Apologetics Thursday – The Calvinist Dictionary

By Christopher Fisher

Classical Christianity, and more specifically Calvinism, goes through great lengths to redefine words such as to mirror their theology. Below is a selected list of major concepts and words:


To the Calvinist, Election is the process by which God choses some to be saved. One of the five points of Calvinism is Unconditional Election. This means that Calvinist affirm that God elects without condition, people’s actions and beliefs have no part in God electing those individuals. Here is John Piper:

Election refers to God’s choosing whom to save. It is unconditional in that there is no condition man must meet before God chooses to save him. Man is dead in trespasses and sins. So there is no condition he can meet before God chooses to save him from his deadness.

Election, however, does not mean this (not in any language in any time period). In the Greek, election is synonymous with favoritism. People have favorite TV shows, favorite foods, and favorite presidential candidates (of whom go through a process called election). When people have favorites it is always due to a valuation of the object. People’s favorite TV shows might be interesting or funny, people’s favorite foods are appealing, people’s favorite presidential candidate usually has some sort of attracting charisma. In the case of TV shows, the writers have enormous influence over if viewers favorite the show. In the case of food, chefs have enormous influence over if eaters favorite the food. In the case of presidential elections, candidates can make or break their own campaigns based on their own actions. This is election and this is favoritism. Both have everything to do with the qualities of the object.

Sometimes in the Bible, the elect fall out of favor.

Related article.


To the Calvinist, Predestination is the process by which man is chosen since before time began to be saved. But as Open Theist Beau Ballentine points out, this is not the natural understanding of what Predestination means:

Calvinism inherently rejects predestination. For predestination to be true, God must determine something beforehand. Before God determined, the future would have to be open. Predestination refutes an eternally settled future and Calvinism.



Modern Americans should be well familiar with anthropomorphism. Brave Little Toaster, Pixar’s Cars, and a whole host of movies depict human features on inanimate objects. But the problem is that these depictions are purely fictional for entertainment value. Making a talking toaster is not an “idiom”, it is fantasy. Talking toasters do not exist. Describing a talking toaster does not communicate anything. Even when people say “my computer hates me”, it is a joke. It is a joke because computers cannot hate.

Anthropomorphisms depict fiction! For the Calvinist to claim the Bible is filled with anthropomorphisms is to claim the Bible is filled with fictitious portrayals of God that communicate nothing.

Original blog post.


Reposted comment from Roger Olson:

There is no “sovereignty” in human experience like the “sovereignty” Calvinists insist we must attribute to God in order “really” to believe in “God’s sovereignty.” In ordinary human language “sovereignty” NEVER means total control of every thought and every intention of every subject. And yet it has become a Calvinist mantra that non-Calvinists “do not believe in God’s sovereignty.” I have a tape of a talk where R. C. Sproul says that Arminians “say they believe in God’s sovereignty” but he goes on to say “there’s precious little sovereignty left” (after Arminians qualify it). And yet he doesn’t admit there (or anywhere I’m aware of) that his own view of God’s sovereignty (which I call divine determinism) is not at all like sovereignty as we ordinarily mean it. That’s like saying of an absolute monarch who doesn’t control every subject’s every thought and intention and every molecule in the universe that he doesn’t really exercise sovereignty. It’s an idiosyncratic notion of “sovereignty.”

God is Open original post.


From Elseth’s Did God Know?:

Proginosko carries with it the idea of past knowledge, to know beforehand, or even foresight, whether human or divine. It is rooted in a medical term originating in the time of Hippocrates and means almost exactly what our English counterpart word, prognosis, means. In medicine, it is the prediction of the probable course of the disease and of the chances of recovery based on present knowledge. In other words, it is a prognosis based on diagnosis…

God is Open original post.


The standard definition of knowledge is a “justified true belief”. The same standard which I can say “I know I am currently wearing pants”, “I know that if I tickle my daughter she will laugh”, and “I know that I was once a baby”, is the same standard which I can say “I know that if tomorrow I walk into Walmart, no employee will stop me from handing over cash in exchange for merchandise.”

Now critics can try to be clever. They always try. They say “You do not know that for sure. The world might end tomorrow.” The funny thing is that they are always wrong, and I am always right. But using extreme hypotheticals, the Augustinians open themselves up to claims that they are nihilists. Their definition of knowledge seems to be a 100% certainty without possibility, no matter how slight, of error.

By the Augustinian standard of “knowledge” I do not know I was once a baby. Maybe I am some programed robot or phantasm in a dream that only thinks I was once a baby. Maybe also, I do not know my daughter will laugh when I tickle her. Maybe my daughter is merely a figment of my imagination. I may be highly schizophrenic. Maybe the pants I am wearing are an elaborate mirage induced by crazy scientists messing with my brain.

Full blog post.


From Roger Olson:

Put another way, negatively, if one believes that God’s goodness is nothing like our best intuitions of goodness, that God’s goodness is possibly compatible with anything capable of being put into words (i.e., ultimately and finally mysterious), then there is no good reason to trust him. Trust in a person, even God, necessarily requires belief that the person is good and belief that the person is good necessarily requires some content and not “good” as a cipher for something totally beyond comprehension and unlike anything else we call “good.”

God is Open original post.

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