The Errors of Calvinism
by Jerry Shugart
R.C.Sproul writes thar "Those who favor a conditional view of election or some sort of prescience as the basis of election face a serious difficulty. They must assume that fallen persons are morally capable of responding to the gospel' (Sproul, What is Reformed Theology?, 152).
Since Sproul thinks that fallen peole cannot respond to the gospel then he says that they play no part in being regenerated or being made alive spiritually:
""When the term 'monergism' is linked with the word 'regeneration' the phrase describes an action by which God the Holy Spirit works on a human being without that person's assistance or cooperation" [emphasis added] (Ibid., 184).
According to the Calvinists being made alive spiritually or being regenerated happens prior to one believing. Here is how Sproul explains that:
"When speaking of the order of salvation (ordo salutis), Reformed theology always and everywhere insists that regeneration precedes faith. Regeneration precedes faith because it is a necessary condition for faith...when Reformed theology says regeneration precedes faith, it is speaking in terms of logical priority, not temporal priority. We cannot exercise saving faith until we have been regenerated, so we say that faith is dependent on regeneration, not regeneration on faith" [emphasis added] (Ibid., 195).
According to Sproul one must be regenerated or be made spiritually alive before he can believe the gospel. However, the following words of the Apostle John demonstrates that spiritual life comes as a result of believing:
" Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name" (Jn.20:30-31).
This in itself thoroughly destroys the idea that one is made alive spiritually or regenerated before coming to faith. According to John believing brings spiritual life and not the other way around. Now let us look at this verse which speaks of regeneration:
" But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)"(Eph.2:4-5).
After quoting this verse Sproul says, "In this passage Paul speaks of the Spirit's work in 'quickening' us or regenerating us from our fallen condition. He uses the image of being 'made alive.' This is set in stark contrast tour former condition of being 'dead' in trespasses and sins...The death in view here is clearly spiritual death" (Ibid., 129).
Let us look more closely at this verse again:
"...even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together (syzoopoieo) with Christ, (by grace you have been saved)" (Eph.2:5).
Here the Greek word syzoopoieo is translated "made us alive together."
The Greek word syzoopoieo is made up of two words, zoopoieo and syn.
The word zoopoieo means to "make alive, give life" (Thayer's Greek English Lexicon).
The word syn means "with, besides, accompany...a primary preposition denoting union" (Thayer's Greek English Lexicon).
So when a person is regenerated he is made alive together with Christ or placed in union with Him. The following verse describes that union we have with the Lord Jesus and it also describes the life we enjoy when we are made alive together with Him:
"And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son" (1 Jn.5:11).
That life which we are made alive "together" with Him is described as "eternal life." John Calvin says the following about 1 John 5:11:
"But the Apostle, that he might keep us together in Christ, again repeats that life is found in him; as though he had said, that no other way of obtaining life has been appointed for us by God the Father. And the Apostle, indeed, briefly includes here three things: that we are all given up to death until God in his gratuitous favor restores us to life; for he plainly declares that life is a gift from God: and hence also it follows that we are destitute of it, and that it cannot be acquired by merits; secondly, he teaches us that this life is conferred on us by the gospel, because there the goodness and the paternal love of God is made known to us; lastly, he says that we cannot otherwise become partakers of this life than by believing in Christ" (John Calvin, Commentary on 1 John 5:11).
Calvin says that "life" is found in Him and "that no other way of obtaining life has been appointed for us by God the Father." He also says that "we cannot otherwise become partakers of this life than by believing in Christ."
Of course that is right and that is exactly how we are made "alive together with Christ"--our "life is in the Son." Calvin was also right when he said that "we cannot otherwise become partakers of this life than by believing in Christ."
Even John Gerstner, one of the leading Calvinists of the 20th century, understood that one's union with Christ is by faith, writing that "eternal life is union with Jesus Christ. And the word for that union with Jesus Christ is faith" [emphasis mine] (John Gerstner, Justification by Faith Alone: Affirming the Doctrine By Which the Church and the Individual Stands of Falls [Morgan, PA: Soli Deo Gloria Publications, 1995], Chapter 4).
So when we understand what is said at Ephesians 2:5 and at John 20:31 we can know that no one is regenerated or made alive with Christ until faith is exercised. Therefore the Calvinist are in error when they teach that regeneration precedes faith.
Blinded the Minds of Those Who are Perishing
According to ideas of the Calvinists only those chosen before the foundation of the world have been given the ability to believe the gospel and therefore the unsaved do not have the ability to believe. However, the words of Paul here demonstrates that even those who are perishing have the ability to believe:
" And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God" (2 Cor.4:3-4).
The gospel is hidden to those who are perishing and the god of this age, Satan, is responsible for the gospel being hidden from them. Satan blinded their minds to the gospel for one purpose, "so that they cannot see the light of the gospel."
The fact that the minds of those who are perishing can be "blinded" to the gospel proves that they have the ability to see it if their minds were not blinded to it. After all, one must be able to see before being blinded can happen.
This demonstrates that even those who are perishing have the ability to believe the gospel and as a result receive salvation. Therefore, it cannot be denied that the Lord's death and the blessings which flow from that death have the potential to be applied to even those who are perishing.