Time Magazine, in its March 2009 issue, listed Calvinism as among the top ten ideas that are changing the world today. Global instability, broken homes, and the difficulties of modern life have driven many to seek refuge in the seeming certainty offered by Calvinism. For these people, it is comforting to believe that God has predetermined every event in their lives from before the foundation of the earth. The Calvinist says that nothing happens outside of the foreordaining will of God.* According to Calvinism, the unstable economy, the death of loved ones, failed business ventures, and shattered dreams have all been foreordained by God.
Calvinism teaches that man is dead in his trespasses and sins, and because of this, he is incapable of understanding the truth of the gospel, doing good, or even seeking after God. It teaches that God has chosen a select group of individuals called the elect. For these people, God regenerates their spirit, substitutes a good will from Himself, provides them with faith, and effectually saves their souls.**** According to Calvinism, it was only for those chosen individuals that Jesus died on the cross, and it is only those elect who will experience salvation. All others are left to remain in their depravity without hope of salvation. In fact, they were born unto this fate.* Calvinists believe that God is capable of saving all mankind, but chooses instead to save only some because of the “kind intention of His will.” This is because God, predestined all things according to the secret counsel of His will and works in all things to accomplish this will.* In short, Calvinism dogmatically asserts that nothing happens outside of the foreordaining and sovereignty of God.*
It may be comforting for some to imagine a God who micromanages our lives, having predetermined our every action, but is this what the Bible really teaches? We do not base our theology on what is comforting. Likewise, we do not base our theology on philosophy and creeds (Col. 2:8). Rather, we must always be as the Bereans who turned to Scripture to verify the truth of what they had heard and been taught (Acts 17:10–11). What we believe about God—who He is, what He does, and how He works—must be based solely on the Word of God.
When we consider the doctrine of Calvinism, we are confronted with a serious question: If God predetermines every action and then works to accomplish those actions, and if nothing happens outside of the foreordaining and sovereign will of God, then is God responsible for sin? Did God predetermine the fall of Adam and Eve and then ensure that it happened? What of the times in our own lives when we fall into sin; does God predetermine our sinful acts and then work to accomplish them? If nothing occurs outside of God’s will, then are we to believe that God is the author of sin?
This question has always loomed ominously over the teaching of Calvinism. The fathers of Reformed theology, a term used synonymously with the term “Calvinist,” were adamant that God was not the author or originator of sin.* These early Calvinists were reluctant to make God culpable for sin. We find numerous statements in their writings and in their church creeds that absolve God of any and all responsibility for creating or causing sin. However, their own writings are fraught with confusion and contradiction. Reformed theologians attempted to claim that God was not responsible for sin while simultaneously arguing that all things, including sin, had to happen in accordance with the foreordained and sovereign will of God.* The contradiction is apparent.
So, what is the truth? Has God willed and ordained sin? Is God the author of sin? These are the questions we will examine and strive to answer in this work.
- Biema, “The New Calvinism – 10 Ideas that Are Changing the World Right Now.” ↵
- “Not as much as a fly can settle upon you without the Creator’s bidding, any more than the demons could enter the herd of swine until Christ gave them permission.” (Arthur W. Pink, Gleanings in Exodus, 78.) ↵
- “Regeneration is not the creating of a person which hitherto had no existence, but the renewing and restoring of a person whom sin had unfitted for communion with God, and this by the communication of a nature of principle of life, which gives a new and different bias to all his old faculties.” (Pink, A.W. Pink’s Studies in the Scriptures – 1930-31, Vol. V, 137.) ↵
- “[T]he Lord both corrects, or rather destroys, our depraved will, and also substitutes a good will from himself.” (Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book I, Ch. 3, Sect. 7.) ↵
- “Hence it follows, that he is now an exile from the kingdom of God, so that all things which pertain to the blessed life of the soul are extinguished in him until he recover them by the grace of regeneration. Among these are faith, love to God, charity towards our neighbour, the study of righteousness and holiness. All these, when restored to us by Christ, are to be regarded as adventitious and above nature.” (Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book II, Ch. 2, Sect. 12.) ↵
- “For this was the sovereign counsel, and most gracious will and purpose of God the Father, that the quickening and saving efficacy of the most precious death of his Son should extend to all the elect, for bestowing upon them alone the gift of justifying faith, thereby to bring them infallibly to salvation: that is, it was the will of God, that Christ by the blood of the cross, whereby he confirmed the new covenant, should effectually redeem out of every people, tribe, nation, and language, all those and those only, who were from eternity chosen to salvation, and given to him by the Father; that he should confer upon them faith, which together with all the other saving gifts of the Holy Spirit, he purchased for them by his death; should purge them from all sin, both original and actual, whether committed before or after believing; and having faithfully preserved them even to the end, should at last bring them free from every spot and blemish to the enjoyment of glory in his own presence forever.” (The Cannons of Dort, II:8.) ↵
- Piper, Sermon Series on Hebrews: For Whom Did Jesus Taste Death? ↵
- “Now, since the arrangement of all things is in the hand of God, since to Him belongs the disposal of life and death, He arranges all things by His sovereign counsel, in such a way that individuals are born, who are doomed from the womb to certain death, and are to glorify Him by their destruction.” (Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book III, Ch. 23, Sect. 6.) ↵
- Dave Hunt, Debating Calvinism, 51. ↵
- “God had no doubt decreed before the foundation of the world what He would do with every one of us and had assigned to everyone by His secret counsel his part in life.” (Calvin, Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries, Vol. XI, 20.) ↵
- “God can foreordain things in different ways. But everything that happens must at least happen by his permission. If he permits something, then he must decide to allow it. If He decides to allow something, then in a sense He is foreordaining it.” (Sproul, Chosen By God, 15–16.) ↵
- Leonard Coppes referring to the term “Reformed Theology:” “This term is often used synonomously with the term Calvinistic when describing a theological position.” (Vance, The Other Side of Calvinism, 26.) ↵
- “God from all eternity did by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass; yet so as thereby neither is God the author of sin; nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures, nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.” (Westminster Confession of Faith, III:1.) ↵