Calvinism believes that all of mankind is so utterly depraved that they cannot respond to the grace of God. This is basically the premise behind one of the foundational tenets of Calvinism, the doctrine of Total Hereditary Depravity. If this doctrine is believed, then one has to believe in the next tenet in fundamental Calvinistic doctrine in order to have any sort of hope for salvation: Unconditional Election. John Calvin knew this. He said, “Predestination we call the eternal decree of God, by which he has determined in himself what he would have to become of every individual of mankind. For they are not all created with a similar destiny; but eternal life is fore-ordained for some, and eternal damnation for others. Every man, therefore, being created for one or the other of these ends, we say, he is predestined either to life or to death.” (Calvin’s Institutes of Christian Religion, as cited by Philip Schaff’s History of the Christian Church, Vol. 3, p. 826).
In other words, we cannot respond to the grace of God due to being totally depraved and lost in sin. Therefore, the only way any of us have any hope of salvation is for God to have already made up his mind to step in and choose to disregard the sin of some of us and give them salvation anyway. This doctrine, sometimes called the doctrine of predestination, is the basis of the Calvinistic tenet of Unconditional Election: the idea that God chooses some of mankind before they are born to be saved unconditionally.
However, the Scriptures teach that God shows no partiality (Acts 10:34-35; Rom. 2:11; 10:12; Eph. 6:9). He shows no favoritism of any kind. This goes against Calvinism’s teaching that God has chosen only some of us for unconditional salvation rather than all of us. If both Calvinism and the Word of God are true, why would God have chosen only some of us for unconditional salvation instead of everyone? Isn’t that showing partiality?
The Scriptures also teach that God wants everyone to be saved (John 3:16; 1 Tim. 2:4; Tit. 2:11; 2 Pet. 3:9). If John Calvin’s doctrine of Unconditional Election is true, God has chosen only some of mankind for unconditional salvation, not all. Logic dictates that if God has determined some of us to be predestined for salvation, he has also predetermined that the rest of us are destined for an eternity in hell. If both Calvinism and God’s Word are true, why wouldn’t God choose to save all of mankind unconditionally if he wants us all to be saved? Why would he have already decided that some of us will spend eternity in hell if he doesn’t want anyone to go to hell?
Any serious student of the Bible is familiar with the numerous warnings found within its pages. We are warned about Satan and his deceptions (1 Pet. 5:8; Eph. 4:27; 6:11; James 4:7). We are warned to avoid sin in order to avoid eternal punishment in hell (Matt. 5:22, 29-30). Christians are warned about the possibility of losing their salvation through unrepentant sin (Heb. 10:26-31). However, if Calvin is correct and God unconditionally elects some of mankind to be saved, then why would any of these warnings be in the Bible? Why would God tell those whom he has already chosen to be unconditionally saved to be on the alert for Satan? After all, if he has already decided that I’m going to be saved unconditionally, what can Satan do about it? Why would God warn those whom he has already decided are going to spend eternity in hell that they better not sin or else hell will be the result? Why the warnings about falling away from one’s salvation? If he’s already decided that hell is going to be where I end up, then it doesn’t matter what I do or don’t do. In fact, if God has already decided that I’m going to be saved no matter what, then why in the world would I even need to bother to go to church, read my Bible, obey the gospel, or uphold any sort of morality?
This reveals one of the major flaws in the doctrine of Unconditional Election. Under Calvinistic predestination, it would be possible for salvation to be given to a sinner who has never read the Bible or been part of the church. It would be equally possible for eternal condemnation to be given to a Christian who has read the Bible repeatedly and done his or her absolute best to faithfully live by all of its tenets and principles. In this way Calvinism really tries to make Christianity like Islam. Nonetheless, the Bible doesn’t teach what Unconditional Election proposes. One cannot hold to Calvinism and the Word of God without contradicting one or the other. Since God’s Word is truth (John 17:17), Unconditional Election is false.
However, Calvinists try to hold to both anyway. They cite Romans 8:28-30 as support for their doctrine of predestination: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” Calvinists cite the mention of predestination in this passage as proof that God unconditionally predestines some of salvation. However, such notions are proven erroneous when this passage is considered alongside the entirety of Scripture (Ps. 119:160).
Paul is telling us that God causes all things to “work together for good” (which would include obtaining eternal life in heaven) for two specific groups of people: “those who love God” and “those who are called according to his purpose.” One cannot love God without choosing to obey his commands (John 14:15; Josh. 24:15); our works of obedience, along with faith and God’s grace, justify us (James 2:24; Tit. 3:7). Likewise, the purpose for which God called those for whom he will cause all things together for good is to follow Christ’s example of doing good and enduring suffering as a result (1 Pet. 2:20-21). God calls us through the gospel (2 Thess. 2:14), which calls us to obey Christ (Matt. 28:19-20). Therefore, Paul in Romans 8:28-30 is referring to those who love God by their obedience, those who faithfully and obediently respond to the gospel call.
God did not randomly predetermine some of us for unconditional salvation and others for unconditional condemnation. He HAS predetermined that those who obey his gospel and obey his Son will be saved (Heb. 5:9), not the lucky few randomly selected for unconditional salvation. This is why we are to proclaim his gospel to all (Mark 16:15).