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Calvinism's Primary Argument Refuted
The system of Calvinism hinges on a single philosophical argument. It concerns the death of Christ and those for whom Jesus died. It asserts that if Jesus suffered and died for the sins of ALL men, then there remains NO LEGAL BASIS upon which God can send a man to the Lake of Fire to suffer for sins the second time. We might call it the 'no double jeopardy' argument. In other words, it's impossible that both Christ and the sinner could be placed in jeopardy for the same sins. From a purely logical and forensic viewpoint, the argument makes perfect sense. It's one of the allures of Calvinism. But without this little bit of philosophical logic, Calvinism doesn't have a leg to stand on where the gospel is concerned.
The problem with the 'no legal basis' argument is it stems from human rationalism rather than divine revelation. The number one arbiter of any theological system is the truth of God's Word. No matter how appealing an argument may be to our sense of logic, it MUST pass biblical muster before we can embrace it. When the Calvinist buys into the 'no double jeopardy' argument, it becomes his template, his hermeneutic, for interpreting the many biblical passages where scripture uses phrases like “all men” and “whole world” to describe the scope of Christ's vicarious death. The result is the bastardization of biblical contexts by the use of philosophical, humanistic logic.
The proper biblical hermeneutic is to examine every text of scripture in its CONTEXT. Through a process of comparing scripture with scripture, look for consistent patterns that reflect what the mind of God is and draw valid theological conclusions based on the preponderence of contextual truth. For the most part, Calvinists are good at doing this, except for imposition of the 'no double jeopardy' template upon selected texts. If one studies scripture WITHOUT this template, WITHOUT this rationalistic hermeneutic, he or she will find the ring of universality resonating throughout the scriptures.
Let's take a walk through scripture using a proper hermeneutic to see whether the 'no double jeopardy' argument of Calvinism squares with biblical truth. Our observational walk begins in Genesis.
Genesis 3:21 – “Unto Adam also and to his wife [Eve] did the LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them.” At the time the Lord crafted these coats from animal skins, prefiguring both the system of blood sacrifices God would institute for Israel and Christ, the ENTIRE human race consisted of Adam and Eve. In other words, the provision God made for the first couple was universal in scope.
Genesis 4:7 – “If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted?” Was God's offer of acceptance to Cain a legitimate one? Of course! Abel had the same offer and complied. If not, God was disingenuous when he reasoned with Cain! Since this offer of acceptance was genuine, upon what LEGAL BASIS could God have accepted Cain if the death of Christ did not include Cain's sins? In Hebrews 11:4, we're told: “By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts.” A doing well by faith on Cain's part (proper sacrificial approach) would have given him a righteous standing before God on the same LEGAL BASIS upon which Abel obtained it, the death of Christ. The Lord offered Cain the same acceptance and righteousness that he granted to Abel, but Cain rejected it. If Cain's sins were not within the scope of Christ's suffering, there was NO LEGAL BASIS upon which the Lord could have made a genuine offer of acceptance.
Leviticus 16:20-22 – In this chapter, God gave Israel instructions for the Day of Atonement. It involved (1) a bullock the high priest would offer for his sins and those of his family, and (2) two goats the high priest would offer for the nation, one for sacrifice and one for a scapegoat. As for the scapegoat, the high priest would “lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess over him ALL the iniquities of the children of Israel, and ALL their transgressions in ALL their sins.” The scapegoat that was let go in the wilderness would bear upon him “ALL their iniquities unto a land not inhabited.” The Day of Atonement scapegoat was a universal sin bearer that prefigured Christ. Among those atoned for were believers and non-believers alike, true Jews according to the spirit and mere Jews according to the flesh, an election within an election.
Number 21:6-9 – The Lord sent “fiery serpents” among the people of Israel in response to murmuring over the manna God provided daily. After many had died, the Lord instructed Moses to raise up a serpent on a pole so that if any man was bitten, he could look upon the serpent and live. Jesus used this analogy in his dialogue with Nicodemus (John 3:14). The Lord provided a solution for ALL whom were snake-bitten. While many looked and lived, there is NO evidence to suggest (1) that ALL the snake-bitten for whom God provided a remedy actually appropriated the cure, (2) that ALL Israelites were snake-bitten, or (3) that any surrounding nation was affected. This is important because Reformed theologians argue, and falsely so, that because the remedy was provided only for Israel, it proves the atonement was only for the elect. But there is NO biblical evidence to suggest that the remedy God provided for ALL the snake-bitten was appropriated by ALL for whom God provided it.
Isaiah 1:18 – “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” In this passage, we are faced with the same predicament posed by Cain. First, was God's offer of cleansing for Israel a genuine offer? If so, upon what LEGAL BASIS could God make this offer of cleansing to the nation if his Son was not going to suffer for the sins of ALL those in Isaiah's target audience?
Isaiah 53:6 – “ALL we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned EVERY ONE to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us ALL.” Again we hear the ring of universality. The Calvinist is quick to break out the 'no double jeopardy' template, insisting that “all” must refer to “all of the elect” since it is impossible that Christ should suffer for the non-elect. The problems are: (1) Isaiah has a target audience consisting of ALL Israel, both believing (elect) and unbelieving (non-elect) Jews, and (2) the elect are not the only ones who have gone astray. God laid upon the Lord Jesus, God's suffering servant, ALL of the iniquity of ALL that had gone astray. Without imposition of the 'no double jeopardy' template, the Bible here teaches unequivocally the universality of the Chriist's atonement.
Luke 23:34 – “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” When Jesus uttered these words from the Cross, exactly WHOM did he have in mind? Included in “them” were most certainly (1) the Roman soldiers that crucified him, (2) Pilate and other Roman authorities consenting to his death, and (3) every member of the Jewish mob that cried, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” This petition was not a request that the Father save “them” from their sins, but a specific request that the Father release them from liability for crucifying him. Jesus in this petition asked the Father to show mercy to “them” due to their ignorance.
But here's the larger question: If Jesus was not suffering on behalf of “them”, whoever the “them” were, upon what LEGAL BASIS could the Father have honored his Son's request? The fact is Jesus suffered for the sins of Pilate, the Roman soldiers, and the Jewish mob, based on this request for forgiveness. In addition, it's clear that the repentant thief, to whom Jesus promised a post-death presence in Paradise with him that very day, was included in the atonement. If the Father forgave “them” per our Lord's request, which we can assume he did, there MUST have been a LEGAL BASIS for doing so.
John 1:29 – “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” John the Baptist made this proclamation. The imagery is that of the scapegoat on the Day of Atonement. ALL of the sins of the world were “taken away” by Jesus in his death. The Calvinist imposes his philosophical template to get "the world [of the elect].” But the template is no more applicable here than it was with the scapegoat. In addition, “sin” is singular, signifying an all-inclusive atonement, ALL the sins of the ENTIRE world amassed in ONE unit. The singular “sin” (without regard for the quantitative aspect of Jesus' suffering) appears in 2 Corinthians 5:21: “For he hath made him to be SIN for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” The singular “sin” reinforces the qualitative aspect of the atonement, which is often blurred by the quantitative wrangling about 'how many' sins were borne by Christ.
Acts 16:31 - "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house." Will the Calvinist acknowledge that, when Paul extended this promise to the Philippian jailor, he was certain there was a LEGAL BASIS for extending it? Did Paul have some supernatural ability to discern whether Christ had atoned for the sins of the the jailor and his family? If not, how could Paul be sure that believing on Christ would result in their salvation? The answer is obvious, isn't it? Paul's gospel of Jesus dying for ALL meant the promise of salvation through believing was applicable to ALL.
Acts 17:30 - "God...hath commanded all men everywhere to repent." In addressing the curious on Mars Hill, Paul told them the historical appearance of Jesus, his death and resurrection, left the human race with no excuse for ignoorance about who God is and the basis upon which men can approach him. The 'Unknown God' of the Athenians is Jesus, God Incarnate. God now commands ALL men EVERYWHERE to repent of their ignorant unblief and come around to God's way of thinking. Since God is commanding all men everywhere to repent, it follows there MUST be a LEGAL BASIS for the salvation of all men everywhere! The universality of Christ's atonement is again set forth unmistakably and undeniably. Would any honest interpreter of scripture take Paul's words to mean "all [elect] men everywhere"? If you're a Calvinist with a 'no leagl basis' template, you just might.
1 Timothy 2:6 – “Who gave himself a ransom for all.” We can easily determine the meaning of “all” by the context. In the previous verse, the phrase “God and men” is clearly a generic reference to mankind in general. The “all” for which Jesus became a ransom refers to the same group of ALL mankind. Unless one imposes the 'no double jeopardy' template on this verse to render an “all [of the elect]” meaning, the truth of universality is unmistakable.
1 Timothy 4:10 – “the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe.” The Calvinist again imposes his 'no double jeopardy' template to explain how the prima facia meaning of “all of humanity” cannot be correct. Instead of seeing “those that believe” as a subset of “all men” as a prima facia reading demands, Calvinists twist the phrase “all men” to mean “all the elect people” so that “those [elect] that believe” becomes a subset of “all [elect] men.” The Calvinist dismisses the prima facia meaning in favor of his 'no legal basis' hermeneutic to mute the universal ring Paul intended.
Hebrews 2:9 – “that he [Jesus] by the grace of God should taste death for every man. The Calvinist, in order to save his system, must employ his 'no double jeopardy' argument to turn “every man“ into “every [elect] men.” Fallen men taste death because of sin. Hence the spiritual juxtaposition of the text depicts Jesus tasting death for every sinner to whom the taste of death was due. The Calvinist, in order to save his Calvinism from oblivion, must silence the universal ring of the atonement.
1 John 2:2 – “he is the propitiation [satisfaction] for our [believers'] sins...also for the sins of the whole world.” Jesus was the satisfaction Godward for a believer's sins before he believed. Jesus is likewise the satisfaction for the sins of all those who have yet to believe...or will never believe. The Calvinist will again impose his 'no double jeopardy' template to make “our sins” mean “sins of the believing elect” and “whole world” to mean “the whole world of the elect” who have not yet believed. If “whole world” is given its prima facia meaning of universality, the system of Calvinism goes kaput. But the Calvinist cannot let that happen no matter what the cost to biblical truth.
2 Corinthians 5:14-21 – This passage is one of the most profound, Calvinism-killing texts in the Word of God. First, Paul shares his own inspired logic, affirming: “we thus judge [logically conclude], that if one died for all, then were all dead” (5:14). Paul assumes the 'condition' of universal atonement to be true (Jesus died for all), then states his 'conclusion' as true (all must have been dead). His logic makes no sense whatsoever if Jesus did not die for ALL who were dead in trespasses and sins. The Calvinist's 'no double jeopardy' template tells him to read it as “since Jesus died for 'all [the elect]', then 'all [the elect]' were dead." This is perhaps the most glaring example of Calvinism's intellectual dishonesty and the manner in which it bastardizes contexts. It insults the intelligence. Paul's argument is that Jesus died for ALL who died in Adam! The “every man” of Hebrews 2:9 is a cross-reference to the “all” of 2 Corinthians 5:14. The ring of universality is unmistakable.
Secondly, God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, “not imputing their trespasses unto them.” That is, on a holy God's part, he took away with the death of Christ every sin obstacle that stood between himself and sinners of the world. The profound gospel truth, seldom understood or preached, is that God, who laid upon his Son the iniquity of us all, is NEVER going to impute them again unto us. This truth is the death knell of Calvinism. For while the Calvinist argues God has NO LEGAL BASIS upon which he can require sins to be suffered for a second time, the Bible teaches there will be no second time for sin suffering since God is NEVER again going to impute to the world their trespasses. Sinners will not be suffering for sins in the Lake of Fire. They'll be suffering for unbelief, for their failure to believe on the Christ upon whom God laid their sins.
1 Peter 3:18 – “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust.” When the Bible says Christ “once” suffered for sins, it obviously means he only had to die once to atone for our sins. Since he settled suffering for sin once-for-all for ALL men, it's reasonable to conclude, based on the qualitative aspect of Christ's death, that genuine suffering for sin is a future impossibility for the sinner?
The fact that Christ suffered ONCE means no further suffering for sins is required by anyone, including the lost sinner. The Just One suffered on behalf of unjust ones. How many unjust ones? ALL the unjust ones. Attempts by Calvinists to make unjust ones mean unjust [elect] ones is another stunning example of the intellectual dishonestly that permeates Calvinism. As scripture reveals, the primary argument of Calvinism for 'no double jeopardy' has NO biblical basis.
We have examined sixteen texts that either affirm the universality of Christ's suffering or support that inescapable conclusion. At the beginning of our journey through these passages, we observed that God had NO LEGAL BASIS upon which to make an offer of acceptance to Cain IF the suffering of Jesus did not include Cain's sins. We may draw the same conclusion with regard to modern-day gospel preaching. This is where all the philosophical mumbo jumbo about 'no double jeopardy' and 'no legal basis' becomes a millstone around the Calvinist's own theological neck. For if Particular Redemption is true, Christ dying for SOME but not for ALL, then God has NO LEGAL BASIS whatsoever upon which to offer forgiveness of sins and life eternal to those for whom Jesus did not die. Therefore gospel preaching that falls on the ears of Calvinism's non-elect would become a fraudulent enterprise. Yet Jesus commanded us to preach the gospel to EVERY creature. If the Calvinist contends that God has NO LEGAL BASIS to send to the Lake of Fire those for whom Christ suffered, he is bound to acknowledge that God has NO LEGAL BASIS upon which to bring to Heaven those for whom Christ did not die.
In conclusion, if lost sinners are not going to suffer for their sins, for which Christ once suffered, then for what are they going to suffer? They will suffer for unbelief that left them spiritually destitute and naked, lacking the righteousness of Christ. God imputes Christ's righteousness through justification by faith. Forgiveness of sins alone is NOT enough to save a man, to get him to heaven. The righteousness of Christ is required. Christ has done it all for sinners. Only the lack of faith, not their sins, will result in eternal suffering for the lost in the Lake of Fire. The unjustified sinner cannot endure the presence of a holy God without the garment of Christ's righteousness. The believer, justified by faith, is MADE the righteousness of God in Jesus Christ. It is the imputed righteousness of Christ that makes a man fit for Heaven to spend eternity with the Lord. The suffering of Christ for ALL sinners makes forgiveness AND righteousness obtainable by ALL for whom Christ died.
In terms of judgment, believers and unbelievers alike will be judged according to their works. At the Great White Throne judgment, God will open the books, one of which is the Book of Life (Revelation 20:12-13). God is going to judge all men “according to their works.” But the final determiner of one's eternal destiny is whether their name is found written in the Book of Life. If one's name is not written therein, God will cast them into the Lake of Fire. They'll suffer because of an unbelief that kept them out of the Book of Life. For believers, whose names are in the Book of Life, they will “receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10). The basis of judgment for both believers and unbelievers is WORKS done in the body, not SINS. While it's true that all sins are works, not all works are sins. But all works are either good or bad. That will be the basis of final judgment for both the saved and the lost. God is NOT going to judge men to suffer for the sins he judged ONCE in the Person of his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. God will cast them into the Lake of Fire for unbelief, a place of torment he prepared for the devil and his angels.
As 2 Corinthians 5:14-21 confirms, God reconciled the WORLD to himself by the death of his Son. In doing so, he DID not (and NEVER will) impute the world's trespasses unto them. Nor will God require them to suffer for sins a second time. What a gospel truth, what good news! It remains then for the world to be reconciled to God by believing on the One who suffered and died for them, and rose again. In doing so, God justifies the believer and clothes him with the righteousness of his Son, a garment that enables him to enter into the holiest, into the very presence of God.