Ask Me Anything - What About Election? - Part 3

February 12, 2020
Brad Shockley

Episode Notes

Ask Me Anything

What about election? Or Is John Calvin a demon in disguise?


Cilantro: you either love it or hate it, you either think it’s tastes like soap or adds a lovely flavor to almost any dish. I’ve never met anyone neutral on this herb.

John Calvin is like cilantro! Here is what people and publications have to say about him…[1]

“Calvin was one of those strong and consistent men of history who people either liked or disliked, adored or abhorred.” — Lewis W. Spitz, Lutheran Historian

 “The sixteenth century was a great century. It was the century of Raphael and Michelangelo, of Spenser and Shakespeare, of Erasmus and Rabelais, of Copernicus d Galileo, of Luther and Calvin. Of all the figures that gave greatness to this century, none left a more lasting heritage than Calvin.” — Georgia Harkness, Theologian

“Few great Christian leaders have suffered quite so much misunderstanding as John Calvin. He has often been dismissed as a theologian without humanity. In fact, the very reverse is much nearer the truth…. He was a man of deep and lasting affection, passionately concerned for the cause of Christ in the world; a man who burned himself out for the gospel.” — Banner of Truth Trust

 “Taking into account all his failings, he [Calvin] must be reckoned as one of the greatest and best of men whom God raised up in the history of Christianity.” — Philip Schaff, Historian 

“Calvin is the man who, next to St. Paul, has done most good to mankind.”  — William Cunningham, Scottish Theologian 

“Calvin has, I believe, caused untold millions of souls to be damned…”  — Jimmy Swaggart, Preacher

[Calvin was] the “cruel” and “the unopposed dictator of Geneva.”

Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church

“But we shall always find it hard to love the man [Calvin] who darkened the human soul with the most absurd and blasphemous conception of God in all the long and honored history of nonsense.” — Will Durant, Historian

He was either hated or loved for his theology, but, regardless of what you think about him, his contribution to the Protestant Reformation and his theological work The Institutes of the Christian Religion made an impact in the church that is still felt today.

Calvin was a lawyer turned pastor and theologian living in 16th Century (1509-1564) Geneva, Switzerland. He was a contemporary of Martin Luther. Luther, if you recall, is credited with starting the Reformation.

He and Luther both reacted against the gross abuse of indulgences and works-based salvation in the Catholic church. From the reformation came the five solas…

1.      Sola Scriptura (“Scripture alone”): The Bible alone is our highest authority.

1.      Sola Fide (“faith alone”): We are saved through faith alone in Jesus Christ.

2.      Sola Gratia (“grace alone”): We are saved by the grace of God alone.

3.      Solus Christus (“Christ alone”): Jesus Christ alone is our Lord, Savior, and King.

4.      Soli Deo Gloria (“to the glory of God alone”): We live for the glory of God alone.[2] 

Every protestant church agrees on that, it’s what makes us protestant. But what every protestant church does not agree on is Calvin’s theological system, especially as it relates to salvation. He developed five points that are at the heart of a Calvinist’s beliefs. It’s called TULIP.

Total depravity

Man comes into the world incapable of turning to God on his own. The “…TOTAL human being--body and soul, intellect and will, etc.--is fallen… everyone is born spiritually dead, helpless, and passive; indeed, everyone is worse than volitionally dead or unable to desire spiritual good but is actually enslaved to sin, positively and actively hostile to the things of the Spirit (Calvinists cite, e.g., John. 1:13; 8:43, 47; 10:26; 12:37-40; 18:37; Romans. 7:18; 8:5-8; 1 Corinthians. 2:9-14).”[3]

The other side — Arminians if you need a label — reject this and say man comes into the world with just enough grace to turn to God of his own free will.

Most Baptists would fall somewhere in between these two positions.

The next point follows from the first and ties into our topic for this AMA…

Unconditional election[4 

We choose God because he chose us before the foundation of the world, and his choosing us had nothing to do with our merit. This is what we’ve been talking about. Arminians would lean towards the idea that God chose us too become elect because we chose him.

As mentioned last week, this is a big debate. But it’s this next one that leads many to reject Calvinism or at least this one point…

Limited atonement 

Jesus’ death on the cross was payment for the sins of the elect only. “…Christ died only for those who were chosen to salvation from eternity past. In this view, the atonement is limited to the elect.”[5] 

I have a problem with this as well.

1 John 2:2 (ESV) — 2 He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.

John 3:16 (ESV) — 16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

Where would Calvin get this view? It’s not from Scripture directly but from his understanding of the sovereignty of God. Calvin’s vision of God’s sovereignty is the backdrop of all his theology. 

For Calvin, a sovereign God of the universe would have all things under His control and all things decreed. Thus, in God’s economy it would have been unjust for Him to punish Christ for all the sins of all the people of all time if He had chosen only some of them before the foundation of the world.


I deeply appreciate Calvin’s view of sovereignty, but I’m not so sure he applied it well here.


Irresistible grace


This is just the idea that if a sovereign God elects you to salvation, you cannot resist it. You will say yes to the gospel. This, too, flows from the preceding points.


And again God’s sovereignty requires the final point…


Perseverance of the saints


The elect will say yes to the gospel and stay true to God till the end. They will not fall away. This does not mean they won’t sin or fail, just that they won’t abandon their faith. Those who completely deny Christ were not his to begin with and thus not the elect.


It’s okay to believe he was wrong, but I don’t think it’s okay to demonize him. I’m convinced he was a brother in the Lord and that much of his theology has merit. The talk of his enemies have led to a number of myths…


Calvinism is a threat to evangelism

Calvin’s home base of “Geneva was not only a refuge to Protestant fugitives, but, under Calvin’s influence and direction, it became the hub of a vast missionary enterprise. The Venerable Company of Pastors was established as Geneva’s missionary agency, sending an army of missionaries to Italy, Germany, Scotland, England, and especially to Calvin’s homeland, France.

The Genevan missionaries traveled by night, hid in attics and false rooms behind chimneys, and used obscure roads. Once they arrived at their intended destination, they would join together with other Protestants to form an underground church. The churches gathered secretly in barns, open fields or secluded caves. But with Geneva’s guidance, these churches underwent remarkable growth in France.”[6]

Al Mohler, President of SBTS, is a five point Calvinist, but one of the first things he did when taking office was establish the Billy Graham School of Evangelism.

Calvinists don’t believe in invitations

Nathan Finn writes, "While some Calvinists are uncomfortable with the ‘easy believism’ of some altar calls, they are not opposed to public invitations if it is made clear that walking the aisle and praying a prayer are not the same thing as regeneration and repentance.”[7]

Is that why we don’t have invitations? We do!

Calvinism and hyper-Calvinism are the same thing

I’ve already mentioned how the students of Calvin have taken some of his teachings too far. Well, there’s a brand of Calvinist call hyper-Calvinist that takes things even further. 

These folks take the teachings of Calvin and stretch them so far it’s not fair to hold the old fellow accountable (i.e., God doesn’t love everybody, no need to share your faith, etc.)

Here are some famous Calvinists:

George Whitefield

William Carey

Charles Spurgeon

Jonathan Edwards

John MacArthur

John Piper

Al Mohler

Spurgeon said that we need not reconcile the friends of God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility. George Whitefield (a Calvinist evangelist) was asked once if he thought he’d see John Wesley (not a Calvinist) in heaven. He replied no he wouldn’t because Wesley would be so much closer to God they’d never cross paths.

That’s the idea.

Here’s the bottom line: I go to bed a Calvinist and wake up an Arminian.

[1] Christian History : John Calvin., electronic ed. (Carol Stream IL: Christianity Today, 1986; Published in electronic form by Logos Research Systems, 1996).

[5] Dr. Malcolm B. Yarnell, III is Assistant Dean for Theological Studies, Director of the Center for Theological Research, and Associate Professor of Systematic Theology at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. ---

[6]Christian History : John Calvin., electronic ed. (Carol Stream IL: Christianity Today, 1986; Published in electronic form by Logos Research Systems, 1996).

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