Saturday, March 17, 2007

Why do Calvinists believe the way they do?

It's the glasses. While I assure you that this is not my picture, this photo does serve to make the point that our own Presuppositions are a kind of rose-colored glasses that we put on whenever we read the Bible. Presuppositions are the foundational things that we presume to be true, which frames our understanding of the Bible. For the Catholic, their main presupposition is that the Holy Catholic Church is God's true Church on earth, whose Popes carry apostolic authority and whose teachings and traditions never contradict Scripture. The Catholic puts on this type of rose colored glasses whenever they read the Bible. For the Jehovah's Witness, their rose colored glasses is the presupposition that the Watch Tower Society is God's sole channel of truth to mankind, and that Jesus is invisibly reigning from the Watchtower headquarters in New York.

Having said this, what are the presuppositions of the Calvinist and the Arminian?

The presupposition of the Calvinist is that God has an eternal decree whereby he has decreed all that will ever come to pass.

Calvinist, James White, explains: "The conjunction of God's absolute freedom and His Creatorship results in the doctrine of God's decrees: the soul-comforting truth that God has wisely and perfectly decreed whatsoever comes to pass in this universe." (The Potter's Freedom, p.45, emphasis mine)

This is the primary presupposition of the Calvinist who puts on these glasses, so to speak, whenever they attempt to interpret Scripture. As an example, with these glasses, the Calvinist will turn to Ephesians 1:11 and read "works all things after the counsel of His will," but because of the Calvinistic glasses of Determinism, see causes all things.

On the other hand, the Calvinist accuses the Arminian of possessing the presupposition that Free Will must be preserved at all costs, which is absurd. The true presupposition of the Arminian, that is, the rose colored glasses of the Arminian, is the wild belief that God's word is not the charade of contradictions that Calvinism makes it out to be.

In terms of contradictions, take note of what Calvinist, John McArthur, explains: "That's one of the reasons I know the Bible is written by God, because men would fix it. If I wrote a book that had those contradictions, Phil [Johnson] would edit them all out. One of the bench marks of divine inspiration is the fact that you're dealing with transcendence." (, emphasis mine)

The presupposition of the Arminian makes no allowance for any alleged contradiction in the Bible, and cannot accept a Calvinistic "Secret Will" theory which flatly contradicts Scripture, such as at Matthew 23:37. The primary complaint of the Arminian is that Calvinism makes the Bible into a charade. For more on this point, refer to the book, Debating Calvinism, p.309, in which Dave Hunt argues that Calvinism turns the Bible into a "charade." That's where the Arminian is coming from.


The Majesty of God said...

The main difference I see between Calvinism and Arminianism is that what God allows to happen in order to demonstrate to man that man’s ways apart from Him are folly; Calvinists are saying God wills to happen in order to preserve His sovereignty. God has the ability to destroy everything that exists to preserve His sovereignty but He showed the world that men’s souls are more important to Him than His sovereignty or He wouldn’t have hung naked on a cross to bring about their reconciliation. Preservation of Sovereignty and subjection to submission are juxtaposed because sovereignty and submission are polar opposites. Philippians 2: 6-10. Another example of this is Jesus washing the feet of His disciples, realizing that while He was washing their feet He would later one day stand as their judge on the Day of Judgment. said...

At first, the discple Peter completely rejected that the Sovereign Lord would stoop so low as to humbly wash his feet, as if God was some kind of servant. Therefore, Peter wanted no part of it, until he learned the cost of his position, and quickly changed his mind and then wanted a full body bath. Clearly, God's ways are not our ways, as Peter learned. The only presuppositional glasses that we, as Christians, ought to put on, are the glasses that says that God's ways are not our ways, and we must take Him at His word, regardless of the implications. Therefore, it distresses me when I hear a Calvinist make the following statement, as it relates to Matthew 23:37:

Calvinist: “I cannot believe in a God who surrenders His sovereignty over to the creature, man.”

Turretinfan said...

Dear EC:
You asserted:
"The presupposition of the Calvinist is that God has an eternal decree whereby he has decreed all that will ever come to pass."

However, that is not a presupposition, but a doctrine exegeted from Scripture.

In contrast, the Arminian (and Pelagian, Semi-Pelagian, Opern Theist, Mormon, Muslim, and JW) view of the will is a presupposition!

Perhaps the Catholics, Mormons, or JWs can claim that one of their prophets revealed that doctrine to theme, but professing Sola Scriptura Arminians and quasi-Arminians cannot find "libertarian free will" (the idea that men's actions are not subject to predetermination) in Scripture.

-Turretinfan said...


My point is simply that Calvinists have staked Determinsim, Hard or Soft, as the foundation and cornerstone of their theology, like a pair of glasses, so that every Scripture verse in the Bible is read through the lens of Determinism, declaring it a "doctrine exegeted from Scripture."

I think that I've made a factual assessment on the mindset of a Calvinist. One only needs to read James White's book, The Potter's Freedom, where he launches his system of theology on p.45, The Decrees of the King, from the premise of an alleged decree of Determinism, just as in his book, Debating Calvinism, the first chapter in his discourse affirming Calvinism begins with "God's Eternal Decree."

Richard Coords

Turretinfan said...

And my response is that actually, no, what you call "determinism" springs out of an unbiased reading of Scripture, but libertarian free will can only be imposed upon it.


Anonymous said...

"sovereignty and submission are polar opposites. Philippians 2: 6-10. Another example of this is Jesus washing the feet of His disciples"

Jesus submitted Himself to God alone. i don't see how the incarnation as discussed in phil 2 would in any way damage the sovereignty of God, as Jesus was also in the Godhead from all eternity who planned this salvation for men.

also, in washing the disciples' feet, Jesus was setting an example as a servant. Jesus was serving them...but He was NOT submitting Himself to them! as mr. says, peter tried to control the situation twice and was reminded that the Lord was still dictating the terms of the washing and had not given over any authority to them in that situation.

so let's be clear on that... said...

To Turretinfan:

You wrote: "...what you call 'determinism' springs out of an unbiased reading of Scripture...."

You are wearing your glasses with pride. See photo above. :) said...

To Anonymous:

I agree that He was submitting Himself only as a servant, being a God so high, condescending so low. But I never said that Jesus was, in effect, making Peter His Lord. So I agree in that respect.

What are your thoughts on this particular quote from a Calvinist on a message board: "I cannot believe in a God who surrenders His sovereignty over to the creature, man."

If you would like my thoughts on it, visit the writeup for Jeremiah 18:6: said...

Just to clarify in terms of Philippians 2:6-10, I agree that Jesus temporarily laid aside His Sovereignty, but not His Deity. Jesus never laid aside His nature as God.

Turretinfan said...


You wrote: "You are wearing your glasses with pride. See photo above. :)"

When I say: "no, I get my doctrine from Scripture" and you respond the way you did, you are demonstrating your interest in determining whether the doctrine is really from Scripture or not.

Think about that. Think about what your own web site has to say about scoffers who don't examine the matter that they criticize.

-Turretinfan said...


I'm not intentionally scoffing. This Blog was a humerous attempt to bring an awareness to the pitfall of Calvinistic presuppositions.

Consider the following point....I'm sure that you've read
James White's books. One of the central points in his book, Debating Calvinis, is that people use "Tradition" as a pair of glasses, through which Scripture is interpretted. He adds that the person who does not realize his own tradition, is most enslaved to it. So my point is the same as Hunt's, in that White needs not to forget that White must include himself in his warning. The "tradition" if you, of a Calvinist, is Determinism, straight from the Westminister famous statement. As you would no doubt agree, traditions, presuppositions and glasses, are a plague that every Bible expositer needs to be aware of, and I'm simply alerting people to the root of Calvinistic "tradition", if you will.

Turretinfan said...


I understand your point full well.

I'm disputing your assertion that what you call "determinism" (what Reformed folk typically call "Providence") is a tradition, rather than a Scriptural doctrine. After all, I find it in Scripture, and I believe it because Scripture teaches it.

However, I am also pointing out to you that "libertarian free will" is a tradition, and one that cannot be found in Scripture.

Someone reading Scripture with neither an understanding of what you call "determinism" or an understanding of "libertarian free will" could easily arrive at the Reformed doctrine, from a multitude of Scriptures that teach it.

That same person would never find "libertarian free will," because the concept is not in Scripture: it is a philosophical concept that is foreign to Scripture and logically contrary to God's omnipotence (though many Christians inconsistently claim to hold to both LFW and an omnipotence of God).

-Turretinfan said...

To Turretinfan:

It is perfectly fair for you to point out that tradition cuts both ways, and the John 3:16 Arminian duly notes your objection.

Turretinfan said...


You wrote:

It is perfectly fair for you to point out that tradition cuts both ways, and the John 3:16 Arminian duly notes your objection.

I respond:

Most Arminians read John 3:16 through the lenses of "universal atonement" more than through the lenses of LFW.

I would view more the typical place where the LFW lenses are primarily in use as being in the case of the John 4:14 Arminian.

But I will be preparing a post on John 3:16 at some point in the not too distant future, if the Lord wills. Perhaps it will give you some food for thought.

-Turretinfan said...

To Turretinfan:

I look forward to it. First, however, check out my writeup on John 3:16, because there, you will find various quotes from multiple perspectives. John Calvin's quotes seem, to me, to reflect the 4-Pointer's perspective.

Daniel Prince said...

Nice blog, Richard.

I think you'd enjoy a book called "Let's Start With Jesus" written by Dennis Kinlaw. He presents the case that beginning with understanding Jesus will give us a more accurate theology. Generally we begin with God (the Father) and work form there - Jesus is secondary. But why? Personally, I think we should begin with Jesus and work from there. We come to a very different conclusion of who God is and how he intends to be viewed. Jesus is "the image of the invisible God" (Col. 1:15-16), when we look at Jesus we "see the (know) Father." (Jn. 14:7)

Also, I'd like to hear a defense that Arminians have the particular presupposition you claim they have.

Richard Coords said...

Hello Daniel,

That does seem like a great book. Arminanism has long argued that it is Christocentric (elect with the Father on account of being "in Christ") vs. Calvinism which is more Patricentric (i.e. the eternal elect of the Father, given to the Son).

The quote on presuppositions dealt with world-views. Whenever one views a text, Calvinist or Arminian, he carries certain presuppositions, which in John Calvin's case, obviously is Augustinian Predestination, but also includes a "secret will." You can see this in John Calvin's explanation of Matthew 23:37, in which he views God's will as "double."

John Calvin comments: “I answer that this is exactly our belief, that His will is one and undivided: but because our minds cannot plumb the profound depths of His secret election (ad profundam arcanae electionis abyssum) to suit our infirmity, the will of God is set before us as double (bifariam).” (Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries, Matthew, Mark and Luke, Vol. III, James and Jude, p.69)