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Calvinism's False Premise

By Jerry C. Brewer

religion, articles, christianity

The fundamental error of Calvinism is inherent depravity. Proceeding from that premise is Calvin's second error of irresistible grace. If all men are "conceived in sin ... indisposed to all saving good, propense to evil ... and the slaves of sin," then it naturally follows that "without the regenerating grace of the Holy Spirit they neither are able nor willing to return to God."

As irresistible grace proceeds from inherent depravity, so the doctrine of perseverance proceeds from irresistible grace. Having been elected and saved by the mere grace of God, through the Holy Spirit, the elect are then secure in their salvation because "God ... does not wholly take away his Holy Spirit from his own, even in lamentable falls." Those three doctrines must stand or fall together and whether preached by the Baptists, the Methodists, Presbyterians, Pentecostals, or our own brethren, they are false to the core.

Calvin's doctrine of inherent depravity and election strips man of his free­will and makes him a mere machine in the hands of a ruthless God. If we inherit sin from Adam, then God is the source of it, for Adam was the son of God (Luke 3:38). One Calvinistic proof­text is David's statement in Psalms 51:5: "Behold, I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me."

There is a difference in being born in sin and in being born with sin. Iniquity existed in the world when David was shapen and the sin existed when he was conceived, but this does not mean he was a sinner at birth. Astonished that unlearned Galileans could speak their native languages, the crowd on Pentecost asked, "How hear we every man in our own tongue wherein we were born?" (Acts 2:7­8). While they were born in those tongues, the multitude wasn't born speaking those tongues. They learned them after they were born. They simply meant they were born into environments in which those tongues existed and were spoken. The same principle applies to David's words. He wasn't born with sin. He was conceived and born in and into a world polluted by sin.

Contrasting our Heavenly Father with our fleshly fathers, the Hebrew writer says God is the "father of spirits" (Heb. 12:9). If one is born inherently depraved that means God is the Father of a depraved spirit. Writing of our earthly demise, Solomon says the body returns to the earth from whence it came, while the "spirit shall return unto God who gave it" (Eccl. 12:7). If we are born sinners, then God gives and is the father of a depraved spirit. Seeking an example of simplistic purity and innocence for his followers to emulate, Jesus chose a little child. "Except ye be converted and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 18:3). If depravity is inherent at birth, then we must become depraved to enter the kingdom.

Sin isn't inherited. It is acquired. That truth is taught throughout the Bible. Man isn't born astray. He goes astray of his own will. "The wicked are estranged from the womb; they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies" (Psalms 58:3). Our estrangement from God is after we are born and the means is by speaking lies. "They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable" (Rom. 3:12). We aren't born unprofitable. We become unprofitable and Ezekiel says sin is not passed from generation to generation.

The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him (Eze. 18:20).

We acquire sin when we come to the age of accountability.

Illustrating the absurdity of Calvinistic arguments for inherent depravity, Foy E. Wallace Jr., says the doctrine carries its own seeds of destruction.

The dictum of this doctrine, which results in its self­destruction, is that acquired characteristics cannot be transmitted to the offspring, and that is the reason, they say, that the righteousness of the parents cannot be transmitted to their children.... This principle must work both ways, and utterly destroys the theory of inherited depravity. Here is why. Whatever depravity or sinfulness Adam and Eve had was an acquired characteristic. If that is not true, then their sinfulness would have been inherited, which would mean that Adam and Eve inherited sin from God! Therefore, there was no depravity, and no sinfulness in Adam and Eve until they acquired that characteristic by disobedience. But since acquired characteristics of parents cannot be transmitted to their children, Adam and Eve did not, could not, transmit their depravity to their posterity (Bulwarks of The Faith, p. 377).

With no basis in God's revealed truth, the doctrine of inherent depravity is the premise from which irresistible grace and perseverance are derived. As a false premise, the conclusions drawn therefrom are also false. Augustine borrowed it from heathen philosophy. It passed from century to century until John Calvin plagiarized it for the Protestant world. As the fundamental error of both Catholics and Protestants, it is a perversion of Bible truth and the corrupt foundation upon which Calvinism teeters. Those who believe it are wrong and those who preach and practice it are wrong. From its false premise to its consequential error, Calvinism constitutes something other than the gospel and incurs the wrath of God. (Gal. 1:6­9).

Published November 1996