I have in mind to set out plainly what I often say to those who have been deprived, sometimes robbed of an authentic faith, by the heresy of Calvinism. It is the case that often people will feel overwhelmed by the semantics, the conflations, the prevarications, the assumptions, and the general confusion of Calvinism. Not to mention the perplexity the paradox, the heresy of Calvinism brings to the human mind, because of its cruelty and its mercilessness, its uncompromising absolutism. Many people feel a slave to Calvinism, some are never at rest in their own faith and theology (and they ought not be), others don't know how to refute and therefore defend themselves from the blight of this heresy, still others don't know how to save their loved ones from this insidious error. I intend to lay many of these refutations out in the form of syllogism, as it seems most concise, and most effective. So much then for Calvinism and explanations.
The first place to begin is with God, and it seems reasonable to start at the beginning. The greatest question in regards to Calvin's heterodoxy is God's sovereignty. What does it mean? The onus is on the Calvinist to prove that double predestination is a necessary accident of the qualities of God. Further, the onus in on the Calvinist to prove that by predestination it is meant 'double predestination,' and not something more observable, demonstrable, and reasonable.
In order to talk about God's sovereignty, we must talk about what he can do, what he must do, and if there be anything that he cannot do, we must find that, too. We will, we must, take for granted, as a preliminary, that evil is the lack of some good, virtue, or knowledge. This is the classical form of evil, the working model, the very model used by the scholastics and therefore, by John Calvin himself. Indeed, it has always been the view of evil held by Christianity, and therefore does not need to be explained.
So, let us begin briskly, by getting to the quick of it, and saying that God can do anything good, and that he is the cause of every good. Everything which actually exists, or may actually exist owes itself and it's cause to him. Further, let it be stated that all these are accidents of God, not necessary to God: for God is sovereign and without needs. Indeed, nothing can be added to him or taken away. Everything in nature must exist for the sake of itself, God receiving full glory. So much then for what God can do.
For the question of what he must do, the answer is similar. He must do what is right, which is different than what is just. Otherwise, he would not have the capacity for mercy. Therefore, being a just and merciful God, he must do what is right. Being omniscient and benevolent, he can do no wrong, and is without error. But if he predestines all things, then his will is synonymous with the actions, thoughts, and intentions of man, whom Calvin says is 'totally depraved.'
The Calvinist will reply to that sorry fate of the one predestined to be 'a vessel of wrath,' predestined to damnation, without a choice or a chance, other than that of farce," God is sovereign. Who are you to question his ways. And will the pot question the potter, as to why he made it thus?" Then, to add license to this vulgar argument, they will make it an ad verecundiam, implicating St. Paul as the main progenitor of such vulgarity. All this, when it is clear to see that God is merely saying through his servant," I will have mercy upon whom I will have mercy." For it is not always right and good to have mercy, least of all upon the unrepentant, nor in the case of the man who will profit more from punishment.
None of this, however, hides the most saline point that if God predestines all things, because he necessarily must as an omnipotent God (if that be an accurate reckoning of what omnipotent implies and means), then it follows necessarily that he is complicit to all the evil of man. But God cannot do nothing, because he is actual. In him there is no admixture of potentiality, so that he is weaker in one moment and stronger in the next; there is no variation in God, and he cannot be weak. Ergo, God cannot do evil, which is the lack of something. So, that God predestines all things, to include the wickedness of man and evils, such as plagues, famines, droughts, death, and damnation is a necessarily false statement.
It seems good to reiterate what I am often saying, here, in this refutation. That is, it is in order to expound on what Almighty God 'cannot' do. Technically, God can do all things, because he is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent: He is 'Almighty.' But because of the weakness of our language, bear with me if I say there are things which God cannot do; in particular certain things which cannot be conceived of. God cannot do true paradoxes, he cannot engage in something necessarily false. For instance, God cannot make men who are women, married bachelors, things that are green all over and red all over at the same time, and square circles. God couldn't make a population that is both greater than and less than a given population of other things, nor could he make a universe where there is an unmovable object and an unstoppable force. God cannot make the proposition of this sentence true," This sentence is false." and neither can he make it false. God cannot do true paradoxes, because they are necessarily false. But because they are false, they do not exist, and because they do not exist, they cannot be done or occur. Ergo, by not being able to bring them about, God's sovereignty and omnipotence are not diminished or delimited.
So, it doesn't follow that God predestines all things; and the fact that he doesn't, does not delimit his sovereignty. In fact, the opposite is necessary for God to be God. Let me not delay then, in being more practical and straight to the point:
.1.) Depravity is evil.
:2.) Evil is the lack of something, viz. a 'good.'
.:3.) Existence is something, and therefore a 'good.'
/.:4.) Therefore, to be 'totally depraved' is to be non-existent.
.1.) Depravity is evil.
:2.) Evil is the lack of something.
.:3.) The total lack of something is nothing.
/.:4.) Therefore, for man to be totally depraved is for man not to exist, at all.
.5) Man exists.
/.:6.) Therefore, man is not totally depraved.
Also, it may be said, according to Catholic orthodoxy, and in opposition to Calvin's heresy...
.1.) Man is not perfectly man, because he is fallen.
/:2.) Therefore, man is depraved.
.:3.) Man cannot be totally depraved, because of the aforesaid syllogisms.
/.:4.) Therefore, it is rightly said that man is depraved in all of his parts; because the body is not man, but the body of a man. Likewise, the soul is not man, but the soul of a man. Hence, he is only totally depraved in relation to the idea that each of his parts is depraved, in particular.
//.:5.) Ergo, no part of man is completely depraved, or that part would not exist. Without each of his parts, man does not exist. Therefore, no man is totally depraved, not even in one of his parts. We've no reason to despair of anyone's salvation, and the whole man may hope in Christ.
.1.) God is good.
:2.) God is the source of every good.
.:3.) God is not evil.
::4.) God is not the author of evil.
.::5.) Depravity is evil.
/:::6.) Depravity is not of God's authorship.
.1.) God is the author of predestination.
:2.) God is not the author of depravity.
/.:3.) God does not predestine anyone to depravity.
And, to borrow from a previous writing of mine...
1.) Damnation is justified (right)= Damnation is willed by God.
2.) What God wills is right. (substantive & synthetic)
3.) What God wills is willed by God. (trivial & analytic)
4.) Proposition 3 is identical to proposition 2.
5.) Proposition 2 is both analytic & not analytic (i.e. synthetic). *contradiction, i.e. an untrue statement..)
6.) Damnation is right =/= Damnation is willed by God.
Something which is analytic cannot be synthetic, because an analytic statement is necessarily true all the time and in all possible "worlds," whereas a synthetic statement merely tells us about something that is dependent. So for instance: All bachelors are unmarried males, is an analytical statement. Whereas, to say Scott is a bachelor, is synthetic, because bachelorhood isn't necessary to Scott's existence; it isn't necessarily true. Otherwise, if Scott got married, he would die! He would cease to exist and become a non-person, yeah? So, the Calvinist proposition cannot be true, because it says that," What God wills is right." is both analytic and synthetic, which is contradictory and therefore the conclusion of the premises is false. It can be analytic or it can be synthetic, but it cannot be both.
So, the Calvinist, faced down with all these contradictions and paradoxes, which are necessarily false, may not make himself out to be a martyr of faith, at the murderous hands of reason. It has been demonstrated, and is the case, that God is not lawless, but that because of his own qualities certain ends and causes follow naturally and logically from his person. And the Calvinist may not now despise reason, which they previously attempted to use in their own cause. Calvinism, like all heresies, is devoid of reason. True paradox is the mark of all heresy. If then, faith is all that is left, guilt of another heresy is present, that of fideism. Faith and reason constitute orthodoxy, not one or the other. If we have reason only, we are nothing. And if we have faith only, then we are like the other heresies of Mormonism, Fundamentalist Islam, and Fundamentalism Protestantism.
"Every art and every inquiry, and similarly every action and choice, is thought to aim at some good; and for this reason the good has rightly been declared to be that at which all things aim." ~Aristotle~