The Theology of Calvinism
Allow us to start by stating that our thoughts and studies on this subject are rooted in love and respect for the people who believe in Calvinistic theology. We respect them as people, but do not agree with their viewpoint. In our experience, there are many sincere and highly intelligent people who believe in Calvinism. We also believe that some Calvinists have a great deal of knowledge and insight, and outside the teaching of Calvinism, contribute greatly to the growth of many Christians. This is not because of their view of salvation, but in spite of it. Actually, the teaching of Calvinistic ideas has a negative result for Christendom, as we will reveal later in this study. Our heart’s desire is that those who are Calvinists will consider for a moment the God they are portraying, not only to the unbelievers but to believers as well. The accusations of Calvinism are taken very seriously and are examined- not only in light of the Bible, but logically as well.
The term Calvinism was coined after the works of John Calvin (1509-1564) who derived much of his ideaology from the Catholic Bishop St. Augustine. The teaching of Calvinism has grown and been refined since John Calvin's publications. Calvinists consider their theology to be "Reformed", which is derived from the idea that the early reformers were Calvinist. There are five basic tenets, or points of Calvinism often referred to as T.U.L.I.P. Some Calvinists do not adhere to each of the five points of Calvinism. They will consider themselves a four-point Calvinist, or a three-point Calvinist, but the five-points of Calvinism are woven together in such a manner that all five are necessary to support its theology. Most Calvinists believe that there is another plateau of Calvinism known as Hyper-Calvinism. It is our opinion that they are one in the same.
In many Theological circles, to be Calvinistic is considered to be Scriptural, orthodox, historical, and intellectual. But it is neither scriptural nor logical, especially in light of the Word of God. Calvinists also believe that if you are not a Calvinist, then you are by default an Arminian. Arminianism is another set of belief's that will not be discussed here. This title of Arminian is often penned upon us without our consent. We are neither Arminian nor Calvinist. We are striving to go only by what the Word of God teaches (1Cor. 1:10-17).
Calvinists feel strongly that anyone who opposes their teachings is in direct opposition to the great sovereignty of God, because, in their mind, God's sovereignty must eradicate the will of man. Calvinist think it is only then that His sovereignty can be exhibited, especially so in the salvation of man. This is simply a misunderstanding of what sovereignty means. Consider this; a sovereign God that can accomplish His will in spite of man's will is actually more sovereign than a God, as Calvinism portrays Him, who can only accomplish His will by manipulating man’s will.
Most Calvinists accuse all non-Calvinists of ignorance when it comes to their theological viewpoint of Calvinism. They claim that the teaching of Calvinism is complicated. They say it deserves and requires many years of devoted study, including its historical teachings, before it can be readily understood and explained. Yet, all Calvinists claim that their teachings are the very clear teachings of the Word of God concerning Salvation! This actually makes the doctrine of Salvation difficult to understand. Salvation is not some deep complex system that only the most elite or intelligent can understand. God has made salvation so easily understood, that even a child can grasp it.
We will address each of the five points of Calvinism and examine some of the key passages of Scripture that relate to this subject. We will show you that non-Calvinists believe in a God that is sovereign, and that God is loving and merciful as well as gracious. These are not opposing characteristics, for God is all of these things. His love, mercy and grace do not negate His sovereignty, rather they uphold it.
Calvinism's - T.U.L.I.P.
Below is a brief explanation of each of the five tenets of Calvinism. These are based on actual Calvinistic writings. Note that their beliefs extend much more than what these brief excerpts we will include.
Calvinism's Definition: "Man is spiritually dead in trespasses and sins. Man, being dead, is totally unable to respond to the gospel message without the Holy Spirit first regenerating him. Without this, man will never be able to come to a knowledge of Christ. Verses used to support these claims: Romans 5:12, Eph 2:1-5
Calvinism's Definition: Before the foundation of the world, God by His own will, chose whom would be His. The elect were chosen simply based upon God's good pleasure. They were not chosen based upon merit. Man, however, is still responsible for believing the gospel message. God in his sovereignty chose some for glory and some for damnation, but each person is responsible for believing in the saving work of Christ. Both must be true. Though good works can not save a man, good works are a result of God's saving grace. Verses used to support these claims: Romans 9, Eph 1:4-8, Eph 2:8-10, Rom 9:15 Rom 9:19-21 19
Calvinism's Definition: Christ's death was solely for those whom God gave to Him. To declare that Christ died for all men would mean that all men must be saved. Since all men are not saved, then Christ can not have died for all. To say that he did would deny His sovereignty and ability to save all men. Christ died for all sinners and he will not lose any of those whom the Father has given him. This fact lifts up evangelism rather then negates it's purpose. Verses used to support these claim: John 17:9, Matthew 26:28, Eph 5:25, John 6:37 John 17: 9
Calvinism's Definition: All whom the Father elects will come to Christ. It assures us that when the gospel is preached, all whom are chosen will respond accordingly. Men come to Christ when the Father draws them and His Spirit leads the elect to repentance. Verses used to support this claim John 6:37,44, Romans 8:14
Perseverance of the Saints
Calvinism's Definition: All those whom God has chosen will remain with God. Those whom are regenerated will also be glorified. The Bible assures the elect that Christ will never lose them. Verses used to support this claim: Romans 8:28-39, Phil 1:6, John 6:39
Because of the woven character of each of these five points it is difficult to separate our comments on each one, but we will try to address this in systematized matter.
Calvinism's Definition: "Man is spiritually dead in trespasses and sins. Man, being dead, is totally unable to respond to the gospel message without the Holy Spirit first regenerating him. Without this, man will never be able to come to a knowledge of Christ.
While the Bible does teach the depravity of man, it does not teach the total depravity of man or his/her incapability to respond positively to the gospel of Christ. Calvinism insists that what the Bible means by spiritual death is a complete inability to respond positively to the gospel of Christ. This belief, however, weakens the very power of the Gospel!
Rom 1:16 "I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile." (NIV)
Spiritual death cannot be equated with what we see in physical death, for the Biblical definition of death is simply separation. To understand this principle, we need to understand how we are made. The Bible teaches that we are made of three parts: body - soul - spirit. (Do not confuse our spirit with the Holy Spirit.) Man has a spirit (1Thes 5:23; Heb. 4:12). In Genesis God told Adam that if he ate the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil he would surely die. Adam ate the fruit and he died in two ways. First he died a physical death some 900 years later - but the very moment he sinned he died a spiritual death as well. Adam's original spirit was created alive, but sin caused it to die (1Cor. 15). We have inherited Adam’s sin nature. We too will die physically, but we are born spiritually dead as well. The Bible teaches that our spirit being is what we use in worship (John 4:23-24). But our spirit, before we accept Jesus, is dead. When we die physically, our soul - our very being, continues to exist either in heaven or in hell. We never stop ceasing to exist. But rather, we are simply separated from our body. Our body is no longer the temple of our soul and spirit. In much the same way, being dead spiritually simply means that we are separated from God or spiritually dead. This is what is meant by death, that is, death means - separation. Thus spiritual death is to be separated from God. When Jesus spoke of eternal life he also spoke of eternal death, which means that all who remain spiritually dead would spend eternity in hell separated from God. They will have inherited eternal spiritual death. Jesus came to give us life, and that life is eternal. When he rose from the grave, he demonstrated His power over all death. When we believe on Him, He quickens our spirit, meaning He makes it alive! Only then can we worship Him. Our spirit is made alive by believing on Him, and will remain that way for all eternity. So, death means separation, not incapability. During our physical death, our bodies are incapabile of any action because they separated from the part of us that continues to live, not because death means total depravity. Please allow this passage of Scripture to serve as an example:
Rom 6:2 by no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? (NIV)
If we were to believe the logic of Calvinism then we would have to quickly conclude that being dead here means incapable. Are we incapable of sinning? No, the Bible is clear that we still sin (Rom 7:14-25). So, this death to sin cannot mean an incapability to sin. The same must also hold true in our being able to respond to the Gospel, which we are required to respond to, in order to have eternal life. Remember that gospel is powerful! While being spiritually dead, Christ said that those who are dead will be able to hear Him and those who hear will live! Note:
John 5:25 I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. (NIV)
So we see, that because we are dead in sins, this does not mean we are incapable of responding to that which will give us life. We are told to rise from the dead so that Christ can shine on us!
Eph 5:14 Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you." (NIV)
So numerous are the scriptural references of God calling the sinner to Himself. Over and over the Bible is full of passages that relay the very essence of Isaiah chapter 55. Why would God constantly include passages such as these if we were not capable of responding to them? We do not argue that we are lost, for without Jesus we are nothing. Romans chapter 3 declares that we are not good people. We need a savior. But we can and must believe upon the savior in order to be saved. A spiritually dead person is capable of believing. In fact, a spiritualy dead person makes moral choices every day! Consider these passages:
John 1:47-51 When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, "Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is nothing false." "How do you know me?" Nathanael asked. Jesus answered, "I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you." Then Nathanael declared, "Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel." Jesus said, "You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You shall see greater things than that." He then added, "I tell you the truth, you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man." (NIV)
Take notice what Jesus declared about Nathanael - that in him there was a good thing before Nathanael had recognized Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God. Being dead spiritually, Nathanael was found to be without deceit. And he was able to respond positively to the Gospel having a dead spirit. Jesus also declares that while we are evil, it is possible for us to do good things:
Luke 11:13 If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!" (NIV)
How we go from death to life
Eph 2:1-5 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions-it is by grace you have been saved. (NIV)
We have already discussed the use of the word dead. Let us look in the context of this book to see just how we were made "alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions-it is by grace you have been saved."
Eph 1:13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, (NIV)
We are included in Christ when we believed, not before. Though the Bible does say we are dead in trespasses and sin, there is no scripture that says we are incapable of responding to the gospel until we are regenerated. Instead, we are told that when we believe we become children of God, thus the regeneration comes after our decision, not before it. Ephesians 2:8, is one of the best and clearest passages in declaring the order of our Salvation.
Eph 2:8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- (NIV)
We can see from this passage that Salvation is a gift of God. It is because of God’s grace that he has decided to give to us His Salvation. But how do we receive this gift?? It is through faith we receive salvation. So without faith, we have no way to receive the salvation that He is offering. First we must have faith, which we can have even while we are in a spiritually dead state. It is only then that God can give to us His salvation. It is God’s sovereign will that designed it this way. What grace! We don’t have to work for it, and it is available to all. All that we need to do is trust in His work. Notice also that this salvation is a gift. A gift can be rejected. We choose to receive or reject the gift of salvation, if it were any other way salvation would not be a gift of God but rather an obligation or privilege bestowed only upon people of His choosing. We are not capable of earning it or being worthy of it, for if it had to be earned, it would cease to be a gift.
Calvinism's definition: Before the foundation of the world, God by His own will, chose who would be His. The elect were chosen simply based upon God's good pleasure. They were not chosen based upon merit. Man, however, is still responsible for believing the gospel message. God in his sovereignty chose some for glory and some for damnation, but each person is responsible for believing in the saving work of Christ. Both must be true. Though good works cannot save a man, good works are results of God's saving grace.
The Bible does not teach that God has decreed some for salvation and leaves the others for damnation. He certainly has provided salvation apart from our good works, and we are responsible for believing the gospel that declares this. According to Calvinism the un-elect can never respond positively to the gospel. But an appeal to logic will demand an answer to the question of how one could be held responsible for their unbelief if they were not one of the chosen? It would not be their fault for not believing; rather it would be God who was at fault. At the great white throne judgment, the lost could rightfully plea that they did not accept the offer of the Son because they were left in a spiritual condition that made them completely incapable of responding to the Gospel. If the lost have no power to change their circumstances, how can they possibly be held accountable? The above designation of Calvinism is simply illogical, unjust, and is a detriment to the very character of God. The Bible teaches that God is a just God, and we see this system of Calvinism leaves God in direct opposition to His justly attribute. Again, the Sovereign God who can work in spite of our will is a truely sovereign God. His sovereignty transcends our will. It is a lesser god who would need to decree salvation in a certain way because he is not sovereign enough to have a creation with free will. In Calvinism, because God is powerful, God must decree who will be saved regardless of the will of man. This is because they believe in their mind that God can’t work Sovereignly if there is a “free will”. It is God who decreed the method of Salvation, and in that method He has given us the freedom to choose. One reason He did this was out of love. Love is only love if we choose to love. Would you want your spouse to love you because she/he desires to do so or because you somehow forced him/her to do so? Without choice, this negates love. Love is simply rendered meaningless without the power of choice.
Calvinism claims that God does not choose for anyone to go to hell, he simply chooses those whom He wants to be saved and passes over the rest. But this ultimately leads to double predestination. Calvinism declares that those whom God passes over do make a choice. But that choice is to remain in his/her sinful spiritual state. While some Calvinists eliminate the term “free will” completely, other’s try to redefine its meaning. Either way, this is not a choice at all! For God to arrange things in such a way that unbelievers are incapable of even choosing Christ, He is taking away their choice entirely! By not giving everyone equal ability to choose Him; He is at the same time choosing to send some to hell. And above all, the Bible teaches as a whole that there are many more people going to Hell than are going to heaven (Matt. 7:13). So Calvinism is left with a God that is supposedly powerful, yet only decides to choose a few people to enter life, and wills the rest to eternal death.
Picture if you will, a captain of a river barge. One day, going down the Missouri River, the captain observes a large boat starting to sink. It is carrying hundreds of people who are without hope and are starting to drown in this mighty river. He is capable of rescuing all of them as it is well within his power to do so. Out of the hundreds that are dying, he chose to save only five of them, watching the rest drown. Would you consider him a hero? Gracious? Of course not! But this is the way Calvinism portrays the God of the Bible! Not only does their God allow most people to go to hell on purpose, they say it is for His good pleasure to do so, for His Glory! That is not much glory, and that would certainly not be a loving God. The Bible is clear about how God feels concerning the lost and their destination:
2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. (NIV)
1 Tim 2:3-4 This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. (NIV)
Luke 13:34 "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! (NIV)
Ezek 18:23 Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign LORD. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live? (NIV)
Ezek 18:32 For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent and live! (NIV)
Ezek 33:11 Say to them, 'As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, O house of Israel?' (NIV)
Does this sound like a God who decreed for people to burn in hell without giving them the same opportunity to say yes to Christ? Of course Calvinism does teach that God is giving everyone the opportunity to respond to Christ, but the unelect simply can’t say yes. The power to choose no, is no power at all without the power to choose yes! And the power to choose yes is no power at all unless you have the power to choose no! Understand this if you are a Calvinist - this is not a choice at all. Choice requires options.
The Bible does not teach that God has selected a few people for salvation and has left all the rest to die in their sins and spend eternity in hell. God loves us so much that He sent His Son to die in our place so that we may have eternal life. He has patiently pleaded with us, to come to Him. He does require that we choose to love him and choose to believe upon Him. Over and over we are told to believe. We are not told to sit back and wait to find out if we were one of His elect. Jesus did not teach that God elects us to eternal life. John 3:16 does not read, “For God so loved the world He gave His one and only Son that whosoever God elected to Salvation should not perish, but have eternal life.” No, it reads to believe! We are called to believe so we must be able to believe.
John 3:18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son. (NIV)
Calvinism's definition: Christ's death was solely for those whom God gave to Him. To declare that Christ died for all men would mean that all men must be saved. Since all men are not saved, then Christ can not have died for all. To say that he did would deny His sovereignty and ability to save all men. Christ died for all sinners and he will not lose any of those whom the Father has given him. This fact lifts up evangelism rather then negates its purpose
The Bible is so clear that Jesus came to die for the sins of the entire world. So much so, that this particular point is abandoned by many Calvinists. Four point Calvinists reject the limited atonement aspect of Calvinistic ideology. But, mainstream Calvinism claims that because God had ordained who would be lost and who would be saved before the foundation of the world that Jesus came to die for only the people who were ordained to be saved. So not only are the lost incapable of responding to the gospel, they could not be saved by Christ even if they were able to respond. Calvinism insists that if we believe Jesus died for all people, then all people should be saved. This is universalism, which we are most certainly opposed to. Surely it can be seen that Jesus did die for all, offered Himself to all, but not everyone will accept that offer. This concept lacks an understanding of the entire gospel. Its focus is on Jesus’ death on the cross for the forgiveness of sins. But the gospel teaches that He also rose again to give us life. Though he died for all, one must believe it in order to receive the life that he offers. The Bible tells us that Jesus came to take away the sin of the entire world.
John 1:29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! (NIV)
The Bible is clear that He died for all:
Rom 6:9-10 The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. (NIV)
Heb 7:27 Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself. (NIV)
Heb 9:26 Then Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. (NIV)
1 Tim 2:3-6 This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men-the testimony given in its proper time. (NIV)
Titus 2:11 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. (NIV)
Isa 53:6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. (NIV)
Calvinistic theology goes to great lengths trying to say that the word all in these verses does not really mean all. Certainly it is true that in some passages the word all is applied to those in the immediate context. But in the above references, you can not get around the fact that God means all men. The plain reading of the text is the plain meaning. For example, Calvinism teaches that the following verse means all kinds of men.
1 Tim 2:4 who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth (NIV)
Even in a very close examination of the texts it is revealed that all means all, not all kinds. Remember the illustration of the river barge captain who saved just five people? Those five people, according to Calvinism, would be only ones included in a representation of the rich, poor, kings, servants and even differing races. But this is simply not true. Again the context clearly teaches that Paul had all men in mind. When looking at limited atonement it would be good to reexamine the most familiar verse in the bible, and there are many more like it:
John 3:16 "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (NIV)
God so loved the world that He gave His son. There are many more verses that say the same thing. In Calvinistic writings, this rarely goes without being distorted to somehow make the word world mean only the elect. Many Calvinists insist that it takes someone to know the finest detail of the original Greek language including it’s construction to understand this. They insist that a much deeper study of this Greek is needed to then finally understand that the word world means elect. While it certainly does not hurt to study the original language, God has not left His doctrine obtainable to only the scholarly. Of course, not all Calvinists agree with this interpretation. Recently I heard one debate where the Calvinist declared that God does indeed hate sinners, citing Ps. 5:6 as his proof text. He then declared that the word world had a moral meaning, i.e. that John 3:16 simply means that God so loved the sinners... Which is it? Does God love the world or does he not? They fail to give proper exegesis to passages such as that of Ps. 5:6 and others. This leads them to a false conclusion about God’s love/hate. No, it is clear, that when Christ said He loved the world or when the Bible says Christ died for all, it means it. We can trust that His Words are true, there is no secret meaning understood only by the scholars of this world.
Calvinism's definition: All whom the Father elects will come to Christ. It assures us that when the gospel is preached, all whom are chosen will respond accordingly. Men come to Christ when the Father draws them and His Spirit leads the elect to repentance
According to Calvinistic Theology, because we are chosen by God yet are unable to respond because of our incapability, God must then call us by an irresistible grace. This is redundant - as Calvinism teaches that the order of salvation is first regeneration, then we believe. If we are first regenerated, we would not need this irresistible grace, we would already be saved! The Bible does not teach that He is irresistibly calling anyone. The opposite is true, as the Bible clearly teaches that we can and do oppose His grace.
Consider the following passages:
Acts 7:51 "You stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are just like your fathers: You always resist the Holy Spirit! (NIV)
Neh 9:30-31 For many years you were patient with them. By your Spirit you admonished them through your prophets. Yet they paid no attention, so you handed them over to the neighboring peoples. But in your great mercy you did not put an end to them or abandon them, for you are a gracious and merciful God. (NIV)
Heb 10:28-29 Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? (NIV)
Many passages could be cited showing God's plea to man to repent. God made it clear in His word that He desires for all men to come to Him. However, if Calvinism were true, then God calls His elect with an irresistible calling and does not share this same type of irresistible grace with those who are unselected. This portrays a God who is purposefully withholding a special irristisible type of grace with all of mankind. If this is the case, then how can mankind be responsible for not accepting what was not accessible to him? Rather, God freely gives His grace that saves to all (Titus 2:11). Some reject His grace, others accept it. It is the fault of man who rejects His grace, it is not because God withheld some special type of irresistible grace.
Perseverance of the Saints
Calvinism's definition: All those whom God has chosen will remain with God. Those whom are regenerated will also be glorified. The Bible assures the elect that Christ will never lose them
Often many sincere Christians will accept the fifth point of Calvinism, the Preservation of the Saints, equating it with the doctrine of “Once saved always saved”. While the Bible is emphatically clear in that we can never lose our salvation, Calvinism is not always presenting the doctrine of eternal security in the way the Bible elucidates it. The Biblical teaching of salvation leaves no doubt that we are eternally secure. A few passages teaching this fact will be quoted, but this will not be discussed in detail as it is not the subject of this study.
John 10:27-30 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand. I and the Father are one (NIV)
Rom 8:38-39 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (NIV)
So what does Calvinism mean by Preservation? Just what they say, “All those whom God has chosen will remain with God...” So, it’s security lies only in the idea that you are selected by God for salvation, not merely on the many promises made by the Scripture. This has a major affect upon eternal security’s sister doctrine of assurance of salvation. How does one ever really know if they were elected for salvation? Their answer is simple...if you believe. There is a major problem with this. They are making the multitudes of passages of Scripture that beseeches us to “believe” on Jesus to be a fruit of salvation. For example John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only son, that whosoever believes in Him shall never perish but have eternal life.” The plain meaning is distorted into the idea that belief is a fruit, not a calling. There are so many passages that ask the sinner to believe on Jesus. While it is true that we can have confidence and assurance in the fact that if the Bible says those who believe on Him will have eternal life, these are not passages for only the elect! Like the passages quoted above, there are many more that clearly tell us that God will never cast us out of His family. We are secure and have assurance of that security because of these passages, not because we were merely “elected” before the foundation of the world.
It is here we must discuss evangelism. Calvinists feel that their evangelistic endeavors are advanced because of Calvinism. Our question is, how? What purpose is it to even share the gospel? Calvinists try to rationalize it by saying they do not know who the elect are - so they share the gospel with everyone. But do they share their entire idea of the gospel as they know it? Do they express to those they witness to that God may not have chosen them? No they don’t. And to share the gospel with someone who may not be one of the elect would in reality be offering a false hope. Would it not also be lying to a person who is not one of the elect ones to say that Jesus loves them and wants them to be saved? Yes it would.
Calvinism Stops Short
Calvinism clearly teaches that the unbeliever is incapable of responding positively to the great gospel of Jesus Christ. It’s doctrine declares that it takes an irresistible calling on the part of God in order for a person to respond in a positive way to the gospel because it is God’s will that only His selected elect be brought to Salvation. Calvinism focuses tremendously on the so called will of God being accomplished through His divine calling and effectual grace, to fulfill His good pleasure. They also claim that it is the unbelievers will to remain in their dead spiritual state, and that they could never be willing to believe in Christ for Salvation. So the elect have no choice but to heed the irresistible calling, and the unelect have no choice but to follow the will of God for their eternity apart from His irresistible grace. Now this leads us into other questions. One must ask why does this fatalistic Calvinistic idea stop upon the receiving of salvation? Some declare that we do choose to sin after we are saved. This makes no sense in light of this doctrine of irresistible grace. If this doctrine were true, wouldn’t it behoove God, who hates sin, to make us incapable of sinning, just as we were incapable of resisting his grace? Why does our moral choice to sin or not sin even exist after we are saved? It is clearly God’s will for us to live sinless lives. Wouldn’t God therefore decree for us not to sin? Does the act of salvation make alive the spirit of free will? Obviously this presents a problem since many Calvinists insist that every single detail in this universe has been predestined by God to be as it is. (It is my opinion that this is the only logical result of Calvinism) According to their teaching, even my writing of this study was decreed by God, therefore how could I resist writing it? I have often wondered why many Calvinists seem to get all bent out of shape when a non-Calvinist writes against their teachings. Would not God have predestined the non-Calvinists to believe these things, including their unbelief in Calvinism? If this is the case, we now have a God who is actually decreeing for some people to be homosexuals, adulterers, murders, thieves and liars. God would be decreeing for them to be sinners. Yet many Calvinists oppose (and rightfully so) this teaching, but in doing so they must take their arguments to the God they are portraying, for if their doctrine is true, then this would indeed be it’s logical conclusion.
But...What About These Verses?
In fairness, an examination of these passages should be made: Eph 1:1-4, Rom 8:28-34 Rom 9 John 6:35-66. Often they are used in pro-Calvinistic literature as proof text that God in His sovereignty (according to their misunderstanding of sovereignty) has chosen the elect before the foundation of the world. A closer look at these passages will reveal that they do not teach what Calvinistm likes to super-impose upon them.
On a personal note, I must say that when studying this issue, these passages are often presented in such a way that they become more difficult to understand. Sometimes, after one has been presented with an explanation of a certain text, it becomes very hard to see it any other way. I think we are all guilty of this at times, including myself. This is especially true when we have a certain theological bias or slant. Also, the books on this topic, are usually written by some highly respected "theologians" and in a persons mind, "how could they be wrong?" (*Never recognizing that books opposing Calvinism were also written by biblical scholars) Some of the passages we will discuss are not the easiest to understand, but they can be understood, especially when taken in context with the whole of the Bible and it’s clear teaching that God gives man the freedom to choose or reject the Son. But rest assured, no matter how one views a passage, it does reveal the true meaning. There is only ONE truth on any subject. These passages are revealing only one truth, not many. The Bible is not a book that is different for you than it is for me. We all take it personally, that is true, but it has only one right answer that answer is the same for everyone.
Eph 1:3-7 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will- to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace (NIV)
At the risk of confusing the reader, I will attempt to explain the general censes of a Calvinistic exegeses of this passage. God chose us before the creation of the world. God predestined us according to His pleasure and will - to show His grace. God elected those by his pleasure and will, according to His sovereign purposes. Those purposed are primarily to show how wonderful His grace is. They claim it is really very plain as the text clearly reads.
But, this is not what Paul is communicating at all in the texts. Paul is saying that God chose us in Christ, to be holy and blameless in his sight. Don’t miss this wonderful truth. It is so rich in grace. It is not that God chose us and that’s it. It says that there was a purpose for this, not that God chose us, but that he chose what he would do for or give to us. That purpose is to be holy and blameless in His sight! That can only happen in Christ. It is not that God sat down one day and wrote down a list of those people that he wanted to go to heaven and the others He left for eternal hell. Rather it was that God had a purpose, that in His son, we would be holy and blameless in his sight. I think this truth is often lost in many Christian’s minds. If we would only understand it, we would be free. We all fall completely short of His glory, just as Romans declares, yet we are near to Him through the Son of God. We are no longer vile sinners in His sight, but holy and blameless. Furthermore, Paul goes on to say that God predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus. Not that God predestined some to heaven and others to hell, but that we have been predestined to be adopted! He predestined His plan, not the person!
Eph 1:11-12 In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. (NIV)
What is more significant is that Paul is writing this to Gentile believers who were once afar off:
Eph 2:11-13Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called "uncircumcised" by those who call themselves "the circumcision" (that done in the body by the hands of men)- remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. (NIV)
And God is calling both the Jew and the Gentile into ONE body:
Eph 2:14For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, (NIV)
This theme is so well presented by Paul. Ephesians is about unity not division! Calvinistic teaching on this book brings a division while the true meaning brings unity. The fact is the Gentiles now share in the grace of God that was once only given to the nation of Israel. I highly recommend to everyone to read the entire book of Ephesians as a whole. It has nothing to do with Calvinistic theology.
Rom 8:28-30And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. (NIV)
Verse eight is clear that God can and will work for the good of those who love him, who have been called. I don't believe any Christian truly believes that we have not been called first by Him to Salvation. God is the instigator in our relationship to Him. He loved us therefore we love Him (1John 4:19). This theme will be discussed when we look at John chapter six. But what is His purpose in calling us? His purpose is to provide the benefits that accompany salvation, as the next passage indicates. Paul declares that God foreknew. What this word means is of debate between non-Calvinists and Calvinists. Calvinism sees this word as meaning something in which God foreordains or decrees. They believe that there is no separation between the omniscience of God and His omnipotence. Thus, God can know what is going to happen because He ordained or decreed it to be that way. But you will find this concept lacking Scripturally.
The Greek word for foreknow is proginosko and Strong's Greek Dictionary states: means to know beforehand, i.e. foresee:
Thayer's Greek Lexicon states: to have knowledge of beforehand; to foreknow: namely, tauta, 2 Peter 3:17
Vines Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words states: proginosko NT:4267, "to know before" (pro, "before," ginosko, "to know"), is used (a) of divine knowledge, concerning (1) Christ, 1 Peter 1:20, RV, "foreknown" (KJV, "foreordained"); (2) Israel as God's earthly people, Rom 11:2; (3) believers, Rom 8:29; "the foreknowledge" of God is the basis of His foreordaining counsels; ...
The fact that God foreknows how we will react to His drawing to Christ does not in any way exclude the fact that we have a choice in that reaction. Nor does it necessitate that God ordained before hand who would be saved and who would not. He simply knew beforehand what we would choose. This does not negate His genuine offer of Salvation to those to reject it. As stated when discussing limited atonement, His offer of Salvation extends to all men. Not just those He foreknew.
Paul continues by saying that who God foreknew He also predestined. This, however, is not the end of the sentence. It says that who God foreknew He also predestined to... something. Predestination/Election is always unto a benefit of Salvation, not unto salvation itself. Looking back to Ephesians 1 we read where He chose us to be conformed, blameless, etc. Here we have the same truth being presented. Paul says that those whom God foreknew, He predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son. So, we were not picked to be saved at some point in the past while others were left for hell. Rather, God simply knew what our choice would be and has predestined that those who choose Him will be conformed to the likeness of His Son. This is such a blessing. Paul goes on to teach that those God predestined He called, there is no denial of this fact amongst non-Calvinists. Those He called are also justified, and glorified. Thanks and praise goes to the Son of God, Jesus! Thank you Jesus.
Rom 8:31-34What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all-how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? [NASB NKJV, KJV has "against God's elect"] It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died-more than that, who was raised to life-is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. (NIV)
If it is true that God foreknew those who would be saved, and predestined for them to be conformed to the likeness of His son, to them He justified and glorified who then can be against us? Who could bring any charge against us? Now Paul said that God has chosen us. Again there is no contention as to this fact. God did choose us, but we also chose to receive the Son. Perhaps an illustration will be beneficial. If you went in for an interview and the employer decided to hire you for the position, did you choose this job or did the employer choose you for this job? Naturally both are true. The same is so in our Salvation. Now Paul does ask, "who can bring a charge against those who God has chosen?" While the NIV uses the phrase " has chosen" other translations use the word elect. The subjects of Salvation are referred to as the elect. But this does not mean they were pre-selected while others were not. Elect (Greek eklektos) has a variety of uses. It refers to the Messiah (Isa. 42:1; 1Pet. 2:6) to Israel or Jews (Isa. 45:4; 65:9; 65:22; Matt. 24:31; Mark 13:27), to the Church (Rom. 8:33; Col. 3:12; Titus 1:1) to angels (1 Timothy 5:21), and to a lady (2John 1,13). It does not have to have the Calvinistic implication attached to its every reading or occurrence of it in Scripture. In fact it does not. So, when Paul asked "who can bring a charge..." , it was to illustrate that no one could bring an accusation against God's elect because of what it involves on the part of God. He freely justifies, and conforms us to the likeness of His son. He has chosen this for us. This is the fulfillment of God's perfect will, to bring about what He has predestined to those He called and have chosen to receive salvation and its benefits.
Rom 9:10-13Not only that, but Rebekah's children had one and the same father, our father Isaac. Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad-in order that God's purpose in election might stand: not by works but by him who calls-she was told, "The older will serve the younger." Just as it is written: "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated." (NIV)
If you have not already done so, I would strongly urge the reader to diligently read the context of this chapter. Really this chapter goes along with chapters ten and eleven. The subject is God’s dealing with Israel and her current state as well as God’s attention to the Gentiles. This has nothing at all to do with individual salvation. However, this chapter is certainly not one to take lightly and it does have a challenging text. Here we must allow this passage to be interpreted largely by the rest of the Bible.
God is not speaking of the individual Jacob and the individual Esau. To better understand this passge, we need to look at this event as it was recorded in Genesis.
In Gen 25:21-23 we read:
Gen 25:21-23Isaac prayed to the LORD on behalf of his wife, because she was barren. The LORD answered his prayer, and his wife Rebekah became pregnant. The babies jostled each other within her, and she said, "Why is this happening to me?" So she went to inquire of the LORD. The LORD said to her, "Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger." (NIV)
It is plain here that Rebekah’s children were representing two nations. Jacob is the nation of Israel while Esau is the nation of the Edomites [one could conclude that Esau represents Gentile nations]. Paul is not speaking of individual election but of the corporate election of the Nation Israel. Even within the nation of Israel under a theocracy, a Hebrew did not obtain salvation merely based on his/her race. (This actually is a dominant theme of Paul’s writings, especially here in this chapter.) Likewise an individual Gentile could obtain salvation even though he/she was not a Jew. Esau could have put his faith in God. Jacob could have rejected it. But God certainly knew the outcome of these men’s descendants as He revealed this to Rebecca in answer to her prayer.
God did not chose to hate Esau and love Jacob as individual’s before they were even born, but God did know the future of these nations. Paul was referring to Malachi when he said, “it is written”.
Mal 1:2-4 "Was not Esau Jacob's brother?" the LORD says. "Yet I have loved Jacob, but Esau I have hated, and I have turned his mountains into a wasteland and left his inheritance to the desert jackals." Edom may say, "Though we have been crushed, we will rebuild the ruins." (NIV)
Furthermore it could be argued that the Hebrew word for hated could simply mean love less. Nevertheless, within the Gentiles, God can and has certainly demonstrated His love toward them individually.
Rom 9:17-18For the Scripture says to Pharaoh: "I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth." Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden. (NIV)
The fact that Pharaoh’s heart was hardened has nothing to do with his personal salvation. While I am not trying to say that Pharaoh is now in heaven, this passage does not deal with his Salvation. The context of this event is found in the Exodus of Israel in the Old Testament. God did not allow Pharaoh’s heart to be hardened so that He could withhold salvation, but He did so that He could let His nation be set free. Consider this passage as the reason for the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart:
Ex 10:1-2Then the LORD said to Moses, "Go to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the hearts of his officials so that I may perform these miraculous signs of mine among them that you may tell your children and grandchildren how I dealt harshly with the Egyptians and how I performed my signs among them, and that you may know that I am the LORD." (NIV)
Calvinism insists that God is causing a hardening in Pharaoh’s heart. Using this passage as proof, Calvinism states that God can use irresistible grace or that God sometimes desired not to use irresistible grace. But isn’t this somewhat inconsistent with their own view that God is passively not doing anything with the ungodly but He simply allows them to continue in their unbelief? Many Calvinists often reprimand non-Calvinists for claiming that the conclusion of Calvinistic theology is double predestination, yet their teaching of this passage shows no other alternative. In reality, a closer look at the actual events as they unfold would tell us that Pharaoh actually hardened his own heart, God just allowed this to happen. God gave Pharaoh the courage to do what he did, following his own wicked heart. (Which is actually the meaning of hardening.) God in His foreknowledge knew that Pharaoh would reject the message of God, but this does not mean that Pharaoh had but one choice with no possibility to repent. Often Pharaoh gave into Moses’ demands, but only because he grew tired of the plagues, not because he truly repented.
That Pharaoh hardened his own heart is found in the following passages:
Ex 7:13 Yet Pharaoh's heart became hard and he would not listen to them, just as the LORD had said. (NIV)
Ex 7:22But the Egyptian magicians did the same things by their secret arts, and Pharaoh's heart became hard; he would not listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the LORD had said. (NIV)
Ex 8:15 But when Pharaoh saw that there was relief, he hardened his heart and would not listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the LORD had said. (NIV)
Ex 8:19 The magicians said to Pharaoh, "This is the finger of God." But Pharaoh's heart was hard and he would not listen, just as the LORD had said. (NIV)
The fact is Pharaoh first hardened his own heart. Only then is it stated that God hardened Pharoah’s heart. How was it that God hardened his heart? It was the mercy of God that caused the hardening. This is the same mercy that is said to save us: Titus 3:5 "he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy." (NIV) Every time that God lifted the plague upon Egypt it revealed the wonderful mercy of God, and because of God's mercy, Pharaoh’s heart was hardened. Some people realize the greatness of God's mercy, while others only reject it and allow pride to fill their heart. For example, the same sun that hardens clay melts wax. Likewise, the same mercy that saves some people, only makes other people turn away.
Again, this reference to this even here in Romans nine has nothing to do with the Salvation of some individuals over others.
Rom 9:19One of you will say to me: "Then why does God still blame us? For who resists his will?" (NIV)
How can one say, “how can you blame us” when it was God who hardened the heart? This is stated right after the example of Pharaoh is given. Pharaoh was wicked, yet it was God who hardened Pharaoh’s heart. Remember that it was the mercy of God that had its affect. Pharaoh heart was hardened by himself by the rejection of God. God surly cannot be blamed for Pharaoh’s demise. Scripture does teach that after rejection of God, after time passes, the hearts of unbelievers become hardened. Note the following passage:
Rom 2:5-11But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God's wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. God "will give to each person according to what he has done." To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For God does not show favoritism. (NIV)
Rom 9:20-21But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? "Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, 'Why did you make me like this?'" Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use? (NIV)
This passage is often used in Calvinism to show that we have no choice in the matter. We are simply the clay, and He is the potter. It would be beneficial to look to the Old Testament passage from which this was taken.
Jer 18:2-12 "Go down to the potter's house, and there I will give you my message." So I went down to the potter's house, and I saw him working at the wheel. But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him.
Then the word of the LORD came to me: "O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter does?" declares the LORD. "Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel. If at any time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down and destroyed, and if that nation I warned repents of its evil, then I will relent and not inflict on it the disaster I had planned. And if at another time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be built up and planted, and if it does evil in my sight and does not obey me, then I will reconsider the good I had intended to do for it.
"Now therefore say to the people of Judah and those living in Jerusalem, 'This is what the LORD says: Look! I am preparing a disaster for you and devising a plan against you. So turn from your evil ways, each one of you, and reform your ways and your actions.' But they will reply, 'It's no use. We will continue with our own plans; each of us will follow the stubbornness of his evil heart.'" (NIV)
Paul uses quotes from this passage here in Romans nine, because it fits perfectly in this context. Israel had a choice. They could become the clay and allow God to mold them, and they could repent. Clearly this is seen here. Paul is not presenting a God who is forceful. He is not saying God does not give man a choice! The result is that they rejected God’s offer (Jer. 18:12). Whose fault is this? Is it God’s? No. It is theirs.
While I think it is very beneficial to read this entire chapter of John to get a grasp of the context, I will only quote and discuss the passages most widely used in Calvinism. However, I highly recommend a study of the entire chapter by the reader for a fuller understanding of the text.
35 Then Jesus declared, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty
36 But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe.
37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.
38 For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me.
39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day.
40 For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day."
41 At this the Jews began to grumble about him because he said, "I am the bread that came down from heaven."
42 They said, "Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, 'I came down from heaven'?"
43 "Stop grumbling among yourselves," Jesus answered.
44 "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day.
45 It is written in the Prophets: 'They will all be taught by God.' Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me. (NIV)
In Calvinism, this passage is used to say that God has an elect whom he has called by an irresistible drawing. That He is giving those elect to the Son and they alone will be raised from the dead in the last day.
Let us examine the passage a little more closely.
Fact number one: Jesus is the bread of life. Those who come to Him will never go hungry. Those who believe will never be thirsty. Verse 35 Then Jesus declared, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.
Fact number two: All that the Father gives to Jesus will come to Jesus. 37 All that the Father gives me will come to me,
Fact number three: All who come to Jesus, He will never drive away. 37 and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.
Fact number four: Jesus will lose none of them that the Father has given to Him 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me,
Fact number five: He will raise them up at the last day. 39 He will raise them up at the last day.
Fact number six: It is the Fathers will that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in Him shall have eternal life. 40 For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life...
Fact number seven: No one can come to Jesus unless he/she is drawn by the Father. 44 "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him
Fact number eight: Those who come to Jesus, who the Father has drawn, who will be raised up in the last day have been taught by God, as written in the Prophets. 45 It is written in the Prophets: 'They will all be taught by God.' Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me.
From these facts we can hardly conclude that there is anything about an elect from the foundation of the World who are incapable of responding positively to the gospel. In verse 37 (fact number two) Jesus is teaching that all that those the Father gives to Him will come to Him. This simply means that all that the Father gives to the Son are believers (those who have responded positively to the gospel). We see that the Father has two wills. First, that Christ shall lose none that were given to Him, but will instead, raise them up in the last day. Second, is for everyone who looks to the Son and believes in Him to have eternal life. Now the question is, who exactly are those whom the Father has given to Him? The answer is, the ones whom He draws and that respond positively to that drawing. How are they drawn? Verse 45 has that answer, “it is written... in the Prophets”. Jesus said only those who listen to the Father and learn from him comes to me. Can someone be drawn by the Father and not listen to His calling? Yes, this is not stating the negative, but the positive results. The fact that Christ is given only to whom the Father chooses does not imply that the Father only chooses whom he wills at a whim. It clearly states that He chooses to give Christ all those who believe. There is no implication that this means He must will us to believe before we able to do so. That is simply not in the text.
Special attention must be given to John 6:44. It tells us that the Father must draw us before we can come to Christ. I believe God’s drawing is done primarily through the Word of God. But Calvinism insists that this word draw means a forceful type of drawing, such as what Peter did in John 21 when he drew up the net. The subjects of that net had no choice (though it must be noted those subjects were fish.)
Spiros Zodhiates in his Word Study Dictionary says this: quote:
NT:1670 helkuo (hel-koo'-o); To draw toward without necessarily the notion of force as in suro See Acts 8:3; 14:19; 17:6; Rev. 12:4. To drag, although it may be just implied (Acts 16:19, of persons, to drag, force before magistrates: 21:30, “out of the temple”; James 2:60. Helkuo is used by Jesus of the drawing of souls unto Him (John 6:44; 12:32, to draw or induce to come). It is the drawing to a certain point as in John 21:6, 11 indicating the drawing of the net while suro (John 21:8) is merely dragging. To draw a sword (John 18:10)
To better understand this drawing, perhaps Jesus could help shed some light on this. Further down in the text Jesus said:
John 6:65He went on to say, "This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him." (NIV) [NASB - granted; ESV - granted; KJV - given]
The Bible declares that we are all born with a sinful nature. Our sinful nature is contrary to God’s perfect will. We need to first be drawn by God, we can’t possibly come to Him unless we first be enabled by Him. We love him, because he first loved us. (1 John 4:19).
Furthermore another way in which we are drawn to Jesus is through the Gospel.
Rom 1:16 I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. (NIV)
John 12:32 But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself." (NIV)
The Bible makes it abundantly clear that Salvation is conditioned upon belief. We must believe in Jesus. Our good works play no part in our salvation. It is simple; believe in the Savior Jesus Christ. We need not “surrender all” to His lordship, though He is lord. We believe in Him. Believing is not a fruit of Salvation but a condition upon which we are saved. The object of our faith must be in the Biblical Jesus who is God. While salvation is that easy, for the world - it is not easy to believe. The god of this world, the devil, has blinded them. They suppress the truth and in time harden their own heart. As a result, for some, God has given them over to their hardness. The grace and mercy of God has extended to everyone, but not everyone will respond positively to His drawing.
It is my prayer that all who are perplexed by this doctrine, taught as the “doctrines of grace“, understand that the real doctrine of grace has nothing to do with an unconditional election by irresistible grace. I realize that there are much better books written on this subject in which the author could articulate the truth of the Bible in a way I may have failed to do here. This paper is written for various reasons, but I hope that it will give you a perspective that may or may not have been missed in other writings. The greatest piece of advice I could give when looking at this issue is this - pick up the New Testament and read the entire message with this issue in mind: Has God has called certain people and allowed the rest to die in their sin without even an attempt to call them? This is my confidence; you will find this whole idea absurd.
May you continue to pray, study and meditate upon His word
Other helpful sources
What Love is This - Calvinism's Misrepresentation of God - By Dave Hunt. A wonderful book exposing the false teaching of Calvinism by comparing it to God's Word.
The Berean Call - Website of Dave Hunt - author of "What Love is This" - This page offers many resources on Calvinism.
Debating Calvinism - Dave Hunt and James White Debate the doctrines of Calvinism in this book providing us with valuable insights into this discussion.
Real Answers on Predestination - Bob George, from People to People Ministries answers this tough question. Listen to the live audio here.
Taking the Confusion Out of Predestination - An audio series by Bob George of People to People Ministries explaning the truth about predestination. Buy his audio series here.Chosen But Free - a book by Christian apologist Norman Geisler. I do not agree with the use of Dr. Geisler’s terminology in this book. Dr. Geisler thinks of himself as a moderate Calvinist and then defines most of his contentious points as extreme Calvinistic ideas. I would prefer this type of labeling to be absent from this work. But this is worth the read to help one understand some of the difficult passages in the Biblical text. It is to be noted also that this book is the primary target of Calvinist James White in his rebuttal The Potters Freedom, of which westrongly disagree.