Dedicated to the devotional, exegetical and philosophical study of theological paradox in Conservative, Thoroughly Biblical, Historically Orthodox, Essentially Reformed theology . . . to the glory of God alone!

10-Point Calvinism


After much reflection and study of the Scriptures and the historical development of Reformed doctrine, I have concluded that I am a 10-Point Calvinist. I believe it is important to be a 10-point Calvinist (a.k.a. a 5-paradox Calvinist) because this maintains the balance of Biblical teaching concerning God's disposition toward the elect and the reprobate. I believe all 10 points are essential for any soteriology that is based on the Bible.

Most Calvinists agree that the ubiquitous "TULIP" is an insufficient summary of our core theology. This is not to say that it is completely inaccurate. It is a brilliant strand of truth (and a handy acronym) . . . but perhaps too narrow a strand. What follows is a broader alternative that does not deny the TULIP, but balances it.
5 Paradoxes of Calvinism: A Deep Vision of Sovereign Grace

PARADOX #1 - MAN
Humanity's Condition: Lost - yet Loved
1a. God's Pervasive Love for All of His Creatures (Psalm 145:9)
1b. Humanity's Pervasive Total Depravity and Spiritual Inability (John 6:44)

PARADOX #2 - GOD
God's Disposition: Willing to Save All - yet Sovereignly Selecting
2a. God's Saving Desire toward All Mankind (Ezekiel 18:31-32)
2b. God's Unconditional Election of Particular Sinners from Eternity (Ephesians 1:4-5)

PARADOX #3 - CROSS
Christ's Saving Work: Sufficient for all - yet Particular to the Elect
3a. Christ's Infinitely Sufficient Atonement for all Sinners (I John 2:2)
3b. God's Particular Redemption of the Elect through the atoning work of Christ (Matthew 1:21)

PARADOX #4 - CONVERSION
The Gospel Call: Offered to All - yet Effectual in the Elect
4a. The Free Offer of the Gospel to All Sinners (Matthew 11:28-30)
4b. The Effectual Call of the Elect by Irresistible Grace (Matthew 11:27)

PARADOX #5 - SANCTIFICATION
The Christian Life: Sinners by Nature - yet Saints by Grace
5a. The Struggle of the Saved Sinner in Sanctification (Romans 7:18-25)
5b. The Preservation and Perseverance of the Saints (John 10:27-29)

Arminians press the "a" statements to the point of denying God's sovereignty in salvation.
Hyper-Calvinists press the "b" statements to the point of denying God's goodness as expressed in His general love and willingness to save all. Mainstream Calvinists hold the balance. This is beautiful, Biblical Calvinism! 10 points worth of it.

A 10-Point Calvinist Faces Off with an Arminian
Putting it another way . . .

1. God loves all people. 
2. Sin has rendered all people pervasively depraved and unable to repent on their own.
3. God desires the salvation of all people.
4. From eternity, God unconditionally elects some sinners to salvation.
5. Christ's shed blood was and is a sufficient atonement for all people.
6. God's special intention in the atonement was to redeem a particular people.
7. In the Gospel, God freely offers His atoning mercy to all people.
8. God effectually calls and irresistibly draws the elect by sovereign, saving grace.
9. The saints are saved sinners.
10. Those who are truly converted will persevere in faith to the end.


Related posts:
Three Points of Common Grace 
Purpose and Potency of the Atoning work of Christ,

10 comments:

  1. Any theology that attempts to embrace particular redemption and the well-meant offer of salvation to all of humanity (WMO) is paradoxical or illogical. While I do not embrace either paradox theology or the WMO, I can at least appreciate your candor in openly stating that your theological system is based, at least in part, on irrationalism. I wish that more Christians were as forthright in proclaiming what they believe.

    That said, perhaps the greatest paradox of all is that one could posit irrationalism as the "reason" one holds such beliefs.

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  2. Ears to Hear,

    Thank you for your comment. I certainly don't want to give the impression that irrationality is entailed in the type of theological paradox I embrace. Rather, my belief in paradox is built on the solid foundation of Scripture as the Word of God, and flows logically from my presuppositions, as illustrated in the following premises and conclusions:

    P1 The Bible is the highest and surest source of knowledge: inerrant, infallible, and authoritative.
    P2 The Bible clearly (that is, perspicuously) teaches some doctrines which, when compared side by side, appear to human minds to be logically incoherent.
    P3 The Bible does not explain in detail how all of these doctrines interrelate.
    P4 The Bible does not imply that any of these doctrines actually contradict one another (and strongly implies the opposite).
    P5 The Bible teaches that man has mental limitations due to creaturehood, depravity and incomplete information.
    P6 The Bible teaches that God possesses perfect and exhaustive knowledge of all things, and no possibility of self-deception.
    P7 Even with perfect logic, the reliability of one's logical conclusions is proportional to the amount of correct information one possesses (i.e., partial information easily leads to false conclusions).

    C1 (Based on P1, P2, P3, P4) All doctrines taught by the Bible are entirely true, compatible and non-contradictory, without regard to any human being's ability to explain their interrelations.
    C2 (Based on P5, P6, P7) The Bible reflects the perfect logical conclusions of a perfectly logical God, even if no human being can explain the logic used to reach those conclusions.

    As you might guess, I am no formal logician or philosopher. Still, I think my crude attempt holds water. :)

    In short, I would not say my theological system is based in any sense upon irrationalism. For further discussion of this topic, I recommend James Anderson's excellent quote found in the sidebar of this blog, under the heading "Wise Words." I believe he strikes the right balance.

    Thanks again for stopping by and commenting.

    Blessings,
    Derek


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    Replies
    1. I appreciate your candor on the topic. However, when someone's theological position embraces paradoxes and antinomies it is impossible to logically substantiate your statement "I would not say that my theological system is based in any sense on irrationalism" because to assert that paradoxes and antinomies are the truth is to say that some portion of the truth is irrational.

      I believe these paradoxes result from a FALSE doctrine in the mix, not from correct doctrine. As such, they should force us to reconsider some of our presuppositions and doctrinal positions rather than driving us to embrace irrationalism and then attempting to support it as a rational position.

      I would say this - if you believe that some doctrines are irrational, just admit that and be unapologetic about it. If that sort of admission makes you uncomfortable - as I think it should - I would consider re-examining your doctrinal positions that you have presupposed.

      Regards,
      teth

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    2. TETH,

      Thank you for your additional comment. I am not sure that it is possible to establish the connection you are suggesting, that paradoxical conclusions equate to irrationalism and the presence of false doctrine(s). Of course, we have to define our terms to know for sure. What exactly do you mean by "irrationalism"?

      For me, this term equates to the position that reality itself--as God knows it (i.e., as it actually is)--does not conform to logic.

      My position is that reality itself DOES conform to logic; what actually exists is not self-contradictory or irrational. As God knows it, reality is perfectly logical.

      However, my system of theology, which starts with and is based upon Scripture and rational logic, does in the end lead to some paradoxical conclusions. By "paradox" I mean two or more propositional statements which, when taken together, can be stated in a way that appears to defy logic. In some cases, these sets of propositions may be stated in direct opposition to one another, and thus need to be further clarified in order to demonstrate that they can be logically reconciled. In other cases, a paradox is nothing more than a set of claims that are implicitly contradictory.

      Here is an example of the first type of paradox:
      P1 Fallen man can choose to turn to Christ
      P2 Fallen man cannot choose to turn to Christ

      These two statements are both true, yet appear to be contradictory because we have not defined the senses in which they are true. Jonathan Edwards worked this out nicely by proposing a distinction between natural ability (which makes P1 true) and moral ability (which makes P2 true). Thus, while fallen man has the natural ability to turn to Christ (as a lion has the natural ability to eat a bowl of lettuce), he lacks the moral ability and thus will never choose to do so without the intervention of irresistible grace (just as a lion will never choose to eat the bowl of lettuce without the introduction of some entirely new kind of will which is currently foreign to him). Edwards uses logic to show us that there is a way for both P1 and P2 to be true; and yet the Bible itself does not establish such a solution. So, on the level of the Biblical text I can paradoxically affirm both P1 and P2, while also affirming that there must be a logical reconciliation that exists in reality (yet it is not given to us at the level of the Biblical text). I do not personally believe Jonathan Edwards fully solved the conundrum, but I do believe that in God's perfect understanding it is perfectly harmonized. Edwards rationally explained the paradox; but he did not make it rational by doing so. It was already rational and logical (by virtue of being Biblical), and he showed us one possible way to achieve a reconciliation.

      Continued . . .

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    3. The second type of paradox involves implicit contradiction. Consider this set of claims:

      P1 Jesus Christ is fully and authentically human
      P2 Jesus Christ is fully and authentically divine

      These two statements appear to contradict one another, and yet there is really no direct disharmony between them. Both are Biblical, and both have to be accepted. It might take a monumental effort for the best logician to present any kind of logical harmonization for this paradox. And even when he does, some equally brilliant logician will come along and poke holes in it. However, not everyone is a logician. Does a simple person or a child have to logically explain why and how the implicit contradiction entailed in the incarnation is logically soluble in order for his belief in this doctrine to be deemed "rational"? (Worse yet, should he deny one of these propositions because he cannot explain how the two fit?). If that is the case, then almost every Christian is irrational, with the exception of formally trained logicians and philosophers. This approach would seem to rob millions of their simple, God-given faith and exalt the philosophers to a privileged class--which is in direct opposition to the way Scripture treats them. The wise and learned are the ones from whom truth is often "hidden," while it is "revealed" to infants and uneducated folk who simply come to Christ.

      I am as concerned about avoiding "rationalism" as "irrationalism." I define "rationalism" as the underlying belief that no claims can be accepted as true unless the person making the claims is able to demonstrate their logic to the satisfaction of the rationalist. In contrast to this, Biblical epistemology exalts Scripture above human reason and accepts God's Word as perfect revelation, with or without a logical demonstration. Once we have accepted the Truths of Scripture, we are given the privilege of working out the explanations, as far as possible. Even with full explanations, however, the text of Scripture still stands on a level that is above (that is, more authoritative than) human reason. With reason and faith, we reach up to it trying to understand; and we must be very careful never to pull Scripture down to the level of our best logic.

      I appreciate your challenging thoughts and any further discussion on these important topics.

      Blessings,
      Derek

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    4. All logical paradoxes are irrational, else they would not be paradoxical. It is the logical conflict between two seemingly correct precepts that brings a paradox into existence. It is on this basis that I would refer to the logical paradoxes posited by many of the NeoCalvinists as irrational – that is, “not in accordance with reason, or illogical.” What I’m suggesting is that terms like “paradox” or “antinomy” are really just a more palatable way of spackling over a bald logical contradiction in one’s theology. It certainly sounds much better to say that some things in one’s theology are paradoxical than to be brazen enough to admit that what one believes is flatly self-contradictory and illogical.
      With respect to the two examples you cite, neither of them is truly contradictory. The first is a rhetorical paradox based on equivocation (ambiguity) and is resolved when properly qualified. The second is merely abstruse – but at the end of the day we don’t have any real reason for denying that Jesus Christ could be fully God and fully man apart from some natural inclination to believe that this can’t be so. So in that example, our view of such as paradoxical is simply incorrect.
      But neither of these is of the variety of irrationalism that your theology embraces. I think the best example would be the following two beliefs:
      1) Particular redemption.
      2) The Well Meant Offer (WMO) of salvation to all of humanity.
      I believe that these two precepts are flatly contradictory to one another and that this is one of the primary doctrinal errors of the NeoReformed. If the atonement of Christ covers the elect only, then there is simply no way to extend a sincere (well-meant) gospel offer to all of humanity. To embrace both of those precepts is to embrace a soteriology that is based on irrationalism. This is where the NeoCalvinists are content to leave the matter. They slap an antinomy on it, quote Deuteronomy 29:29, and move on. But this matter is not resolved through the invention of erudite nomenclature to spackle over the abject irrationalism of that doctrinal position. It is that “tension” between those two precepts that should cause one to investigate the originally stated precepts to be certain that they are both correct.
      Upon further investigation one discovers that the second almost-universally-accepted-precept is in fact FALSE. The gospel is NOT a well-meant offer of salvation to all of humanity. It is not an OFFER of salvation at all. Rather, the gospel is a proclamation of the finished, effectual, substitutionary work of the Lord Jesus Christ on behalf of his people which is accompanied by the assurance that those who believe it HAVE eternal life and the admonition to follow the Lord in obedient discipleship through repentance from sin and baptism.
      Stated plainly - those who embrace both particular redemption and the WMO have a soteriology that is based on irrationalism. I know a lot of people who believe this, and they are at liberty to do so. None-the-less, it is silly to invoke antinomies as an ersatz means of doing so. It is to attempt to make rational sense out of one’s theology by resorting to irrationalism, which is nonsense. The reason you have paradoxes in your theology is because you have embraced some precepts that are not scriptural. The dissonance they create in your theology is not to be dismissed as mere paradox, but investigated and resolved. That resolution comes in the form of a correct definition of the nature of the gospel and of the audience who is able to receive it.

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    5. TETH,

      I still do not see how it is a flat contradiction to affirm the Free Offer of the Gospel (as the proclamation of God in love to all humanity) alongside Particular Redemption (as the purpose of God in love to the elect). We are not saying both "redemption is particular" and "redemption is not particular," in the same way and at the same time. That would be a contradiction. Nor are we saying both "God commands the Gospel to be offered freely to all sinners" and "God does not command the Gospel to be offered freely to all sinners," in the same way and at the same time. That would also be contradictory. We are simply saying that God's secret purpose of election entails the actual redemption of only the elect, and that the Gospel message is to be proclaimed to all sinners, such that "Whosoever will may come;" and yet it is obviously only the elect who ever will come to Christ in response to the indiscriminately proclaimed Gospel. This all seems perfectly compatible and non-contradictory to me. It is so clearly harmonious that I would not even say it is a paradox.

      The fact that God commands all people everywhere to repent, declaring "Come unto me, all you who are weary and burdened," (thus in a certain sense desiring their salvation) and yet does not choose to effectually call all of them, is at least a mystery, and maybe a paradox, but is certainly not self-contradictory.

      The fact that Christ offered Himself as a sacrifice sufficient at any time to cover all of the sins of all humanity (and more), and yet in the Providence of God this sacrifice is not ultimately applied to all of humanity, is also a mystery, and probably a paradox, but it is also not self-contradictory.

      So, as I see things, there is no irrationality in any of these convictions. I cannot find anything illogical or unreasonable in them at all. There is, of course, much about these matters that we do not understand. We should expect this of finite and fallen creatures, should we not?

      Thanks again for your thoughts.

      Blessings in Christ,
      Derek

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    6. If Christ died for the elect only (John 10:11,26), and the death of Christ is the sole means whereby men are made righteous before God (Rom 5:19), on what basis can salvation be offered to the non-elect?

      Salvation cannot be sincerely offered to the non-elect on the basis of the death of Christ because particular redemption affirms that Christ died for the elect only, and thus there is ABSOLUTELY NO BASIS for the offer. It follows that any such offer to the non-elect is made in either insincerity or ignorance. It is for this reason that the gospel is NOT a well-meant offer of salvation to all of humanity but rather a proclamation of the finished work of Christ on behalf of his people (John 10:11) accompanied by the assurance that those who believe this report HAVE everlasting life (John 6:47) and the admonition to walk in obedient discipleship through baptism and joining the Lord’s church (Acts 2:40-42).

      Your theology embraces paradox because it lays hold of contradictory precepts. Since the word of God is not contradictory (John 10:35), this should force a re-examination of those precepts. They are at odds with one another because particular redemption is true while the WMO of salvation to all of humanity is false. The WMO casts the gospel as an “offer to all of mankind” rather than as a “proclamation regarding God’s people.” Once one lays aside the false doctrine of the WMO, the paradox no longer exists and one has rightly divided the scriptures.

      I would invite you to reconsider your affirmation of the WMO. I have written a brief commentary on John Murray’s work “The Free Offer of the Gospel” available in the October 2012 archive of my blog (theearstohear blogspot com) that examines the dozen or so passages that Murray uses to support the WMO. Upon closer inspection I believe his conclusions to be greatly flawed and the case for the WMO to be exegetically threadbare and systematically illogical.

      May God bless our studies and understanding,
      teth

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  3. Whenever we try to fit the truth of God into our rational framework we are going to be confronted with some paradoxes, or at least what appear to be paradoxes. This should not surprise us. Our minds were created to think within the framework of space and time and God does not exist in that framework. I say He does not exist in that framework: the truth is (and a a pradoxical truth it is!) He exists in both frameworks. The paradoxes arise when we compare what He declares himself to be as the eternal, "non-space-and-time" God with what He does within the framework of the space and time He has created for our existence. For example, we believe God is omniscient. We also believe Jesus is God. Yet Jesus was often surprised (marvelled) at what He saw and said that he did not know the time of His return. That is a paradox. But the paradoxity of it is resolved in the very paradox of the eternal God being made flesh.

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  4. Joe,

    These are excellent and very insightful comments. Thank you!

    Blessings,
    Derek

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