Calvinism's Flawed Model
The doctrine that is often identified as Calvinism has many flaws and contradictions, but it is quite popular among those professing to be believers. Its popularity lies mostly in the portion that says that once one is saved, you can never sin or stray so as to lose that salvation — a sub-doctrine often known by the phrase ‘once saved, always saved.’ I have sat down with numerous individuals over many years who claimed to hold to the majority of its teachings, only to have them concede that those teachings contradicted Scripture, and then acknowledge they couldn’t believe that anymore, but not one ever gave up on the doctrine of ‘once saved, always saved.’ Why? Mostly because, as some admitted, it is comforting. Some acknowledged it did not agree with Scripture, but refused to deny it because it was just too ingrained in their thinking to admit that the Bible does indeed teach that one can lose the salvation once afforded them when they initially obeyed. When it comes down to it, they held to that portion of Calvinism because they wanted to believe it was true, and not because they found justification in Scripture.
The list of flawed thinking in the totality of Calvinism’s doctrine is too lengthy to address completely within this format, but I would like to address some flaws that I have noticed seem to follow a familiar model seen within Scripture — a pattern of thinking we may recognize. The pattern is that of the ones identified as God’s people under the Old Law — the Israelites. In their lives, their history, and their thinking, we see a model that is repeated by those who hold to the doctrine of Calvinism, and by the doctrine itself. Let’s consider just a few.
God’s Children. It is a popular [but mistaken] idea to say “we are all God’s children,” applying that to the whole of mankind. No, we are not all God’s children; we are all His creation, but we are not all His children. That description has always been reserved for those who lived in a covenant relationship with Him. For example, under the Old Law, God made a covenant with the Israelites and, thus, the people of Israel were called “the children of Israel” (Exod. 3:9), “His special people” (Deut. 26:18), and “the children of the Lord your God” (Deut. 14:1), and God even once particularly identified them as “My people, the children of Israel” (Exod. 7:4). No other nation or people were called such by God, and these special designations were used because they alone were in a covenant relationship with God as no other people or nation was. That covenant, of course, was what we know as the Ten Commandments (cf. Deut. 4:13; Deut. 5:1-3).
Unfortunately, and over time, the nation as a whole [with few exceptions] came to believe that since they were God’s people, (1) they wouldn’t be punished, or (2) they would always enjoy God’s blessings of provision and protection, or (3) they could live however they wanted; sometimes they believed all of those things.
God’s People Will Not Be Punished? History and the Bible record proves the flawed thinking of the Israelites was wrong, time after time. Remember one of the most well-known stories of the Israelites — the wilderness wanderings? It was these same Israelites [remember: these were the people of God] who, for the most part, did not enter into the promised rest in Canaan. The writer of the book of Hebrews noted that those who did not enter into the Promised Land of rest failed to do so because they “rebelled” (Heb. 3:16), they “sinned” (Heb. 3:17), they “did not obey” (Heb. 3:18), and “they could not enter in because of unbelief” (Heb. 3:19). Take note that these were God’s people. They were punished by wandering in the wilderness for 40 years, and all over the age of 20 died while wandering [with a few notable exceptions], and never saw the Promised Land.
After Joshua led the remaining Israelites into Canaan and conquered the land, and just a generation after Joshua and those of his generation passed away, it is said “When all that generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation arose after them who did not know the Lord nor the work which He had done for Israel” (Jdgs. 2:10), and thus began the roller-coaster history of Israel and their faithfulness to God, with it being said, “they forsook the Lord God of their fathers…and they followed other gods from among the gods of the people who were all around them… And the anger of the Lord was hot against Israel. So He delivered them into the hands of plunderers who despoiled them; and He sold them into the hands of their enemies all around, so that they could no longer stand before their enemies” (Jdgs. 2:11-14). Yes, God did punish His people.
God’s People Will Always Enjoy His Blessings? As noted already, the Israelites came to believe they would always enjoy God’s blessings simply because they were God’s people. That idea was proven wrong, too. Because of their unfaithfulness, it is said God caused a famine to come upon them (Amos 4:6), withheld rain (Amos 4:7), sent blight, mildew, and locusts on their crops (Amos 4:9), and even plagues like had been brought on Egypt (Amos 4:10). And this is just one passage; it is clear from the historical record that God’s people did not always enjoy blessings of provision and protection.
God’s People Can Live However They Want? Sadly, this came to be the thinking of many of God’s people, the Israelites, to the point they literally broke every one of the Ten Commandments, and just about every other law He gave them. And what were they thinking as they so lived? They were so arrogant as to think, “The Lord will not do good, nor will He do evil” (Zeph. 1:12). Put another way, the Israelites were essentially saying, “It doesn’t matter how we live because God won’t do anything about it!” Boy, were they wrong. He would tell His people, “I will bring distress upon men, and they shall walk like blind men, because they have sinned against the Lord” (Zeph. 1:17).
Calvinism’s Parallel. The false doctrine that is part of Calvinism, particularly the idea of ‘once saved, always saved,’ is essentially a copy of the Israelites’ flawed thinking. Calvinism teaches God’s people today [Christians] will not be punished, that they will always enjoy God’s unconditional blessings of forgiveness and salvation, and that the ‘elect’ [as they define the term] may live however they want and never suffer any negative consequences, either here on earth or eternally.
But, let us note that the Scriptures teach plainly, “the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23), and note that Paul did not draw a line of distinction between Christians and unbelievers when writing that; spiritual separation from God is the result of sin, no matter who we are. John reminds us, “if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). IF!
The writer of Hebrews, after noting the failure of the Israelites to enter Canaan, warned the first century people of God, “Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience” (Heb. 4:11). A Christian can fall! A Christian can even get to the point “the latter end is worse for them than the beginning” (2 Pet. 2:20, 21). That doesn’t sound like ‘once saved, always saved’ to me!
It matters how you live! — Steven Harper