Foreword to The Dark Side of Calvinism

In The Dark Side of Calvinism, George Bryson has shined the light of Scripture and scripturally based reasoning upon some very important and disturbing problems with the distinctive doctrines of Reformed Theology. As George documents, John Calvin asserts:

By predestination we mean the eternal decree of God, by which he determined with himself whatever he wished to happen with regard to every man. All are not created on equal terms, but some are preordained to eternal life, others to eternal damnation; and, accordingly, as each has been created for one or other of those ends, we say that he has been predestined to life or death.

Despite the unscriptural and radical nature of such a position, George demonstrates that this is the position promoted by the leading proponents of Calvinism today. While Calvinists are prone to accent the less negative features of Calvinism, even the best of what Calvin taught about salvation logically leads to the worst of what Calvinism teaches.

While Calvinists prefer to talk about election, they know that the other side of unconditional election is a very troubling and unscriptural doctrine of unconditional reprobation. Typically, a contemporary advocate of Calvinism, James White says:

God elects a specific people unto Himself without reference to anything they do. This means the basis of God’s choice of the elect is solely within Himself: His grace, His mercy, His will. It is not man’s actions, works, or even foreseen faith, that “draws” God’s choice. God’s election is unconditional and final.

The doctrinal distinctive of Reformed Theology cannot be reconciled with what we know about God from His holy Word. Scripture has taught me to believe that God is loving and absolutely just. Could and would such a God allow a man to be born who has no possibility to be saved?

Would the God of love and Scripture have me tantalize unsavable men with the offer of salvation? Would the God of all hope punish a man for all eternity for rejecting the offer of salvation, if that man was decreed by God to reject that salvation in the first place? The God introduced to us by Calvin seems to be far removed and very different from the God who said, “And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely” (Rev. 22:17, KJV). Would I not be lying to a non-elect man if I offered him eternal life based on what Christ did for him on the cross? For if Calvinism is true, Christ did nothing of redemptive value for the non-elect. Why are we commanded to preach the gospel to every creature (Mark 16:15)? If Calvinism is true, and I affirm to a man that Jesus loves him and died on the cross to redeem him from his sins, I may be offering nothing more than a false hope.

Can I, with a clear conscience, really do this in the name of the God of all truth, knowing full well that it may not be true? Perhaps this explains why evangelism is so neglected in much of the Reformed community! Assuming Calvinism is true, if I urge men to receive Jesus as their Lord that they might be saved, would this not be nothing more than a cruel tease for many of those to whom I speak (Acts 2:36–39)? Why would the God of all truth, who speaks so sternly against lying, send His servants out to promote such a lie? If God has no saving concern for many (perhaps even most), why should I? Why would God call upon a man to make a choice as to which God he would serve as He did with Joshua and Elijah? If it is impossible for men to choose because they have been pre-ordained by God to be saved or lost, is it not rather cruel and deceitful to hold out the offer of the gospel to them if it is impossible for them to accept it? Conversely, if a man is ordained by God to be saved, with no real responsibility on his part, then why spend time and resources seeking to bring the gospel to the world? If they have been irrevocably chosen to be saved, then they cannot possibly be lost; therefore, where then is the incentive to take the gospel to them? On the other hand, if they have been predestined to be irrevocably lost, then it is cruel to hold out to them the hope of the gospel.

How can you declare that God is love, if He has unconditionally destined men to the eternal torment of hell? If I follow the referenced position of James White, I would have to accept that a man’s “faith” in Jesus Christ has nothing to do with getting saved. In stark contrast, when our Lord was asked, “What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?” Jesus responded, “This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent” (John 6:28–29, KJV). When the Philippian jailor asked, “what must I do to be saved?” Paul and Silas said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved. …” (Acts 16:30–31, KJV).

According to Calvinism, it is futile to try to convert the lost who are not predestined to be saved. Perhaps this explains why so many Calvinists are spending so much time and energy trying to win the already saved to Calvinism. What this means is that Calvinists want other Christians to believe in their convoluted theology, which if fully understood, destroys the gospel to every creature. No matter what your position on the subject of Reformed Theology, George is going to force you to think it through. This is a must-read for all who have wrestled with Calvinism.

Chuck Smith

The Senior Pastor of Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa.