Calvinism Obscures the Simple Gospel

I agree with the Calvinist claim that the gospel is simple and clear, but I contend that Calvinism, by its very nature, complicates and obscures the simple and clear gospel.[1] Yes, someone can be saved when anyone says something like, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ,” but the difference between what a Calvinist and Extensivist (non-Calvinist) mean when uttering those words is quite different.[2] Just the cache of extra-biblical concepts needed to characterize Calvinism as a biblical position is telling.

Their view requires concepts such as two wills (revealed and secret), two calls (external to all and internal to the elect only), two loves (salvifically speaking rather than different kinds such as love of a child or spouse), two levels of atonement (sufficient for the non-elect but efficient for the elect only), two parallel lines (to give an appearance of reconciling unconditional election, micro-determinism, and God’s salvific love for all with man’s freedom), two gospel offers (good faith offer which is not an actual offer as opposed to the Bible’s good offer of the gospel), compatibilism (but regularly speak libertarianly),[3] mystery (gloss of Calvinistically-generated contradictions), and using the distinction between man’s intellect and moral aspects to obfuscate the plight of the non-elect (i.e., the person cannot choose to believe).[4] In Calvinism, Scripture is not simple with depth but cryptic, with these concepts only accessible to Calvinism’s theological sophisticates.

For example, in Scripture, we see Jesus making good offers to repent and be saved (Matt 4:17; 11:20-21; Luke 5:32; 15:7; 24:47). Some Calvinists say Jesus was making a “good faith offer” (if there is such an idea) since, as a man, he did not know who the elect were. There is an insurmountable problem with imposing an unawareness of who the non-elect are upon Christ to sustain the idea that rather than presenting a good offer, he only presented a “good faith offer.”

Because Jesus said he always did the will of the Father (John 4:34; 5:30; 6:38; 17:4) and spoke not of his own initiative but what the Father wanted him to speak (John 3:11, 34; 5:19; 7:16; 8:26, 28, 38; 12:49-50; 14:10, 24, 31; 17:8). Furthermore, the Holy Spirit was upon Jesus and filling him without measure (Isa 61:1; Matt 12:18; Luke 3:22; 4:1, 14; John 3:34; Acts 10:38). Consequently, even if Jesus did not know, the Father and the Holy Spirit knew; therefore, the Calvinist doctrine of selective regeneration makes the Trinity complicitous in this unscrupulous misrepresentation. The obvious truth is that Jesus commanded them to repent because he was not willing that any would perish and desired that all would come to repentance (2 Pet 3:9), something God has grace enabled everyone who hears the truth to be able to do.

Calvinist Kevin DeYoung asks, “Is God wise enough to make himself known? Is he good enough to make himself accessible? Is he gracious enough to communicate in ways that are understandable to the meek and lowly? Or does God give us commands we can’t understand and a self-revelation that reveals more questions than answers?”[5] My answer is yes; he is wise enough, good enough, and gracious enough, but I do not think Calvinists can consistently say yes in the same sense because Calvinism burdens God with withholding, for most, what is necessary to know him and make him accessible. And if Calvinism is true, God has surely not communicated in ways understandable to the meek, lowly, or the hoi polloi but only to the enlightened theological sophisticates.

The truth is, while God made Scripture to be exoteric (to be understood by the average person), Calvinism makes Scripture esoteric (truly understood by a chosen few). This is in spite of the fact that Calvinists still proclaim the perspicuity (clarity) of Scripture.[6]


[1] For example, Calvinist Kevin DeYoung states, “The saving message of Jesus Christ is plainly taught in the Scriptures and can be understood by all who have ears to hear it. We don’t need an official magisterium to tell us what the Bible means.” In his book Taking God at His Word (Wheaton: Crossway, 2014), 45.
[2] See my book Does God Love All or Some? Particularly chapters 20, 21, and 25.
[3] COMPATIBILISM: Determinism and moral responsibility are compatible, hence the name. This compatibility is not achieved by compatibilism being less deterministic than hard determinism. Rather, it is achieved by defining free choice to mean as long as a person chooses according to his greatest desire, he has made a free choice for which he is morally responsible; even though given the same past, he cannot choose differently in the moral moment of decision.

Consequently, the difference between compatibilism (soft determinism) and hard determinism is not to be found in the levels of the deterministic nature of each since they are the same. Rather, the difference is compatibilism simply contends people are morally responsible for their choices if they are made according to their greatest desire, and hard determinism says they are not. Therefore, moral responsibility is the product of defining free choice as a person acting in accordance with his greatest desire even though the desire is determined.

LIBERTARIAN: Man is not determined. He has the actual ability to choose between accessible options, at least in some scenarios. Libertarians contend determinism is not compatible with moral responsibility. Man possesses actual otherwise choice and can, therefore, act or refrain in the moral moment of decision, given the same past within a given range of options.

Extensivism argues God endowed man with this ability, which is an aspect of being created in the image of God. God determines the range of options. Adam’s range of options, the result of creative grace, was greater than mankind’s options after the fall. Fallen man can still choose between options, but the range of options is less than man had prior to the fall. This lessening includes losing the ability to make choices that are inherently righteous or spiritually restorative (making one right with God) based solely on creative grace. In order to make an inherently righteous choice or one that is spiritually restorative, God had to provision redemptive grace—grace enablements—which he did.
[4] Add to these Calvinism’s uniquely narrow definitions such as sovereignty being causal and only exercisable over determined or compatibly free beings, or the necessary adjectives in the TULIP.
[5] Kevin DeYoung, Taking God at His Word (Wheaton: Crossway, 2014), 69.
[6] DeYoung comments, “The doctrine of the clarity of Scripture is not a wild assertion that the meaning of every verse in the Bible will be patently obvious to everyone. Rather, the perspicuity of Scripture upholds the notion that ordinary people using ordinary means can accurately understand enough of what must be known, believed, and observed for them to be faithful Christians.” Kevin DeYoung, Taking God at His Word (Wheaton: Crossway, 2014), 59. I think the Calvinist system fails here as well.