Calvinism and Evangelical Arminianism

John L. Girardeau



THE following are the statements of the Westminster Confession of Faith, which are either indirectly or directly concerned about the doctrine of Reprobation: 

"God from all eternity did, by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass: yet so as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures, nor is the liberty and contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established. 

"By the decree of God, for the manifestation of his glory, some men and angels are predestinated unto everlasting life, and others foreordained unto everlasting death. 

"These angels and men, thus predestinated and foreordained, are particularly and unchangeably designed; and their number is so certain and definite, that it cannot be either increased or diminished. 

"The rest of mankind [that is, those not elected to life] God was pleased, according to the unsearchable counsel of his will, whereby he extendeth or withholdeth mercy as he pleaseth, for the glory of his sovereign power over his creatures, to pass by, and to ordain them to dishonor and wrath for their sin [N. B.], to the praise of his glorious justice. 

"Although, in relation to the foreknowledge and decree of God, the first cause, all things come to pass immutably and infallibly; yet by the same providence he ordereth them to fall out, according to the nature of second causes, either necessarily, freely, or contingently. 

"The almighty power, unsearchable wisdom, and infinite goodness of God so far manifest themselves in his providence, that it extendeth itself even to the first fall, and all other sins of angels and men; and that not by a bare permission, but such as hath joined with it a most wise and powerful bounding, and otherwise ordering and governing of them, in a manifold dispensation to his own holy ends: yet so as the sinfulness thereof proceedeth only from the creature, and not from God, who, being most holy and righteous, neither is, nor can be, the author or approver of sin. [N. B.] 

"As for those wicked and ungodly men, whom God, as a righteous judge, for former sins, doth blind and harden, from them he not only withholdeth his grace, whereby they might have been enlightened in their understandings, and wrought upon in their hearts; but sometimes also withdraweth the gifts which they had, and exposeth them to such objects as their corruption makes occasion for sin; and withal gives them over to their own lusts, the temptations of the world, and the power of Satan: whereby it comes to pass that they harden themselves, even under those means which God useth for the softening of others.

"Our first parents, being seduced by the subtilty and temptation of Satan, sinned in eating the forbidden fruit. This their sin God was pleased, according to his wise and holy counsel, to permit [TO PERMIT, be it noticed], having purposed to order it to his own glory. 

"They being the root of all mankind, the guilt of this sin was imputed . . . to all their posterity, descending from them by ordinary generation. 

"The first covenant made with man was a covenant of works; wherein life was promised to Adam, and in him to his posterity, upon condition of perfect and personal obedience. 

"Man, by his fall, having made himself incapable of life by that covenant, etc. 

"God hath endued the will of man with that natural liberty, that it is neither forced, nor by any absolute necessity of nature determined to good or evil. 

"Man, in his state of innocency, had freedom and power to will and to do that which was good and well-pleasing to God; but yet mutably, so that he might fall from it.1

"All those whom God hath predestinated unto life, and those only, he is pleased, in his appointed and accepted time, effectually to call by his word and Spirit out of that state of sin and death, in which they are by nature, to grace and salvation by Jesus Christ, etc. . . . Others, not elected, although they may be called by the ministry of the word, and may have some common operations of the Spirit, yet they never truly come unto Christ and therefore cannot be saved." 

The Westminster Larger Catechism, after stating the doctrine of election, says: "And also, according to his sovereign power, and the unsearchable counsel of his own will (whereby he extendeth or withholdeth favor as he pleaseth) [God] hath passed by, and fore-ordained the rest to dishonor and wrath, to be for their sin inflicted [N. B.], to the praise of the glory of his justice." 

The following statements are extracted from the judgment of the Synod of Dort. 

"Forasmuch as all men have sinned in Adam, and are become guilty of the curse, and of eternal death; God had done wrong unto no man, if it had pleased him to leave all mankind in sin and under the curse, and to condemn them for sin. 

"The cause or fault of this unbelief, as of all other sins, is in no wise in God, but in man. But faith in Jesus Christ, and salvation through him, is the free gift of God. 

"But whereas, in process of time, God bestoweth faith on some, and not on others, this proceeds from his eternal decree. For, from the beginning of the world God knoweth all his works. Acts xv. 18, Eph. i. 11. According to which decree, he graciously softens the hearts of the elect, however otherwise hard; and as for those that are not elect, he in just judgment leaveth them to their malice and hardness. And here especially is discovered unto us the deep, and both merciful and just, difference put between men, equally lost; that is to say, the decree of election and reprobation, revealed in God's Word. Which as perverse, impure and wavering men do wrest unto their own destruction, so it affords unspeakable comfort to godly and religious souls. 

"Moreover, the holy Scripture herein chiefly manifests and commends unto us this eternal and free grace of our election, in that it further witnesseth, that not all men are elected, but some not elected, or passed over in God's eternal election: whom doubtless God in his most free, most just, unreproachable and unchangeable good pleasure hath decreed to leave in the common misery (whereinto by their own default they precipitated themselves), and not to bestow saving faith and the grace of conversion upon them; but leaving them in their own ways, and under just judgment, at last to condemn and everlastingly punish them, not only for their unbelief, but also for their other sins, to the manifestation of his justice. And this is the decree of reprobation, which in no wise makes God the author of sin, (a thing blasphemous once to conceive,) but a fearful, unreprovable and just judge and revenger." 

The French Confession: "Others he [God] left in that corruption and damnation, in whom he might as well make manifest his justice, by condemning them justly in their time, as also declare the riches of his mercy in the others. For some are not better than others, till such time as the Lord doth make a difference, according to that immutable counsel which lie had decreed in Christ Jesus before the creation of the world." 

The Belgic Confession: "We believe that God (after that the whole offspring of Adam was cast headlong into perdition and destruction through the default of the first man) hath declared and showed himself to be such an one as he is indeed; namely, both merciful and just . . . just, in leaving others in that their fall and perdition, whereinto they had thrown themselves headlong." 

Formula Consensus Helvetica: "In such wise indeed did God determine to illustrate his glory that he decreed, first to create man in integrity, then to permit his fall, and finally to pity some from among the fallen and so to elect them, but to leave the others in the corrupt mass, and at length to devote them to eternal destruction." 

The Irish Confession (Episcopal): "God, from all eternity, did, by his unchangeable counsel, ordain whatsoever in time should come to pass: yet so as thereby no violence is offered to the wills of the reasonable creatures, and neither the liberty nor the contingency of the second causes is taken away, but established rather. 

"By the same eternal counsel, God hath predestinated some unto life, and reprobated some unto death: of both which there is a certain number, known only to God, which can neither be increased nor diminished." 

These statements of the doctrine of reprobation in Calvinistic formularies may be digested into the following definition: 

Reprobation is God's eternal purpose, presupposing his foreknowledge of the fall of mankind into sin through their own fault, and grounded in the sovereign pleasure of his own will, not to elect to salvation certain individual men, - that is, to pass them by, and to continue them under condemnation for their sins, - in order to the glory of his justice. 

The scriptural proofs are as follows: 

1. The testimonies which have been adduced to prove the doctrine of election also establish that of reprobation; for, if God elected to salvation some of mankind, it follows as a necessary inference that he did not elect the rest, but purposed to continue them under condemnation for their sins. 

2. God did not create men in order that they should sin and be damned and so glorify his justice; for he is not the author of sin, but man, in the first instance, sinned and fell by the free and avoidable decision of his own will. 

Gen. i. 26, 27, 31: "And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness . . . So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him." "And God saw every thing that lie had made, and, behold, it was very good." 

Gen. v. 1: "In the day that God created man, in the likeness of God made he him." 

1 Cor. xi. 7: "For a man indeed not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God." 

2 Cor. iii. 18: "But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory." 

Eph. iv. 24: " And that ye put on the new man which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness." 

Col. iii, 10: "And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him." 

Jas. iii. 9: "Therewith bless we God even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God." 

Ecc. vii. 29: "Lo, this only have I found, that God made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions." 

Ps. xcix. 8: "Thou tookest vengeance of their inventions." 

Acts, xvii. 26: "And hath made of one blood all nations of men." 

Rom. i. 20, 21: "For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse; because that when they knew God, they glorified him not as God," etc. 

Rom. v. 12, 17, 18, 19: "By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned . . . By one man's offence death reigned by one . . . By the offence of one [or, one offence] judgment came upon all men to condemnation . . . By one man's diso bedience many were made sinners." 

Gen. iii. 12, 17: "And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat . . . And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake," etc. 

Jas. i. 13-17: "Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: but every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. Do not err, my beloved brethren. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning." 

1 John ii. 16: "For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father." 

Hos. xiii. 9: "O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself." 

3. Some testimonies to the awful fact of the reprobation of the wicked are subjoined. 

Ex. vii. 3, 4, and ix. 12, 16: "And I will harden Pharaoh's heart, and multiply my signs and wonders in the land of Egypt. But Pharaoh shall not hearken unto you." "And the Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh, and he hearkened not unto them; as the Lord had spoken unto Moses. . . . And in very deed for this cause have I raised thee up, for to show in thee my power; and that my name may be declared in all the earth." 

Deut. xxix. 4: "Yet the Lord hath not given you a heart to perceive, and eyes to see, and ears to hear, unto this day." 

Deut. xxxiii. 35: "To me belongeth vengeance and recompense; their foot shall slide in due time: for the day of their calamity is at hand, and the things that shall come upon them make haste." 

Prov. xvi. 4: "The Lord hath made all things for himself: yea even the wicked for the day of evil." 

Isa. vi. 9, 10: "And he said, Go and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not. Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and couvert, and be healed." 

Isa. xxix. 10: "For the Lord hath poured out upon you the spirit of deep sleep, and hath closed your eyes."

Isa. xxx. 33: "For Tophet is ordained of old; yea, for the king it is prepared." 

Isa. lx. 2: "For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee." 

Mal. i. 2-5: "I have loved you, saith the Lord. Yet ye say, wherein hast thou loved us? Was not Esau Jacob's brother? saith the Lord: yet I loved Jacob, and I hated Esau, and laid his mountains and his heritage waste for the dragons of the wilderness. Whereas Edom saith, we are impoverished, but we will return and build the desolate places; thus saith the Lord of hosts, They shall build, but I will throw down; and they shall call them, The border of wickedness, and, The people against whom the Lord hath indignation forever. And your eyes shall see, and ye shall say, The Lord will be magnified from the border of Israel." 

Matt. xi. 25, 26: "At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight." 

Matt. xiii. 13, 14: "Therefore speak I to them in parables; because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive." 

Mark iv. 11, 12: "And he said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables: that seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them." 

Lk. iv. 25-28: "But I tell you of a truth, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elias, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when great famine was throughout all the land; but unto none of them was Elias sent, save unto Sarepta, a city of Sidon, unto a woman that was a widow. And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Eliseus the prophet, and none of them was cleansed, saving Naaman the Syrian. And all they in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath." 

John x. 26: "But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you." 

John xii. 37-40: "But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him: that the saying of Esaias the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake, Lord, who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed? Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias said again, He hath blinded their eyes and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them." 

John xvii. 9: "I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine." 

Acts xxviii. 25, 26: "And when they agreed not among themselves, they departed, after that Paul had spoken one word, Well spake the Holy Ghost by Esaias the prophet unto our fathers, saying, Go unto this people and say, Hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see and not perceive, etc." 

Rom. ix. 13: "Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated." 

Rom. ix. 17, 18, 21, 22: "For the Scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth. Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth . . . Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honor, and another unto dishonor? what, if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much long suffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction?"

Rom. xi. 7-10: "What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded (according as it is written, God hath given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear;) unto this day. And David saith, Let their table be made a snare, and a trap, and a stumbling-block, and a recompence unto them: let their eyes be darkened that they may not see, and bow down their back alway." 

2 Tim. ii. 17-20: "And their word will eat as doth a canker: of whom is Hymeueus and Philetus; who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some. Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity. But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honor, and some to dishonor." 

1 Thess. v. 9: "For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ." The necessary implication is, that God has appointed some to wrath. 

1 Pet. ii. 8: "And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed." 

2 Pet. ii. 3: "And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not." 

Jude, 4: "For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ." 

Such are the proofs of the doctrine of reprobation which are derived from the Word of God, and they are too solid to be shaken by appeals to human sentiment, or even to human reason. It is admitted that the chief weight of the argument consists in the scriptural evidence in favor of unconditional election. That being proved, reprobation cannot be denied. The two doctrines stand or fall together. They are opposite sides of the same truth - two hemispheres of the same globe, one bright with the light of the divine love and of the beauty of holiness, the other dark with the judicial frown of God and the dreadful deformity of sin. But while this is true, the additional evidence furnished by the direct testimony of the Scriptures which have been cited is also conclusive. Some of the passages quoted have, of course, been strenuously contested. The most prominent are i Pet. ii. 8, and Jude, 4. But it must be conceded that the word in the former passage translated "appointed" (evte,qhsan) has in it the force of purpose; and while the same thing is not as apparently true of the word in the latter passage rendered "before ordained" (progegramme,noi), yet the same sense is substantially conveyed. For, if that disputed word be literally translated "before written," it would have to be confessed that the written assignment beforehand of these ungodly men to condemnation was but a revelation of God's judicial purpose. It will not do to say that only God's foreknowledge of the doom of these wicked men was expressed, for the obvious reason that no man can be doomed, except God dooms him, and that necessarily involves an eternal purpose; unless the preposterous ground could be maintained that God's purpose to condemn, like his actual sentence of condemnation, has no existence until the crime meriting condemnation shall have been committed. Further, to represent the Calvinist as holding that God dooms men to sin, as well as to condemnation for their sin, and in order to that condemnation, is to misrepresent him. 

It is not deemed necessary to develop at large the proofs of the doctrine, particularly as it will fall to be considered in connection with the objections which will hereafter be examined. A few words are added, expounding the nature of the doctrine and guarding it against misconception. 

The Calvinistic doctrine is not that God decreed to make men sinners. "Our Standards," says Dr. Thornwell, the late able Professor of Systematic Theology in one of the Seminaries of the Southern Presbyterian Church, "afford no sort of shelter to the Hopkinsian error, that the decree of reprobation consists in God's determining to fit a certain number of mankind for eternal damnation, and that the divine agency is as positively employed in men's bad volitions and actions as in their good."2 God in eternity conceived the human race as fallen into sin by its own free and avoidable self-decision. So conceiving it, he decreed judicially to condemn the whole race for its sin. We have seen that the teaching of Scripture is, that out of his mere mercy, and according to the good pleasure of his sovereign will, he decreed to save some of the fallen and sinful mass who were thus contemplated as justly condemned. That is Election. The rest, consequently, were not elected to be saved, but were passed by and ordained to continue under just condemnation. That is Reprobation. There are two elements which it involves: first, a sovereign act of God, by which they were in his purpose passed by and left in the condition in which they were regarded as placing themselves. That is called Preterition. Secondly, there is a judicial act of God, by which they were in his purpose ordained to continue under the sentence of the broken law and to suffer punishment for their sin. That is called Condemnation. Principal William Cunninghatn, the late distinguished Professor of Historical Theology in the Free Church of Scotland, who, as a Comparative Theologian of the first eminence, ought to have known what he was talking about, thus clearly explains the doctrine: "In stating and discussing the question with respect to reprobation, Calvinists are careful to distinguish between the two different acts formerly referred to, decreed or resolved upon by God from eternity, and executed by him in time, - the one negative and the other positive, - the one sovereign and the other judicial. The first, which they call non-election, preterition, or passing by, is simply decreeing to leave - and in consequence, leaving - men in their natural state of sin: to withhold from them, or to abstain from conferring upon them, those special, supernatural, gracious influences, which are necessary to enable them to repent and believe; so that the result is, that they continue in their sin, with the guilt of their transgression upon their head. The second - the positive, judicial - act is more properly that which is called, in our Confession, 'fore-ordaining to everlasting death,' and 'ordaining those who have been passed by to dishonor and wrath for their sin.' God ordains none to wrath or punishment, except on account of their sin, and makes no decree to subject them to punishment which is not founded on, and has reference to, their sin, as a thing certain and contemplated. But the first, or negative, act of preterition, or passing by, is not founded upon their sin, and perseverance in it, as foreseen."3

This is the decretum horribile - an expression of Calvin concerning which endless changes have been rung. It is a decree, not horrible in the sense of being too bad to be believed, but of being terrible to the wicked and awful even to the pious. It is indeed suited to appal the stoutest heart and blanch the boldest face. It reveals more strongly than anything else, except the Cross on which Jesus bled and died, God's infinite abhorrence of Sin - the opposite of his nature, the menace of his government, the dynamite of the universe. And it is enough to fill us with horror of sin to know, that even infinite mercy has rescued not one of the fallen angels from their doom, and only some of our guilty and ruined race from the everlasting damnation which is its due. 


  1. These statements touching the first sin have been quoted, because they show the Calvinistic doctrine to be-that man's will at first was free, neither constrained by an extrinsic nor an intrinsic force to sin; that man had full power to stand; and, therefore, that the reprobate were not created to sin and be damned, nor necessitated by God to sin.
  2. Coll. Writings, vol. ii. p. 143.
  3. Hist. Theology, vol. ii. pp. 429, 430.