Why Calvinism Cannot Be True and Is It Heresy?

Why Calvinism Cannot Be True and Is It Heresy? April 19, 2024

Why Calvinism Cannot Be True and Is It Heresy?

Of course I’ve addressed this before here and elsewhere. But, since I have posted about two thousand essays here, there is very little about which I have not written here. So, I am returning to a basic theme here—Calvinism.

As everyone knows, I am an evangelical Christian theologian who is not a Calvinist. I am Arminian, as the title of this blog implies. This has caused me some difficulties over the years as Calvinism tends to be the “default” theology of the power centers of American evangelical Protestant Christianity.

When I submitted an article to Christianity Today about Arminianism and why it is compatible with biblical, evangelical theology, at least one leading editor tried to prevent its publication. Some influential Calvinist evangelical thinkers, writers, speakers, have spoken of me as less than authentically evangelical just because I am not a Calvinist.

I will say it again, I consider Calvinists authentic Christians with defective theology that, if taken to its logical conclusion, makes God monstrous. Fortunately, most Calvinists do not take Calvinism to its logical conclusion and/or settle into some kind of inconsistency, claiming that God loves even those he predestines to spend eternity in hell for his glory.

Why do I say that Calvinism is impossible, that it cannot be true? Because logic matters. Internal inconsistency, contradiction, in a system of belief is a sure sign of error. A logically inconsistent system of ideas cannot be true. Most Calvinists agree. But, Calvinism teaches, affirms, that God foreordains and renders certain everything without exception including the fall of humanity into sin and the destiny of every individual human being in either heaven or hell. Appeals to “secondary causes,” as Calvinist Jonathan Edwards admitted, do not help get God off the hook for sin; they may, in fact, undermine a strong affirmation of God’s absolute sovereignty.

If Calvinism were true, and I speak here of consistent Calvinism, true Calvinism, real Calvinism, not inconsistent “half-way Calvinism,” God would be the author of sin and evil and of the eternal suffering of the wicked. Their wickedness would be his doing. Claiming that God’s intent, purpose, in making them wicked, is good, the full manifestation of his glory in punishing them, does nothing to help avoid depicting God as monstrous.

I go out on a limb and say, with John Wesley, and without embarrassment that the God of consistent Calvinism is unworthy of love, trust and worship. Did I believe in that God, I could not worship him. I would fear him, perhaps be in awe of him, but not worship him. God is worshipful because he is both the great Creator and the loving Redeemer.

In every lengthy conversation I have had with Calvinists, and I mean intellectually inclined, logically-concerned Calvinists, they have finally and ultimately said something like “Whatever God does is good just because God does it.” That is, of course, a statement of nominalism and voluntarism, belief that God does not have an eternal, unchangeable good nature but is sheer power and freedom. God can then do anything, could lie or break his promises, and still be God. That view of God I cannot accept because it makes God untrustworthy. And it makes God’s goodness meaningless except “what God does.”

Yes, I know, I am repeating myself here. But occasionally I need to come back to a major reason why I began this blog. It was to show the flaws and faults in Calvinism. I only began this project because certain leading American evangelical Calvinists were beating up on Arminians, verbally, of course, claiming that we are semi-heretical if not outright heretical, “Christians, but just barely,” and “human-centered in our theology.” I have answered those silly objections to Arminianism here and in my book Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities (IVP). But I decided to go further, “on the attack,” if you will, and show the inner faults and flaws of Calvinism that I noticed most Calvinist students did not know about.

I am often asked if I think Calvinism is heresy. Well, I’d prefer to call it “profoundly mistaken” and a “deep deviation” from traditional Christian orthodoxy. So, perhaps “heterodox” would be a valid (for me) label for it. So far as I am aware (and I have studied under Eastern Orthodox theologians) Eastern Orthodoxy would consider Calvinism heretical as would/does Roman Catholicism. Many Protestant traditions are very critical of Calvinism and do their best to eschew it, marginalizing any Calvinists within the “ranks.”

Again, I think all evangelical Calvinists are authentic Christians, but they struggle with the burden of a defective theology that, ultimately, can dishonor God known through Jesus Christ, if taken to its logical conclusion. I respect those who DO take it to its logical conclusion even as I think they move further away from sound doctrine and toward heresy.

*If you choose to comment, make sure your comment is relatively brief, no more than 100 words, on topic, addressed to me, civil and respectful, not hostile of argumentative, and devoid of pictures or links.*

"Language is getting slippery here. You added “decides and determines.” Of course we Arminians believe ..."

What Is the “Decisive Factor” in ..."
"I prefer not to post links here because then I have to read the whole ..."

A Prophetic Book for Conservatives and ..."
"I am holding it back for now in order to give my readers time to ..."

What Is the “Decisive Factor” in ..."
"I thought Arminians hold it is our choice that distinguishes, decides and determines who will ..."

What Is the “Decisive Factor” in ..."

Browse Our Archives