Why I Am A Calvinist Introduction

“What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God's part? By no means! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.

- Romans 9:14–18

Author Lance Phelps - 8 Minute Read Time

I remember when I read, really read, the above passage. This passage, and like a burst dam a flood of so many others, knocked me off of my theological and philosophical feet. Suddenly most of what I was taught about the way that God interacted with his creation and the nature of man was nullified. I remember exclaiming with near shock that I had never read this passage and the many others like it before. In a sense I had never read it before. I read them and then brushed them aside. But when I actually caught what they were saying my Greek (western) philosophy soaked upbringing that made things such as libertarian free will a non-negotiable began to crack. I had one experience with Calvinism when I was younger before the Holy Spirit opened my eyes. I was standing with my teenage friends in a driveway one night. We formed a circle as we talked into the night. Suddenly I took note of a conversation that took an odd turn. “I don’t think that we agree on things in the Bible anymore. For instance I don’t think that we have free will.” Before my uneducated mouth could be bridled I blurted out “Yes we do! It’s in the bible!” His retort was a sharp eye turned to me and a challenge: “Where?”

Years passed and the day came when my worldview, so dutifully absorbed from my local culture by osmosis, fell apart like a house of cards. The Bible sneezed and my thought life was turned on it’s head.

People have asked me why I believe what I do about Calvinism. So in an attempt to offer a, somewhat, full explanation here is an 11 Part series that explains my reasons for believing that Calvinism is just shorthand for biblical when it comes to so many doctrines.

My reasons can be summed up into three:

Reason 1: It’s explicitly taught in the Bible.

Reason 2: The arguments against Calvinism rely nearly exclusively on libertarian free will as the foundational axiom.

Reason 3: Calvinism as it is taught in the bible best explains human nature.

Before I end this post and point you to the next, by way of overview, I offer the following regarding these three reasons.

Reason #1: Calvinism Is Explicitly Taught in the Bible

Passages such as John 6:25-65, Romans 9, Ephesians 1, Romans 3:9-20, and many others so blatantly teach the things that opponents of Calvinism deny at first I was perplexed as to how they could deny them. Is the Bible not the final word on all things faith and practice? Yes? Well than this is true: “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.” (John 6:44). When fleshed out by Paul, and really by itself, this passage says a whole lot about the nature of salvation and our natural abilities regarding salvation. I have heard quite a few attempts to get around this passage. But all of them unravel under scrutiny. I am compelled by the clear testimony of the scriptures to believe in the truths of Calvinism as a summary of what the scriptures teach. This is in spite of my fleshes desire to deny these truths.

Reason #2: Counter Arguments Rely on Libertarian Free Will

I remember reading Against Calvinism by Roger Olson. When he got to Romans 9 he wrote one line about how he stands with the church fathers in interpreting this to be about the nation of Israel. Not only is this wholly inadequate on the face of it to undo the force of the passage against his position but his refusal to interact with this passage demonstrates the weakness of his overall arguments. Not to mention the problem of unifying the church fathers on this passage. But most damning of all for his case is his axiomatic reliance on Libertarian Free Will (LFW). His arguments boil down claiming that without LFW God would be the author of evil. Yet he did not establish LFW from the scriptures so one is left to assume that he came about this idea from some other source. This is the same for other critiques of Calvinism that I have read such as What Love is This by Dave Hunt. This reliance of LFW is warranted and dangerous. Simply put the Bible flat out refutes LFW and renders it a useless axiom for the interpretation of the Scriptures.

Reason #3: Calvinism Best Explains Human Nature.

As I read through the history of mankind I cannot help but get the feeling that something is desperately wrong with us. Each blood soaked page screams of a fallen race that is naturally at odds with their maker. And while I will admit that there are opponents of Calvinism that don’t necessarily get this totally wrong (I’m looking at you Arminianism) there is still a disconnect between what I see and what is taught by the major theological and philosophical systems.

So this is an overview of my reasons for sticking with Calvinism. In the next post I will present a Biblical case for Total Inability. Even if you disagree with me on this issue I hope you will stick around.

Series Table of Contents:

  1. Introduction: An overview of Lance’s 3 reasons.

  2. Reason 1-Part 1: Total Inability

  3. Reason 1-Part 2: Unconditional Election

  4. Reason 1-Part 3: Definite Atonement

  5. Reason 1-Part 4: Powerful Grace

  6. Reason 1-Part 5: Perseverance of the Saints

  7. Reason 1-Part 6 Objections

  8. Reason 2: The Philosophical Failure of Libertarian Free Will.

  9. Reason 3-Part 1: Compatibilism, the true nature of mankind's will according to the Bible.

  10. Reason 3-Part 2: Compatibilism, the true nature of mankind's will according to sound Philosophy.

  11. Why does all this matter?

You can find the Podcast tie-in for this post here: