CALVINISTIC ASSUMPTIONS

Gil VanOrder, Jr.
THE ARMINIAN MAGAZINE. Issue 2. fall 2016. Volume 34.
Date Posted Nov., 2016

Reformed theology is largely based on assumptions. Calvinists must make all these assumptions in order to maintain coherence in their theology. They must do so even if none of the assumptions are found in the Bible and create a God who is pernicious. To believe in Calvinism requires one to accept these assumptions even if they go against your God-given sense of fairness and every scriptural teaching on justice. The purpose of this series is to examine some of the more prominent assumptions Calvinists accept as true.

1. Calvinists assume if you are void of something, only the opposite extreme can be true.

Total depravity is based on the assumption that if an unregenerate man is without any of God's righteousness, he must therefore possessonly evil. In chapter VIII of the Second Helvetic Confession it states that man is "Full of all wickedness, distrust, contempt and hatred of God [not just indifference but hatred], we are unable to do or even to think anything good." In chapter six of the Westminster Confession of Faith it states that as a result of original corruption we are "made opposite to all good."

Man is sinful, but is he by his very nature "opposite to all good?" If a non-Christian rushes into a burning building and rescues a child from the flames, is he doing something that is opposite to all good? Wouldn't throwing a child into the flames to be burned alive be more opposite to all good? Being sinful does not mean one cannot even "think anything good."That isn't universally true. There are many non-Christians who think good things and act accordingly. Some do good due to their early childhood Christian training even though they themselves have never accepted Christ personally.

Non-Christians have no righteousness, but that does not mean we must conclude total depravity is all they have. If a person does not have something, why must we assume the person can only possess the totally opposite?

Total depravity views mankind as a monolithic group (i.e., constituting or acting as a single uniform whole). But men do not all act or think the same. While all men are sinful and separated from God, not all wish to stay that way. Like lost sheep, some run away from the fold as far as possible. Some even run when pursued. Others, however, only wander a short distance away. Fewer still are wise enough to realize when they become hungry that food can be found inside the pen. These sheep may even bleat in hope that the shepherd will open the gate and allow them to enter. While all are outside the safety of the fold, not all are as eager to stay there.

In the same way, not all men hate God and are fighting to avoid him. Some are mildly interested in him. Others are very interested. A few are wise enough to recognize they are spiritually empty and actually seek after God. All men lack righteousness, but not all men's hearts are the same. For example, Abel was not like Cain. Their hearts were different and their attitudes toward God were different. When everyone else had become corrupt, Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord because he "walked faithfully with God" (Gen 6:9). Cornelius was "a devout and God-fearing" man even before he became a Christian (Acts 10:2). Why was Mary chosen to be the mother of Jesus if she "hated God" and was "opposite to all good?" People's hearts vary.

1 Chronicles 29:17 declares, "You test the heart and are pleased with integrity." He examines the hearts of all men, both Christian and non-Christian. Jeremiah 11:20 informs us that it is the Lord Almighty who judges righteously and tests the heart. God sees what is in our hearts. He knows there are differences between one heart and the next. He also knows some hearts will be open to the gospel and some will not. Romans 10:10 tells us that it is with your heart that you believe and are justified.

Predestined to be continued