Pinnock leaves Calvin in dust (3)


In several blogposts on the shortcomings of Calvinism, I’m drawing on the late Dr. Clark Pinnock’s essay “From Augustine to Arminius:  A Pilgrimage in Theology.”  The entire essay is available free here:

Many Christians eventually come face to face with the thorny issue of “election” by God – the supposed, unilateral choosing of certain ones for ultimate salvation.  All this is complicated; the ramifications run deep, extending from God’s dealings with ancient Israel through Paul’s letters to Romans and Galatians, and including current concerns over cheap grace, the so-called “Sinner’s Prayer,” repentance and patterns of Christian living, sanctification, and more.

The notion of “group election” does not instantaneously resolve all the attendant concerns – far from it – but it does reduce the cognitive dissonance that can occur in this “election” area.

Here is Pinnock on (unconditional) election:

I found myself attracted to a second possibility—that election is a corporate category and not oriented to the [i.e., God’s –bc] choice of individuals for salvation.  I knew that everyone admitted this to be the case in the Old Testament where the election of Israel is one of a people [emph mine  -bc] to be God’s servant in a special way.  Was it possible that the New Testament texts too could be interpreted along these same lines?  Upon reflection I decided that they could indeed be read corporately, election then speaking of a class of people rather than specific individuals.  God has chosen a people for his Son, and we are joined and belong to the elect body by faith in Christ (Eph. 1:3-24).

. . .

“Total depravity” is just a two-word term.  But its use should strike spiritual terror in our hearts.  It is in no real sense found in scripture, but its truth is assumed by dyed-in-the-wool Calvinists.  Surely, anyone who accepts the depravity malarkey does not honestly believe infants and three-year-old children are depraved.  Maybe they have been too lost in their Calvinist writings to observe real-life children in a while.

That said, there was that cataclysmic “Fall” in the Garden of Eden.  We humans are, in a very real sense, predisposed to sin.  Yet the reality of God dwelling in us simultaneously with evil amounts to a conundrum.

That God is inherently, purely good is accepted by all Christians; some seem to need to complicate matters by injecting concocted doctrines of God’s supposedly having created evil and making humans evil — at the same time as they are made in His image.  How’s that for a paradox?

How, exactly, are we sinners?

Far from a literal truth, David’s heart-cry “I have been a sinner from birth” (Psalm 51) is nevertheless expressive of something deep about human nature.

God’s sovereignty is as attractive an ideal as it is a truthful one.  I’d also say it’s among the least controversial items when considering Calvinism over against its alternatives.  Yet consideration of divine sovereignty can also bring on some theological issues.  Read on. . . .


Previously I had to swallow hard and accept the Calvinian antinomy that required me to believe both that God determines all things and that creaturely freedom is real.  I made a valiant effort to believe this seeming contradiction on the strength of biblical infallibility, being assured that the Bible actually taught it.  So I was relieved to discover that the Bible does not actually teach such an incoherence, and this particular paradox was a result of Calvinian logic, not scriptural dictates.

. . .

The logic of consistent Calvinism makes God the author of evil and casts serious doubt on his goodness.  One is compelled to think of God’s planning such horrors as Auschwitz, even though none but the most rigorous Calvinians can bring themselves to admit it.

. . .

Calvinists, like Augustine himself, if the reader will excuse the anachronism, wanting to leave no room at all to permit any recognition of human freedom in the salvation event, so defined human depravity as total that it would be impossible to imagine any sinner calling upon God to save him.  Thus they prevented anyone from thinking about salvation in the Arminian way.

To be continued

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