Calvinism: From God or Man? #4 Is Salvation Conditional?
We have been in a discussion about a belief system called Calvinism.
If you have not read those first articles please take the time to go back and read them as they provide the groundwork for this post.
The Calvinist believes that mankind has no ability to choose. And not only so, but that man is saved based upon no condition whatsoever. No amount of preaching will save. No amount of good works will save. There is not one thing that man does that contributes even one bit to his salvation. According to the Calvinistic teachings.
Are there any conditions at all to man’s salvation?
Is the Calvinist right when he proclaims that Salvation is given based upon no condition at all as pertaining to mankind?
We will look later, towards the end, at the conditions which men must meet in order to salvation, but, before we do, we need to see:
Does God give man choice? Does he condition salvation upon anything at all?
Some “Sugar-Stick Passages”
First, we will notice some of the passages that the Calvinist will use to “Conclusively Prove” that man cannot come to God and that God does not place any condition upon mankind for salvation at all.
Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil.
So the Calvinist argues “see, just as the Ethiopian cannot change his skin, nor the leopard his spots, so a sinner cannot possibly do good.” They conclude then, by stating that men are so immoral and so corrupt, that they cannot do good.
The first flaw in this so called logic is that it puts the blame of sin at the foot of God. How? Who created the Ethiopian? God. And who created the leopard to have spots, God did. The leopard cannot change his spots because God put his spots upon him.
If their argument stands, that means, that it is God’s fault that these men sin and it is His fault that they cannot do anything about it.
In understanding this passage we must recognize that God is speaking to a group of individuals who had already been “elected” by God. Israel was God’s chosen people. (Election will be discussed fully later).
If the Calvinistic idea of “election” were true, then here were a group of chosen people who could never change their spots. The logical question would be then; what is the purpose for preaching to them. If they are eternally elected they cannot change their situation anyway so what is the point of Jeremiah’s speaking to them?
Context is Key
What is the passage really saying? Let us look at the context for a moment.
Prideful Judah had added sin upon sin. This group of people had at one time been pleasing to God, but they had forgotten God. Look at Jeremiah 13:25
25This is thy lot, the portion of thy measures from me, saith the LORD; because thou hast forgotten me, and trusted in falsehood.
The reason for the mess they were in was not because God had ordained them to sin, but because of the choices they had made. In fact, if it is the case as the Calvinist contends, that man cannot change or do anything toward his salvation; then Jeremiah sure wasn’t aware of it:
15Hear ye, and give ear; be not proud: for the LORD hath spoken. Give glory to the LORD your God, before he cause darkness, and before your feet stumble upon the dark mountains, and, while ye look for light, he turn it into the shadow of death, and make it gross darkness. But if ye will not hear it, my soul shall weep in secret places for your pride; and mine eye shall weep sore, and run down with tears, because the LORD's flock is carried away captive. (Jer. 13:15ff)
He says, “if ye will not hear it,” it will break the Lord’s heart. Why? Because the flock of God will be carried away into captivity. Notice; what if they do hear it? What then? The same prophet speaking to the same people says:
At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, and to pull down, and to destroy it; If that nation, against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them. And at what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it; If it do evil in my sight, that it obey not my voice, then I will repent of the good, wherewith I said I would benefit them. (Jeremiah 18:7-10)
The Calvinist says there are no conditions that man must meet in order for salvation. Yet, here we see, that the nation of Israel had a choice to make. If the nation would repent; God would spare them. A nation is made up of a group of individuals so if the individuals will do as God has said; God would spare them.
Clearly Jeremiah didn’t believe in Calvinism. Jeremiah believed that there was a condition that man had to meet. Man had to have faith in God, repent, and obey God.
Jeremiah failing them, they try to use the prophet Isaiah. They use a passage over in the book of John which talks about Isaiah.
39Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias said again, He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them. (John 12:39-40)
Now notice; the Calvinist says, “this says He hath blinded their eyes.”. That is right. The question is why? Was it because God had arbitrarily chosen them to disobey, that he blinded them, through no action on their part? Did they do anything that would cause them to be blinded?
What does God say about it?
In Matthew’s account involving the exact same people, the exact same event, and the same words, only Matthew lets us know why their hearts were hardened.
And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: 15For this people's heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. (Matthew 13:14-15)
Why was it that their hearts were hardened? Because they did not want to hear. They chose not to hear. Like a child who doesn’t want to hear his mom and dad, he covers his ears and says “la-la-la-la-la- I cant hear you.” Oh, they had the ability to hear… they just chose not to hear.
The reason their eyes were blinded as John describes it is because they had intentionally closed their own eyes as Matthew describes it. The reason they didn’t understand the Truth was because they refused to understand it, not because they did not have the ability to understand. They simply chose not to.
Isaiah doesn’t work for the Calvinist either.
What about the Savior? Did he support the idea of Calvinism? Did he place any condition upon mankind whatsoever? The Calvinist will turn to John 8:43 and say no.
Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word. (John 8:43)
I am quoting from Calvinist G.E. Griffen
“ Jesus asked the question, Why is it that ye cannot understand my speech. It is because ye cannot hear. I want this clearly understood, ye cannot hear my word. Ye cannot! Any time a person hears it, he is not an alien sinner, because Jesus said, they cannot hear.” (Griffen-Woods Debate pg 11)
Again: John 8:43 says Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word.
Now if that was all that it said that would be the end of it. But, what is the historical context of this passage? Exactly who is Jesus talking to here?
John 8:13 identifies them as the Pharisees. That group of Jews, who were often rebuked by Jesus, for their adding to the word of God, for their stubborn ways and hard hearts. These are the people that Jesus is talking to.
And this Calvinist says it is impossible for them to hear. These bunch of Pharisees have no ability possibly hear according to him. Yet, if he had only read a few verses before this, speaking to the exact same people Jesus said:
…When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am he, and that I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things. And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him. As he spake these words, many believed on him. (John 8:28-30)
The Calvinist doesn’t ‘get it’ that the reason these people didn’t hear Jesus was the same problem their fathers had in Isaiah’s day. They refused to see it. Some of these very ones heard Jesus’ words and believed. Those who did not simply refused.
One way we know that they had a choice in the matter is because of what Jesus says to the exact same people in the exact same context a little while later, “If a man keep my saying, he shall never see death.” (John 8:51)
“If a man keep my saying…” that tells me that the man has a choice; to keep his saying or not to keep it.
It is clear that every passage that the Calvinist brings up always has the correct answer within the context of that passage. It just takes reading the text in an unbiased manner to see the truth.
Calvinists often quote Jesus in John 5:40; only they will usually mis-quote him. They often quote “you cannot come that you can have life.”
The text actually says. “And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life.
It does not say you cannot come. It says you will not come. Jesus is not talking about ability; he is talking about choice! If a man will not come that means God has given him a choice whether to come or not to come. Jesus expected an action on the part of men.
Jesus (some more)
In John 6:44 Calvinists partially quote the Lord and say that a person cannot come to the Lord unless he is first drawn:
No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.
That is absolutely true; God must draw people in order for them to be saved. The question however, is… how does God draw people?
The very next verse provides the answer:
It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me. (John 6:45)
How does the father draw men? By the teaching of his Word.
Teaching the Bible causes people to make certain choices. Teaching the word of God puts people in a position to either obey or disobey, to accept or not to accept. But, in either case, man has to choose. Man must ‘do’ something.
The text clearly says people are drawn to God by being taught.
How is a person taught?
Paul writes: “It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.” (1 Corinthians 1:21)
Preaching the word of God causes people to make choice;, to believe and obey or not. Jesus taught that man must do something towards salvation. If nothing else at least at this point a person must hear/listen to the preaching of God’s word in order to be saved. Is that not what we just read from 1 Corinthians 1:21? The preaching is done by the preachers, but the hearers are the ones being saved!
Paul also writes: “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth.” (Romans 1:16)
Paul expects people not only to hear the word of God, but also expects him to believe it. If man doesn’t need to do anything, as the Calvinist says, then he doesn’t need to hear and he doesn’t need to believe. But, God says, he must both hear and believe.
Calvinist’s Quibble about “Preaching”
Calvinists claim that preaching is only for those who are elected it is not for the lost/heathen. Is that the truth? What does the Bible record?
Paul writes: “The scripture forseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the Gospel unto Abraham.” (Galatians 3:8)
Recall a time when Paul wanted to save the Gentiles but at one point he was forbidden. It was in Paul’s heart to reach out to the Gentiles. How was Paul going to save the heathen? Allow him to explain:
Forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved. (1 Thessalonians 2:16)
Calvinists say that preaching does not save. They claim that speaking to the heathen will do no good unless the Holy Spirit does something first. But, the Bible says preaching/teaching the word of God saves. Yes! Teaching and preaching even saves the Heathen. How? Because it gives them opportunity to make a choice; to obey or not to obey.
Notice what the Angel said to a non-christian concerning Peter:
“He shall tell the words whereby thou and thy house shall be saved. (Acts 11:13-14)
If a person hears words but has no ability to respond,- if a person cannot make a choice, then how does preaching to him save him? The Calvinist says teaching and preaching to a heathen does not save, but the Bible says it does.
Calvinist’s Twisted Scriptures
Many Calvinists turn to certain passages and pair them together hoping that it might strengthen their cause. They take a passage like Romans 8:8 which says: So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. They pair it up with a passage like John 5:40 And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life.
They put these 2 passages together and believe that they may rest confidently in their argument. They say, “see, they cannot please God and so they will not come to Him.”
Keep in mind that Calvinism teaches that a man cannot come to God. He has no ability to come. Man is absolutely unable to come to God. And so, God has to force him to come. (Irresistible Grace)
Is this the truth?
John 5:40 we have already covered doesn’t say they cannot come; it says they will not come. And the reason they will not is by the fact that God gave them choice to come and they simply chose not to obey.
Romans 8:8 - So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.
Now does this imply that man has no free will? The Calvinist says “yes, men cannot please God even if they want to.” They claim “Man has no choice in the matter.”
Context is key
Romans 8:1 says
There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
Who is the person in the flesh? It is the person who is walking after the flesh. But, does this prove that man has no free will? Does this prove that there is no choice given to man? No!
Verse 13 states: For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.
Paul made it clear. A choice had to be made. The choice is this; if a person lives after the flesh he will die. If, however, they choose to mortify the deeds of the body he shall live. Fact: There is a choice to make; to live after the flesh or to live after the spirit. It is up to man to choose which he will do.
Some Calvinists appeal to Matthew 12:34 which says: 34O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.
Does this prove that man has no choice in the matter?
Just one verse earlier Jesus said: “Either make the tree good, and his fruit good; or else make the tree corrupt, and his fruit corrupt: for the tree is known by his fruit.”
There is the choice; either be good and produce good fruit or be corrupt and produce corrupt fruit. But, the choice is still yours. So… the conditions for good fruit are good actions. The conditions for corrupt fruit are corrupt actions.
On and on this could go. How could anyone read the bible and come away with the idea that man has no free will, but that God forces upon him whatever it is that God wants him to do? That there are no conditions at all that man must meet in order to be saved is a main Calvinistic stronghold. However, is anti-Christian and anti-Bible.
Recall in the book of Exodus. How were the children of Israel saved from Egypt? Was it not by obedience to God? Did he not give them conditions to meet and leave it up to them to meet those conditions? Did he force the Israelites to put blood on the doorposts? No, he gave them conditions to meet. He told them what to do to be saved and left it up to them to obey or disobey.
Remember after God brought Israel out of Bondage. Did he give them any conditions?
3If ye walk in my statutes, and keep my commandments, and do them; Then I will give you rain in due season, and the land shall yield her increase, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit. (Leviticus 26:3)
So the blessings of God were based upon obedience to the conditions that God had set! Notice the same chapter down in verse 14
14But if ye will not hearken unto me, and will not do all these commandments; And if ye shall despise my statutes, or if your soul abhor my judgments, so that ye will not do all my commandments, but that ye break my covenant: I also will do this unto you; I will even appoint over you terror, consumption, and the burning ague, that shall consume the eyes, and cause sorrow of heart: and ye shall sow your seed in vain, for your enemies shall eat it. And I will set my face against you, and ye shall be slain before your enemies: (Leviticus 26:14ff)
These passages affirm that the blessings given from God to Israel were conditional and their success or failure depeneded upon whether or not they met the conditions that God had placed upon them.
Other Old Testament Examples of Conditions and Choice
How about Nadab and Abihu in Levitics 10:1-3? Here they were chosen by God. Priests in the House of God. Yet, they disobeyed God. They made a choice to disobey God and God sent fire from heaven and killed them. God had given them conditions to meet and they failed to meet them.
What about the people at Korah? They spoke against Moses and Aaron. They thought they were doing right. They made the choice to speak against Moses and God caused the ground to swallow them up. Did they have a choice to make or not? Did God force them rebel and then punish them in their rebellion?
Would God cause people to sin then punish them for that sin? It is outside of the justice of the Character of God to do such! This is the God of Calvinism.
New Testament Scriptures Affirm Conditions and Choice
Beginning with Jesus’s first sermon: The sermon on the Mount, Jesus says.
Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. (Matthew 7:21)
It is obvious then that not just everyone who cries out to the Lord; not everyone who wishes to be saved will be saved.
So, we ask the Lord, “who will be able to enter the Kingdom of Heaven?”
He says, he that doeth the will of my father.
Clearly Jesus taught that there was something that man needed to do. He says if people will do the will of the Father they can enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. The opposite implication is also true. If a person does not do the Father’s will he will not be accepted into the kingdom of Heaven!
12And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last. Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.
Notice a couple of things here: he will reward men according to the work he has done, the choices that he has made, and whether he chose to do or not do what God said. Then verse 14 says blessed are they that do his commandments, they will have a right to the tree of life, and enter into the city.
How could any honest person read the scriptures that have been presented here and conclude that man is not expected to meet any conditions at all in order to be saved?
The fact as proven in this article is this: God has always offered grace to man. But, God has also always expected man to show his faith by his actions. God has given man conditions as to how he is to be saved.
If you would like to study more thoroughly on what those conditions are, please read these articles: