Skip to main content

Predestination, pt. 2

The first point of Calvinism is that humanity is utterly depraved, and take the concepts of human depravity and original sin to an extreme, and essentially forget about the counterbalancing truth of human dignity and the imago Dei (being made in the image of God).

In the Calvinist sense, utter depravity means that humanity is so fallen and under the power of sin, that people don't have the free will to choose to believe in Christ on their own. The free will for salvation was destroyed by the fall. And so while people may have some free will in other areas, in salvation they say we aren't really free to chose. One common argument goes like this: How could a dead person choose to come alive, if s/he is already dead? How then can a spiritually dead person choose salvation, if s/he's dead and thus unable to make a choice? In trying to argue against the error of decisional regeneration of Arminianism, Calvinists err on the other extreme.

This is true only in the sense that a person cannot choose to believe unless the Holy Spirit guides him/her, convicts him/her of sin, and leads the person to Christ. But that doesn't exclude choice in salvation. This argument shows a misunderstanding of spiritual deadness and human nature.

Human nature is fallen and corrupted by sin. In that sense no one is morally good in this world. Scripture is clear hear, particularly in Romans, about the universally corrupt moral nature that is inherent to humanity. On this of course the Arminians err of course, by not fully appreciating this truth. However, we are still made in God's image (imago dei). That imago dei still exist in our nature, albeit corrupted by the effects of sin, but it still exists. Calvinists make the leap and assume that regarding salvation, this part of our nature, our will to choose (when guided by the Spirit) has been obliterated.
What is the imago dei? It means that we have aspects modeled after and analogous to God's nature, and which were put there so that we could have fellowship with God (at least before the fall). This includes a semi-eternal nature. God is fully eternal, having no beginning and no end. We have a beginning, but we have eternal souls that exist forever. We have conscious knowledge of what is God, as a reflection of God's moral nature. We have sentience, intelligence, self-consciousness, and such, and were made to have spiritual communion with God. As beings made as a reflection of God, we have dignity, value, and worth. And we have free will - moral and spiritual free will. Such traits set us apart from all created beings, except for angels.

There's no evidence in Scripture that the imago dei was lost, or parts of it obliterated by the fall. We still have an eternal soul. We still have worth and dignity, self-consciousness, sentience, knowledge of the moral, and an innate knowledge that there is a God (Rom. 1), and an innate need for God. These are corrupted by sin, but still existent. We still have souls, though by nature dead and lost. We have moral knowledge and knowledge of God, which we twist and abase with our idolatry and all manner of sin (Rom. 1). We have free choice in salvation, but choose to ignore God, and only choose God if the Spirit guides and persuades us, and then only some choose to follow Christ.

Thus, we are depraved and corrupted by sin, but not utter depravity in the Calvinistic sense such that we've lost salvational free will. There is no scriptural evidence that this or other aspects of the imago dei were destroyed by the fall; corrupted, but not destroyed. There's a big difference there between a corrupted versus an obliterated free will, a corrupted imago Dei and an obliterated one. Nor would it make sense that one part of the imago Dei, the free will, was olbiterated, while other aspects of the imago Dei remained intact, albeit corrupted.

Thus, we still have eternal souls and free will, albeit corrupted by sin, and thus we are blinded to the spiritual reality of God, and can only come to know God if the Spirit guides and draws us. But it is still possible for us to freely choose, when the Spirit reveals Christ to us. We are depraved, but not with the implications that Calvinists claim.

Now, Calvinists sometimes misrepresent or misinterpret what it means for us to be spiritually dead. Their argument goes something like this: If we are dead, we are unable to respond to God, and are unable to choose. It is like a dead man, who cannot be persuaded to will himself back to life, to will to be saved. However, dead (Greek: thannatos) in the scriptural sense means separated from God, not cessation of existence. We still have eternal souls and the God-image, and thus in the innate state in which we are born and live, we are still spiritual beings, with free choice - albeit corrupted by our original sin. Our natural, innate state is dead, that is, cut off from God and incapable of knowing him. We can only know God to the extent that his Spirit draws us and reveals himself to us, and we have to respond and enter into the covenant relationship with him.

That's the essence of my objection to the first point of Calvinism. I'll talk later about the God-image, then touch on a few more points of Cavlinism, as well as the dangers of Arminianism.


Popular posts from this blog

Gossip, accusation and spiritual warfare

Paul once wrote to the Corinthians, “For I am afraid that when I come I may not find you as I want you to be, and you may not find me as you want me to be. I fear that there may be quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, factions, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder” [1 Cor. 12:20]. Gossip is diagnosed as a serious spiritual problem, not a harmless form of conversation and social entertainment, as many in the secular world would view it.God views it differently. Gossip is the opposite of the love and grace that God wants to display in our lives.
Gossip is often exaggerated (and thus, untrue), or outright fabricated. Even church people engage in gossip in a seemingly sanctimonious guise (“We really ought to pray for X – you wouldn’t believe what he told me yesterday!...”). Whether secular or “christianized,” gossip betrays trust. “A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy man keeps a secret” [Prov. 11:13]; “A perverse person stirs up dissension, and a gossip separates clo…

Portraits of Christ: John's gospel

John’s Gospel opens with a fascinating prose prologue in chapter 1 that essentially summarizes the themes of the entire book. It introduces Jesus in a manner that emphasizes his deity, then John the Baptist who prepared the way for Jesus’ ministry, and finally, the spiritual essence of Jesus’ public ministry and outreach, and his ultimate rejection.
John begins with the language of creation, showing that Jesus was always with the Father, was involved in creation, and was thus eternal. John describes him as the Word (logos in Greek), which conveys multiple meanings. For Jewish people, it meant the Scriptures, meaning that Jesus himself is the ultimate revelation of God to us, because he himself is God, more so that the written word of God (the Old Testament, at this time). It also reminds Jewish readers of how God spoke the world into existence in Genesis 1, as well as divine wisdom personified in the wisdom literature such as Proverbs (the personification of wisdom in Proverbs 1-10). …

Evangelicalism's gradual demise

The term "evangelical" was popularized by Martin Luther ("evangelisch" in German), which meant a follower of the gospel. The term was originally a very good and useful term, as it referred to someone who believed in a religion based on faith and following the teachings of Christ, rather than man-made religious rules. It was meaningful enough but also broad enough to encompass a general theological orientation and religious lifestyle. It could include and accommodate somewhat different views or interpretations of Christian belief, including those who focused more on the grace, spirituality and lifestyle of Christ. As such, it was not the exclusive property of one religious group or theological orientation. The meaning has been generally positive in modern church history.

However, in recent decades the term has been hijacked by fundamentalists who insist on a narrow interpretation of the term, insisting on a set of specific theological beliefs, while ignoring the Ch…