THE CALVINISM OF CALVIN

Listen up all you “wanna be” Reformed/Calvinist Christians. Hypo-Calvinism, soft-determinism, single predestinarianism, infralapsarianism, compatibilism, popular Calvinism or what I call Calvinism-Lite equals Calvinism-Lost. Do you want to be a Calvinist or not? Then stop beating around the theological bush. Calvinism is not a “doctrinal buffet” in which you can pick and choose what you like and leave the rest. You cannot have an unconditional election to salvation without an unconditional reprobation to damnation. You cannot have a God who causes everything by an all-encompassing decree and deny that God is the author of sin at the same time.

If Calvinism is true, God has to be as responsible for the cruelty we find in this world as he is for the kindness in it as well. Good and bad, righteousness and wickedness, the godliest of saints, and the ungodliest of sinners come from, and are irresistibly decreed to do what they do by one and the same God and by one and the same all inclusive divine decree. Charlie Manson, the son of Sam, Hitler and Stalin were no less controlled, directed and determined to do what they did, than the Apostle Paul or the apostle Peter were to do what they did. If Calvin was right and if Calvinism is true it is what it is and there is nothing we can do about it. Do not take my word for it. Listen to what one of America’s most knowledgeable Calvinist says:

“A sovereign God contradicts the idea that man exercises free will when it comes to any matter, including salvation. The sovereignty of God and the freedom of man are mutually exclusive. To affirm one is to deny the other…Since the only God presented in the Bible is an absolutely sovereign God, a person who affirms human free will cannot, without contradiction, affirm belief in God. Some theologians perceive this dilemma, and so they choose to believe in a contradiction. But this makes them look stupid, and some of them cannot endure the humiliation. So they invent a way out, and say that God’s sovereignty is “compatible” with human choice.

“Sometimes it is even said that divine sovereignty is compatible with human “freedom” in the sense that the man who chooses is not coerced in his choice, but he chooses according to his desire…Of course man chooses, but what makes him choose? What is the metaphysics of human choice? And what is the metaphysical explanation for his desire? If God is absolutely sovereign, then he also decides and causes human choice and desire. And if God is the one who decides and causes human choice and desire, then to say that divine sovereignty and human choice are compatible is only to say that God is compatible with himself. But we already know that, and man is still not free. Human choice is irrelevant, since it comes under divine sovereignty. To say that man is not coerced is only to say that in this instance God does not cause one effect of his power to clash with another effect of his power, as he does when he causes two objects to crash into each other. But if there is no contradiction when God causes two objects to crash, then even coercion entails no contradiction. It would only mean that he causes a person to desire one thing but to choose another. What would be the problem with that?

“Indeed, the absolute sovereignty of God and the moral responsibility of man are compatible. Perhaps this is what the theologians are so worried about. But man is morally responsible only because God has decided to hold him accountable. This has no necessary connection with choice or freedom. Even coercion does not eliminate responsibility. What does one have to do with the other? The moral responsibility of man depends on the absolute sovereignty of God, and nothing else. Therefore, to say that man is responsible, once again, is only to say that God is compatible with himself. It remains, then, that divine sovereignty and human freedom are incompatible. For man to be free in any relevant sense, he must be free from God, and if he is free from God in any sense and in any degree, then God is not absolutely sovereign. The God of the Bible is rejected.” Dr. Vincent Cheung [Assuming there is a real Reformed theologian named Vincient Cheung]

Once you accept the primary premise or distinctive of Calvinism, the rest logically follows. Cheung is wrong about so much but he is right in what a consistent Calvinism looks like. So if you want to be real Calvinist, and not one of those “mamby pamby” almost Calvinists that are afraid to go all the way down the Reformed road, think it through. Take it to its logical conclusion as Cheung has done. Why settle for Calvinism-Lite when you can have the more authentic, consistent and muscular version-the Calvinism of Calvin himself. Or maybe you should just stick with what the Bible actually teaches? What a novel idea that would be!

You may not agree with the “Reformed theology” of Vincent Cheung. I certainly don’t. But if you have read Calvin’s Institutes and his commentaries, as I have, you should also know that Cheung is truly “Reformed”. Those who call him a hyper-Calvinist are really only telling us that they are hypo-Calvinists. If they are saying that Cheung went (theologically and logically) beyond Calvin, they are really admitting they were not able or willing to stay with Calvin as he travelled all the way down the Reformed road.