Calvinism is simply defined as a theology that borrows divine attributes from Platonism. Platonism originated the idea of the Summum Bonum, the perfect good. To Plotinus, the “perfect good” was a timeless, unchanging, omnipresent, and omniscient being (all the negative attributes). In the centuries after Jesus, these attributes of God were adopted by many Christians including the most influential and prolific Church Father: Augustine. Augustine literally stated that he could not be a Christian until he found out that the Old Testament could be allegorized and he could accept the Summum Bonum described by Plotinus. In this sense, Calvinism, Platonism, and Augustinianism are all synonymous.
Calvinism can best be described as not a theology, but a mental condition (a mindset). Calvinism is not so much an overarching theology built from the Bible as it is an overarching theology forced onto the Bible. Calvinism starts with presuppositions (like God is timeless) and then tries to interpret the text of the Bible in light of this. For example, if the Bible says God is the “beginning and the end”, Calvinists see this as a claim to be timeless despite the text not even suggesting it. “Beginning and end” are two distinct points in time. If anything, this is evidence against “timelessness”.
To the Calvinist, the predominant question is not “what does the Bible say” but instead “what should God be like”; the Bible is secondary in their theology. This can be shown through how Calvinists handle various Bible verses. No matter what any text of the Bible declares if it does not fit the Calvinistic theology then it is discarded. Verses are spiritualized, allegorized, and ignored even when the text presents itself in a straightforward fashion. It is a dishonest way to treat the text.
Jeremiah 18 is an excellent example. Calvinists often turn to this chapter of the Bible and then proceed to make the exact opposite point than what the text is proclaiming!
In this text, God tells Jeremiah to go watch a potter at work. The potter (which is a substitute for God) attempts to make a good bowl, but the clay gets ruined in his hand. The potter sees this ruined clay and then uses it to build a lesser bowl. God next explains to Jeremiah that God is the potter: If God attempts to bless a good nation that if they repent and do evil then God will change his plans. If God attempts to destroy a bad nation that if they repent and do good then God will change his plans. God even uses the phrase that He will not do something He “though to do”. The entire point of Jeremiah 18 is an appeal from Jeremiah to Israel. Jeremiah is telling Israel that God responds to people. When people change then God changes. God will not bless an evil nation even if God had promised blessings in the past. And God will not destroy the repentant.
But this entire chapter is an anathema to Calvinists:
1. Calvinists do not believe that God has conversations with people. If so, then God would not be unchanging, outside of time, and sovereign.
2. Calvinists do not believe that God reacts to events as they happen. If so, then God would not be outside of time or know the future.
3. Calvinists do not believe that God thinks He will do something that does not actually happen. If so, then God would be believing something not true plus God would not be omniscient.
So how do Calvinists use this text? They want to have something that emphasizes God’s negative attributes (omniscience, omnipresence, omnipotence, immutability, timelessness, etc.). To do this, they focus on the clay-forming aspect! They say: “see, people are the clay and God does with us whatever He wills.” They do not mention that the potter never finished his original bowl and that the clay was the determining factor for the potter’s end product. Calvinists also do not know how to respond to God’s own explanation of the parable. In this instance, God actually explains the meaning directly after the text. God’s meaning was not “I do whatever I want”. God’s meaning was “I will change what I do based on the actions of people.” Calvinism ignores God’s own interpretation in favor of their own.
This is all not to mention that fatalism would defeat the entire point of this passage. Jeremiah is writing this to Israel in order to get them to change! That is the outside context of this book.
Calvinists use the same approach towards any verse in the Bible. Their overriding concern is not to understand what the original author was attempting to communicate to his original audience. Their concern is maintaining their presuppositional theology. Paul warns against this approach. Paul condemns what he calls “philosophy” (Col 2:8), and from the context of Colossians it is clear he is speaking about Platonism. Beware Calvinism.
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The true Christian reaction to suffering and sorrow is not the attitude of self-pity, fatalism or resentment; it is the spirit which takes life’s difficulties as a God given opportunity, and regards its troubles as a sacred trust, and wears the thorns as a crown.