The content of this website is taken from a sometimes contentious dialogue via email between myself and a Calvinist that occurred from 2001 through 2004. The correspondence with my beloved Calvinist opponent resulted in thousands of pages of email and I have written hundreds if not thousands of pages of position papers on various topics in response to his challenges and positions. I have decided to post some of this material on the net for the sake of those who may be wrestling with these issues and who may want some kind of counter-perspective to the arguments and teachings of Reformed Theology. The internal logical consistency of the Reformed construct is quite impressive and can seem airtight and overwhelming at first. However, this logical interdependence is also its greatest weakness. If any aspect of the whole can be compellingly refuted then the whole cloth will eventually unravel. For a more detailed back-story go here.
Note: The system of thought known as Reformed Theology has its most complete and systematic expression in Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion. Because of this, the term “Calvinism” is a catch phrase for “Reformed Theology” in general. This is not entirely accurate, as there are differences in the Lutheran as opposed to the Calvinist camps of Reformation thought and there have been developments since the time of Calvin, of course. Nevertheless, I use the terms, "Calvinism" and "Reformed Theology" interchangeably.
Several sections in Romans 9 are "go to" passages for establishing the Reformed paradigm. These would include:
Jacob and Esau (9:11-13)
God's choice (9:11)
I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy (9:15-16)
The Potter and the Clay (9:21-23)
The above passages are then linked up with other passages concerning Predestination and Total Depravity to create a doctrinal construct that is interlocking and mutually supportive.
The Reformed case at first appears to be strong. The reason for this is because the presuppositions of Reformed Theology are very pervasive in our culture-at-large and in Evangelicalism especially. Even those who would deny being Calvinistic hold many Calvinist presuppositions without realizing it. When one holds such presuppositions (e.g. God does whatever He wants, whenever He wants, however He wants) the above passages are then read through the presuppositional glasses as it were and the Calvinist interpretation of Romans 9 is the result. This is in spite of many indicators in the immediate context that the Calvinist position is in error.
The Reformed understanding of these passages must be dealt with if the Reformed construct is to be refuted.
The most important question to ask when attempting to ascertain the meaning of any Predestination proof-text is,
"Predestined to what?"
"When does the predestination occur?"
"Why does the predestination occur?"
Reformed Theology tends to across-the-board apply the answers,
What? An individual's eternal salvation or damnation.
When? Eternity past.
Why? God's immutable, monergistic and sovereign choice.
These are the presuppositions from which all statements of predestination, foreknowledge, etc. are understood by adherents of Reformed Theology regardless of contrary contextual indicators that illuminate how the predestination statements should be understood.
I maintain that all predestination statements are subject to their immediate contexts. That is the foremost consideration when answering the what, when, and the why to which they apply.
The Reformed understanding of the main predestination passages must be dealt with if the Reformed construct is to be refuted.
The doctrine of Total Depravity is the linchpin of Reformed doctrine. All other doctrines flow from it. If man is “spiritually dead” from birth and is unable to choose to turn to God in repentance and faith, and must be enabled by God to do so, then other Reformed doctrines (Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace, Perseverance of the Saints, etc) necessarily follow. If the doctrine of Total Depravity can be compellingly refuted, none of the rest of it is necessary, and the interpretation of the biblical texts that are used in support of the other doctrines need to be reevaluated.
The following is, in part, my response to my beloved Calvinist opponent to refute the doctrine of Total Depravity. He sent me a page of links on the subject. I read most of them and used a couple of them to structure my argument. The lnk to that page is no longer any good but it was on the monergism.com website.
If you don’t feel like you have a handle on what the doctrine of Total Depravity is, you could start there.
Start on the link below and then follow the link at the bottom of each page. As in the Romans 9 pages, it is important to read the pages in order.