Paul's Passing Thoughts

Why Calvinism is the Antithesis of Love: free-writing notes from the TTANC 2 project.

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on November 18, 2013

Volume 2 coverA Primer for Coming Chapters

We will see in chapter five and following that the Reformers made Plato’s trinity the Christian gospel in regard to the redemption obtained by Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. They also narrowed the definition of the gospel to encompass the works of Christ only. Normally, among theologians, the word “gospel” is used generically while discussing different subjects like bibliology and soteriology, but the Reformers narrowed the meaning to primarily pertain to the works of Christ. Furthermore, in the same way that Plato’s trinity of the good, true, and beautiful forms are REALIY itself, the Reformer’s made Christ to be the total sum of reality.[42]

Therefore, Christ is the personification of the true forms. In the same way that Plato’s true forms cannot be known empirically, as we shall see, the Reformers, and especially the New Calvinists, teach that Christ cannot be known by the study of biblical precepts. This idea evokes contemporary truisms like, “He’s a person, not a precept.” Hence, the “person” of Christ is beyond knowing. We can only EXPERIENCE Christ subjectively, but we can’t really know Him factually and truthfully. In the same way, Plato’s just artisan can only experience the wellbeing of his just soul and the unity of a just society. The personhood of Christ is merely an idiom for Plato’s true forms.

IF we trust something completely outside of us to know what Christ has done, and not anything we do (which would require knowledge), we can experience the wellbeing of a unified soul and a unified group, or community. All of this inspires the contemporary Calvinist truisms of our day like, “Not my doing, but Christ’s doing and dying.” In order to understand this, you must connect DOING with KNOWLEDGE. We can’t do anything to please God because that assumes the knowledge and ability to do it. If we claim to know Christ in a factual way, and believe we can please Him with our works based on accrued knowledge, individual lives and society will be thrown into chaos because individual opinions and life experiences rule the day, not to mention selfishness that disregards the value of others. Individuals must find happiness in their group role, and leave knowledge to something completely outside of themselves—they must trust and obey the philosopher kings. If they don’t, personal and societal chaos will result.

Christ himself is reality. The gospel is reality. His redemptive acts are reality itself, and there is no other reality. In the same way that the just artisan only needs to know that he cannot know, and that he must trust truth completely outside of himself, the just Christian is defined as such by the Reformers. Plato’s “justice” is the “just” in Calvin’s “justification.” The producer is totally depraved; ie, the “T” in T.U.L.I.P.

The New Birth of Salvation

This will necessarily demand a conversation about the new birth.

“You must be born again.”

~ Christ

The concept of the new birth empowers the individual. The new birth may look to mentors and teachers to be a better individual, but ultimately rejects the philosopher king as mediator between the individual and Christ. This also includes a conversation about individual culpability. The born again individual believes they will be directly accountable to Christ for individual gifts granted by Him and knowable knowledge about God’s kingdom. The concept of being judged by the following standard alone; i.e., obedience to Reformed philosopher kings, is rejected out of hand.

A Smoking Gun: Mortification and Vivification

This brings to bear a significant smoking gun that, in and of itself, proves the theses of this book. The Reformers made a metaphysical reality, the new birth of salvation, a mere experience of Plato’s true forms of the good and beautiful. New Calvinists even have a name for it: mortification and vivification. That term is a staple maxim of their systematic theology that speaks to the very roots of Reformed theology. Mortification and vivification does not merely expose Calvinism as an emperor with no clothing, it’s a colonoscopy. It changes the onetime event of the salvific new creation of the individual into a perpetual new birth experience only. The person was never transformed by the Holy Spirit, but only experienced a new birth.

Consequently, the goal of the “Christian” is to empty self (mortification) for the benefit of the group which results in the reward of the vivification experience, or “joy.” Hence, the “Christian” life is an ever deepening realization of our depravity resulting in an ever-deepening ongoing joy experience. Again, this makes Calvinism the antithesis of the Bible’s definition of love which does not “rejoice in evil.” But in the case of Calvinism, focusing on individual depravity results in a deeper and deeper joy that was experienced during our initial salvation. Calvinists state this plainly:

1. Progressive sanctification has two parts: mortification and vivification, “both of which happen to us by participation in Christ,” as Calvin notes….Subjectively experiencing this definitive reality signified and sealed to us in our baptism requires a daily dying and rising. That is what the Reformers meant by sanctification as a living out of our baptism….and this conversion yields lifelong mortification and vivification “again and again.” Yet it is critical to remind ourselves that in this daily human act of turning, we are always turning not only from sin but toward Christ rather than toward our own experience or piety.

2. The final characteristic and ultimate test of all genuine repentance is its continuation and growth throughout the believer’s life. Through the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit, the God who begins a work of repentance in us will perfect it; He will see to it that it matures and deepens throughout our lives…Christians are scandalously referred to as “repenters” because an ever-deepening, ever-maturing repentance marks their lives…At conversion, a person begins to see God and himself as never before. The greater revelation of God’s holiness and righteousness leads to a greater revelation of self, which, in turn, results in a repentance or brokenness over sin.

Nevertheless, the believer is not left in despair, for he is also afforded a greater revelation of the grace of God in the face of Christ, which leads to joy unspeakable. The cycle simply repeats itself throughout the Christian life. As years pass, the Christian sees more of God and more of self, resulting in a greater and deeper brokenness. Yet, all the while, the Christian’s joy grows in equal measure because he is privy to greater and greater revelations of the love, grace and mercy of God in the person and work of Christ.

Not only this, but a great interchange occurs in that the Christian learns to rest less and less in his own performance and more and more in the perfect work of Christ. Thus, his joy is not only increased, but it also becomes more consistent and stable. He is left off putting confidence in the flesh, which is idolatry, and is resting in the virtue and merits of Christ, which is true Christian piety.

3. Now you ask: What then shall we do? Shall we go our way with indifference because we can do nothing but sin? I would reply: By no means. But, having heard this, fall down and pray for grace and place your hope in Christ in whom is our salvation, life, and resurrection. For this reason we are so instructed-for this reason the law makes us aware of sin so that, having recognized our sin, we may seek and receive grace… Nor does speaking in this manner give cause for despair, but for arousing the desire to humble oneself and seek the grace of Christ… Therefore one does not give cause for despair or death by telling a sick person about the danger of his illness, but, in effect, one urges him to seek a medical cure. To say that we are nothing and constantly sin when we do the best we can does not mean that we cause people to despair (unless we are fools); rather, we make them concerned about the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.[43]

The Subjective EXPERIENCE

When New Calvinists, or for that matter run of the mill Calvinists speak of subjective justification, or the subjective experience of the gospel, or the power of the gospel being experienced subjectively, what are they talking about? Answer: in the same way that Plato believed the commoner can only experience shadows of reality; the Reformers believed that Christians can only experience reality subjectively. Remember what the definition of “subjectivism” is? It’s defined by our own biased opinions. It’s a distorted view of reality based on our own presuppositions. Yes, even when “objective gospel” is experienced subjectively, we have no certainty that it actually came from heaven, but it is certain that we will experience increased gospel joy if we profess to know nothing and affirm that we cannot do any properly informed good work. In the same way, the societal artisan finds happiness in Plato’s definition of justice. The subjective gospel is Plato’s shadowy experience of the true forms.

This is very important to chapter five. We will examine how Martin Luther developed a gospel method of interpreting reality for the commoner. A method of interpretation is a hermeneutic. Martin Luther developed a gospel hermeneutic for life. It is the exact same hermeneutic that prevails in the contemporary church. It is Luther’s hermeneutic, and has led to a wholesale denial of the new birth by outright confession at worst, and the way we function at best. In other words, the vast majority of Christians in our day deny the new birth outright, or unwittingly function that way while vehemently denying the guilt thereof. The mantra of the outright rejecter of the new birth is, “We must preach the gospel to ourselves every day.” The mantra of the unwitting participant is, “We are all just sinners saved by grace.”

The unfolding of this volume will reveal the philosophical highway from Plato to St. Augustine, then to Luther, and ending with John Calvin. Luther presented his gospel hermeneutic to the Augustinian order, and Calvin developed Luther’s hermeneutic into a full orbed philosophical statement for Western religious culture.


42. Paul M. Dohse: False Reformation: Four Tenets of Luther and Calvin’s Egregious False Gospel; TANC Publishing 2012, pp. 99,100. / Paul M. Dohse: The Emergent Postmodern Church and New Calvinism; TANC Publishing 2012, chapter 1, free ebook online source:

43.1. Michael Horton: The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims On the Way; Systematic Heading – Mortification and Vivification,  pp. 661-663 [Calvin Inst. 3.3.2-9]).

2. Paul Washer: The Gospel Call and True Conversion; Reformed Heritage Books 2013. Part 1, Chapter 1, heading – The Essential Characteristics Of Genuine Repentance, subheading – Continuing and Deepening Work of Repentance.

3. Martin Luther: The Heidelberg Disputation; “Brother Martin Luther, Master of Sacred Theology, will preside, and Brother Leonhard Beyer, Master of Arts and Philosophy, will defend the following theses before the Augustinians of this renowned city of Heidelberg in the customary place, on April 26th 1518.” Thesis 16 and 17.

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  1. Ryan said, on November 19, 2013 at 1:56 AM

    Paul, this is all looking GREAT! I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy.


    • paulspassingthoughts said, on November 19, 2013 at 7:15 AM

      Thanks for the feedback. Helps us know we are taking the right approach.


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