Is Calvinism Synonymous with Fatalism?

A guest post by Steve Hays

I've posted most of the definitions at one time or another, but it's useful to collate them in one place. 
Is Calvinism fatalistic? Is determinism synonymous with fatalism?
Critics of Calvinism use "fatalism" as an inaccurate term of abuse, because it has invidious connotations that a neutral term does not. Here are some standard definitions and explanations of fatalism. Calvinism is not fatalistic:
Fatalism, in its most usual sense, should not be confused with predestination. Fatalism asserts an abstract necessity without regard to causal antecedents and thus is diametrically opposed to predestination, in which causes and effects, ends and means, are determined in relation to one another. The use of means is rendered futile by fatalism, but not by predestination. The Encyclopedia of Christianity, 4:180.
According to this view, then, determinism is the thesis that everything that occurs, including our deliberations and decisions, are causally necessitated by antecedent conditions. Fatalism, by contrast, is the doctrine that our deliberations and decisions are causally ineffective and make no difference to the course of events. In circumstances of fatalism what happens does not depend on how the agent deliberates. The relevant outcome will occur no matter what the agent decides.
Clearly, however, determinism does not imply fatalism. While there are some circumstances in which deliberation is futile (i.e. 'local fatalism'), deliberation is nevertheless generally effective in a deterministic world.
Wed, 08/23/2017 - 14:47 -- john_hendryx

The Law Engraved Upon Our Hearts

Our motivation makes the difference. The legalist obeys God's commands in order to attain and/or maintain their just standing before God; something that is clearly Christ's office alone. Evangelical obedience, if I may use that term, obeys out of a renewed heart. i.e. because he is born again and God's seed dwells in him (1 John 3:9). The thought of abiding in sin goes against the grain of who is is - a Spirit-indwelt believer whose heart now has the law of God written upon it.

Being set free from the curse of the law means we are no longer under its condemnation (Rom 8:1) because Jesus has fulfilled the law on our behalf (Rom 8:3-4). But this does not mean we are to cease obeying God's commands.

"this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world." 1 John 5:3-4

Tue, 08/22/2017 - 11:51 -- john_hendryx

The Visible Vs. The Invisible Church

What do we mean when we make the distinction between the visible and invisible church? And what is the reason for this distinction? Starting around the 4th century - the expression "Visible Church" was refered to by theologians, not to a building, but to the members on the rolls of a local church. In other words, all persons who are members of a local church are considered to be a part of the visible church.

On the other hand, the invisible church refers to those persons who have actually been regenerated or quickened by the Holy Sprit, God's elect or true believers. Augustine referred to the church as a mixed body, a visible people, but this people has both tares and wheat, as described by Jesus. In other words, there is no such thing as a perfect church, and there will always people in the church there with bad motives or are there for the wrong reason. There will always be people who claim to love Christ but whose heart is far from Him. Many, Jesus says, will say on that day, did we not do this and that in your name? Jesus wil then say, "I never knew you". These are descriptions of some people now sitting in your local church and Jesus says of them that he "never knew them!!!" Some persons are in church for show, to be seen by men as pious, others perhaps for a social club or to show of their ability to wax eloquent when discussing theology. These persons hearts are completely invisible to us, but of course, they are not invisible to God and only He can know who is truly regenerate, so we must be generous in our judgements.

The following is a detailed description of the orthodox doctrine of the visible and invisible church as explained by Pastor Brian Schwertley. It is well worth reading and quite helpful:

Mon, 08/21/2017 - 19:52 -- john_hendryx

A Vile Wretch

The following is an excerpt of a short conversation that ensued as a result of this Lloyd-Jones quote:

Visitor: Actually Man was made in the image of God and God said that His creation was very good!! I do not see myself as a wretch but as a child of God, who God thought was worth the blood of Jesus. He must have seen incredible worth in us to send His Son to die for us!! I have become the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus. By His sacrifice we can once again be conformed into His image and bring glory to His name. I wouldn't call my God given image a 'vile wretch'. I think that is just false humility born out of religion and spoken by someone who does not understand their true identity in Christ!


Response: Actually it not false humility. It's simply an acknowledgement of the truth. Apart from Christ we all justly deserve the wrath of God. If there is anything good in us, good inclinations, works pleasing to God etc, it is from Christ. The rest is our fault. If we don't understand that then we do not even understand the most basic reason for the gospel. Jesus came to rescue us, to free the captives from their bondage to sin. He did not come to give us advice about how to save ourselves.

We all agree we were created in the image of God. Praise the Lord. But we have made a shipwreck of God's gifts and have distorted that image with our sin. But in Christ as we behold the glory of God he transforms us into his likeness, but now all of us are woefully far from loving God with all our hearts and loving our neighbor as ourselves.

Tue, 08/15/2017 - 16:28 -- john_hendryx

Not Politics, Not the Media: Only God Can Reconcile the Peoples of the Earth

Like many of you, my heart was broken and saddened by the abominable evils we witnessed in Charlottesville ... so, so painful when the story broke. To see that kind of heinous evil and racism today is disgraceful. But it reveals again how much work still needs to be done, and it serves as a looking glass to remind us of our own sin. So let us, by grace, put all rising thoughts of hate and prejudice to death (1 John 2:9-17; 3:14-15; 4:19-20; Col 3:8) and pray with the apostle Paul: "may the Lord make [us] increase and abound in love FOR ONE ANOTHER and FOR ALL" (1 Thess 3:12) There is no greater time than the present for the church to glorify her Lord by being a holy community of love ... to break down walls, to break down barriers to embrace our brothers and sisters who have come from all walks of life ... and to dignify ALL people we meet as image bearers of God. And by God's grace, may the church stand apart from the shrill political rhetoric, the virtue signalling, and rather, (Lord help us) abound in love for one another.

Mon, 08/14/2017 - 17:05 -- john_hendryx

Why We Believe While Others Reject

Listen to Audio or watch this Video of this sermon

by John MacArthur

1 Corinthians 1:18-2:16

It was about 25 years ago in my life that I was asked to write a little book, and the original title of that little book was Focus on Fact.  You’ve probably never seen it; it didn’t last very long.  It came out in another edition with another title a couple of years later, and that title was Why I Trust The Bible.  It was 1983.  And as I was preparing to write that book about why I trust the Bible, which is really what the first one was about as well, I had to answer the question why did I trust the Bible.  What was it about the truth of Scripture that made it believable to me?  Was I smarter than everybody else?  Had I been presented a more powerful set of evidences about Scripture?  And certainly such can be presented.  Why did I have such immense confidence in the Bible?

Fri, 08/11/2017 - 15:05 -- john_hendryx

Biblical Theology Primer

Biblical Theology in the tradition of Geerhardus Vos approaches the Bible as an organic drama of God's unfolding revelation through history. In distinction from doctrinal or systematic theology, biblical theology follows the progressively unfolding revelation of God's words and deeds through history. This linear aspect of revelation unites each revelatory event and proclamation both retrospectively and prospectively. Vos described the organic continuation of revelation in history as a flower expanding from bud to blossom. The blossom is retrospectively united to the bud; the bud is prospectively united to the blossom. One of the tasks/privileges of the interpreter of Scripture is to draw out these organic prospective and retrospective relationships. At the center of this organic unity is the person and work of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Even as our Risen Lord related all of Scripture retrospectively and prospectively to himself (Luke 24:27), so Reformed biblical theology is preeminently Christocentric. We seek to display Christ in Scripture from Genesis to Revelation.

Thu, 08/10/2017 - 17:14 -- john_hendryx

Union with Christ, the Vine

by Martin Luther

“When I am converted by the Gospel, the Holy Spirit is present. He takes me as clay and makes of me a new creature, which is endowed with a different mind, heart, and thoughts, that is, with a true knowledge of God and a sincere trust in His grace.

To summarize, the very essence of my heart is renewed and changed. This makes me a new plant, one that is grafted on Christ the Vine and grows from Him. My holiness, righteousness, and purity do not stem from me, nor do they depend on me. They come solely from Christ and are based only in Him, in whom I am rooted by faith, just as the sap flows from the stalk into the branches. Now I am like Him and of His kind. Both He and I are of one nature and essence, and I bear fruit in Him and through Him. This fruit is not mine; it is the Vine’s.

Thus Christ and the Christians become one loaf and one body, so that the Christian can bear good fruit—not Adam’s or his own, but Christ’s. For when a Christian baptizes, preaches, consoles, exhorts, works, and suffers, he does not do this as a man descended from Adam; it is Christ who does this in him.

The lips and tongue with which he proclaims and confesses God’s Word are not his; they are Christ’s lips and tongue. The hands with which he toils and serves his neighbor are the hands and members of Christ, who, as He says here, is in him; and he is in Christ.

Behold, with the words ‘He who abides in Me, and I in him’ (John 15:5) Christ wants to indicate that Christianity is not brought in from without; it is not put on like a garment, nor does it consist in the adoption of a new manner of living, which, like monasticism and self-chosen sanctity, is concerned with works.

Tue, 08/08/2017 - 19:41 -- john_hendryx

N. T. Wright vs. Michael Reeves on Imputation.

N. T. Wright explains why he denies the doctrine of imputed righteousness:

"If we use the language of the law court, it makes no sense whatever to say that the judge imputes, imparts, bequeaths or conveys or otherwise transfers his righteousness to either the plaintiff or the defendant. Righteousness is not an object, a substance or a gas which can be passed across the courtroom." N. T. Wright, What Paul Really Said, pg. 98

Michael Reeves Responds:
"But if Christ takes our sin and we take his righteousness because we are united to him, then all those difficulties melt away. As Calvin would argue: " We do not, therefore, contemplate him (Christ) outside ourselves from afar in order that his righteousness may be imputed to us but because we put on Christ and are engrafted into his body - in short, because he deigns to make us one with him." - Calvin, Institutes 3.11.10. If Christ and the believer are made one then the sin-righteousness swap is as unobjectionable as what happens in a marriage when a man and woman become one. It is as if a rich husband were - at his own cost to pay off all his wife's debts and then share with her his enormous wealth.


Source: What the Reformation Still Matters by Michael Reeves and Tim Chester,

More Resources on Union with Christ

Fri, 07/21/2017 - 16:21 -- john_hendryx

2017 GPTS Spring Conference: Trumpet Call: 500 years of Gospel Freedom

The 2017 Greenville Seminary Spring Theology Conference commemorating the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation

The following files are in MP3 format.  To download, right click and save to your hard drive.

01 - Sola Scriptura by Dr. Joel Beeke

02 - Luther's Providential God by Dr. Robert Kolb

03 - Question & Answer 1 by Dr. Robert Kolb

04 - Sola Gratia by Joseph A. Pipa Jr.

05 - Luther's Preaching on the Parables by Dr. Robert Kolb

06 - Solus Christus by Cliff Blair

07 - Sola Fide by Carl Robbins

08 - Panel Discussion by Joseph A. Pipa Jr.

09 - Soli Deo Gloria by Dr. L. Michael Morales

10 - Law as Friend and Foe in Luther's Theology by Dr. Michael Whiting

11 - Luther on Life without Dichotomy by Dr. James E. McGoldrick

Thu, 07/20/2017 - 14:41 -- john_hendryx


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