The Last Refuge of Calvinism


Jeff Paton

"O the depth of riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!" Romans 11:33

In theological debate, both Calvinism and Arminianism have their longstanding traditions and arguments. Both systems attempt to make sense of Biblical passages and reconcile them to the whole. But the strength of Calvinism relies on another factor outside of the Bible which is valued as much, if not more than the Bible, i.e., unassailable logic. In their system of theology, one doctrine builds upon the other with perfect consistency with the whole. I actually admire the consistency of the Calvinistic system, and can see how this peerless system could be so appealing to so many, especially those with an analytical mind. My objections to Calvinism are not based upon any flaw that I see in their logic, but with the Biblical basis used to develop their conclusions, and their willingness to dismiss passages that seem to be too difficult to reconcile to their system.

The approach to arguing for Calvinism has been almost as predictable and consistent as their theological system. If one challenges one of the five points of Calvinism, and they are unable to convince someone of the validity of that point by using Scripture, then they appeal to the theological point above or below the one they are arguing for as a "proof" of the logic of their conclusions. "If you are predestined, you cannot lose your salvation." While this method is extremely effective in convincing the simple thinker, it is nothing more than the use of circular logic, i.e., using part of a theory as proof of that theory. 

One thing that I find most amazing is the way that Calvinism approaches some difficulties. For example: If God limits the atonement to the elect, and those that are "chosen" are not selected by anything within themselves, for God is no respecter of persons; then what happens to babies that die? Well, based upon their theory, they are either elect or they are not. God cannot base His election on their infancy since that would make Him a respecter of persons. So, the God of "love" chooses to torment little babies for eternity in a fiery hell! If God is the "cause" of "everything" then is He not the "cause" of sin? Doesn't He have to "will' sin for it to exist? Wouldn't that make God evil? 

If they cannot support their teaching through circular logic, the final appeal that they will predictably fall back upon is what I call "the last refuge of Calvinism." For their answer, they like to appeal to the following verses:

"O the depth of riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!." Romans 11:33 "For who can know the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counselor?" Romans 11:34 "For my thought are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord." Isaiah 55:8      

These are quoted as if they were an answer to any difficult question that faces their theory. When their theory makes God out to be a puppeteer, a baby torturer, or the author of sin, these verses are quoted as their refuge. If we believe that Calvinism makes God unjust, then we just "do not understand God," for "His ways are not our ways!" This my friends is not an answer, but an evasion. To the Calvinist, "God's ways are not our ways" seems to cover manifold Biblical and theological inconsistencies which they refuse to deal with. We however, should not base truth upon their conscience, but upon the Scriptures!

If one disagrees with their "explanation," then these verses are spouted with an air of finality. In essence, they are saying that we are wrong in using human reasoning, and we should yield to their theological absurdities as the mind of God! Anything that does not make sense can easily be dismissed as an "unfathomable mystery" which excuses all contradictions in the Scripture and the character of God. The appeal to mystery seems to be a Biblical answer, but it is not! It is not an answer at all! It is an evasion of the Bible and sound logic. If we cannot "know" God by what the Scriptures say about Him because His ways are greater than ours, then how can we be arrogant enough to say that we can accurately comprehend God and His plans at all? This is equally true for the dogmatic Calvinist. By choosing to believe Calvinism instead of believing the Biblical idea of God, they choose a "mystery" that makes God out to be a monster that the Bible never says that He is! 

While it is true that mere man cannot possibly understand the vastness and greatness that separates the creation from the Creator,  that does not mean that man cannot accurately understand God in as far as He has revealed Himself within Scripture. To choose to adhere to a theory that impugns God with such horrible characteristics that the Bible never puts upon Him is what Calvinism does when it seeks its refuge in these passages. Just because "His ways are not our ways," does not mean that God's ways are Calvinism's ways! An appeal to God's ways does not prove Calvinism in the least. All it proves is that they must appeal to some "mystery" that they themselves do not know as being somehow proof "for" Calvinism. This surprisingly, goes against everything that holds Calvinism together, which is cold, hard, logic! Logic is the glue that holds their entire system together. It is an irony to see a Calvinist appeal for the "illogical" in an attempt to support the "logic" of Calvinism. Does saying that man cannot really know truth because "man's ways are not God's ways" supports Calvinism? I don't think so! I believe that their "last refuge" is actually the unraveling of Calvinism. 

When Calvinism doesn't make sense we are supposed to believe that the explanation is something that transcends the mind of man, and that contradiction is "somehow" the mysterious mind of God. This my friend is a ridiculous "proof." It asks us to put a inordinate and unthinking faith in a theory, which is something that none of us should do! I would think that the way that Calvinism desires to hold to the consistency of their theory and Scripture, that they would try to find a way of adjusting their theory so that it would avoid impugning God with such characteristics that oppose those that He is revealed to have in the Scriptures. In doing so, they would have a theology that met the logical consistency that they desire, without the problems of forcing characteristics upon God by the sheer force of logic instead of Scripture. With their love for the logical consistency of a system of theology, and the desire that that theology be based upon the consistency of the Bible, you would think that they would be more than willing to make adjustments to reconcile the two. This however would be difficult, for in doing so they would by necessity have to arrive at a logic based upon Biblical conclusions; they would have to become Arminians! 


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