"Not Willing That Any Should Perish"
A critical examination of the doctrine of Determinism as taught by Augustine, Calvin, Luther et al., but particularly as set forth by Calvinism's Five Points: Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace, and the Perseverance of the Saints.
Man's Free Will
The Foreknowledge Of God
The Five Points Of Calvinism Examined
by: Allan Turner
In this section, we are going to look at some Calvinistic "sugar-sticks" or proof texts. Admittedly, some of these passages are a little difficult for a non-determinist. Trying to deal with these passages without having a thorough biblical understanding as to why determinism is wrong could make one feel compelled to make a misapplication of these scriptures. Nevertheless, these so-called "sugar-sticks" can be satisfactorily interpreted from a non-determinist point of view. This list appears at the end of this study so that with a clear understanding as to why Calvinism is anti-biblical, we can together give these passages a more thorough treatment. Therefore, if you have not already read what has been written in this study, you need to do so. Having said that, let us now proceed to an examination of these Calvinistic "sugar-sticks."
Romans 5:12, "Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned" (KJV). In the Latin translation of this passage, the Greek phrase eph' ho is rendered "in him," so that the last part of the passage reads, "for in him all men sinned." Therefore, in making his argument for "Original Sin," Augustine, who, as has already been pointed out, was the father of this doctrine, repeatedly made reference to this verse in his many writings, thinking it to be clear and unequivocal. Even so, in their Commentary on Romans, which is recognized as one of the great modern textual authorities on the book of Romans, Sanday and Headlam wrote, "Although this expression (eph' ho) has been much fought over, there can now be little doubt that the true rendering is 'because.'"1 According to them, the Greek classical writers used this phrase to mean "on condition that." In their consideration of the idea that the apostle meant to imply, "because all sinned in Adam," they wrote: "The objection is that the words supplied are far too important to be left to be understood. If St. Paul had meant this, why did he not say so? The insertion of en Adam would have removed all ambiguity."2
Consequently, Romans 5:12 neither says nor implies that all sinned in Adam, as Augustine and, later, Luther and Calvin thought and taught. Nevertheless, this passage and its context is not easy to understand. First of all, what kind of death is under consideration in this passage? Was Paul writing about physical death or spiritual death? Most commentators seem to be in agreement that Paul is referring to spiritual death. This seems clear from his statement that death passed upon all men because all have sinned. This echoes the words of Ezekiel, who said, "The soul who sins shall die,"3 and Paul's words in Romans 3:23, which say, "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." Little children do not themselves sin, and even most Calvinists agree that this is true, therefore little children do not die spiritually. This can only mean that little children are not the subject of Romans 5:12 and 3:23, anymore than they are of Ezekiel 18:4,20, which falls within the immediate context of the statement: "Yet you say, Why should the son not bear the guilt of the father?' Because the son has done what is lawful and right, and has kept all My statutes and observed them, he shall surely live. The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself."4 Although Calvinism teaches that the son (viz., all the descendants of Adam) bears the guilt of the father (Adam), God says this is simply not so! Therefore, non-determinists have held that children are not in need of salvation, because if they have not sinned, they are not lost. Therefore, when Paul, referring to the atoning death of Jesus Christ, wrote "that if One died for all, then all died,"5 the death he was speaking of was spiritual death and the "all" did not include children.
Consequently, Romans 5:12, while associating the sinful condition (i.e., spiritual death) all men share with Adam, with whom the condition first started, does not say the fallen nature of all mankind (children excluded) is inherited from Adam. Here, and elsewhere, the Bible teaches that we do not share his sin or guilt,6 but ever since Adam, sin has spread like a cancer until all of us have sinned. Today, like in Adam's time, the entire human race shares in the same sinful condition. But, someone says, "Eve sinned first, why is not she mentioned?" The answer is simple: Until Adam sinned, "all" the human race had not spiritually died; but, when Adam sinned, all mankind was fallen, and ever since that time, "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."7
Why, then, do little babies die physically? Is not this because they share the guilt of Adam? No! Little babies do not share Adam's guilt, nor the guilt of their own parents; nevertheless, they do share in the consequences of Adam's sin and, many times, the sins of their own parents. AIDS babies are a vivid reminder to us today that innocent babies suffer the consequences of their parents' sinful deeds. Likewise, a consequence of Adam's sin was that neither he nor any of his descendants would have access to the "tree of life" on the purely physical plane,8 which means it is now (ever since Adam's sin) "appointed for men to die once."9 Therefore, children die, not because they have inherited the guilt of Adam's sin, but because they, as members of the human race, share in the consequences of the human race's falleness. Some hesitate to use the word "falleness" because they are afraid it may connote a belief in Calvinism. As sensitive as I am to this position, I decided a long time ago to let the Bible, not Calvinists, dictate to me the use of biblical expressions. That man's falleness is an idea expressed in Scripture over and over again is quite clear.10 All have sinned means all are fallen,11 consequently, I join my voice with that of the apostle Paul, who said: "O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of [this self-inflicted spiritual] death? I thank God, through Jesus Christ our Lord!"12
Psalm 51:5, "Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me" (KJV). Most agree that the scribal insertion at the beginning of this psalm is correct. This means the psalm was written by David after Nathan had told him, "You are the man!"13 Therefore, Psalm 51 is the bitter cry of one broken with guilt and pain. Now, although I realize David was a prophet, my question is this: Are all David's words in this Psalm to be taken as sober theological pronouncements? If you think so, then you believe that verse 4 is teaching that one can only sin against God, not man! But did not David also sin against Uriah? The answer seems obvious. Yes, David sinned against Uriah, but all sin is a personal affront to God, and He has the right to judge man for it. In other words, sin is always God's business. Therefore, when it comes to verse 5, whatever David might have been saying about his parents, he said nothing about inherited sin or "sinning in Adam."
Psalm 58:3, "The wicked are estranged from the womb; they go astray as soon as they are born, speaking lies" (KJV). Surely the psalmist is to be granted some "poetic license." Are we really to think that a baby, the moment it is born, begins to speak lies? The point here is not inherited total depravity, as Calvinists would like for us to believe, but the idea that it seems like almost from the time an individual is born, that is, "from his youth,"14 he goes astray. In other words, people who are wicked usually get started very early.
Job 14:4, "Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? not one" (KJV). A woman who gives birth to a child, having reached the age of accountability, has sinned, and the child to which she gives birth, upon reaching the age of accountability, will sin. Consequently, this verse is just another way of saying that "all have sinned."15
Job 15:14-16, "What is man, that he should be clean? and he which is born of a woman, that he should be righteous? Behold, he putteth no trust in his saints; yea, the heavens are not clean in his sight. How much more abominable and filthy is man, which drinketh iniquity like water?" (KJV). Nothing said in this passage, or the one mentioned above, teaches man is born totally depraved. Furthermore, even if this passage did teach what Calvinists try to make it teach, it would be highly suspect in that these are words spoken by Eliphaz, of whom God said, "My wrath is aroused against you and your two friends, for you have not spoken of Me what is right, as My servant Job has."16
Jeremiah 17:9, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?" (KJV). Yes, it most certainly is! Once we allow sin to enter in, our human hearts become corrupted and spiritually diseased. We can never again trust our own feelings or emotions. Consequently, many sins that are really very wicked "feel" like they are okay. In another place, Jeremiah said: "O Lord, I know the way of man is not in himself; it is not in man who walks to direct his own steps. O Lord, correct me, but with justice; not in Your anger, lest You bring me to nothing."17 As sinners who have gone astray, we need the Lord's guidance, which is readily available in the Scriptures. This is why those of us who are in a right relationship with the Lord "walk by faith, not by sight."18
I know I have not dealt with all the Calvinistic sugar-sticks, but our treatment of these ought to demonstrate that Calvinistic sugar-sticks are not what they may first appear to be. Many come to the wrong conclusions about these passages because they do not know how to properly interpret the Bible.19 Being able to cite a few proof texts might make, and even keep, one a Calvinist, but learning how to rightly divide the Scriptures allows one to become, and stay, a Christian.