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A 'mental disorder' allegation with regard to Reformed Theology seems like an extreme assessment of the philosophical system called Calvinism. But make no mistake! Calvinism is far more philosophical than it is theological. It has its roots in speculation rather than revelation. It is therefore entirely proper to brand Calvinism as a system of philosophical speculation.
This article will seek to illustrate and establish that allegation as we take an imaginary trip through the scriptures with two men – one a Calvinist and the other a Biblicist. The Calvinist is a staunch five-pointer and knows all the arguments for his positions. The Biblicist is a zero-pointer and knows why he rejects all five points of Calvinism. At various stops along their journey, they engage in brief dialogue before moving along to the next text. So off they go.
First stop: Genesis 4:3-16. The Biblicist points out that God, as he reasoned with Cain, was sincere in his offer of acceptance IF Cain would but do the right thing, bring the prescribed sacrifice, which Abel his brother had brought. But our Calvinist argues that the reason why Cain rejected God's offer is because God had not chosen Cain, did not regenerate him so he could hear God's voice. As a result, Cain heard only the sounds of God's words, not the words themselves. Cain therefore remained spiritually dead and fulfilled God's purpose in NOT electing him. I've actually heard Calvinists make this ludicrous argument.
Our Biblicist cautions that such an analysis puts the sincerity of God in doubt, as if God was toying with Cain with no intention of accepting him. The Calvinist assures the Biblicist that there is no contradiction, that Cain COULD have responded if he WOULD have, that God WOULD have accepted him if he HAD done well. But the Biblicist contends, and correctly so, that if God MUST regenerate a man BEFORE he can believe, and God chooses NOT to regenerate that man, then all of the promises God makes to sinners like Cain contingent upon faith and obedience are thus meaningless and portray God as disingenuous. But the Calvinist maintains they're dealing with the 'deep things' of God – no contradiction.
Second stop: Isaiah 53:6. Here the Biblicist points out that “All” that begins the verse and “all” that ends it MUST be the same group of folks. The Calvinist concurs, but then insists that the “all's” of Isaiah 53:6 MUST be a reference to the elect since it is impossible that the Lord could lay the iniquity of any man upon Christ and that man not be saved. It's the old “God cannot make the sinner pay for what Christ paid” argument. In other words, God would NEVER allow his Son to suffer for sins and then make the sinner suffer for them the second time. The late and well-known Calvinist Harold Camping used to say that any God that would require sins be paid for twice is a monster! The Biblicist questions whether the CONTEXT could allow for such a meaning since the prophet's primary target audience was the nation of Israel, some of whom were saved, many of whom died in unbelief. The Calvinist thinks his philosophical argument trumps the context.
Third stop: John 3:16. Here the Biblicist points out the obvious...that the world is loved by God and drove him to give his only begotten Son for their salvation. He adds furthermore if the plain sense of scripture makes good sense, we should seek no other sense, lest we turn the text into nonsense. But our Calvinist sticks with his “no suffering twice” argument, insisting that if the “world” of John 3:16 meant all of humanity, then all humanity would be saved. Again, the Biblicist cites the CONTEXT as an arbiter, reasoning that Jesus would have expressed (1) a mindset consistent with OT mentions of “world” that included, in almost every case, ALL of humanity, and (2) a genuine desire for Nicodemus to “get it” in terms of understanding the new birth, the question that triggered this whole line of thought on Jesus' part. For the Calvinist, the philosophical once again trumps the contextual. The “world” of John 3:16, in his mind, must mean “the world of the elect.” The Calvinist knows that if “world” means “all of humanity, both Jew and Gentile”, a meaning Nicodemus certainly derived from Jesus' words, his whole system of Calvinist theory bites the proverbial dust.
Four additional stops: 2 Corinthians 5:14; 1 Timothy 2:3-6; 4:10; Hebrews 2:9. These two men could have made many more stops in their journey. But these classic texts represent what many other texts declare, that (1) Christ died for all who died spiritually in Adam, (2) God would have ALL men to be saved and gave himself a ransom for ALL, (3) Jesus is the Saviour of ALL men, especially believers, and (4) Jesus tasted death for EVERY man. As the Biblicist graciously presents a preponderance of evidence for an all-inclusive atonement, the Calvinist, with his philosophical arguments for a limited atonement, continues to maintain that “all men” cannot mean all men, that “every man” cannot mean every man, and that “the world” cannot mean the whole world.
At the end of the journey, the Calvinist believes he has weathered the storm, that his rational system of philosophical thought has withstood the test, notwithstanding his bastardization of nearly every text and context along the way. With his philosophical penknife, the Calvinist has eviscerated the Gospel. The Biblicist reminds him that by stripping the Word of God of ANY and EVERY objective reference to a Universal Atonement, he has essentially destroyed any biblical assurance whatsoever that Jesus died for HIS OWN SINS. All that remains then is a subjective experience, a profession of faith, which may have indeed been genuine, resulting in the new birth. He further admonishes the Calvinist that he is dangerously close to "denying the Lord who bought him" (2 Peter 2:1).
What then shall we conclude about a man who believes the Gospel, trusts Christ based on the persuasion that Jesus died for HIS sins, is genuinely born again, and down the spiritual road embraces a system of philosophical thought in which he MUST now argue that Jesus did NOT die for ALL, and therefore may or may not have died for HIM because he has managed to explain away ANY objective biblical evidence to support an atonement? ANY man who would argue that Jesus did NOT die for all of humanity MUST also acknowlede that the death of Christ may not have included him. THAT man suffers from a mental disorder, which is further complicated by the purposeful bastardization of biblical contexts because he MUST keep his Calvinism alive at all costs. Make no mistake! The Calvinistic argument for Limited Atonement is philosophical, NOT theological. The Calvinist MUST impose upon biblical contexts his philosophical arguments in order to destroy the theological basis for a Universal Aonement.
Before they part company, the Biblicist reminds his Calvinist friend that the Gospel has both a PROVISION element (“Christ died for our sins” -- 1 Corinthians 15:3-4) and an APPROPRIATION element (“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shall be saved” – Acts 16:31). He also points out that hell, even though it entails unimaginable suffering for lost sinners, has absolutely NO propitiatory value or payment value whatsoever Godward. Christ suffered and paid for our sins in full. God accepted that payment as evidenced in the Resurrection. Men go to hell, not to pay for sins, but because of unbelief that leaves them in their sins to die in their sins. While eternity in the Lake of Fire is a matter of suffering, the sinner will not be paying for his sins. That was a work only God himself could perform on a sinner's behalf, and he did so for ALL men in the Person of his Son, Jesus of Nazareth. Men go to hell because of unbelief, a failure to appropriate by faith the atonement God provided.
The seeds of this mental disorder called Calvinism are typically planted in the minnd of a believer, one who became a Christian by believing the "whosoever will" gospel, when he hears or reads for the first time a Calvinist make these philosophical arguments. At first blush, they come across as SO logical. He says to himself, "How come I never heard this stuff before?" He may conclude that his previous pastors were 'unlearned' or 'ignorant' for withholding such glorious 'insights' from him, or for just not 'getting it'. He begins to immerse himself in the writings of other Calvinists (Puritans, Spurgeon, Boettner, Pink, MacArthur, Sproul et al) to constantly reinforce his new thinking. "How can so many good men be wrong about this stuff?" he asks himself. Over time he masters the 'proof-texts' in an effort to defend his new-found philosophical system. Having become a champion of 'sovereighty' (or so he thinks), he morphs into a zealot, arguing against the same Universal Atonement he once believed to the saving of his soul. He is now proudly a 'Grace Man', who has bastardized every biblical context providing objective evidence for his own redemption.
The mental disorder of Calvinism is further complicated in the matter of evangelism. Now that he has embraced the doctrine of Particular Redemption, he's armed with only half the Gospel. He cannot tell ANY lost man the Good News that Christ died for his sins UNLESS he is willing to play the hypocrite. If he does not believe Jesus died for ALL, how can he with good conscience assure ANY lost man of that truth? In other words, how is it possible to evangelize ANY lost man with the Good News that Jesus died for his sins when Particular Redmption puts the whole issue in doubt? It is NOT possssible! The only REAL evangelism done in this world is by those who believe Jesus died for ALL. Where salvation from sin is concerned, there is NO Good News to ANY man for whom Christ did not die and for whom God made NO atonement in the death of his Son.
One of the arguments a Calvinist learns early on is that his view of Particular Redemption in no way affects evangelism. It goes like this: "I don't know who the elect are. My job is to share the Gospel, let God handle the results and save his elect!" But this lame attempt to justify defective thinking once again begs the question: "What Gospel is the Calvinist sharing?" If he's telling a lost man Jesus loves him and died for his sins, then why is he a Calvinist in the first place? He's a hypocrite.
Charles Haddon Spurgeon is a perfect example of this mental disorder. In a sermon entitled “Election No Discouragement To Seeking Souls”, Spurgeon made this statement: “Furthermore, if we understand the gospel at all, the gospel lies in a nutshell. It is this: ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved'...This promise is the gospel” (Spurgeon’s Sermons, Vol. 8, p. 233). The apostle Paul understood the gospel, and would have this to say to Spurgeon: “That promise, brother Charles, is NOT the Gospel. It's a half-Gospel. The Gospel is the promise (offer) of forgiveness and life eternal based upon the Good News that Christ provided an atonement for sins!” Because Spurgeon held the false doctrine of a Limited Atonement, it was impossible for him to declare the Gospel Paul preached. He was forced, like all Calvinists are, to redefine the Gospel (as promise minus provision) because of the limited scope he placed upon the death of Christ. The Calvinist who thinks he's preaching the Gospel by accentuating the promise at the expense of the provision is certifiably delusional.
In the same message,
Spurgeon declared: “If any man who ever lived, or ever shall live,
believes in Jesus Christ, he hath eternal life. Election or no
election, if you are resting upon the rock of ages, you are saved. If
you, as a guilty sinner, take the righteousness of Christ—if, all black
and foul and filthy, you come to wash in the fountain filled with
blood—sovereignty or no sovereignty, rest assured of this, that you are
redeemed from the wrath to come” (Ibid, p. 233).
His remarks may sound commendable, but they are grossly
hypocritical and false. God CANNOT redeem ANY sinner for
whom Christ did not die. God CANNOT save him no matter how much he
believes! Spurgeon’s theology of Particular Redemption taught
him there was neither effectual grace nor a fountain filled with
blood for those excluded from the atonement. Spurgeon’s words are
indicative of his intellectual dishonesty, as well as that of every
Calvinist, in this area. Moreover, they enable us to understand that
the great success of Spurgeon’s ministry can be largely attributed to
his inconsistencies with the tenets of Calvinism rather than his
embrace of them.