I’ve been watching an absurd number of debates and discussions about soteriology (method and reality of salvation) over the past several years, and have found a relatively astounding number of “same words, different dictionaries” occurring within them. It’s very…”cultish” in a very disorienting and saddening way. From “Calvinism” to “Molinism”, “Open Theism” to “Universalism”, it’s amazing to see people trade in common-sense, basic definitions of phrases for some convoluted, nonsensical variant in order to maintain a commitment to a particular doctrinal position. It’s truly atrocious to me, and I think deserves some massive attention.

As a point of unbelievable importance: do not believe me wholesale. Study for yourself, read for yourself, think for yourself. I could easily be wrong, and I am absolutely not the arbiter of truth. I am deeply fallible, but that also doesn’t mean I can’t be right about something.

To start, let’s define some simple terms:

“Reformed Theology”

Seems to be a more preferred naming convention for what is commonly referred to as “Calvinism”. While not identical, they have relatively important ties.

“The Will of God”

Can be anything He so chooses. Period. No limitations or caveats. Only God can add any of those. So when we talk about “what God’s will can or can’t be”, it must be something that is either limited by His very nature (which only He can reveal to us) or by a restriction He Himself chooses. This is critical. To say, “God can’t do something,” ie: To claim He is unable to create time, which He is not bound by, but is actual in a common sense way, is to place a limit upon His Will or ability unjustifiably if not explicitly declared in “revelation”.


It simply means “supreme power or authority”. God’s will is “sovereign”, maximally efficacious or “can not fail to bring about that which He wills”. Whatever He wills to pass, will come to pass without question. It doesn’t mean anything else. Any other additional attributes will merely connect to this, not enhance it or alter it.

“Matters of Fact”

These are merely “truths which are”. They are independent of individuals or their assent (approval of or agreement with), and whether we comprehend them appropriately or otherwise, they simply “are true, IF true”. That sounds confusing, but it’s really not. Don’t think about it beyond that. If something is true, it’s true; if it’s not, it’s not. The end.

I believe this handful of definitions is enough for this particular topic. They are all important to this discussion, and all have relevant intersections that require functional comprehension of their definitions.

Reformed theologians would likely say that their version of electoral soteriology is a sort of “matter of fact” which causes it to be self-referential and circular (I will justify this as this proceeds, I promise). To preemptively declare something as factual is to assume one’s own conclusion unless adequately justified through some external method or evidence, otherwise it is only believed by chance or by fluke.

Now, I have no doubt that one, Reformed or otherwise, would argue that God is not bound by logic in that it has definitive and absolute precedence or power over Him, which is a fair assertion when considering an all-powerful Deity. However, it is still an assumption that is being ascribed by us back onto Him if it is inaccurate, since not explicitly revealed by Him in His Revelation. It is just as plausible that logic and reason exist at all because the One that originated them is either directly characterized by possessing those traits intrinsically, or has validated their usefulness and efficaciousness within the world by leveraging them.

His character, or decree of their correlative relationship to reality, instantiates them and binds this world to them because they are part of His nature or because they are ratified in creation by Him. Logic only exists at all because He possess it or deems it valid. I believe this to be demonstrated in His modes of argumentation consistently when the LORD speaks. “Want to justify yourselves? Try it. You declare and watch it fail, I’ll declare and watch it come to pass.”

The interesting thing about the aforementioned form of “matter of fact”-ness, as I’ll refer to it, is that it’s a tautology. Something like, “Revelation is true because truth must be revelation.” The irony, of course, is that it is proposing its premises and conclusions as statements of logical coherence or as a demonstration of validity. This form of demonstration is intended to show correlation with reality, which sort of presupposes the validity of logical propositions to begin with. That, at minimum, is problematic and ironic, if not outright fallacious.

I’m not dismissing operating off of “matters of fact” wholesale, although it may appear that way, but rather stating that the reality with which we live, as Bible believing Christians, will always correlate to Scripture because Revelation is directly correspondent to “that which is” (which is by definition a set of facts). So there will always be a “feeling” of self-reference and the appearance (meaning perceived but not actual) of circularity within the comparison and justification of Scripture relative to the “natural” and accessible world. But to indicate that “that which is” (the natural and accessible) is wholly inaccessible would relegate even Revelation itself to utter nonsense. What sense can be made of the proposition, “For all have sinned, and fallen short of the glory of God,” if “sin” is wholly other than “that which is” given to us in perception as sin? If sin is both unknowable and transcendent beyond our capacities since they are defined in Revelation, as are goodness, mercy, love, etc, in what way is that accessible even through Revelation itself?

At best, one of the “elect” could claim that they have a unique and gifted view of reality whereby they are capable of seeing all or some important set of truths (which I think is evident they would say this), no matter how minor, whereas others are wholly incapable. However, this fails the common-sense litmus test that easily refutes it. How would anyone determine they are “elect” rather than “reprobates”? There is nothing by which they can rationally, demonstrably, nor logically adjudicate their claim to “election”. They have wholesale written all of those things off as only being valid so long as they cohere to Scripture but they are not binding in and of themselves. The logic is circular to the degree that it is laughably implausible.

I would go so far as to simply challenge with:
Demonstrate that you are not simply a maximally enlightened reprobate, given the greatest amount of revelation like the Pharisees who blasphemed the Holy Spirit, reserved for the strictest judgment. Try it.

What will you use? Rationality? Logic? Comprehensive proof-texting from Scripture which is incomprehensible to, by Reformed’s own admission, all who read it if they are so deemed to be reprobated? The election of an individual offering an interpretation of Scripture must be assumed a priori before one could accept their interpretation of Scripture at all, thereby stripping them of any capacity to demonstrate their regeneration even to themselves let alone anyone else.

If Scripture enables enlightenment, but even those who read it are fundamentally incapable of comprehending it through a pre-ordained decree of God, there is nothing you could do to demonstrate you are not simply one of that same order. It is a simple and basic impossibility. The distinction is impossible to demonstrate or ratify through absolutely any demonstration on Earth.

At best, you would begin appealing to common sense arguments, which have been dismissed wholesale previously, with things like, “if you’re even concerned with it, you’re one of the ‘elect’.” But that doesn’t cohere. That’s an argument not from Scripture, which has already been indicated is a completely inaccessible medium to anyone not “elected”, and therefore has no legitimate acceptability to even remotely consider as worthwhile by their own standard. It is, and I’m not mincing words here, completely indefensible. It’s not that it “can’t be” or “isn’t a ‘matter of fact'”, but rather that if true, is definitionally inaccessible. It is NOT a matter of faith. It is NOT a matter of knowledge. It is NOT a matter of Scripture. It is a matter of simple “fact”. Even revelation itself is fundamentally ineffectual at anything but flukishly convincing wholly incapable creatures of believing something they can’t know. It relegates it to a fundamentally superfluous exercise of power, so far as I can tell.

Election is demonstrably indistinguishable from reprobation, even in the most absolute and powerfully contrasted examples. If “that which is accessible” can not be leveraged to demonstrate “that which is true”, then even reading Scripture to compare the most wicked, evil reprobate imaginable with the most devote, pious saint, is definitionally inaccessible and therefore not demonstrable. That is an unbelievable problem of the dogma, by my estimation.

Now, I don’t defend my rebuttal of this perspective because it would effectively usurp almost all apologetic ground that intellectual Christians have made throughout the millennia, but I do believe that should be taken seriously. It is a profound thing to say that the validation of Revelation is fundamentally a tautology. It is a traditional dogmatism that is so blatantly uncritical and fallacious, that it’s difficult to take it seriously. I truly believe that the only reason it is even remotely taken seriously is by means of the manipulation of the Christian necessity of the trait of “humility”. I highlight this particular issue because, in my time spent watching debates, discussions, and teachings on this topic, you will never find a more stark similarity between two opposing sides than you do between “new-atheists” and Reformed theologians.

The presupposition of one’s premises and the dogmatism that yields smug and callous dispositions towards those in opposition is the most prevalent in the debates I’ve witnessed between Reformed theologians and new-atheists, especially. It’s two pre-commitments, smugly butting heads rather than engaging in discussion and argumentation with humility. And to be fair, in the case of both instances they, unintentionally through atheism and intentionally through Reformed theology, believe they have been bestowed with special revelation of something wholly inaccessible to them through their worldviews. It would be difficult not to be predisposed to this quality of pomposity stemming from those perspectives.

Refer to my article discussing “natural revelation” for an explanation of why I believe this is so even for naturalistic atheists.

Atheists believe that they have rationally concluded another simple truth (the rejection of just another proposed “god”), but have a virtually impossible task of demonstrating the means by which they derived a fundamental truth given the majority of premises that form the foundation of most modern atheists. On the other hand, Reformed theologians obviously simply believe they can see the truth because they actually have been divinely and specifically given their capacity to believe anything true whatsoever. They are able to see, not because it was revealed adequately through Scripture and the life of Christ in concert with it, but because they were “electively” regenerated into being capable of even seeing either truth at all.

It is relegated to something similar to:

I believe I believe that which is true because I believe it.

In every way that is a self-referential tautology unless something fundamentally demonstrable and accessible precedes it as true. It is indistinguishable from the opposition’s believed falsehood. I could get into a full dissertation on why this is so, but I won’t do that for the time being. Naturally, they would assert that I’m straw-manning, but if something outside of regeneration can’t convince you of the truth (not even the Gospel itself), then there is, by definition, nothing to demonstrate or reconcile that regeneration occurred because it’s the only form of acquiring “true sight” in absolutely any sense.

To be fair to Reformed theology, I also believe that Molinism and Arminianism simply “offset” this issue, but I find their attempts to be much, much less overtly offensive.

As an example of my primary issue with Molinism and Arminianism, which I don’t believe needs to be demonstrated more complexly than this, is this:

If God’s will is wholly sovereign, while His knowledge is so pre-ordained and complete that He knows beforehand all decisions which any “free-will creature” He creates could, would, or will make, and He through His sovereign will decides to create any world whatsoever, by any conceivable definition, He immediately becomes the effectual cause of all results that manifest.

This particular statement is rather complicated, so I’ll try to boil down my perspective to simpler statements. If no world would exist without God willing it, then the world that does exist is wholly bound to His will. I think all of us likely agree to that, even myself. However, the issue comes about at this juncture:

If God wills a world to exist, which we likely agreed is now fully bound to the sovereignty of His will, and He did so with complete foreknowledge, by Him selecting which world does “get to” exist, all decisions that do occur are effectuated through the actualization of His will. You can call that “free”, but any “freedom” that occurred happened within the comprehension or consideration of “which world should be made” rather than in the living of those choices. This is indistinguishable, outside of mere assertion, from predestined decree, and in my opinion, also from multi-verse theories.

So, from my perspective, if reality correlates to Truth whatsoever, then none of these perspectives is worthy of acceptance if we believe there’s any relevance to truth through the “powers” of rationality, logic, or even revelation itself. In all these systematics, fundamentally, your acceptance or rejection of Revelation was pre-ordained through the decree and manifestation of Creation; either through God’s unilateral decree for you to do every specific thing conceivable or through God’s unilateral decree to choose to instantiate the world where, with pre-destined knowledge, you reject Him where you would not exist otherwise. In what way is that different from reprobation outside of the simple assertion that it is so? While it is possible, like I believe Reformed theology to be “possible”, it still puts us in a common sense hole of irrational implausibility.

If reprobation is indistinguishable from election in a tangible and accessible way through its correlation to our perception of reality, and likewise being effectually instantiated with a concrete set of decisions you will make alongside the destination those decisions yield, in what way does that correlate to “freedom” or “goodness”? How can we even comprehend what “goodness” is if we don’t have something tangible to relate it to? What does it mean to call God “good”? What does God even mean when He says, “Or what person is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf of bread, will give him a stone?”

In what sense has God given us “freedom” to accept or deny the most critical point of choice conceivable, His method of Salvation? If a father doesn’t offer bread to his son (whether by decree or instantiation of the universe where they are forced to exist and reject Him before the foundation is even begun) when the son needs bread, in what way is that “good”?

Molinism and Arminianism seem to address this more closely to something conceivable, while Reformed theology flat out flies in the face of it by my accounting. However, I still find them fundamentally flawed and not correlating to common sense perceptions of reality. I believe that Jesus made it clear that the Gospel is simple to shame the wise. Even children can understand the Gospel, as we adults are to accept it in a manner like a child, so in what way should it be anything overtly beyond common sense and simple comprehensions?

So lastly, to recognize that all people we might quote do not wholly represent us and neither us to them, I would love to leave this with a quote from The Problem of Pain by C.S. Lewis:

If God’s moral judgements differ from ours so that our “black” may be His “white”, we can mean nothing by calling Him good; for to say “God is good”, while asserting that His goodness is wholly other than ours, is really only to say “God is we know not what”. An utterly unknown quality in God cannot give us moral grounds for loving or obeying Him. If He is not (in our sense) “good” we shall obey, if at all, only through fear—and should be equally ready to obey an omnipotent Fiend. The doctrine of Total Depravity—when the consequence is drawn that, since we are totally depraved, our idea of God is worth simply nothing—may thus turn Christianity into a form of devil-worship.

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