The Being Described In His (Calvin’s) Five Points Is … a Demon of Malignant Spirit

His [Calvin’s] religion was demonism. If ever a man worshiped a false god, he did. The being described in his five points is … a demon of malignant spirit. It would be more pardonable to believe in no God at all, than to blaspheme him by the atrocious, attributes of Calvin.
— Thomas Jefferson, Works, 1829 edition, vol. 4, p. 322, quoted from Franklin Steiner,

Whether Thomas Jefferson was a true Christian or a Deist or whatever is not the point.  Any human being examining the reprobation described by Calvin would be repulsed at this doctrine being ascribed to God.  Reprobation is the predestination of unbelieving mankind to hell, for sins committed by the predetermination of God.  This “Calvinistic God” would be unjust and possess an irreconcilable hatred of mankind.  This is not the God of Scripture who “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Tim 2:4)

Did Calvin believe in the doctrine of reprobation described above and how did he justify his belief?  This quote from his quintessential work “The Institutes” demonstrates his knowledge of the arguments raised against his position and his arrogance in responding to the question.

If God not only uses the agency of the wicked, but also governs their counsels and affections, he is the author of all their sins; and, therefore, men, in executing what God has decreed, are unjustly condemned, because they are obeying his will(Calvin paraphrasing an objector)… Thus we must hold, that while by means of the wicked God performs what he had secretly decreed, they are not excusable as if they were obeying his precept, which of set purpose they violate according to their lust.[1]

John Calvin “Institutes of the Christian Religion”

John Calvin is summarizing an objection to his doctrine of the providence of God. It is not just to condemn someone to eternal damnation after predestining the same individual to unbelief.  This is an accurate summary of the objection.  Unfortunately, he does not offer any real counter arguments other than offer examples of these same types of behavior in other places in Scripture.  Of course none of the examples cited are about reprobation nor do these examples imply the forced performance of wicked acts.

He boldly contradicts all rational thought and any reasonable application of cause and effect.  There is no lack of communication, but there is a stubborn refusal to face the obvious.  If God causes all things to happen, and men have no ability to resist the providence of God, then God is responsible for sin.   Of course John Calvin would not admit that his doctrines portrayed God as solely responsible for the sins of the wicked, but this is due to the incoherence of Calvin’s doctrines.

What is Calvin’s way out of this logical argument?  Against all logic, he simple states as fiat the contradictory propositions; God decrees the lust of men and men are guilty because of their lust.  What is lacking is either a logical position developed from Scripture or Scripture supporting something very close to reprobation.

(God performs what he had secretly decreed) Why are these decrees “secret?”   The decree is secret because Scripture has no record of this decree.  Almost all of the revealed decrees of God seem to be left undone or fail.  The secret decrees are done universally and to the letter.

God has a revealed decree 1 Samuel 15

2 Thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘I will punish Amalek for what he did to Israel, how he ambushed him on the way when he came up from Egypt. 3 Now go and attack Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and do not spare them. But kill both man and woman, infant and nursing child, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.’”

9 But Saul and the army spared Agag and the best of the sheep and cattle, the fat calves and lambs—everything that was good. These they were unwilling to destroy completely, God makes a decree, he will punish Amalek.  All persons and animals are to die.  Saul spares Agag and the best domestic animals.  God rejects Saul as king.

If there is a common factor among all the decrees God makes to Israel, it is this; the decrees never seem to get done.  God commands Saul to kill every man in the tribe Amalek but Saul fails to carry out the command.  Calvin calls the decree to slaughter every person the revealed will of God.  The act of disobeying the revealed will is the secret will.  What actually happens therefore is the secret will of God.

That nothing happens by chance, though the causes may be concealed, but by the will of God; by his secret will which we are unable to explore,[2]

John Calvin Institutes

According to Calvin the secret will is always obeyed to the letter, the revealed will is almost never obeyed.  The secret will and the revealed will make no sense.  If God really wanted his will done he should make all his intensions secret wills.

What would be the purpose of a revealed will?   Why would God reveal what he knew the subject could not accomplish?  Would this not subtract from God’s glory?  What benefit is there for the subject?  God reveals what the subject cannot do because God has predestined him to do something else.  Then the subject is supposed to feel guilt for actions that he is incapable of performing?

Why are “we unable to explore” this “secret will.”  Perhaps because “secret will” is not in the Scripture.  If the decree is in Scripture it would not be a secret.  Is it a secret decree because it is embarrassing to God or perhaps it is a secret because man is not able to understand the decree?    In addition, how does Calvin know this secret decree?

Since Calvin seems to understand the decree, incomprehensibility is not a reason for the secrecy.  It is easy to understand, a man believes or does not believe in God.  What is incomprehensible is that a man can be held accountable for belief when he is incapable of believing.  Is God ashamed therefore he has to hide his secret decree?  Of course God is not embarrassed by a secret decree which He never made.

The unexpressed reason for Calvin’s secret decree is that logically the “secret decree” fails.  Are these secret lusts which condemn men to hell also predestined by God?  How can someone be condemned if he does not have control over his actions and are performing these actions like a puppet?  The concept of “secret” does not add anything to the argument.  In fact this is a subterfuge to hide the lack of evidence.


[1] John Calvin, The Institutes of the Christian Religion,, trans. Henry Beveridge (Grand Rapids, MI: Christian Classics Ethereal Library, 1845) p. 149, (1,18,4)
[2] Ibid. p. 919

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