Recently a bunch of Calvinists have told me, “hey, I like your videos.” And so I responded by making a video that makes fun of Calvinists and, in particular, a doctrine that is called the limited atonement. Because I’m sort of a jerk that way. So here it is:
If you’re never heard the term before, as the video explains, the limited atonement means that, when Jesus died on the cross, He made atonement only for the elect. In other words, He forgave only the sins of those who go to heaven. Jesus did not, however, shed his blood for those who are condemned. And he didn’t do this because His Father hated those people and decided before time that He was going to send them hell. That’s what committed Calvinists believe. Very rosy stuff.
So the limited atonement is a vile doctrine. It’s a terrible heresy that one cannot confess and still hold to the words of 1 John 4:16, that God is love. And, as such, it certainly deserves to be mocked. And, in response to my mockery, some Calvinists have offered objections to the content of the video. So, since I’m trying to write more often on my bloggerino here, let me go ahead and address a couple objections here.
1. It’s unfair to quote Westboro Baptist Church as a representative of Calvinist theology.
If you’re not familiar with the name, Westboro Baptist Church is the little cult of nutjobs who go around picketing military funerals, saying that God is pleased at the sight of dead American soldiers because our nation has become supportive of homosexuality. So, at first blush, it may seem unfair to quote such a nasty group of folks who make almost all Calvinists in the universe want to barf. But here’s why it’s perfectly fair.
Phelps and his group are hardcore Calvinists. And they act the way they do because of their Calvinist theology. If you have the stomach to look around Westboro’s website, you’ll see their train of thought quite clear. It works like this:
When it came time for Christ to die, God put His Son on the cross. But God would not give His blood to certain people because He hates them and wants them to go to hell. When people engage in open sin (ie homosexuality or endorsement of homosexuality) this reveals that they are among this group of people that God hates and wants to go to hell. Therefore we don’t have to treat these people with love. In fact, we won’t even pray for them because that would be an act of defiance against the God who wants the in hell.
So that’s pretty much taking Calvinism to its logical conclusion. I’m glad that most Calvinists don’t do this. But just because Phelps does, that doesn’t mean he’s not a genuine Calvinist. All men reflect the behavior of their gods in their own behavior. And Fred Phelps refuses to love his neighbor because Fred Phelps’ god first refused to love his neighbor. That’s not a me problem. That’s a Calvinist god problem.
2. It’s inaccurate to say that Calvinists can’t be sure of their salvation.
I’m aware that Calvinsts say they can be sure of their salvation. But my point is that, regardless of what they say, Calvinists can’t be certain of their salvation. According to their own theological documents, such as the Westminster Larger Catechism Question 80, Calvinists say they can know that they are part of the elect by looking within themselves by the aide of the Holy Spirit.
But validating your faith by looking to your faith is not certainty. It’s circular hopelessness. Because how do you know that you really do believe? How do you know that you haven’t just convinced yourself that the Spirit said you are among the elect because you desperately want to be among the elect? After all, if we’re going to take Matthew 7 seriously, a whole bunch of people that Jesus says He never knew will have been laboring under the delusion that they were among the elect.
If you want to be certain of your salvation, you need to be able to look to things outside of your deceitful heart. You need to be able to look to the Cross and say that you know that Jesus won your salvation there. And you need to be able to look at your baptism and say that Jesus delivered salvation to you there. But Calvinists can’t do either of that. They can’t look to the cross for assurance because Jesus didn’t die for everyone and therefore might not have died for them. And they can’t look to their baptism because it can’t deliver salvation to you if Christ never won it for you in the first place.
HT: Pr. Hans Fiene