Calvinism vs Catholicism

From: Deeper Truth Blog
by Ross Earl Hoffman
Mar 1st, 2011


Calvinism and Catholicism Contrasted

Calvin located the reason of predestination solely in the absolute will of God. But by making God alone responsible for everything, Calvin abolished the free cooperation of the will in obtaining eternal happiness. Therefore he was logically forced to admit an irresistible efficacious grace, to deny the freedom of the will when influenced by grace, and to completely reject supernatural merits (as a secondary reason for eternal happiness).

Not only is God completely responsible for the salvation of the elect, but He must also be responsible for the damnation of the reprobate, even to the point of directly willing their sins. Since God wills everything good for the elect, as well as everything bad for the reprobate, Calvin maintained that Christ died only for the elect (this is challenged by Geisler’s recent book Chosen But Free, see link below):

“As Scripture, then, clearly shows, we say that God once established by his eternal and unchangeable plan those whom he long before determined once for all to receive into salvation, and those whom, on the other hand, he would devote to destruction.

“We assert that, with respect to the elect, this plan was founded upon his freely given mercy, without regard to human worth; but by his just and irreprehensible but incomprehensible judgment he has barred the door of life to those whom he has given over to damnation.” (John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion Book III:21:7)

Salvation and damnation depend wholly on the will of God — man is completely predetermined to one or the other by irresistible grace or the lack thereof, without any cooperation or resistance of his will. Since grace is irresistible, the will of the predestined is not free to cooperate with grace to perform meritorious good works, and so salvation is purely arbitrary. Even more disturbing, since concupiscence is likewise irresistible without God’s grace, the will of the reprobate is not really free to sin and perform culpably evil works, and so damnation is not caused by demerits.

For Calvin, whom God selects, He saves; whom God rejects, He damns.

But consider what this means and whether this is biblical :

1. No truly free will (denied by experience, and by the Gospel commands to repent, reform, obey the commandments, perform works of charity, and persevere to the end).

2. Thus no merit or demerit (denied by the whole Bible which testifies to the rewards and punishments God will apportion to all men according to their deeds, e.g. Matt 16:27; Rom 2:5-10; 2 Cor 5:10; Rev 22:11-12; etc).

3. God desires salvation only for the elect. (Denied by 1 Tim 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9; Matt 23:37; Ezek 18:23-32; 33:11; etc).

4. Christ died only for the elect. (Denied by John 3:16-17; 4:42; 1 John 2:2; 4:9-14; Rom 5:6,18; 2 Cor 5:14-15; 1 Tim 2:6; 4:10; etc).

5. God provides grace only to the elect. (Denied by Titus 2:11; John 1:9,16; Rom 2:4; etc).

6. God directly predetermines the salvation of the elect, including their good works. (This ignores any cooperation of the will with grace).

7. God directly predetermines the damnation of the reprobate, including their sins. (This is denied by James 1:13-14; Sirach 15:11-20; 1 Cor 10:13; and ignores any true resistance and rejection by the will).

8. The elect will be saved with no merit of their own. (This denies heavenly reward).

9. The reprobate will be damned for no fault of their own. (This denies true guilt and deserved punishment).

Between these two extremes the Catholic dogma of predestination keeps the golden mean, because it regards eternal happiness primarily as the work of God and His grace, but secondarily as the fruit and reward of the meritorious actions of the predestined.


The process of predestination and salvation consists of the following five steps :

A. The first grace of vocation, especially faith as the beginning, foundation, and root of justification (Council of Trent, session VI, chapter 8)

B. A number of additional, actual graces for the successful accomplishment of justification and sanctification (1 Cor 6:11)

C. Justification itself as the beginning of the state of grace and love

D. Final perseverance or at least the grace of a happy death

E. The admission to eternal bliss and glorification (Rom 8:28-30)

8 Comments to “Calvinism vs Catholicism”

  1. God knows our life from beginning to end. It is predestined because God decided to put you on earth at this time during these days with the people that surround you. He could have made you to live back in the iron age or during the times of the dark ages but he chose here and now for you to exist. Our lives are predestined because God put us here during this time because it gives us the best possible chance that we will abandon sin and rely only on Christ. Because God also knows the results of the choices of our free will. We become the ELECT when we give our lives solely over to Christ. This is an act of free will. God knows the challenges that are going to be in our lives because he can see and he knows the desires of our hearts. God can see our heart. Therefore kingdom of heaven in within. When we stop looking outside of ourselves for all our answers and rely only on Christ changing our hearts to devotion to God we then begin to see that it really is ourselves that have predestined our lives. Because the sins that lay within us are the only real challenges we will have to defeat with Christ in order to be free. When watching the lives of men and women we see how their predestination plays out while they either rely solely on God or try to accomplish the defeat of their sins alone.

  2. Matt 10:22 “Those who stand firm TO THE END will be SAVED”

    That one statement eviscerates the deformed (not reformed) idea of irresistible grace.

    But let me also add that, duh, God KNOWS who will stand firm to the end already. He knows everything. So in that way, we are pre-destined, but only through God’s eyes due to the free will choices we will make, not by divine arbitrary lottery that happens BEFORE we do good or bad, and completely ignores the GOOD DEEDS we are told we will be JUDGED.

    Let’s stop playing philosophical games and get real: there is no point in JUDGMENT DAY if everyone has already been stamped approved or disapproved. What’s the point? Why would God judge a person he has already judged? Think about the idiocy of that proposition and you can begin to comprehend the outrageous, blasphemous claims of the Great Deformation

    I don’t believe for a second that God wills all of our choices. I feel the Spirit pulling me all the time, but it isn’t coercing me. I feel free to resist–even though as my faith grows it is becoming harder and harder to resist.

    I like Rick Warren’s explanation of free will as it relates to the Spiritual journey. I heard him explain once on Larry King that we’re all on a ship, and the ship is chartered already to arrive at a destination, and within that ship we can make free will choices (go upstairs, downstairs, etc), but we can’t change the ship’s charter. The next question then is: “but can we jump off the ship if we want?” And in Timothy Paul clearly states men can “shipwreck” their faith, so obviously it can be attained and lost.

    The tell tale sign that calvinism is deformed is how complicated its defensive arguments are. Google “John Piper 5 points of calvinism.” See what great lengths he must go to prove his points. I’m willing to bet he could not recite what he wrote there accurately on demand. And really, is it not an abomination to the beautiful simplicity of Scripture to twist it into an academic jumble rife with words that don’t even exist in the Bible?

    God is love. Love is not complicated. It’s very simple. Calvin is a heretic as is Luther and all those who call them idols. Catholicism is the truth and only truth. Always has been, always will be. It’s THE REAL THING. Accept no substitutes

    • Okay…you may never come back and read this but I was right with you cheering you on until the last couple of sentences where I feel you basically threw all of us in the same camp with CALVIN of all people…I felt that invalidated my 4 hour debate with a Calvinist where I basically said the same things you did before the last part anyway. Now I know Luther said some crazy and horrible things and had his own demons to wrestle with…as my spouse claims he was very ambivalent being stuck in the middle of an all out war he didn’t even realize at the time he started. I hope for one that my pastor is right and that he rejected this junk and that he would be rolling in his grave at people calling themselves Lutherans and that he did consider himself Catholic till the day he died…kind of ironic that you would call a heresy seeker a heretic. However,I believe any of us can fall into heretical beliefs,especially given the right circumstances…I just hope the God was able to correct him in the End on all of his wrong beliefs like he does me all the time. However, the Vatican itself has a joint statement about Lutherans and Catholics,so we are not all heretics…I choose to look at Luther’s original intentions to preserve Catholic Church…I confess this in my creeds every Sunday…I know there are Lutheran fundamentalists but I am not one as I defend my faith against Calvinism…even tho it was the pastor’s intention to break me and brainwash me…it did not work…and it was my Lutheran pastor later that vindicated me when he stated he did not believe in an arbitrary God like that and suddenly the pain in my head went away…and hopefully all the brain bleeds as well because it was very unreasonable and he tried to convince me that Luther believed in the same definition of predestination in order to win, which is why I consulted my pastor in the first place…I needed to know the truth. The pain was not the good kind of pain you get when your brain is growing from a good philosophical conversation about Aquinas say with my favorite philosophy teacher who happens to be Catholic…he was one of the people that helped me realize that I am very Catholic but that doesn’t negate me being a Lutheran either…I see myself as a Lutheran-Catholic hybrid that is in Communion with both. I remember in six grade my teacher and she was my favorite asking the question about if we were Catholic or Protestant? I spaced out like usual so didn’t hear the original question but I heard people’s answers and so I answered I am Lutheran…I didn’t want an either or question…probably one of the reasons I hate labels so much because they are too often used in a very dehumanizing way. She said oh then that means your Protestant there are only two choices pick one…and I was like no I’m Lutheran but then when I learned he was credited as the Father of the Protestant Reformation…I was like oh…it wasn’t until later that my Pastor preached on this and I was like ha there is a third choice sorta of although I confess in the creeds that I believe in one Apostolic and Catholic Church…I just want to keep the part where he was trying to correct something not be a bridge to some dark place where two sides bulldozed over him to get to each other snatched the idea and like a plate smashed it…I don’t think it fair to say it was all his fault in this way…people are always doing this to others take St. Paul for instance and certainly people do this to the Popes…I myself have been misinformed by things and God has corrected me, luckily for me I am not a public figure with dumb stuff written in black and white…guess maybe it was a good thing I asked for the spiritual gift of Solomon after all…and certainly humility is a part of wisdom…this is definitely a lesson for me now I feel how much judgement coming at me hurts…so I will just thank God for that nice slice of humble pie he just served me up but I do hope I gave you some things to think about as well…nobody knows how Luther felt at the end but I do hope he found his salvation again…only God knows for sure but Gah please don’t equate him the same as Calvin cuz if he did get it back he must be rolling in his grave again…I know they fought it out a lot…I just hope in the end he stood his ground…I want us to be able to continue the original intention of correcting a wrong but it is not a choice to leave the Universal Church…maybe he just got a little brainwashed…cuz I know if I had to go through that much more I would have had some serious Stockholm Syndrome for sure as it was very traumatizing and my poor spouse is still fighting it out…Calvin has really done a number on many but thankfully God saw fit to put Dust in a Catholic High School and before that a Lutheran School which even though it was fundy and did some serious damage, at least the basic Catechisms were taught which once a Priest checked in about the sacraments it was agreed that Dust could fully participate in the Eucharist, which in many ways is what saved Dust’s faith…so at any rate I leave the link from the Vatican as food for thought, so you don’t have to take my words for it but there is more than one type of Lutheran out there. I now go to both a Catholic Mass and an ELCA church and I have never been so much at home…for me I need both but I don’t see it as a substitution…I see it as two sides of the same coin being reconciled…perhaps we need a Great Reconciliation Now…so the healing can begin from all the stupid, needless and horrific violence against each other…isn’t this one of the things that used to make Jesus weep…how we were hurting the Church…its not like this hasn’t been done before with our Jewish neighbors…nothing new under the Sun, as Ecclesiastes says…we hurt each other and than it hurts the world because they see us fighting violently…the Greatest Commandment is Love but it means we have to love even our enemies too, which is a lot harder to do but it gets really stupid when we start seeing our friends and family as enemies from stupid labels of all things…well even if you never read this perhaps it will help someone else…I felt like the Holy Spirit was tugging at me and I decided to comply.

  3. Point 8 ” The elect will be saved with no merit of their own. (This denies heavenly reward).” is a denial of the gospel. Man has no merit that makes him saveable before a just and holy God. Eph 2:1-3 makes this clear-
    1 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins,
    2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.
    3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.

    It is only by the mercy and love of God that He saves anyone.

    • “Man has no merit that makes him saveable”

      What about faith in God? Isn’t that the ‘merit’ that makes a person ‘saveable’? I am sure there are lots of references in the bible about being saved and having faith.

      That raises the next question. What is faith? Fortunately, the bible explains it clearly through James:
      2:14-18 If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit?

      Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.

  4. I was hoping you would have honestly engaged the Doctrines of Grace. Bummer! But I have philisophical question if you want to call it that. One for which I have never got a satisfactory response from anyone who opposes Reformed Theology. If God is eternal and omniscient and if he is the creator of of all things and if he knows the eternal destinies of all men. Is not his decision to create knowing the outcome, in and of itself thee act of predestination? Would it not naturally follow that Christ’s death accomplished the actual salvation of those who were pedestined? If you answer in the affirmative you side with the Reformation. If you deny any one of the attributes of God stated above you oppose Rome.

    • Very interesting point.

      Having said that, there is a irreconcilable difference between the concept of predestination and free will. If we are to have truly free will, we cannot have a predestination, because we are simply following the destiny determined before our conception/birth. How can it be truly free will when we are just walking the road that was destined for us?
      Also, I would like to draw your attention to some of the parables in the bible:
      Shepherd going for the lost sheep
      Prodigal son
      Woman finding the lost coin
      To me, in all of the parables referred above (and more), I feel the joy of God for finding the lost soul. It’s not just ‘I have found it, so let’s move on’; clearly, the theme is joyfulness/happiness after finding the sheep/son/coin. With predestination, God knows what is going to happen. So, where is the joy of finding that lost soul?

      • Gary Taylor D. Min

        The Kingdom of God is predestined! It will be! It is the Omega! Free will is not predestined! Free will relys upon accepting the gift of faith. Then responsible faith grows within continual formation and conversion using both the grace of faith and the gift of reason! Reason that is conneced to the apostolic succession guided by the magisterium which is providentialy protected by the grace of God! Jesus justifies the believer; Jesus defeated evil and established permanently the kingdom on earth and eternally. By the grace of faith and the continual discerning of actual grace we make effort to form our will to choose the good and avoid the evil. This is the journy of free will. When we choose sin/evil we are contrite of heart, we confess our sin and are reconciled and graced to continue the spiritual battle of choosing good and avoiding evil hoping to obtain the predestined Kingdom!

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