Why I just can't take the idea that Calvinism is biblical seriously
As a theological system, Calvinism is interesting. It’s not one I particularly like, or would want to adopt myself, but as far as theological systems go it’s fairly clearly plausible and coherent. The problem comes when I hear people saying that “Calvinism is what the Bible teaches”.
Now we all know that there are lot of individual statements in the Bible that look (or can be made to look) like they are advocating Calvinism. This is not really surprising: The Bible is big and when you’ve got enough material to choose from you can make a case for any viewpoint. However, let us consider God’s interactions with Israel throughout the Old Testament. Israel is following him, then they turn away from him. God waits for them to come back, he makes statements like “I held out my hands all day long to a rebellious people”.
God holds out his hands to a rebellious people. What does this actually mean, in light of Calvinistic doctrine, how ought we to understand such a statement? Well, we can say that if they are rebellious, then they are rebellious because God hasn’t regenerated them. God must in fact have predestined them to be rebellious. Yet here God is making statements about how he’s ready to receive them. If he was ready to receive them he would have regenerated them, and if he’d regenerated them they would have come. In this way, Calvinism translates all complaints God makes about man into complaints God makes about his own acts of foreordination. God is portrayed at getting upset about men’s deeds, yet their deeds are what they are due to God’s foreordination - and their deeds would have been different if God had foreordained something different: so he is in fact getting upset at the situation that he himself has foreordained. In this way, all the actions of God in the world are rendered into nonsense: men are already doing what they do because God has decided they would do it. If it ever happens that God needs to correct the situation, then he must have made a mistake earlier when he foreordained the current situation and is now correcting his mistake. If it happens that he doesn’t like the current situation, then he’s effectively objecting to his own earlier decision to foreordain the situation to occur. Consider the Old Testament prophets who brought messages from God that the people ought to turn from their wickedness. We may ask: What was the point of such a message? The people who God hasn’t regenerated can’t turn from their wickedness no matter what the prophets say. Those people whom God has regenerated will turn from their wickedness no matter what the prophets say. In this way, Calvinism renders everything the prophets ever said, did, or wrote as a pointless waste of time.
In short, Calvinism means that God is depicted acting moronically throughout the Bible:
1) He moans about the present that he himself foreordained;
2) He tries to talk people into following him when he is well aware they cannot follow him because he has deliberately chosen not to enable them to do so.
That is simply a ludicrous depiction of God and that is why I cannot for even one second take Calvinism remotely seriously as a biblical theology. This is not a matter of any one scripture, but a matter of considering scripture as a whole. Anyone remotely familiar with the Bible’s depiction of God’s interactions with Israel knows well that God is at many and various times depicted as being unhappy with Israel’s behaviour. He is depicted exhorting and cajoling them to repent, to turn back to him. He sends to them many prophets and messengers, some of whom they follow and listen to and others whom they do not. Yet consider Calvinism’s picture of man and God: That man cannot possibly turn to God without God acting upon him supernaturally to regenerate him, in which case the regenerated man would inevitably turn to and follow God. In the Old Testament in his interactions with Israel, God seems ignorant of this. He calls to Israel, he pleads with them, any reader could certainly be forgiven for thinking that God really wanted Israel to repent, and that God really was upset about what Israel was currently doing. This is not a matter of one or two passages, that we could look at individually, this is a matter of Genesis to Malachi, this is a theme that spans the entire Old Testament. God clearly hasn’t realised the Calvinistic Truths: that He is sovereign and the world is the way it is it is because He wanted it to be that way, so it is nonsensical of Him to complain about the way Israel are acting; that Israel simply cannot follow him unless he regenerates them which he has chosen not do. Calvinism, we see, renders the entire Old Testament nonsense... God complaining about what he has foreordained? God trying to get Israel to follow him when he himself has prevented them from doing so? The entire Old Testament might as well say "lksfdjgag" for all the sense it makes under such a reading: Calvinism simply renders vast tracts of the Bible as complete and utter nonsense. The entire length of God's interactions with man (ie most of the Old Testament = Israel + the prophets) seems to be rendered meaningless and void in light of these to things. In terms of Biblical theology Calvinism seems to be a non-starter as it implicitly denies a large proportion of the Bible.