Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Calvin Was Not a TULIP Calvinist

The fact that John Calvin did not believe or teach "Limited Atonement" is well known among certain people. But, among others, there is, like always, great confusion. (The "L" of TULIP which is taught by Calvinist and the Reformed crowd stands for "Limited Atonement". This false doctrine believes that Jesus only died for those who would be saved, not the whole world.) On the issue of "Limited" vs. "Unlimited" atonement the Calvinist and the Reformed theologians may be dismayed to see John C. and me standing in the same corner of this debate. (We quickly part ways, though, on the issue of election, human will, Israel, and eschatology.)

Here some statements made by Calvin in his writings, commentaries or theological works that clearly indicated that he believed that Jesus' death on the cross paid for all the sins of the world, for all the sins of mankind including those who will suffer eternal damnation. This is called unlimited atonement and forces the Reformed followers of Calvin to abandon TULIP and instead consider TUUIP. I myself would be a TRURP (Total depravity, reject election, unlimited atonement, resistible grace and perseverance of the saints.)

Here is what John Calvin said in favor of unlimited atonement for the whole world and against limited atonement:

From Calvin's Commentary on Isaiah, page 131, Isaiah 53:12,
Yet I approve of the ordinary reading, that he alone bore the punishment of many, because on him was laid the guilt of the whole world. It is evident from other passages, and especially from the fifth chapter of the Epistle to the Romans, that 'many' sometimes denotes 'all.'
From Calvin's Commentary on the Gospel According to John, page 64, John 1:29,
When he says, the sin of the world, he extends this favor indiscriminately to the whole human race.
From Calvin's Commentary on the Gospel According to John, page 50, John 12:46,
The term whosoever, appears to have been added on purpose, partly, that all believers, without exception, may enjoy this benefit incommon, and partly, to show that the reason why unbelievers perish in darkness is, that, of their own accord, they forsake the light.
From Calvin's Commentaries on the Epistle to the Romans, page 211, Romans 5:18,
He makes this favor common to all, because it is propounded (note: this means - 'to put forward or offer for consideration or acceptance') to all, and not because it is in reality extended to all; for though Christ suffered for the sins of the whole world, and is offered through God's benignity indiscriminately to all, yet all do not receive him.
From Calvin's Commentary to the Hebrews, page 125, Hebrews 5:11,
The Apostle means that its benefit shall come to none but to those who obey. But by saying this he recommends faith to us; for he becomes not ours, nor his blessings, except as far as we receive them and him by faith. He seems at the same time to have adopted a universal term, all, for this end, that he might show that no one is precluded from salvation who is but teachable and becomes obedient to the Gospel of Christ.
From Calvin's Commentary to the Hebrews, page 220, Hebrews 9:28,
To bear, or, take away sins, is to free from guilt by his satisfaction those who have sinned. He says the sins of many, that is, of all, as in Romans 5:15. It is yet certain that all receive no benefit from the death of Christ; but this happens because their unbelief prevents them.
From Calvin's Institutes,
The first thing to be attended to is, that so long as we are without Christ and separated from him, nothing which he suffered and did for the salvation of the human race is of the least benefit to us (3.1.1)
. . . God, who will have all men to be saved. By this he assuredly means nothing more than that the way of salvation was not shut against any order of men; that, on the contrary, he had manifested his mercy in such a way, that he would have none debarred from it. (3.24.26)
I agree with Calvin, but against Reformers, that Christ did die for the sins of every man in the entire world. I do believe in perseverance (once saved, always saved) because the work of salvation is the work of God and can not be reversed. I agree with total depravity, except I believe man still has a will to accept the offer of salvation when illuminated by the ministry of the Holy Spirit. I reject irresistible grace because I do believe man can reject the ministry of the Holy Spirit. I reject the concept that God elected only some people for salvation based solely on His choice and not on His foreknowledge. So, I am not a Calvinist, but really, neither was Calvin.

Next, I want to discuss the early Augustine position vs. the later Augustine position which changed from his earlier writings because of his debate with Pelagius and the Donatist. Even Augustine, who the Reformers also claim, contradicts TULIP. It is going to be easier to call TULIP a false teaching than it will be to call me a false teacher.

Galyn Wiemers


Anonymous said...

Although Calvin seems to have espoused notions of a provision of universal expiation/redemption, he clearly held a firm, particularist view of unconditional election (and a particularist application of salvation). See the recent historical work by Paul Hartog ("A Word for the World: Calvin on the Extent of the Atonement") from Regular Baptist Press, available at: www.baptistbulletin.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/07/a-word-for-the-world.pdf

Generation Word Bible Teaching Ministry said...

Thank you! This is indeed a great work by Paul Hartog. It fits perfectly with my personal study of Calvin, TULIP, etc. I look forward to reading it again in greater detail.

Generation Word Bible Teaching Ministry said...

There are very many exciting things to read in Hartog's article (not to mention he is from Faith in Ankeny!) From page 27 I find this interesting:

“ 'So we must beware, or souls redeemed by Christ may perish by our carelessness, for their salvation to some degree was put into our hands by God.' And
he adds, . . . It should distress us to see someone perishing who
has been so dearly redeemed by Christ’s precious blood; it should distress us to see God’s righteousness and his glory diminished.' Calvin clearly was not as guarded in his wording as many later high orthodox Calvinists tended to be."

For sure, Calvin is not "as guarded in his wording" which makes him bearable to read. He writes here as one who is driven by the pursuit of truth and not as one needing to defend Calvinism.