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John Calvin’s Gospel of Theistic Fatalism

Posted in Uncategorized by victorchristensen on August 27, 2009

John Calvin’s Gospel of Theistic Fatalism

Victor Christensen

The gospel message is not about sinners seeking God but God seeking sinners. Through the intricacies of human history with its failings and triumphs the picture that emerges is one of the Supreme Deity anxious to capture the attention of humanity. God says, “I permitted Myself to be found by those who did not seek Me.” (Isaiah 65:1)

In the biblical account God’s principal role is that of a Savior who strives within the context of free choice to eliminate humanity’s rejection of Him. The divine intention is to bring about an inward reconciliation with anyone who is willing to receive a restored relationship on the conditions and terms on which it is offered.

The condition for making peace with God, as it is clearly expressed by the Scriptures, is an unconditional acceptance of the divine ordering of things. Central to this reconciliation process is the doctrine of the atonement which is expressed in the death, and resurrection and the heavenly appearance of Christ before God in heaven.

Joined to this and in no way inferior to it, is the idea that Jesus Christ must be personally received as an inward presence whenever He confronts humanity in His deified mode as the Spirit of Christ.

Scriptures teaches that it is not faith in a doctrine about Christ but union with Christ Himself in a union in the Spirit that matters. Paul says; “the Lord is the Spirit,” and referred to Jesus as “the Lord, the Spirit.” Also, “If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.” (Romans 8:9, 2Corinthians 2:17, 3:8)

The following testimonies show that God’s offer to make peace with humanity is extended unconditionally to whoever is willing to receive it. There are no exclusions; God offers reconciliation to an entire world of sinners.

“The Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” “We have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men.” “The Lord is not… wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” “We judge that if One died for all, all died.” And “God … wants all men to be saved.” “He is the atoning sacrifice … for the sins of the whole world.” (Isaiah 53:6, 1Timothy 4:10, 2 Peter 3:9, 2 Corinthians 5:14, 1 Timothy 2:3-4, 1John 2:2)

Whereas the offer of a restored relationship is unconditional its validation requires submission to the will of God. Jesus said; “He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me.” (John 14:21)

As the Bible tells it humanity has historically found it difficult to relate to God on His terms. Jesus was speaking of His own constituency when He said; “Many a called but few are chosen.” “Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.” (Matthew 22:14, Luke 13:24)

In spite of the fact that through ignorance, deliberate intent or other means God has been ignored and forgotten by so many so often and for so long God’s passion for saving sinners has not abated.  From the center of the universe the word still goes forth to every sinner; “Let them make peace with Me.” (Isaiah 27:5)

Whoever you are and whatever you have done never imagine your situation is hopeless. The word of God says; “God demonstrated His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

False gospels and false gods

Whereas it is true no one is condemned merely for believing erroneous doctrine or saved merely by believing dogmatic truth this does not mean the intellectual property of Christianity is irrelevant.  Jesus warned,

“Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many.” Paul was opposed those who “believe what is false,” those “who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned,” and those who replaced truth with “teachings of men.” (Matthew 24:11, 2Thessalonians 2:11, Romans 16:17, Colossians 2:22)

John warned against “anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ”1 and gave the instruction; “If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house.”2 God never intended His church to be a market place for dispensing heretical ideas. (12 John 1:9, 22 John 1:10)

Jude the brother of Jesus wrote; “I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.”1 According to Paul some who imagined they were preaching Jesus were “preaching another Jesus whom we have not preached.”2 (1Jude 1:32, 22Corinthians 11:4)

It was in the context of the need to “contend earnestly” for the truth that Jesus said; “do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth, I did not to come to bring peace but a sword.” (Matthew 10:34)

What follows offers proof to show how a highly regarded Protestant leader has totally distorted the gospel.

Predestination

According to Roman Catholic sources John Calvin is “the most perseveringly followed by his disciples of any Western writer on theology.” (New Advent, http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/03195b.htm)

Whether or not Calvin made a meaningful contribution to the Reformation is a matter of dispute. While his followers demonstrate a fanatical loyalty to him and his teachings there is sufficient evidence to demonstrate that he imported into the Protestant religion numerous erroneous ideas from sources outside the Bible.

Calvinism is best known for the doctrine of predestination, what is not always understood is that the idea behind predestination is theistic fatalism. While many Calvinists do not like the term “fatalism” the truth is fatalism is Calvinism most honest label. Calvinist Rodger Tutt has no difficulty giving Calvinism its correct title. He writes:

“Theologically, we are absolute determinists. We believe in theistic fatalism. … Theistic fatalism believes that God is in intimate sovereign control over everything that happens so that everything that happens occurs due to His causality.” (http://examiningcalvinism.com/files/Complaints/ac_fatalism.html)

The following statement by Calvin is an unambiguous expression of the doctrine of theistic fatalism.

“The nature of providence is not mere foreknowledge but active governance of events. God not only watches over but … actively regulates all individual events, so that nothing takes place by chance. … for no man can act, or even speak, except as God wills. God’s providence also regulates natural occurrences such as the wind (no wind ever arises or increases except by God’s express command).”  (Calvin, Institutes bk. 1, chap. 16)

In spite of teaching a doctrine almost identical to Aristotle’s doctrine of fate Calvin vehemently denied that he taught  fatalism. However, Calvin’s understanding of function of deity was remarkably similar to Aristotle’s concept of the universal nous or Soul whose vibrations were the first cause of all movent in the universe.

In his Mechanics Aristotle wrote, “There must then be a principle of such a kind that its substance is activity. … among entities there must be some cause which moves and combines things.” (Aristotle, Metaphysics, 340BC)

For Aristotle the thing “which moves and combines things lacked personality. However, in Calvin’s writings Aristotles “Unmoved Mover” reappears in the same role but is now indentified as the biblical God Yahweh.

“Predestination we call the eternal decree of God, by which He has determined in Himself, what He would have to become of every individual of mankind. For they are not all created with a similar destiny; but eternal life is foreordained for some and eternal death for others. Every man, therefore, being created for one or the other of these ends, we say he is predestinated either to life or to death.” (Institutes, bk. 3, chap. 21, sec.5)

What Calvin rejected was not fatalism but the idea that fatalism has mechanistic causes. He identified his brand of fatalism with a universal intellect who, through a corrupted theology, he identified as the biblical Yahweh.

In spite of his status as a reformation icon Calvin seem not to understand that in terms of its organizing principles theistic fatalism is as much fatalism as is the teaching of Aristotle. And, because he did not teach a mechanistic form of fatalism Calvin claimed (wrongly) that his brand of theistic fatalism was not fatalism.

“Those who would cast obloquy on this doctrine, (predestination) calumniate it as the dogma of the Stoics concerning fate. The same charge was formerly brought against Augustine, (lib. ad Bonifac. II, c. 6 et alibi.) We are unwilling to dispute about words; but we do not admit the term Fate …. [W]e maintain that by his providence, not heaven and earth and inanimate creatures only, but also the counsels and wills of men are so governed as to move exactly in the course which he has destined.” (Calvin, Institutes bk.1, chap, 16, sec.8,)

If the “wills of men are so governed as to move exactly in the course” God predestined how is that not fatalism?

Laurence Vance points out that Calvin’s teaching is fatalism for the reason it contains the essential features of Aristotle teachings that everything that happen in the universe is a reaction to an external compulsive source.

“Although Calvinists go out of their way to distance themselves from fatalism, they are in essence teaching the same thing. When a philosopher believes ‘what is to be will be’ it is called determinism. When a Stoic believes ‘what is to be will be’ it is called fate. When a Moslem believes ‘what is to be will be’ it is called fatalism. But when a Calvinist believes ‘what is to be will be’ it is called predestination.” (The Other Side of Calvinism p.278)

Aristotle’s fatalism supplied the model Calvin needed to demonstrate God’s total control over the universe.

“Aristotle’s conception of a God, outside of the world, causing all motion in nature, supplying the efficient cause for the universe, was just suited for a philosophy whose primary purpose was to find confirmation for the Church. The fact that Aristotle’s God was devoid of all qualities so essential for a religious Divine Creator offered small difficulty to the theologians, whose minds were very quick to find reasons and explanations even for things most mysterious.” (Henry Alphern, An Outline History of Philosophy (Forum House, 1969) p.11)

Double Predestination

Calvin taught what is known as double predestination. In this theory God worked out a plan in eternity in which He determined that only a small minority would be saved and the vast majority would be consigned to eternal destruction. In Calvin’s theory of predestination God determined the time and place when each individual would be born and the type of life they would live down to the smallest detail. Moreover, in Calvin’s theistic fatalism every person is reduce to the level of a robot capable of only doing what is written in a heavenly script.

“…the reason why God elects some and rejects others is to be found in His purpose alone. … before men are born their lot is assigned to each of them by the secret will of God. … the predestination to death of those who perish is … the will of God. … God has chosen to salvation those whom He pleased, and has rejected the others, without our knowing why …. (Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries: Romans and Thessalonians, pp.203, 208)

Calvin’s outrageous claim that “the predestination to death of those who perish is … the will of God” is heretical nonsense. “The Lord is not willing any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” (2Peter 3:9)

Calvin’s theory that God predestined millions to “eternal death” even before they were born was recycled in the Westminster Confession which says, “By the decree of God … some men and angels are predestinated unto everlasting life; and others foreordained to everlasting death.”  (Westminster Confession of Faith, chap.3, sec.3)

According to Calvin all life forms on earth experience a robotic existence in which the entire created order is directed by a master plan conceived in eternity that controls all outcomes. There is no such thing as free choice, accidents or unintended consequences. There is no genuine resistance to the will of God because those who oppose the will of God are predestined to it. All aspects of life are an irresistible expression of the divine intention.

Matt Permen identifies the core thesis in Calvin’s doctrine of theistic fatalism as despotic dictatorship.

“God’s sovereignty as I am convinced the Bible teaches it means that God has foreordained everything that happens. Before creation, God planned and decided (ordained) the entire course of human history down to the smallest detail. All circumstances in time are therefore the outworking of God’s plan which He decreed in eternity.” (Matt Permen, If God is Sovereign Why do Anything, http://www.gecities.com/Athens/Delphi/8449/sov.html)

If the idea that “the entire course of human history down to the smallest details [is] … the outworking of God’s plan which He decreed in eternity” is not fatalism or cosmic dictatorship by deity, then what exactly is it?

The God of good and evil

Calvin’s doctrine of theistic fatalism makes God the ultimate source of evil; He says “man by the righteous impulsion of God does that which is unlawfu.1 and “man falls, the Providence of God so ordaining.”2 (1Calvin, Institutes bk.4, chap.18, sec.2, 2Institutes bk. 1, chap. 16)

Calvin says one thing but God says the exact opposite.

“For they have done outrageous things in Israel … in my name have spoken lies, which I did not tell them to do.” (Jeremiah 29:23)

“The people have forsaken Me and have profaned this place by making offerings in it to other gods … they have filled this place with the blood of innocents, and have built the high places of Baal to burn their sons in the fire as burnt offerings to Baal, which I did not command or decree, nor did it come into My mind.” (Jeremiah 19:4-5)

To placate pagan deities Israel sacrificed “their sons in the fire as burnt offerings to Baal.” God declared, “I did not command or decree” the offering of infants as a human sacrifice. However, Calvin says God planned in eternity that Israel would offer children as human sacrifices, and sadly thousands believe him.

Also, if it is true “man by the righteous impulsion of God does that which is unlawful” then on moral grounds God has an active participation in human sinfulness and becomes the primary instigator behind every act of evil.

If as Calvin says “man by the righteous impulsion of God” commits sin then because of this alleged “impulsion of God” that is supposedly impossible to resist the reality is God first causes sinners to sin and then punishes them with death for committing the sins He Himself compelled them to commit. This is a very sick doctrine.

Calvin does not hesitate to say that every act of sin and evil is a manifestation of “the will of God.”

“Were not men predestinated by the ordination of God to that corruption which is now held forth as the cause of condemnation?   … I admit that by the will of God all the sons of Adam fell into that state of wretchedness in which they are now involved; and this is just what I said at the first.” (Calvin, Institutes bk.3, chap. 23, sec.4)

“Angels and men, good and bad, do nought but what has been decreed by God.” (Institutes bk2 chap1 sec2)

When Calvin is allowed to speak for himself He says that all sin and sinning is a manifestation of the will of God. “By means of the wicked God performs what he had secretly decreed.” (Institutes bk.1, chap.18, sec.4)

“[W]e maintain that … the counsels and wills of men are so governed as to move exactly in the course which [God] has destined.” “The sins which are committed are committed … by the will of God.” “What wickedness soever men commit … proceed also from the will of God.” (Institutes bk.1, chap, 16, sec.8, The Complete Works of John Calvin Article Third, Calvin, A Defence of the Secret Providence of God, Article XIV)

Calvinists Arthur Pink endorsed Calvin theistic fatalism that sinners are programmed by God to sin.

“Plainly it was God’s will that sin should enter this world … Not only did His omniscient eye see Adam eating of the forbidden fruit, but He decreed beforehand that he should do so.” (A W Pink, Sovereignty of God, pp.147, 249)

According to Calvin Satan is not a fallen angel who of his own free choice rebelled against God but a purpose built robot whose role as the personification of ultimate evil was programmed by God. For Calvin there was no spontaneous rebellion in heaven, God created Satan and his evil and cunning is everything God intended.

“God bends all the reprobate, and even Satan himself at His will … angels and men, good and bad, do nothing but what is appointed by God; … all movements are secretly directed to their end by the hidden inspiration of God.” “In general, indeed, philosophers teach, and the human mind conceives, that all the parts of the world are invigorated by the secret inspiration of God.” (Institutes bk.1, chap.18, bk.4, chap. 16, sec.1)

Calvin’s doctrine of double predestination was endorsed by the Synod of Dort (1619) in Holland and in the Westminster Confession (1647) in England. According to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, “Calvin affirmed ‘double’ predestination, meaning that both reprobation and election are within the active will of God.”1 Anyone who rejects double predestination has rejected Calvin’s teachings. (1Encyclopaedia Britannica, Predestination)

Geoffrey Rudolf Elton says, “This double predestination is the characteristic core of Calvinism, though Calvin did not stress it so much as his followers were to do.” (Geoffrey Rudolf Elton, Reformation In Europe 1517-1579 p.152

Nothing demonstrates Calvin failure to understand the redemptive love of God for all humanity than the following statements, “I maintain that the reprobate are hateful to God.” “God could not look upon us, only to hate us; because there is nothing but wretchedness in us.” (Institutes bk.3, chap.24, sec.17, The Doctrine of Election, http://www.the-highway.com/Doctrine_of_Election.html)

Calvin’s entire thinking is repudiated by the following words of Jesus. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

Calvin’s contribution to theology can be summed up this way; the God he describes is not the biblical God.

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One Response

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  1. Isaiah1v18 said, on December 9, 2012 at 1:42 am

    Excellent work.


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