THE FLAW in DORT (5 Point Calvinism)

I’m so grateful that many of you have pitched in (but haven’t posted yet), and that a number of other have dropped my private notes of apology (too busy)!

I am finding that part of the problem with most Free Grace folks who are against Calvinism is that they simply have not read the original documents.  There is much in Calvinism that I love, and many things that I find to be pretty useless.  We all know that Calvinism is a theoLOGICAL system which largely makes sense if Scripture is not used as the standard of evaluation.  Do not miss the point– Calvinism is HIGHLY scriptural; yet, it is also, highly theological.  In other words, this is how Calvinists put it together.

Yet, one point is often denied in certain Free Grace circles; there is no such thing as Consistent Calvinism.  There is simply a broad spectrum of viewpoints within the largely circle.  We see this same reality with Arminians, Dispensationalists, Amillenialists, Preterests, denominations, and Free Grace advocates.  Sorry, that’s just the truth.  When we preach against “Calvinism” without defining terms, we are in the worst of straw-man worlds.  Sadly, we are attacking friends and patrons.  I personally have felt the same sense of being ostracized for not taking a stance against Calvinsim.

All Free Grace Advocates (faith alone in Christ alone) OWE a debt of gratitude to the Reformation for the recover of Grace being returned to the forefront of conversation and focus.  However, it doesn’t mean that forms and aspects of Calvinism aren’t mistaken (they are)!

Here is THE FLAW in DORT, as I study through it:

Dort assumes that humans are still depraved after regeneration.  In other words, they apply the same standards to a ‘saved’ person as they do a ‘lost’ person.  Practically, this means that they not only have the individual needing to be elected unto salvation, but elected unto sanctification (spiritual growth).

There is nothing inherently required in the ‘5 points’ or in Scripture concerning growth.  The very reason a believer can be accountable is that he is indeed a ‘new creation’ in Christ.  There is a new game in play where God can reward or chasten based on our works (and attitude, faith, doubt, etc.).  Saying that on is chosen to belong to Christ is one thing, saying one is chosen to produce good works (increasing) is quite another.

We are certainly called to good works as believers (read Titus), and God has set the kind of good works in place by His own will (see Ephesians 2:10); but to say God is imposing His will on us to make us obey is actually irrational and indefensible.

Said differently:

Before Christ = Depraved

After Christ = NOT Depraved

I’m catching a flight…so I’ll prove this later!

What do you think?  Where does this go?

Grace and peace,

Fred Lybrand

14 thoughts on “THE FLAW in DORT (5 Point Calvinism)”

  1. my main argument against God imposing His will on us as believers is that it makes the New Testament a waste of time to read. If God is deciding for us, why all the exhortation to memorize scripture and understand how to behave? Also, what do we do with the passages about God judging our works? If He is imposing His will then he would be setting up this eternal farce where He judges His own decisions. Crazy.

  2. Dr. Lybrand,

    I would like to make one quick comment about your post. You said:

    When we preach against “Calvinism” without defining terms, we are in the worst of straw-man worlds.

    Yes and no. As you had mentioned earlier in the same paragraph there are many different theologies that claim to be “Calvinist.” It is almost impossible to define the term. I suppose that pastors could just avoid the word altogether since only a Calvinist can use the term Calvinist and not be accused of setting up a straw-man.

    The only definition of Calvinism that I have ever found to hold up is the following:

    All Calvinists, whether they be Presbyterian or Reformed, Primitive Baptist of Sovereign Grace Baptist; all Calvinists, whether they be premillenial or amillenial, dispensational or covenant theologist; all Calvinists, whether they go by the name or not, all Calvinists have one thing in common: God, by a sovereign, eternal decree, has determined before the foundation of the world who shall be saved and who shall be lost.

    The Other Side of Calvinism
    Laurence M. Vance
    P 35

    I would also like to add this quote which, from personal experience, I have found to be painfully true:

    Whenever, therefore, one tries to state TULIP theology and then refute it, there are Calvinists who will argue with you that you are misrepresenting Calvinism. It is not so much that you are misrepresenting Calvinism, though. You might be quoting directly from various Calvinists or even from Calvin himself. The problem is that you are misrepresenting their Calvinism! There are Calvin Calvinists and Thomas Fuller Calvinists and Arthur W. Pink Calvinists and Presbyterian Calvinists and Baptist Calvinists and many other sorts of Calvinists. Many Calvinists have never read Calvin’s Institutes of Christian Religion for themselves. They are merely following someone who follows someone who allegedly follows Calvin.

    Calvinism Debate

    Thank you.

    Glenn

    1. Glenn,

      Thanks for your comments. I do like your second quote…I think that is the heart of the issue, except that I have found that most ‘anti-Calvinists’ haven’t read much of Calvinism either.

      I do take exception with your definition of Calvinism because it is a strict double-predestination view. Honestly, most Calvinists do not believe in double-predestination. I know that you believe the logic of their view insists on this, but they do not think so. This is really where a lot of the problem is…we must interact with others on their terms (or at least come to understand / agree on terms).

      My honest complaint is that many Free Grace folks simply tell others what their view is…I’m pretty sure I’m a “Calvinist” by most Free Grace folks’ view…but I am definitely not a predestinarian. I’d be glad to explain why.

      Grace,

      Fred Lybrand

      1. Fred,

        I don’t think I’m a “predestinarian” either, but I would like to hear you define what you mean by the term. Judging by some earlier posts, you seemed to me to be advocating single-predestination (i.e., God, from all eternity, chose/elected a particular “set” of individuals- of which you and I are members- to be saved/justified). If that’s the case, wouldn’t that qualify as a predestinarian view?

      2. Dr. Lybrand,

        I do believe that while many self identified Calvinists deny believing in double predestination they hold other beliefs which logically lead to that view. I can’t remember asking the Calvinists that I have interacted with explicitly if they hold to double predestination. However I have been seriously, and consistently, rebuked for holding to libertarian free will and denying God’s “absolute” sovereignty. No one has ever been able to convince me that the doctrine of “absolute” sovereignty can mean anything other than double predestination.

        You are also correct that I haven’t read either Calvin’s Institutes or the Canons of Dordt. However I have read the Westminster Confession of Faith (WCF). I have tried quoting the WCF to self professed Calvinists and been told on more than one occasion that they don’t agree with the quote. There is no creed, or confession of faith, that any but a small minority of Calvinists would agree to. The term “Calvinist” really doesn’t have much meaning. As I said before (and this is my experience only) the only definition of Calvinism that has been broad enough to encompass all of the Calvinists I have interacted with is the one I provided by Lawrence Vance.

        FYI, I hope that no one considers my use of the term “self professed Calvinist” to be pejorative. It’s just that I take their word for it and have no idea if other Calvinists would greet them as fellow Calvinists. It is that muddled.

        Glenn

  3. Dr. Lybrand:

    You wrote:

    “All Free Grace Advocates (faith alone in Christ alone) OWE a debt of gratitude to the Reformation for the recover of Grace being returned to the forefront of conversation and focus.”

    The question is, did they really succeed at this? I’ll grant that the reformers opened the door and the importance of that is undeniable. But if Calvin’s response to the question “What about works?” was to say “We are justified by faith alone but the faith that saves is never alone” then it strikes me that, even though the door was now open, he chose to stay on the faith + works side. He didn’t leave faith + works behind. Isn’t that right?

    I would certainly give credit to the reformers for having opened the door… and maybe that’s really what you mean. And I might even accept the notion that they were honestly TRYING to leave behind faith + works, but they just became kind of confused and their effort fell flat. But I’m not sure that Calvinism as I understand it really represents a discussion about grace. In the end, it seems, grace get undermined.

    The basic flaw you outline seems to be connected with the issue of free will. The true Christian, in the Calvinist view, appears BOUND to perform and unable to choose otherwise. So I think I see your point there and agree with it… for whatever that’s worth. He, he.

    Thanks!

  4. the Bible does support that we still have the sinful, and are thus still depraved in some sense of the word. We have a choice now, but Galatians 6 clearly gives support that a person can be caught and captured by his sinful nature. And Romans 7 clearly supports the struggle between the two natures. We are seen by God as righteous and have the ability to walk by the Spirit, but if we are not walking by the Spirit, we are walking by the same nature that we were consistently walking by when we were not regenerate. Just because we are regenerate does not mean we are not still depraved and sinful

  5. [Let me preface this response with one statement: I’m a Christ Follower first, Calvinist second, I do however OFTEN relate to Calvinistic beliefs.]

    I agree 100% with you Mr. Lybrand that Calvinism is a broad statement, that is in desperate need of unifying. But, not only is the TULIP biblical, it’s foundations are rooted in the New Testament! Here is Calvinism, how it’s been taught to me and how I understand it:

    _Total Depravity – We are fallen and infected with sin like the black plague. We cannot do good, nor can we know Good. When left to ourselves we will always choose the greater evil. (Rom. 3.10-18)
    _Unconditional Election – Believers are not chosen by God because of their works or deeds, considering that without the indwelling of the Spirit of God, we could never do Good things. (thank goodness for the indwelling of the Spirit!!)
    _Limited Atonement – The work on the cross is sufficient for all, but not efficacious for all. Considering the indwelling of the Spirit did not come till after the perfect enlightenment of Truth, I could NOT have possibly chosen God, He must have chosen me. Perhaps before the foundations of the world? :] (Eph. 1.4 & 5)
    _Irresistible Grace – Once the subject’s eyes have seen Truth and known the truth of God’s grace, he/she cannot resist it. This is the work of the Spirit pulling and bringing you to God, since we cannot do it ourselves. This, in my opinion, provides more structural integrity for God choosing us, and not us choosing God.
    _Perseverance of the Saints – Salvation cannot be revoked, once saved always saved. (John 10:29)

    You said, “Here is THE FLAW in DORT, as I study through it: Dort assumes that humans are still depraved after regeneration. In other words, they apply the same standards to a ‘saved’ person as they do a ‘lost’ person. Practically, this means that they not only have the individual needing to be elected unto salvation, but elected unto sanctification (spiritual growth).” — I strongly disagree, could you show me where you got this, or how you came to this conclusion on your own, please sir?

    Before we can properly scrutinize Calvinism, we must acknowledge the following questions:

    “Can the TULIP define believers?” — I say, in some parts it can.

    “Can the TULIP define non-believers?” — I say, in some parts it can.

    “Was the TULIP intended to do the above?” — This is where I strongly disagree. In my personal opinion, the TULIP defines a process, or a journey if you will, not people. This journey takes us from depraved, fallen, destined to an eternity without our Creator to a beautiful New Creation that will desire to honor God, not merely honor Him, but live a life sacrificed to Him with the end result of spending eternity in perfect harmony with the Triune God, Soli Deo Gloria!

    If one steps back and looks at the TULIP as a story in its entirety, I believe they will see it as a journey.

    I eagerly await your reply! (I just love these kind of discussions!)

    With much love,
    Casey
    caseybcrocker@gmail.com

  6. Hey Casey,

    Sorry, I’ve been on the road. Your question, “You said, “Here is THE FLAW in DORT, as I study through it: Dort assumes that humans are still depraved after regeneration. In other words, they apply the same standards to a ‘saved’ person as they do a ‘lost’ person. Practically, this means that they not only have the individual needing to be elected unto salvation, but elected unto sanctification (spiritual growth).” — I strongly disagree, could you show me where you got this, or how you came to this conclusion on your own, please sir?” is a really good one. I’m going to post an answer as a separate discussion point. Look for it later today!

    Thanks,

    Fred

  7. Can I just say what a relief to find someone who actually knows what theyre talking about on the internet. You definitely know how to bring an issue to light and make it important. More people need to read this and understand this side of the story. I cant believe youre not more popular because you definitely have the gift.

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