Monday, April 18, 2011

Why John Calvin was wrong about Romans 9

Article has been moved to a new blog. Read it by clicking here.


Mr. Rogers said...

Well said! This can be a very touchy subject with many strong opinions. You have done a good job of explaining what the scripture really says and make common sense out of a difficult concept! Often times we take things to the extreme rather than taking a balanced yet strong, biblical approach to such matters.

Dr. Bob Rogers said...

Thank you, Todd!

Lara said...

Hey, this is well written for sure! I know Jesus weeps when a soul goes to hell. God doesn't delight in the destruction of the wicked. And what is the point of free will if we don't really have free will, right? If that made any sense. lol

jcan2 said...

"In other words, God talks about advance predestination for the saved, but God does not speak of advanced predestination of the damned." Doesn't this statement, by default, create a group that is predestined to be damned?

Jacob Hall said...

Bob, you said "but God is going to choose those who ultimately choose Him by faith."

This is us choosing God for Salvation, not God choosing us. It is also a works based salvation as it hinges or depends on our choosing of God.

Can you define what you mean by the term freewill? I am curious as to what you mean by the term.


Colin Maxwell said...


A few months I went through Calvin's comments on Romans 9:10-23commenting on his observations, starting here:

It is worth stating here that in the midst of his high octane chapter in the Institutes on the deep subject of reprobation that he makes the following observation on the cause of man's damnation. I quote:

"Accordingly, we should contemplate the evident cause of condemnation in the corrupt nature of humanity—which is closer to us—rather than seek a hidden and utterly incomprehensible cause in God’s predestination." (Inst 3:23:7)

Nor was this a one off. Again, I quote:

"All think it harsh that they who do not believe in Christ should be devoted to destruction. That no man may ascribe his condemnation to Christ, he shows that every man ought to impute the blame to himself. The reason is, that unbelief is a testimony of a bad conscience; and hence it is evident that it is their own wickedness which hinders unbelievers from approaching to Christ." (John Calvin Commentary on John 3:19)

I could readily multiply quotes, but forbear.


Colin Maxwell said...

For the purposes of an email follow up

Dr. Bob Rogers said...

That's not what I'm saying. I'm not discussing categories of saved and unsaved. I'm discussing HOW GOD TALKS ABOUT the saved or unsaved. He speaks of the saved as "predestined" because of His loving choice to save those who freely chose Him. But since God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, He does not speak of the unsaved that way, even though they are certain lost because of their rejection of the gospel.

Dr. Bob Rogers said...

Following your logic, if a man proposed marriage to a woman, and the woman accepted the proposal, you wold be saying, "this is a woman choosing a man for marriage, not a man choosing a woman."
I am surprised that you need a definition of free will. It simply means that the human is free to choose or not choose faith in Christ.

Dr. Bob Rogers said...

Thanks for sharing, but what Calvin said in the Institutes and in his commentary on John doesn't change the statement that Calvin made in the commentary on Romans.

Colin Maxwell said...

In Romans 9, John Calvin continually taught that the wickedness of the sinner is self induced and the sole cause of his own condemnation as proved in the articles below which go through his comments on the relevant part of Romans 9 line by line. Again, you have signally failed to reflect this in your article and thus done a disservice to Calvin, Calvinists, yourself and any one who relies on your article for accurate information on a very important matter.


Dr. Bob Rogers said...

Thank you for your detailed comments on Calvin in Romans 9. You have a lot of useful information here.
My apologies for the delay in posting your comment, but I wanted to take time to read over what you had to say and be ready to reply.
I have now read over your comments, and I find it interesting that you do not disagree with my main quotation of Calvin in Romans 9:18, where he said that the wicked were created for the very purpose that they perish.
You say, "It is certainly High Octane stuff when Calvin says that the wicked were created for this very end i.e. that they may perish. My position on the matter is that God created the wicked so that they might glorify Him and enjoy Him for ever (ala our Shorter Catechism Q.1) and that they miserably failed. However, Calvin (at least at this point in his commentary) does not go down that particular road."
Thus you yourself admit that Calvin's comments are "high octane" and then you go on to say that your own position disagrees with Calvin. So I would agree with you!

Colin Maxwell said...

Hi Bob,

Thanks for your reply and taking the time to read through my referenced pages where a lot of homework was done. I think the difference between Calvin’s views and those of the WCF men in relation to why certain people were created lies in two sides of the one coin.

Whether you believe in reprobation (where God actively decrees to leave some hell deserving sinners in their unbelief) or in mere foreknowledge (where God just knew who would or would not believe) – you still have the situation where God still created them anyway. To what end did He create them, knowing full well that they would be born, live their lives in wickedness and die in unbelief and justly go to an everlasting hell? The issue is exactly the same for the Calvinist and non Calvinist alike.

Obviously whatever God does, He does for a reason or purpose. His attribute of wisdom demands this. So what was the purpose of God in creating the reprobate? The two sides of the one coin referred to above are God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility. Both these truths are equally taught in Scripture, although where one begins and the other ends is often hard to discern and often it seems that there is a contradiction, although we know that there is not.

John Calvin concluded that ultimately the way things come to pass is ultimately what God had overall intended to be. Otherwise, we are looking at the greatest mistake in history i.e. God knowing that His plans would signally fail but went ahead anyway.

John Calvin concluded that God made the wicked for the day of evil and to show forth His glorious justice in their damnation. That God’s judicial dealings with the impenitent is just and glorious needs hardly to be argued here. Whatever God does is glorious and just and to His own glory, even in the bidding of the wicked to depart as cursed of the Lord. We might say that Calvin took one side of the coin, emphasising (as Paul did in Romans 9) the sovereignty of God end. High octane stuff indeed, but then Romans 9 if abused can be high octane stuff as well.

The WCF men took the other side of the coin. They came at it, not from the narrow confines of Romans 9, but from the Bible as a whole. They emphasised the responsibility of man and certainly in pastoral and especially evangelistic application, this is the place to be.

Calvin himself also took the WCF line, but did not say so in Romans 9. It might have been better if he had, but then (again) he was closely following Paul’s reasoning and the Apostle did not mention it either. If you read Calvin’s comments on Christ’s words to Judas (“What thou doest, do quickly…) in John 13, then you can see how he gives a very pastoral and evangelistic application with which (I assume) none could find any fault.

I hope this helps to give a more balanced view of Calvin, rather than (say) taking isolated quotes which fail to do him justice.


Colin Maxwell said...

Decided to include the quote in another comment session as it is so important:

John Calvin commented on Christ’s words ‘What thou doest, do quickly’ Comment: “The exhortation addressed by Christ to Judas is not of such a nature that he can be regarded as exciting him to do the action: it is rather the language of one who views the crime with horror and detestation. Hitherto he had endeavored, by various methods, to bring him back, but to no purpose. Now he addresses him as a desperate man, “Go to destruction, since you have resolved to go to destruction;” and, in doing so, he performs the office of a, judge, who condemns to death not those whom he, of his own accord, desires to ruin, but those who have already ruined themselves by their own fault. In short, Christ does not lay Judas under the necessity of perishing, but declares him to be what he had formerly been.” (John 13:30)