Why I’m NOT A Calvinist

Why I Am Not A CalvinistI have a friend who says, “Calvinism is the most ridiculous system of thought ever forced upon scripture.”

While I’m not as strident in my assessment, I do wholeheartedly reject Calvinism, especially two of their key positions:

Unlike Calvinists, I do not believe that God predestined every single thing we will ever do in our lives before we were born. Rather, we have free will, which means we make choices every day which, when paired with God’s activity in our lives, shape our future. In other words, I believe God has a plan for our lives, but we help bring that plan into reality.

Eternal Security
Unlike Calvinists, I do not believe that once we become Christians, we cannot lose our salvation. I believe it is almost impossible to do so, but I do believe that it is possible. In the same way we have the free will to choose the gift of salvation offered us, we have the free will to reject the gift of salvation offered us later on.

However, the difference between me and many of my friends who are a part of, say, The Gospel Coalition, is that I don’t call Calvinists heretics.

Brilliant, godly, and passionate Christ followers have disagreed over these issues for a long, long time. I just happen to believe, like great modern-day scholars like Ben Witherington and Jack Cottrell, that the teaching of scripture leads me to different conclusions. (In fact, if you haven’t read it, you owe it to yourself to read Jerry Walls and Joseph Dongell’s Why I Am Not A Calvinist. It does a fantastic job laying out the issues in an easy-to-understand format.)

Despite the impression you’re given in the blogosphere, there are a lot of non-Calvinists out there.

We were just predestined to be a bit less vocal.

Your thoughts?

Brian loves helping Christians live thoughtful, courageous lives. He's a popular blogger, author, and pastor at Christ's Church of the Valley in the suburbs of Philadelphia.

  • bblande

    I don’t fall on either side of the debate, but I would always think it’s prudent to use Scripture to support your position.

  • Mark

    While exploring my thoughts of Who God is and How God loves us I came across the theology of Relationalism or Open-Relationship. The idea for God to perfectly love us would state that in his character he CAN’T know the future. Crazy, yes.

    Much like how God is omnipotent, all powerful. People have asked “If God is so powerful can he make something so large he can’t lift it?” The answer is “No, because that’s a paradox…and a stupid question”

    I think that correlates to his omnisciency “If God knows everything can he know your future and still not control destinies”

    For God to KNOW I’m going to make waffles tomorrow, and God can’t be WRONG, that means that I HAVE to make waffles. (waffle theology, yup)

    I feel that God’s omnisciency allows Him, within his character to KNOW what is “knowable” everything past, and all things present…and like a father have a perfect understanding of his children’s decisions making ability. Also like a perfect father would have great plans. Much like I plan for my daughter to remain pure, go to college, and not date until she’s 35. Great plans but ultimately they do not come to fruition unless she obeys and I love her and interact in her life.

    All to say, I disagree with the predetermining God of calvinsim.

  • http://deuceology.wordpress.com Larry Carter

    I suppose I am one. I don’t wave the banner high, but I am fairly comfortable with the theology. But way too many try to win folks to Calvinism instead of Christ. I was a Calvinist before I even really knew what it was just from reading the Bible. But I don’t care if anyone else is or not.

  • http://www.BrianJones.com/ Brian Jones

    I line that wording! Newbigin is the man.

  • http://twitter.com/ChrisDonato Chris Donato

    Thanks for this. I’ve long since left off the moniker “Calvinist” or “Reformed,” though I’m still fairly comfortable with “Augustinian.” I know that in later life—post Pelagian controversy—Augustine adopted something akin to double predestination, but before that he walked a pretty good line, I think.

    Put another way, I’ve little problem with a predestination unto salvation—an election that logically follows God’s decree to send his Son as a sufficient sacrifice for all—but shudder at the thought “that God predestined every single thing we will ever do in our lives before we were born,” which is basically what the Westminster Confession teaches (at least on the surface).

    At the end of the day, I think Lesslie Newbigin was on to something: election has far more to do with being called out to die to self than with one’s eternal destination decided among the three persons of Trinity in eternity “past.”

  • http://www.facebook.com/reggie.hundley Reggie Hundley

    I have a relative who, after growing up as a non-Calvinist, adopted Calvinism with great enthusiasm. He tells me that it is the only “hopeful” world view. My conversations with him are often very brief. On the other hand my friend Steve Brown, who calls himself a 6 point Calvinist because he believes in unlimited luck, and I have long gregarious conversations whenever possible. Like your point Brian, he does not question the salvation of those who disagree. Steve & I agree that there is one obvious track in Scripture that tells us that God is absolutely sovereign. However, there is another undeniable track in Scripture that says WE are responsible for our beliefs and actions before God. It seems to me that some choose to believe both cannot be true, and therein lies the problem. Our inability to reconcile these two truths is a problem of our limited intellect. The necessity to cling to one and reject the other lies not with God or the truth of Scripture, but our own nature…and that is precisely what God’s power changes in our lives.

  • http://www.BrianJones.com/ Brian Jones

    Good question. I don’t think you can daily fit the nature of God, etc. into one well-defined category. That said, I would lean towards an Arminian position, but also identify with certain aspects of an “open view” of God, but also Calvinism.

  • Bake

    Liked the post and I agree with you completely. Actually talking to friends who believe Calvinism has strengthened my understanding of God. Here is my question to you, Does this mean you take the Arminian position? I was told you are either a Calvinist or Arminian. I don’t think that is true but I have been told that. Any thoughts?

  • Tim Babb

    Brian, the statement I find almost amusing from Calvinists is in regard to the questioning of eternal security. When asked about someone losing their salvation, they always say, “If they lost it, then they were never saved in the first place”. They are stating that someone lost something without ever possessing it, which defies logic.

  • http://www.facebook.com/timeogle Tim Ogle

    I have found that some of the concepts so passionately defended by Calvinists have strengthened and enhanced my understanding of God.

    I was taught that God was to be feared (more accurately I was to be TERRIFIED) and that he loved me. However, I have been challenged to understand that God’s love must be equally intense to his majesty and anger.

    I agree with your statement about salvation, “I believe it is almost impossible to do so, but I do believe that it is possible.”

    My biggest disagreement with the Calvanistic sway is it tends to take God’s “freedom” away.