Up for a little theology? I need your help on Calvinism…

So, here’s a video that explains it all:

Help Me on Calvinism from Fred Lybrand on Vimeo.

So, here’s a copy of DORT (Dordt; from the Synod of Dordrecht): http://fredlybrand.files.wordpress.com/2010/11/canons-of-dort.pdf

Again, I need your agreements and disagreements and why…this project could turn out big!


Fred Lybrand



P.P.S.  Please put an AGREE or a DISAGREE at the very top of your post…as it will make our reading easier.

17 thoughts on “Up for a little theology? I need your help on Calvinism…”



    Who teach: That Christ has in no place prayed that believers should infallibly continue in faith.
    For they contradict Christ Himself, who says: I made supplication for thee (Simon), that thy faith fail not (Luke 22:32), and the evangelist John, who declares that Christ has not prayed for the apostles only, but also for those who through their word would believe: Holy Father, keep them in thy name, and: I pray not that thou shouldest take them from the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil one (John 17:11, 15, 20).

    I FIND THIS TO BE A LITTLE SILLY / WEAK. Their assumption is that ‘failing faith’ means losing eternal life. Praying for Peter’s faith not to fail is clearly about his denial of Christ on the night of his betrayal. In particular it says, “and when you have turned again…” Peter does fail and then comes back, but it isn’t his ‘saving faith’—it is his sanctifying and serving faith. John 17 is merely about eternal security…hooray, but it isn’t about faith proper.

  2. Dr. Lybrand, this will be very interesting. Thank you for the opportunity! I have begun reading the PDF.

    My comment about your first post is has to do with irony. How is it possible to trust in Christ but then say that your eternal salvation is contingent upon your continuing in that trust? It seems to me that to take the position they’ve taken betrays a failure to trust in Christ. Is there a greater example of irony?

    1. Irony applies to the arts…in theology and philosophy we are a bit stuck on ‘making sense’…

      The issue is the incongruence in the view (and, sometimes, the outright contradiction)!

      This is the real weakness that actually can win the day…too often, however, we just move on to the next distracting argument.

      Staying on topic is the challenge!


  3. Here’s something that caught my eye:

    Article 6
    That some receive the gift of faith from God, and others do not receive it, proceeds from God’s eternal decree. For known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world (Acts 15:18, A.V.). Who worketh all things after the counsel of his will (Eph. 1:11). According to which decree He graciously softens the hearts of the elect, however obstinate, and inclines them to believe; while He leaves the non-elect in His just judgment to their own wickedness and obduracy.

    I understand that this idea of faith as a “gift from God” comes from Eph 2:8-9 and I understand there is what appears to be a solid grammatical argument against that. I’m going to leave that alone for now.

    On Mondays I usually listen to an interesting podcast called “Stand To Reason” whose host is Greg Koukl, who characterizes himself as a 5-point Calvinist and in fact argues that there’s no other kind of Calvinist. I’ve heard him cite Eph 2:8-9 as support for the idea that faith is a gift from God, and in context you can see that he means it’s a gift ONLY to the elect. So there are a bunch of people running around out there who have no faith, apparently.

    I also have video from Lee Strobel’s “Faith Under Fire” program where Koukl appeared opposite Deepak Chopra in a discussion of faith. What’s interesting is that in the course of the program Koukl himself demonstrates why this is an absurd notion:

    He is asked by Strobel to define faith, and he gives what I think is an excellent illustration as his definition. He describes how he was transported to the recording studio where the program was taped that day. He says the studio sent a car, and he (Koukl) got into the car. At that point, though he didn’t know where the recording studio was nor how to get there, he TRUSTED (had faith) in the driver of the car; that the driver knew where to go, how to get there and by what time and so he (Koukl) just sat there in the back seat and let the driver do the work. He didn’t question the driver, he didn’t offer suggestions to the driver. He just trusted the driver to do his job. This, said Koukl, is faith.

    I think that’s a fantastic illustration… I think he’s exactly right. But notice that if faith is only a gift given to believers, then no unbeliever is capable of trusting a limo driver, a bus driver, a taxi driver, an airline pilot, etc. because they have not been given the gift of faith!!

    It’s another example of doublespeak, seems to me.

    1. Yes indeed…there is quite a problem when the nature of faith is changed into ‘kinds of faith’—when, of course, it is faith in the object that has the appropriate result. Faith in Zeus won’t save, but faith Jesus will. It seems clearer and more consistent to treat faith in this way. No Calvinist should worry since it would still only be in the domain of the elect to believe in Christ. And, it would be in the domain of everyone to believe in something.


  4. It caught me a bit by surprise to see them describing what seems an awful lot like my own view, which is that all men have “faith” from day one and that their salvation truly is contingent on their FREE CHOICE to either place their faith in Christ or place their faith elsewhere, as “Pelagianism.”

    In paragraph 6 (errors) under the “Second Head of Doctrine”, such a description is made. It may be that I’m misunderstanding parts of it, but there is certainly an element of my own view wrapped up in there. I think I understand why they call this “Pelagianism…”

    It must be because they regard the notion that man could, in the absence of God tampering with man’s volition, choose to put his faith in Christ as a denial of their idea of total inability; as though I’m saying that man is NOT stained or flawed by original sin.

    Okay. But is that what I’m saying? Why does our ability to autonomously choose Christ necessarily deny the effects of original sin?

    And of what use would man be within the angelic conflict if we did NOT have autonomy in our choice? In their view, the entire angelic conflict is rigged. But the way I understand it, God’s plan is fair, and actually demonstrates something important because in the end some humans WILL have chosen Him, autonomously. If He’s doing the choosing for them, they why jump through all these hoops? Just throw Satan into the lake of fire and be done with it. Why create the human race at all?


  5. Article 17 is puzzling to me…

    “Since we are to judge of the will of God from His Word, which testifies that the children of believers are holy, not by nature, but in virtue of the covenant of grace, in which they together with the parents are comprehended, godly parents ought not to doubt the election and salvation of their children whom it pleases God to call out of this life in their infancy”

    Are they really saying that if you are “elect” then your children will be “elect” automatically? Are they REALLY saying that? Or have I misunderstood?

    1. I’m going to correct myself here… I showed that to my wife and she caught something that I didn’t. I agree with her that “call out of this life in their infancy” refers to a child that dies in infancy. I was confused by the “call out of this life” lingo ‘cuz frequently “called” refers to election itself. What’s funny (more irony) is that I read right past that on the weekend when we celebrate the birth of our son Conner who, in fact, was “called out of this life” in his infancy, having lived only 18 days.

      So, the basic principle of this article, it seems, is that very young children are saved by default. (Under the age of accountability)

      The only question I have now is this: Does this only apply to those children whose parents are “Godly”? Or does it apply to ALL children regardless? The article says “Godly parents ought not doubt” which implies that “ungodly” parents maybe SHOULD doubt.

      If that is what they mean here, then I disagree… I don’t think it matters who the parents are or whether the parents are “godly” or “ungodly”.

      Thank you to my wife, Aprille, for clearing this one up for me.

  6. Okay, here’s something interesting under the Third and Fourth Heads of Doctrine, Article 10:
    “But that others who are called by the gospel obey the call and are converted is not to be ascribed to the proper exercise of free will, whereby one distinguishes himself above others equally furnished with grace sufficient for faith and conversion (as the proud heresy of Pelagius maintains); but it must be wholly ascribed to God…”

    So, they’re saying we should not ascribe the salvation of others to the “proper exercise of free will” but that it must be wholly ascribed to God.

    So, let’s say we’ve done just that: Ascribed the salvation of others to God and not to the “proper exercise of free will.”

    I have a question: Would it be okay if we ascribe our decision to ascribe the salvation of others to God and not to the “proper exercise of free will” to the “proper exercise of free will”? Or do we need to decide to ascribe that decision to God as well?

    I won’t be insulted if whoever reads that feels compelled to read it several more times. It is confusing. But the authors of this document are telling us to make a choice: To ascribe the salvation of others to God and NOT to the free will of the people in question. But I want to know if I have free will enough to make the decision to follow their instructions in this regard. That is, when I decide to ascribe another’s salvation to God as opposed to the exercise of their free will, should I ascribe THAT DECISION to God also, or is that decision mine to make using my free will? And if I need to ascribe THAT DECISION to God also, then why do the authors of this document bother to instruct me on the matter at all? Does their instruction not imply that I have free will to decide whether I’m going to ascribe another’s salvation to God or to the proper exercise of free will?

    I know that sounds smart-alecky, but it’s a real question. Naturally, I’m not suggesting that the person who chooses, as a proper exercise of their free will, to place their trust in Christ deserves CREDIT for their salvation. I fully recognize that Christ deserves the credit because He and He alone has accomplished that work. But I am suggesting that their salvation was contingent upon THEM making that decision; that had they NOT made that decision of their own free will, they would NOT have been given Eternal Life. Does it necessarily follow, then, that I’m giving them “credit” for the work of their salvation? I don’t think it does. I’m only giving them “credit” for having chosen to place their faith in the only one who can save them. Is that wrong?

  7. AGREE

    As all men have sinned in Adam, lie under the curse, and are deserving of eternal death, God would have done no injustice by leaving them all to perish and delivering them over to condemnation on account of sin, according to the words of the apostle: That every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may be brought under the judgment of God (Rom. 3:19). And: For all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23). And: For the wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23).

    The framers of Dort are starting out in a pretty smart place. Indeed, this may be the whole issue in a nut-shell. Would God be just to destroy the whole human race? I believe that is the only biblical conclusion possible. We all deserve eternal death because of Adam and out association with him. If we do not deserve eternal death until we earn it, then each soul has a superior role in salvation (making God’s role subordinate). This turns out to be much of the issue in ‘Calvinism’ (so called).

    I do believe some of their later arguments prove to be non-sequitur—but for now, I have to (happily) admit I agree.



    Canons of Dort

    ARTICLE 17

    Since we are to judge of the will of God from His Word, which testifies that the children of believers are holy, not by nature, but in virtue of the covenant of grace, in which they together with the parents are comprehended, godly parents ought not to doubt the election and salvation of their children whom it pleases God to call out of this life in their infancy (Gen. 17:7; Acts 2:39; 1 Cor. 7:14).

    This does say that the children of the elect are elect, that is, the children who die in infancy. Does any 5 pointer really believe this? I’m sure they do, but it is simply a theological extrapolation. Most people who believe infants go to heaven believe so because of an idea of innocence (the child hasn’t sinned). Of course, if salvation is received through faith, then a child can’t believe.

    Frankly, this is simply theological extrapolation. My wife and I lost our first baby and I can’t honestly say that I KNOW I’ll see him/her in heaven, but I sure hope to.

    The greater problem is that it is OBVIOUS that ALL CHILDREN of the elect must also be elect (hence will be saved); otherwise, why the would argument about the death of children make any sense? If it is only for those who die in infancy, then God has to volitionally protect the non-elect children from death until they are old enough to die in their own unbelief (huh?).

    Yet, to create a categorical declaration that all children of the elect are elect shows the problem with obsessive logical systems. The framers of Dort left the Word of God on this one. Well…they appeal to 1 Cor 7, but that refers to a believer (elect) and a non-believer (non-elect). Technically, then, it must mean that if you had one elect parent you are elect too.

    Honestly, this is scripturally silly and embarrassing, and for only one reason—they are stating the unknowable.

    If you are a 5 Pointer and agree with this, then please help me understand why this is a legitimate point.

    In the meantime, this is an example of why I consider myself a moderate Calvinist (if the definition of Calvinism is Dort). If the definition of Calvinism is something other than Dort, then it goes to my point that there is NO SUCH THING as a 5 Point Calvinist.

    Of course, Calvin died 55 years before the Synod of Dordrecht.


    Fred Lybrand

    1. I enjoyed your analysis, Fred, and hadn’t thought of the logical problem you’ve addressed. I think I understand your comment about not knowing for sure whether you’ll see your first child in Heaven or not. I “believe” that we will see our son Conner in Heaven… in our case, however, that’s not based on a belief that he was too young to have committed his first sin. If that’s what most people base their belief on, that’s too bad. Adam’s original sin is still stamped on that kid’s forehead. I understand that the Bible doesn’t DIRECTLY and EXPLICITLY address this question, and as such I understand why someone would say they don’t know for sure. However, knowing what I think I know about God’s character, His attributes, it’s EXTREMELY difficult for me to imagine that my son might NOT be in Heaven… and not just because that thought would be unpleasant, but also because of what it would seem to say about the character of God.

      The point to all this seems to be that either of two things have to be true:

      Either ALL children who die in infancy go straight to Hell based on Adam’s original sin (regardless of the spiritual condition of the parents) OR ALL children who die in infancy go straight to Heaven based simply on God’s grace and fairness.

      I guess I should specify that “in infancy” really just means any age that’s below the age of accountability, and only God knows when that age is for each person.

      To relate this at all to the parents’ spiritual condition, seems to me, just destroys God’s character by suggesting that He sends infants to Hell because of choices THEIR PARENTS have made (which, if Reform theology is true, weren’t really choices they made themselves anyway).

  9. Pete,

    I think you have got it…good analysis. I might add that the supporters of Dort could also argue that God just Sovereignly that it isn’t the parents’ spiritual condition, but rather that God providentially places elect kids in elect families. Of course, this actually doesn’t really address the implications regarding Why and How. In any event, it makes God look odd, and very busy, given the right appearance to support His choosing.

    Why can’t God just do what He wants? Why can’t He just elect who He wants? Oh…well if He does, then why do we need to be convinced children who die prior to being able to choose MUST be in heaven?

    All of this grows from an unwillingness to appreciate, or respect, mystery!




    Article 7 under “First Head of Doctrine”

    Election is the unchangeable purpose of God, whereby, before the foundation of the world, He has out of mere grace, according to the sovereign good pleasure of His own will, chosen from the whole human race… a certain number of persons to redemption in Christ.

    Now I know, it’s the old limited atonement vs. unlimited atonement issue. And I know the limited or “particular” atonement crowd will produce their proof texts. Seems like we have our own, too. But proof texts aside, I would love for someone to explain to me just what the point of creating humans was if God chose some and not others to redemption in Christ. If God chooses who is going to trust in Him and who isn’t, then why didn’t He just toss Satan and the other fallen angels into the lake of fire and be done with it? Particular atonement seems to undermine the very purpose of the entire angelic conflict… does it not?

    So what’s the solution to the whole election/choice problem? It seems like it has something to do with our identification (as believers) with Christ. Christ was “chosen” from eternity past, He was “elected” and once we put our faith in Christ, we become “identified” with Christ such that what’s true of Christ becomes true of us from God’s perspective. Thus, we become the “elect” in virtue of the fact that we are in union with Christ, who is the Elect. We choose, but He chose Christ and we become united with Christ.

    If there’s some reason why this doesn’t work, someone please tell me. But if this is even close to being right, I really don’t see what the big controversy is. This seems to resolve it quite neatly.

    Anyway, obviously my vote’s for unlimited atonement. (as though this is a matter of votes)

  11. DISAGREE – I think

    Article 9 under “First Head of Doctrine”

    “This election was not founded upon foreseen faith and the obedience of faith, holiness, or any other good quality or disposition in man, as the prerequisite, cause, or condition on which it depended; but men are chosen to faith and to the obedience of faith, holiness, etc.”

    My disagreement is qualified here because I’m not 100% certain of the point being made in this article, but I THINK I see what’s going on here:

    They recognize, to their credit, that salvation itself is not performed by man, but by Christ, and they recognize that our own obedience or holiness doesn’t save us. Fine. But they think that if they still make it about obedience and holiness they won’t conflict with that principle if they simply shift their holiness and obedience to God and say “Oh, no… this isn’t MY obedience and holiness, it’s God’s.”

    And I do see this in present-day teaching. I have a book by a Christian author which says that we are saved by works, but not our own works. He says that works are required for salvation, but just not the kind of works Paul talked about in Ephesians and Romans. The distinction he makes is that the works Paul was talking about are those works which you take credit for yourself. But the works James was talking about in James 2 are those works which you give God credit for. It’s a ridiculous view in my opinion, laughable and yet “cryable” at the same time.

    I want to ask that author “Are you taking credit for having given the credit to God, or do you have to give credit to God for your having given credit to God also, and if so, are you then taking credit for having given credit to God for having given credit to God for the works He did through you?”

    The whole scheme seems to be completely unworkable.

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