us from the love of Christ - absolutely nothing in creation. Yet, you claim we can lose salvation? This love does not appear to be unconditional. Also, the New Testament says those who fall away never were saved in the first place.
13. We will indeed enjoy glorifying God! This is literally what we will do for eternity! This is what we will love doing - worshipping and glorifying our Creator! His goodness and love declare his glory.
14. I responded to your response to Romans 9 (and with respect, your response was not really a response to Romans but to Malachi - Saint Paul used it in context for his argument concerning God"s sovereignty (e.g., he states no one can resist his will, and many will respond by claiming "how is it fair then?" - I would love your response to this specific verse in Rom. 9).
I"m almost out of time - so I"ll respond to the rest in the last round. (I apologize for waiting so long to get to this round.)

Your brother in Christ,
Debate Round No. 3


Since this is my last response, I will address your arguments briefly before turning to the scriptures. This is a very deep and complex subject, so it is not surprising that we have only scratched the surface of this issue.

1) The chess analogy is not so much a proof as an explanation of my position. It explains how God can make His plan come to pass despite uncooperative creatures. Since there is no such scripture that teaches the Calvinist view of complete control, I am free not to believe it.

2) The burden is on you to show that demonstrating wrath in and of itself contributes to God's glory. Romans 9 simply tells us that His wrath against the hardened Israelites gives God glory because caused the greater good of Christ's sacrifice on the cross. It is not the wrath in and of itself that contributes to God's glory; it is the greater good that such wrath causes. Calvinism provides no such greater good; it is the wrath itself under this view that contributes to God's glory. That burden is on you.

3) I maintain that the verses you cited do not mean hate as you and I would think. They simply refer to God's wrath against the wicked as is clear in the passage. It is a very common in Biblical times to use "hate" in this way. Since wrath is compatible with love, there is no problem. We are also told by Jesus to hate our families. If we took that the same way we would in English, we would cause a contradiction between that and God's command to love all people.

4) When I said force, I never meant against their will. God determines who will go to hell, not based on conditions such as sin, but based on His own sovereign will according to Calvinism. Obviously, no one will hate eternity with God since He forced them to like it.

5) If you can find such a greater good, I'm willing to listen. God's glory is not a plausible reason, nor do I see another in scripture.

6) Let us examine the order of causality. God unconditionally chooses to damn some people. In order to justify His damning of these people, God causes them to sin and makes them unable to respond positively to Him. The sin that the non-elect commit is as a result of them being determined for damnation by God not the cause of it. The cause is as you say, unconditional. According to you, He sacrifices these people for His own glory.
" Based on their will, they sin against God."
Yes, but God determined what their will would be so He could "justly" damn them.

7) It technically does not say that Jacob was elected, although I would agree that he was. Whenever you see words like "elect" or "predestined" in scripture, it is important to find out what scripture means by these terms rather than just assuming the Calvinistic view. The text says Jacob was chosen "in order that God's purpose of election might continue". The election mentioned is the election of Israel. This is why Israel is often referred to by this title, and the Israelites are called the elect. Since the entire chapter is about Israel, it makes sense that the term would be used. The "purpose of election" is the reason why Israel was elected. Also, Esau never actually served Jacob according to the text of the Old Testament. The context of the quote "The older will serve the younger." is after God referred to the children as nations. Further, we have no evidence that Esau was not elect unto salvation. In fact, the text of the Old Testament seems to indicate the opposite.

The purpose of election or the reason Israel was chosen was "and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed because you have obeyed my voice." This was fulfilled in Jesus Christ and His ministry. The election is an election to service, not election unto salvation. Only a few out of the hardened clay of Israel was chosen for the noble purpose of proclaiming the Gospel, while the rest had the ignoble purpose of killing Christ.

8) By our glory, I did not mean the glory we possess. I meant the glory we give to God when we glorify Him. "However, he is allowing them to continue in their sin, which will inevitably let lead to punishment - he is not forcing them, but permitting them to continue in their sin." As I said, Calvinism does not allow for this possibility. According to your idea of sovereignty, God permits nothing; He directly causes all things. Not a molecule moves unless it is commanded to do so by God. Not a sin is committed unless it is commanded by God.

9) What do you mean I have not addressed this? I went through all of Romans 9 and explained it verse by verse. As you have not addressed my explanation, I will not restate what I think the vessels of wrath represent.
Also, yes I do believe God gave us the freedom to accept or reject Him. It was His sovereign decision not to decree what our choices would be but that we would be free to make them. Every time we make a choice against God, we are not going against His sovereign plan but fulfilling it.

10) I have heard John Piper say this, and I am not convinced by this argument from authority. I think Calvinists actually change many plain meanings ("And he died for all," "if my people... will humble themselves," "he himself tempts no one," "that by believing you may have life in his name," etc). I agree that we should focus on the author's intent, but as we have been stuck in these philosophical debates, I have been unable to do that.

12) God loves even those in the depths of hell. That is precisely my point.

14) Well, the text in Malachi is about nations, so I have no reason to believe Paul meant it in another way. No one can resist God's will, but that does not mean our wills are unfree. Like a chess master, God's will shall go through even if free creatures try to stop it. Paul did indeed anticipate someone asking "Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?". This is not the question that Calvinists think. Many would assume it means "if we don't have free will, how can we be blamed for our sin?" This is not the question being addressed. The question is... "But if our unrighteousness serves to show the righteousness of God, what shall we say? That God is unrighteous to inflict wrath on us? (I speak in a human way.)" (Romans 3:5). We don't have to guess the meaning of this question since Paul explains it elsewhere. The question is "is it just to punish those who killed Christ even though they were used to bring about a great good (the atonement)?" Obviously, yes.

Lastly, I would like to talk about hardening. I believe there are two types of hardening.
1) We have the ability to harden ourselves over time by rejecting the truth.
2) God sometimes hardens those already hardened above in order to bring about a greater good. This hardening is never to bring about the damnation of those hardened.
For the derivation of these, I will provide quotations from Romans 11. Interestingly, this addresses the same issues brought up in Romans 9, but Calvinist never seem to make it to 11.

"I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! For I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham a member of the tribe of Benjamin." (Romans 11:1)

Notice that this is the same question addressed in Romans 9:6-13.

"So I ask, did they stumble in order that they might fall? By no means! Rather, through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous. Now if their trespass means riches for the world, and if their failure means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean!" (Romans 11:11-12).

Israel was not stumbled or hardened so that they would fall. Those not elected for the noble purpose in Romans 9 were not hardened so that they could be damned. They were hardened for the greater good of the promise: "and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed".

"Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry in order somehow to make my fellow Jews jealous, and thus save some of them. For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead? If the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, so is the whole lump, and if the root is holy, so are the branches." (Romans 13-16).

Paul tells us that even those vessels of wrath in Romans 9 could still be saved. In fact, God was planning to use the salvation of the Gentiles as a means of saving some of them.

"That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God's kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you too will be cut off. And even then, if they do not continue in their unbelief, they will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again. For if you were cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, the natural branches, be grafted back into their own olive tree." (Romans 11:20-24).

These hardened Israelites were not separated unconditionally; they were separated based on their unbelief. These Israelites who were hardened would be gladly welcomed back by God if they would only turn from their unbelief.

"Lest you be wise in your own sight, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And in this way, all Israel will be saved" (11:25-26a).

Notice that God has partially hardened Israel. This goes against everything the Calvinist believes about total inability. The hardening prophecied by Isaiah and mentioned in Romans 9 is revealed to be only a partial hardening in Romans 11. In fact, God still hopes for those who have been lost.

May God bless you!
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Debate Round No. 4
2 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Posted by buildingapologetics 3 years ago
Thank you for a most interesting debate. I think we both ran into the same character limit, so, unfortunately, we were only able to scratch the surface. I'm sure we could have done a full debate on Romans 9 alone, but this was fun.
Posted by chompybeat 3 years ago
On point one, I meant "I do not accept Calvinism because it is easy to understand everything, but because I believe Scripture teaches it".
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