Total Depravity (“None is Righteous”): Reply to James White

Total Depravity (“None is Righteous”): Reply to James White March 7, 2017

Calvinism and Romans 3:10-11 (“None is Righteous . . . No One Seeks For God”)


Photo of James White in the You Tube video, “Dr. James White Can’t Respond To Our Documentary” (3-11-15) [standard You Tube license]




See James White’s article, C. Gordon Olson and the Many “Mistranslated” Texts on Calvinism (4-15-07)

Before I begin, I would like to make it very clear that I am not advocating or defending Pelagianism (the doctrine that man can do anything whatsoever to save himself, or “works-salvation.” I am not denying sola gratia (“Grace alone”) in the slightest, nor original sin, nor the universality of actual sin and thus universal need for salvation. I will be accused in some circles (mark my words) of denying one or more of these things, so I want to stress that it is not true. If anyone thinks that I am upholding any of these falsehoods and heresies in the following argument, they will have understood neither my meaning nor my intent.

What I am opposing is the Calvinist understanding that of total depravity, as defined by Charles Hodge, in his Systematic Theology (my bolding):

The fifth form of doctrine to which the Protestant faith stands opposed, is that which admits a moral deterioration of our nature, which deserves the displeasure of God, and which is therefore truly sin, and yet denies that the evil is so great as to amount to spiritual death, and to involve the entire inability of the natural man to what is spiritually good.

. . . The whole human race, by their apostasy from God, are totally depraved. By total depravity, is not meant that all men are equally wicked; nor that any man is as thoroughly corrupt as it is possible for a man to be; nor that men are destitute of all moral virtues. The Scriptures recognize the fact, which experience abundantly confirms, that men, to a greater or less degree, are honest in dealings, kind in their feelings, and beneficent in their conduct. Even the heathen, the Apostle teaches us, do by nature the things of the law. They are more or less under the dominion of conscience, which approves or disapproves their moral conduct. All this is perfectly consistent with the Scriptural doctrine of total depravity, which includes the entire absence of holiness; the want of due apprehensions of the divine perfections, and of our relation to God as our Creator, Preserver, Benefactor, Governor, and Redeemer. There is common to all men a total alienation of the soul from God so that no unrenewed man either understands or seeks after God; no such man ever makes God his portion, or God’s glory the end of his being. The apostasy from God is total or complete. All men worship and serve the creature rather than, and more than the Creator. They are all therefore declared in Scripture to be spiritually dead. They are destitute of any principle of spiritual life.

I wholeheartedly agree that the unregenerate man is utterly unable to save himself or do the slightest thing to turn to God and be justified or regenerated, but (and always but) for God’s grace. The Council of Trent (surprise! for many who have been told otherwise by anti-Catholics!!!!) teaches all of this:

Decree on Justification

CANON I.-If any one saith, that man may be justified before God by his own works, whether done through the teaching of human nature, or that of the law, without the grace of God through Jesus Christ; let him be anathema.

CANON II.-If any one saith, that the grace of God, through Jesus Christ, is given only for this, that man may be able more easily to live justly, and to merit eternal life, as if, by free will without grace, he were able to do both, though hardly indeed and with difficulty; let him be anathema.

CANON III.-If any one saith, that without the prevenient inspiration of the Holy Ghost, and without his help, man can believe, hope, love, or be penitent as he ought, so as that the grace of Justification may be bestowed upon him; let him be anathema.

CANON X.-If any one saith, that men are just without the justice of Christ, whereby He merited for us to be justified; or that it is by that justice itself that they are formally just; let him be anathema.


On the necessity, in adults, of preparation for Justification, and whence it proceeds.

The Synod furthermore declares, that in adults, the beginning of the said Justification is to be derived from the prevenient grace of God, through Jesus Christ, that is to say, from His vocation, whereby, without any merits existing on their parts, they are called; that so they, who by sins were alienated from God, may be disposed through His quickening and assisting grace, to convert themselves to their own justification, by freely assenting to and co-operating with that said grace: in such sort that, while God touches the heart of man by the illumination of the Holy Ghost, neither is man himself utterly without doing anything while he receives that inspiration, forasmuch as he is also able to reject it; yet is he not able, by his own free will, without the grace of God, to move himself unto justice in His sight. Whence, when it is said in the sacred writings: Turn ye to me, and I will turn to you, we are admonished of our liberty; and when we answer; Convert us, O Lord, to thee, and we shall be converted, we confess that we are prevented by the grace of God.


In what manner it is to be understood, that the impious is justified by faith, and gratuitously.

And whereas the Apostle saith, that man is justified by faith and freely, those words are to be understood in that sense which the perpetual consent of the Catholic Church hath held and expressed; to wit, that we are therefore said to be justified by faith, because faith is the beginning of human salvation, the foundation, and the root of all Justification; without which it is impossible to please God, and to come unto the fellowship of His sons: but we are therefore said to be justified freely, because that none of those things which precede justification-whether faith or works-merit the grace itself of justification. For, if it be a grace, it is not now by works, otherwise, as the same Apostle says, grace is no more grace.

What I deny, on the other hand, is the Calvinist notion of Total Depravity such that (as Presbyterian theologian Charles Hodge put it, fallen, unregenerate man has “lost all ability to perform what is spiritually good” (Systematic Theology, abridged version, edited by Edward N. Gross, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1988, 308). And I shall back up my contention with plenty of Scripture, as I always seek to do in such discussions.

White (words in blue throughout) begins his counter-reply to one C. Gordon Olson with the usual caricatured blast at the soteriology of non-Calvinist Protestants:

. . . one who wishes to defend a man-centered gospel rather than the gospel of the free and powerful grace of God. . . all such writings, whether those of Olson or Hunt or Geisler or Bryson or whoever . . .

People like Protestant apologist and theologian Norman Geisler (not just we lowly pagan, Pelagian, ignorant, unregenerate, idolatrous Catholics; indeed, any non-Calvinist whatsoever) , therefore, supposedly deny sola gratia and assert a “man-centered” Pelagianism. White would not be White without misrepresenting and deriding his opponents. Further on in the article he describes Olson’s views as a “‘rehabilitated Pelagian’ viewpoint”.

I don’t know the works or exhaustive soteriology of all these men, and some may have perhaps fallen into one or more of these serious errors (Dave Hunt is a fool and abysmally ignorant in many areas), but I know that Norman Geisler has not, and I highly suspect that Olson and Bryson have not, either. If White disagrees, I’d like to see him prove it with some hard evidence; not just polemics. If he does so, I’d be the first to agree with him. But I know Catholic teaching and my own (I adhere to all the teachings of the Catholic Church) and we do not deny sola gratia at all (nor assert the converse: Pelagianism).

White refers to “Paul’s apologetic for the universal sinfulness of man”. I don’t deny this, so it is not at issue. Again, I deny that unregenerate man can do no “spiritually good” thing whatsoever (in a context apart from salvation or justification). My argument will be from the nature of biblical poetic language and Hebrew idiom. I will not be making the same argument that Olson makes (in fact, I disagree with it). Mine is a different approach altogether. First, let’s look at the passage in question (specifically Romans 3:10-11), in its overall context (I use RSV):

Romans 3:9-24 What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all; for I have already charged that all men, both Jews and Greeks, are under the power of sin,
10: as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one;
11: no one understands, no one seeks for God.
12: All have turned aside, together they have gone wrong; no one does good, not even one.”
13: “Their throat is an open grave, they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips.”
14: “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
15: “Their feet are swift to shed blood,
16: in their paths are ruin and misery,
17: and the way of peace they do not know.”
18: “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
19: Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God.
20: For no human being will be justified in his sight by works of the law, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.
21: But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from law, although the law and the prophets bear witness to it,
22: the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction;
23: since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
24: they are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus,

White comments as follows:

Consider: Is Paul saying “there is none really righteous (but some who are sorta-righteous)” in verse 10? Is he saying there is none who understand really well, but some who sorta understand, just enough,” in verse 11? And since he latches on to the present participle, how about verse 12? “There is none who regularly does good (but there are some who do good once in a while in and of themselves)”? Have all turned aside, or just most? Have they become useless, or just mainly useless? You truly have to wonder if Paul’s point is going to be sacrificed on the altar of the defense of human autonomy. How much plainer can Paul put it? The conclusion of his series of citations is not “Mankind is really sinful…though…not so bad as to be unable to do some good, have some fear, do a little seeking, etc.”

White argues that Olson’s argument from the word ekzeteo (“seeks”) neglects context (he uses the word “context” twice). What I will be doing is examining the context of the original citation that St. Paul makes, and also related cross-referenced materials, in order to better understand his intended meaning, within the framework of Hebrew idiom and frequent hyperbole. Bishop White notes in passing:

Paul has already said, that men know God exist, and yet, in their ungodliness, suppress that knowledge of Him, refusing to acknowledge Him as the Creator.

He is referring to Romans 1:18-21, 25, 28. Yet Paul doesn’t teach, in context, that absolutely all unregenerated men know that God exist but deny Him anyway, for in the very next chapter (and the chapter right before our text under consideration): Romans 2, he talks about “righteous” people who can do “good” and who are capable of “well-doing” even without the Law, let alone the gospel of Jesus Christ:

Romans 2

6: For he will render to every man according to his works:
7: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life;

10 . . . glory and honor and peace for every one who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek.

13: For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified.
14: When Gentiles who have not the law do by nature what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law.
15: They show that what the law requires is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness and their conflicting thoughts accuse or perhaps excuse them
16: on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.

26: So, if a man who is uncircumcised keeps the precepts of the law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision?
27: Then those who are physically uncircumcised but keep the law will condemn you who have the written code and circumcision but break the law.

How fascinating. All of this is about Gentiles who don’t even have the law. They haven’t heard the gospel at all. The New Testament has not yet been out together. They (obviously) don’t yet have the benefit of Romans itself. Paul never says that they have heard the gospel. James White would probably say they are unregenerate, since he seems to think (from what I can tell) that one must hear the gospel and accept it in order to be regenerated and justified. These people have not that advantage at all. Therefore, according to White, they could not possibly be capable of any spiritually good thing. Yet look at all the words Paul uses to describe them:

. . . by patience in well-doing . . . [receive] eternal life; . . . every one who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified. . . . do by nature what the law requires, . . . what the law requires is written on their hearts, . . . a man who is uncircumcised keeps the precepts of the law, . . . those who are physically uncircumcised but keep the law . . .”

Needless to say, this doesn’t fit very well at all with White’s theology. He already has far more explaining to do than Mr. Olson, who is merely guilty of an arguably weak linguistic argument. Here is tons of data from Paul that runs contrary to White’s theology. If white claims it does not (I’m always open to clarification or correction), then surely he can explain to us how it all fits in perfectly well with his outlook. I’d love to see it. From what I know of the doctrine of Total Depravity, it does not. I do agree with the following statement that Olson made, cited by White:

Although Paul expands the application of David’s words somewhat, he is giving a generalized statement about the human race as a whole, extending to both Jews and Gentiles, but not intended to be all-inclusive.

Olson tried to apply this primarily to the atheist. I don’t think that is plausible (I agree with White’s negative appraisal of that opinion). I contend that the exegetical key here lies, rather, in the way the Hebrews used hyperbole and words like “all”; how they understood them, and how exaggeration and contrast were very common motifs in Hebrew poetic expression. White exclaims:

Paul expands the application, not just “somewhat,” but, in this text, universally. How can anyone read the catena of passages in 3:10-18 and yet come to the conclusion this is not intended to be “all-inclusive” when the conclusion says just the opposite? Does not Paul conclude that his words function “so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God”? How do you get “not intended to be all-inclusive” from “every mouth/all the world”?

White also maintains:

“But from there you will seek the LORD your God, and you will find Him if you search for Him with all your heart and all your soul” (Deu. 4:29). Since the Bible commands us to seek, then, obviously, we can do so! Just like how the Bible commands us to love God perfectly, and our neighbor as ourselves! We can do it! And to walk blamelessly, and…oh, wait. . . . such commands would be used of God to 1) direct and guide the regenerate soul, . . .

Note, then, that White has concluded that any instance of “seeking” of God must occur in the regenerate soul. This is crucial to understand as we pursue this line of thought shortly, in an in-depth examination of related passages. White has to explain, for example, how all these Gentiles Paul refers to in Romans 2 were blessed with regeneration without hearing the gospel message.

They obviously had to be regenerated, according to him, in order to do all the good things Paul described them as doing, and indeed, to even achieve salvation, as Paul says that they do. They’re justified, they are moral and “righteous”; they are internally transformed (“written on their hearts” / “conscience” etc.), and saved (“eternal life”). That definitely involves “spiritual good.” They do good works, and God uses these (so the text says, not the Catholic Church or Dave Armstrong) as a prime consideration in granting them salvation.

White would have to assume (because of his predispositions) that they, therefore, must have both heard the gospel and have received regeneration. But nothing in the text itself suggests to the slightest degree that the former is the case, and the latter can only be deduced (I think it could rightly be, since they are referred to as being “justified” and saved, but White is no fan of deduction; he favors direct statements).

Perhaps this is an instance of the difficulties of White’s own “over-arching tradition” (the notion he ascribes to Olson)? White’s view of the state of those who haven’t heard the gospel (such as these folks in Romans 2) is seen by his approving citation of Charles Spurgeon, in his post “What I Believe About Regeneration” (3-18-06):

The instrumentality through which this singular change has been wrought in us is clearly stated, “Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth.” Men are not usually saved without the immediate agency of the gospel. Some have said that the Spirit of God always works through the truth, and that the truth is sure to work conviction. The truth, however, is preached, and faithfully preached, to tens of thousands, to whom it conveys not a blessing at all, but is the savor of death unto death. Others have said that the Spirit of God regenerates men apart from the Word of God but this is not told us in Scripture, and is not therefore to be received. But evermore the Word and the Spirit are put together. Scripture does not talk of the Word of God as a dead letter; it says, “The Word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword.” On the other hand, Scripture does not speak of the Holy Spirit as though the Word would work apart from him, but the two are put together, and “ what God hath joined together, let no man put asunder.” My dear brethren and sisters, you who have been begotten again unto a lively hope, was it not through the hearing of the Word, or the reading of it, or the remembrance of some hallowed text which you had almost forgotten? You know it was. Good McCheyne used to say, “Depend on it, it is God’s Word that saves souls, and not our comment upon God’s Word;” and so I believe it is. It is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth.

So now both Bishop White and also the well-known Calvinist preacher Spurgeon are in direct contradiction to St. Paul and Holy Scripture. For where does it say in Romans 2 that these people, who are referred to as saved, heard the gospel? It doesn’t. But some there are clearly saved without the benefit of the gospel, despite Spurgeon’s false claim that “this is not told us in Scripture, and is not therefore to be received.” And to make sure that everyone knows he agrees with Spurgeon to the letter, White adds:

Let it be known I believe and profess the confessional statement quoted above; let it be known I object to not a word in Spurgeon’s exposition. If you encounter someone confused by others about my views, correct them. If you encounter one who claims to know my heart better than I do and who refuses to accept this confession of faith, dismiss him as the addled ranter he is.

Now let’s get to the heart of the discussion, and my own argument, having noted some of White’s (and Spurgeon’s) unbiblical and false premises. First let us briefly look at how the word “all” was regarded by the ancient Hebrews. In a related paper on the exegesis of Romans 3:23, I wrote:

. . . the word “all” (pas in Greek) can indeed have different meanings (as it does in English), . . . It matters not if it means literally “every single one” in some places, if it can mean something less than “absolutely every” elsewhere in Scripture. . . .We find examples of a non-literal intent elsewhere in Romans. . . . Paul writes that “all Israel will be saved,” (11:26), but we know that many will not be saved. And in 15:14, Paul describes members of the Roman church as “….filled with all knowledge….” (cf. 1 Cor 1:5 in KJV), which clearly cannot be taken literally. Examples could be multiplied indefinitely, and are as accessible as the nearest Strong’s Concordance.. . .

Kittel’s Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Abridged Ed.) states: “Pas can have different meanings according to its different uses . . . in many verses, pas is used in the NT simply to denote a great number, e.g., “all Jerusalem” in Mt 2:3 and “all the sick” in 4:24. “(pp. 796-7)

See also Mt 3:5; 21:10; 27:25; Mk 2:13; 9:15, etc., etc., esp. in KJV.Likewise, Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament gives “of every kind” as a possible meaning in some contexts (p. 491, word #3956). And Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Wordstells us it can mean “every kind or variety.” (v.1, p. 46, under “All”).

. . . One might also note 1 Corinthians 15:22: “As in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive” {NIV}. As far as physical death is concerned (the context of 1 Cor 15), not “all” people have died (e.g., Enoch: Gen 5:24; cf. Heb 11:5; Elijah: 2 Kings 2:11). Likewise, “all” will not be made spiritually alive by Christ, as some will choose to suffer eternal spiritual death in hell.

So much for an overly-literal (or rationalistic) interpretation of “all” as necessarily meaning “without exception.”

St. Paul appears to be citing Psalm 14:1-3:

1: The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds, there is none that does good.
2: The LORD looks down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there are any that act wisely, that seek after God.
3: They have all gone astray, they are all alike corrupt; there is none that does good, no, not one.

Now, does the context in the earlier passage suggest that what is meant is “absolutely every person, without exception”? No. We’ve already seen the latitude of the notion “all” in the Hebrew understanding. Context supports a less literal interpretation.

In the immediately preceding Psalm 13, David proclaims “I have trusted in thy steadfast love” (13:5), which certainly is “seeking” after God. Indeed, the very next Psalm is entirely devoted to “good people”:

1: O LORD, who shall sojourn in thy tent? Who shall dwell on thy holy hill?
2: He who walks blamelessly, and does what is right, and speaks truth from his heart;
3: who does not slander with his tongue, and does no evil to his friend, nor takes up a reproach against his neighbor;
4: in whose eyes a reprobate is despised, but who honors those who fear the LORD; who swears to his own hurt and does not change;
5: who does not put out his money at interest, and does not take a bribe against the innocent. He who does these things shall never be moved.


Even two verses after our cited passage in Psalms David writes that “God is with the generation of the righteous” (14:5). In the very next verse (14:4) David refers to “the evildoers who eat up my people”. Now, if he is contrasting the evildoers with His people, then obviously, he is not meaning to imply that everyone is evil, and there are no righteous. So obviously his lament in 14:2-3 is an indignant hyperbole and not intended as a literal utterance. Such remarks are common to Jewish poetic idiom. The anonymous psalmist in 112:5 refers to a good man (Heb. tob), as does the book of Proverbs repeatedly (11:23; 12:2; 13:22; 14:14,19), using the same word, tob, which appears in Ps 14:2-3.

And references to righteous men are innumerable (e.g., Job 17:9; 22:19; Ps 5:12; 32:11; 34:15; 37:16, 32; Mt 9:13; 13:17; 25:37, 46; Rom 5:19; Heb 11:4; Jas 5:16; 1 Pet 3:12; 4:18, etc., etc.).

We see Jewish idiom and hyperbole in other similar passages. For example, Jesus says: “No one is good but God alone”(Lk 18:19; cf. Mt 19:17). Yet He also said: “The good person brings good things out of a good treasure….” (Mt 12:35; cf. 5:45; 7:17-20; 22:10).

Furthermore, in each instance in Matthew and Luke above of the English “good” the Greek word used is agatho.

Is this a contradiction? Of course not. Jesus is merely drawing a contrast between our righteousness and God’s, but He doesn’t deny that we can be “good” in a lesser sense.

Psalm 53:1-3 is very similar (perhaps the very same writing originally, or close parallel):

1: The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, doing abominable iniquity; there is none that does good.
2: God looks down from heaven upon the sons of men to see if there are any that are wise, that seek after God.
3: They have all fallen away; they are all alike depraved; there is none that does good, no, not one.

All the same elements are present: it starts with a reference to atheists or agnostics, then moves on to ostensibly “universal” language, which is seen to admit of exceptions once context is considered. Like Psalm 14, there is the following contrast in the next verse:

Psalm 53:4 Have those who work evil no understanding, who eat up my people as they eat bread, and do not call upon God?

And Like Psalm 14, we see other proximate Psalms refer to the “righteous” or “godly” (e.g., 52:1, 6, 9; 55:22; 58:10-11). David himself eagerly seeks God in Psalms 51, 52:8-9; 54-57; 61-63, etc. Obviously, then, it is not the case that “no one” whatsoever seeks God. It is Hebrew hyperbole and exaggeration to make a point. And this is, remember, poetic language in the first place. Therefore, it is fairly clear that there — far from “none” — plenty of righteous people to go around.

How about those who “seek God”? Can “none” of those be found, either, according to White’s and Calvinism’s literalistic interpretations? How about King Jehoshaphat? Here is a very interesting case study indeed. He was subjected to the wrath of God, yet it is stated that he had some “good” and sought God:

2 Chronicles 19:2-3 But Jehu the son of Hana’ni the seer went out to meet him, and said to King Jehosh’aphat, “Should you help the wicked and love those who hate the LORD? Because of this, wrath has gone out against you from the LORD. [3] Nevertheless some good is found in you, for you destroyed the Ashe’rahs out of the land, and have set your heart to seek God.”

Not only the king, but many people in Judah also sought the Lord:

2 Chronicles 20:3-4 Then Jehosh’aphat feared, and set himself to seek the LORD, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah. [4] And Judah assembled to seek help from the LORD; from all the cities of Judah they came to seek the LORD.

How can this be? Was he (and all these multitudes who “came to seek the Lord”), therefore, regenerate? The text doesn’t say. He hadn’t heard the gospel, though; that’s for sure. Nor had the people of Judah. According to White (and Calvinism as a whole?) no one can do any “spiritual good” (as opposed to a merely natural good or natural moral virtue) whatsoever unless they are regenerated by the Holy Spirit. Were all these people “good men and women”? Did they seek God or not? And how can this be if the passages in Psalms 14 and 53 says that no one does so; “no, not one”?

Was Jehoshaphat himself a “good” man? Various passages state that he was (2 Chronicles 19:4-7, 9; 20:3, 6-7, 12, 18-21). His reign is described as a good, righteous reign, by and large, but not totally:

2 Chronicles 20:32-37 He walked in the way of Asa his father and did not turn aside from it; he did what was right in the sight of the LORD.
33: The high places, however, were not taken away; the people had not yet set their hearts upon the God of their fathers.
34: Now the rest of the acts of Jehosh’aphat, from first to last, are written in the chronicles of Jehu the son of Hana’ni, which are recorded in the Book of the Kings of Israel.
35: After this Jehosh’aphat king of Judah joined with Ahazi’ah king of Israel, who did wickedly.
36: He joined him in building ships to go to Tarshish, and they built the ships in E’zion-ge’ber.
37: Then Elie’zer the son of Do-dav’ahu of Mare’shah prophesied against Jehosh’aphat, saying, “Because you have joined with Ahazi’ah, the LORD will destroy what you have made.” And the ships were wrecked and were not able to go to Tarshish.

So was King Jehoshaphat regenerated and saved in the end? Well, we don’t know. If he wasn’t, then how could he do any spiritual good at all, according to White’s and strict Calvinist theology? The Bible clearly teaches that he did much good; indeed, that he “did what was right in the sight of the LORD.” Yet he didn’t destroy the high places, which were idols. And the last thing said about him was that he was prophesied against for joining with wicked King Ahaziah of Israel.

If he was damned in the end, then how does White account for the spiritual good that couldn’t be done but for being regenerated (which state, in turn, cannot be lost, in Calvinist theology)? On the other hand, if he was saved, it is only speculation, and he was so without benefit of hearing the gospel, the thing that White and Spurgeon say is necessary.

How about King Uzziah? The Bible says he sought God too:

2 Chronicles 26:3-5 Uzzi’ah was sixteen years old when he began to reign, and he reigned fifty-two years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Jecoli’ah of Jerusalem.
4: And he did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, according to all that his father Amazi’ah had done.
5: He set himself to seek God in the days of Zechari’ah, who instructed him in the fear of God; and as long as he sought the LORD, God made him prosper.

But Uzziah met an even more tragic end than Jehoshaphat:

2 Chronicles 26:16-21 But when he was strong he grew proud, to his destruction. For he was false to the LORD his God, and entered the temple of the LORD to burn incense on the altar of incense.
17: But Azari’ah the priest went in after him, with eighty priests of the LORD who were men of valor;
18: and they withstood King Uzzi’ah, and said to him, “It is not for you, Uzzi’ah, to burn incense to the LORD, but for the priests the sons of Aaron, who are consecrated to burn incense. Go out of the sanctuary; for you have done wrong, and it will bring you no honor from the LORD God.”
19: Then Uzzi’ah was angry. Now he had a censer in his hand to burn incense, and when he became angry with the priests leprosy broke out on his forehead, in the presence of the priests in the house of the LORD, by the altar of incense.
20: And Azari’ah the chief priest, and all the priests, looked at him, and behold, he was leprous in his forehead! And they thrust him out quickly, and he himself hastened to go out, because the LORD had smitten him.
21: And King Uzzi’ah was a leper to the day of his death, and being a leper dwelt in a separate house, for he was excluded from the house of the LORD. And Jotham his son was over the king’s household, governing the people of the land.

Now White and his fellow Calvinists are in one Hades of a bind. First, if supposedly no one whatsoever seeks God, how does one explain that the Bible says that King Uzziah did? Secondly, if it is maintained that only a regenerate person can seek God, so that, therefore Uzziah must have been regenerated, then how is his spiritual demise explained? For Calvinists also hold that one can never lose regeneration or salvation, precisely because God gives it unconditionally (the “U” in TULIP) and His grace is irresistible (the “I” in TULIP) and that the elect always persevere and cannot fall away (the “P” in TULIP). No one can do ant spiritual good unless regenerated because of the “T”: Total Depravity. If Uzziah was saved in the end, again there is no text whatsoever that would indicate such a thing.

2 Chronicles 30:19 also refers to those who can potentially “seek God.” The Apostle Paul casually assumed that it is possible for people to “seek God” in his sermon on Mars Hill to the pagan Greeks (Acts 17:27; cf. James in Acts 15:17). King David in another Psalm refers to “you who seek God (69:32). The Bible also refers in many places to those who “seek the LORD”:

Deuteronomy 4:29 But from there you will seek the LORD your God, and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul.

1 Chronicles 16:10-11  Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice! Seek the LORD and his strength, seek his presence continually!

1 Chronicles 22:19 Now set your mind and heart to seek the LORD your God.

2 Chronicles 11:16 And those who had set their hearts to seek the LORD God of Israel came after them from all the tribes of Israel to Jerusalem to sacrifice to the LORD, the God of their fathers.

Psalm 34:10 The young lions suffer want and hunger; but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.

Psalm 105:3-4 Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice! Seek the LORD and his strength, seek his presence continually!

Proverbs 28:5 Evil men do not understand justice, but those who seek the LORD understand it completely. (cf. Is 51:1; 55:6; Hos 3:5; Amos 5:6)



Zephaniah 2:3 Seek the LORD, all you humble of the land, who do his commands; seek righteousness, seek humility; perhaps you may be hidden on the day of the wrath of the LORD.

[another ultra-vicious Calvinist circle: how can one “seek righteousness”, when it is only possible after regeneration, which is a free gift of God, by His decision alone? But in the Catholic view, enough good remains in man even before he is regenerated and justified, to seek to do good (even “spiritual good”), even though no one can begin or seek justification, regeneration, or salvation, because of the doctrine of sola gratia. It’s the Calvinist Total Depravity that is the false doctrine]

Zechariah 8:21-22 the inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying, `Let us go at once to entreat the favor of the LORD, and to seek the LORD of hosts; I am going.’ Many peoples and strong nations shall come to seek the LORD of hosts in Jerusalem, and to entreat the favor of the LORD. (cf. Jer 50:4)

In fact, many of the people of Judah in the reign of King Asa, determined that anyone who didn’t seek God would be put to death! So what did they do: commit mass suicide, like the Jonestown cult, because no one is righteous, and no one did or could seek God?:

2 Chronicles 15:12-13 And they entered into a covenant to seek the LORD, the God of their fathers,with all their heart and with all their soul; [13] and that whoever would not seek the LORD, the God of Israel, should be put to death, whether young or old, man or woman.

The case of King Asa himself presents yet another difficulty for Calvinists and their sometimes unbiblical doctrines. We see his initial zeal for God in the above passage. We are informed that “all Judah” (huh? all? everybody?) “had sought him [God] with their whole desire, and he was found by them, and the LORD gave them rest round about” (2 Chr 15:15). He destroyed idols (15:16) but not the ones in the high places (15:17a), “nevertheless the heart of Asa was blameless all his days” (15:17b). “Blameless”? “All” his days? Huh? How can this be? The Bible says here he was blameless “all his days” yet in the next chapter it proceeds to deny this very thing:

2 Chronicles 16:7-12 At that time Hana’ni the seer came to Asa king of Judah, and said to him, “Because you relied on the king of Syria, and did not rely on the LORD your God, the army of the king of Syria has escaped you.
8: Were not the Ethiopians and the Libyans a huge army with exceedingly many chariots and horsemen? Yet because you relied on the LORD, he gave them into your hand.
9: For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show his might in behalf of those whose heart is blameless toward him. You have done foolishly in this; for from now on you will have wars.”
10: Then Asa was angry with the seer, and put him in the stocks, in prison, for he was in a rage with him because of this. And Asa inflicted cruelties upon some of the people at the same time.
11: The acts of Asa, from first to last, are written in the Book of the Kings of Judah and Israel.
12: In the thirty-ninth year of his reign Asa was diseased in his feet, and his disease became severe; yet even in his disease he did not seek the LORD, but sought help from physicians.


Does it sound like this guy was regenerated and saved? Not much . . . so how could he be “blameless all his days”? Even when it is said that “he did not seek the LORD,” it seems apparent that the writer is assuming that it is possible to do so (or else why would it be necessary to point out that one man didn’t, when no one could do so?). No one says that someone didn’t do something that was impossible from the outset. We don’t say, for example, that “Sam didn’t swim from San Francisco to Hawaii.”

How does one harmoniously interpret all this? It’s really rather simple. I’ve already provided the only sensible answer: always interpret Scripture in context, and understand Hebrew idiom; especially hyperbole, used constantly in Hebrew poetry. Paul was citing Psalms; that is poetry. It cannot always be taken literally. But when we look at narratives like the two books of Chronicles, then we see that there are exceptions to the rule. And we see that Paul doesn’t even follow his own supposedly all-inclusive, universal statements.

In fact, there is no contradiction here at all. The contradiction lies in the erroneous interpretation of Calvinism, and the superimposing onto Scripture doctrines that are foreign to it. Calvinism, in its errors, is nothing if not that sadly mistaken process of eisegeting Scripture, and forcing the mere traditions and false doctrines of men onto it. We have seen abundant testimony of that. John Calvin himself was an absolute master of sophistical eisegesis (as well as historical revisionism of the beliefs of Church Fathers and the early Church, and anachronistic interpretation of same).

His followers have proven themselves to be his disciples indeed, in these ways, and many others (such as anti-Catholicism, anti-sacramentalism, etc.). Not all Calvinists are anti-Catholic and anti-sacramental, but many are, and this is because Calvin himself was. But all Calvinists, by definition, believe in TULIP, and we have seen above some of the many biblical difficulties (by no means exhaustive) of that set of related doctrines.

ADDENDUM: Additional Relevant Bible Passages

Ezekiel 3:20 Again, if a righteous man turns from his righteousness and commits iniquity, and I lay a stumbling block before him, he shall die; because you have not warned him, he shall die for his sin, and his righteous deeds which he has done shall not be remembered; but his blood I will require at your hand.

Ezekiel 18:21-26 “But if a wicked man turns away from all his sins which he has committed and keeps all my statutes and does what is lawful and right, he shall surely live; he shall not die.
22: None of the transgressions which he has committed shall be remembered against him; for the righteousness which he has done he shall live.

23: Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, says the Lord GOD, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?
24: But when a righteous man turns away from his righteousness and commits iniquity and does the same abominable things that the wicked man does, shall he live? None of the righteous deeds which he has done shall be remembered; for the treachery of which he is guilty and the sin he has committed, he shall die.
25: “Yet you say, `The way of the Lord is not just.’ Hear now, O house of Israel: Is my way not just? Is it not your ways that are not just?
26: When a righteous man turns away from his righteousness and commits iniquity, he shall die for it; for the iniquity which he has committed he shall die.

Ezekiel 33:12-13, 18 And you, son of man, say to your people, The righteousness of the righteous shall not deliver him when he transgresses; and as for the wickedness of the wicked, he shall not fall by it when he turns from his wickedness; and the righteous shall not be able to live by his righteousness when he sins.
13: Though I say to the righteous that he shall surely live, yet if he trusts in his righteousness and commits iniquity, none of his righteous deeds shall be remembered; but in the iniquity that he has committed he shall die.

18: When the righteous turns from his righteousness, and commits iniquity, he shall die for it.

Sirach [Ecclesiasticus] 27:28 At two things my heart is grieved, and because of a third anger comes over me: a warrior in want through poverty, and intelligent men who are treated contemptuously; a man who turns back from righteousness to sin — the Lord will prepare him for the sword!

2 Peter 1:5-9 For this very reason make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge,
6: and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness,
7: and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.
8: For if these things are yours and abound, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
9: For whoever lacks these things is blind and shortsighted and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins.

2 Peter 2:20-22 For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overpowered, the last state has become worse for them than the first.
21: For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them.
22: It has happened to them according to the true proverb, The dog turns back to his own vomit, and the sow is washed only to wallow in the mire.


The word “righteous” appears in the book of Proverbs 68 times, and “righteousness” 19 times, but “there is none that does good, no, not one” (Ps 14:3; cf. 53:3)?

Likewise, in Psalms, “righteous” appears 65 times, and “righteousness” 47 times.

Isaiah has one or other of these words 55 times, Ezekiel: 32, Jeremiah: 13, Job:16, Ecclesiastes: 10, Daniel: 7, Amos: 5, Habakkuk: 3, Hosea: 2, Lamentations: 1, Malachi: 2, Zechariah: 1, etc.

That’s a total of 346 times in the prophets and the “writings”, not even counting the narratives and the Pentateuch, or the deuterocanonical books (where there are quite a few also).

But the Calvinist will find a few verses of hyperbole and typical Hebrew hyper-exaggerated contrast and conclude that the overwhelming consensus of the other instances must all be interpreted in light of the few: wrongly regarded as literal. They don’t even abide by one of their own supposedly important hermeneutical principles: interpret less clear biblical passages in light of more clear related cross-references


"Excellent point. I'm glad you made it."

Reply to Hays’ “Catholicism” #3
"I think the case against Catholic miracles en masse is MUCH harder to make than ..."

Reply to Hays’ “Catholicism” #2
"Just a footnote on St. Pio's supposed use of carbolic acid. You noted that Padre ..."

Reply to Hays’ “Catholicism” #3
"Hi Dave,Having read the second article, I am not quite sure what Hayes is arguing ..."

Reply to Hays’ “Catholicism” #2

Browse Our Archives

Close Ad