Islam’s Allah and Calvinism’s God: An Uncomfortable Comparison

Phil Congdon, New Braunfels Bible Church, November 16, 2015

In a packed baseball stadium a few days after 9/11, a Christian minister stood to pray.  Ever since the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, politicians and celebrities had been presenting Islam as no different than Christianity, and God as no different than Allah.  The minister began: “We pray in the name of our God – the God of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam…”

Twenty years earlier, while a student in seminary, I spent two summers in Saudi Arabia leading a ministry for high school and college-aged children of Aramco Oil workers.  In Dhahran, a community of ex-patriots fenced off from the Saudi population, a small Protestant fellowship met in a community center each week.  One night in a service, a man prayed that God would reveal Himself “in this land where You are not known.”  Afterward, he was criticized by some who insisted that “Allah is just another name for God.”

While many uncritically equate Allah and Yahweh, informed Christians and Muslims reject it out of hand.  At a lecture on the campus of North Texas State University two months after 9/11, converted Muslim Ergun Caner spoke to a student gathering, and showed from the Qur’an and Hadith (Islamic ‘scriptures’) that Allah is not the same as the God of the Bible.  Following his talk, Muslims in the audience attacked his conclusions.  One man insisted that ‘Allah is benevolent and merciful.’  Ergun Caner asked him directly: “Sir, may I ask you – Is Allah the same god as Jehovah?”  The man looked at Caner, then the crowd, and replied, “No, of course not.”[1]

We all would agree that Yahweh is not the same as Allah, but if ‘a rose by any other name would smell as sweet,’ why not a ‘god by any other name’?  The answer is simple; while “Allah” is the Arabic ‘name’ for God, the deity which Muslim theology describes is very different from the biblical Yahweh.  We might say that this is not God, by another name.

But this raises another, and more troubling question: What if a group of Christian theologians conceive of God in a way that sounds a lot like the Allah of Islam?  Let us be clear: How Christians conceive God varies greatly.  Different theological groups (e.g., Calvinists, Arminians) have different concepts of God.  How we view God matters!  That is, how we see God affects the way we view the world, determines how we will respond to those who follow other religions, how we treat those who reject our faith or live ungodly lifestyles, how and why we live the way we do, and so on.  The attitudes, emotions, and actions we attribute to God will be reflected in the attitudes, emotions, and actions we live out as followers of our God.

A wrong concept of God is at the heart of every non-Christian religion – like Islam, but it is troubling to find that unbiblical views of God are also present in many ‘strands’ of Christianity, and are a source of theological and spiritual-life confusion in many Christians’ lives.  For example, Chuck Swindoll states that any Christian theology which focuses more on what we do for God, instead of what God has done for us, is really the heresy of humanism in disguise.[2]  Our view of God is either grand and glorious, and permeated by grace – or it is muted and mangled, and permeated by human merit.  One quip put it well: “In the beginning God created man in His image, and mankind has been ‘returning the favor’ ever since!”  If our understanding of God is wrong, everything that flows from it will be wrong as well!

With this in mind, my purpose today is to compare the concepts of Allah in Islam and God in Calvinism.


The Sovereignty of God in Islam and Calvinism

No one will dispute that God is sovereign.  God alone possesses the divine attributes of omnipotence (all-powerful), omniscience (all-knowing), omnipresence (present everywhere), eternality (no beginning or end), immutability (unchanging), and holiness (perfection).  But the implications of the sovereignty of God are open to debate.  In particular, how does the sovereignty of God ‘play out’ in His dealings with mankind?  The answer to this question is determined by our conception of what sovereignty entails.

Determinism.  Allah in Islam, and God in Calvinism, as absolutely sovereign, are both absolutely deterministic.  They are the author of every action, word, and thought, and this includes being the author of evil.  Within Islam and Calvinism, sovereignty is equated with determinism: That is, God predetermined before time everything that shall occur in time.  In reference to salvation, this means that God, knowing before creation every person who would ever live, decreed without respect to anything any person would ever do to give the gifts of faith[3] and perseverance to some, and therefore eternal life, and to refuse this enabling grace to others, thus condemning them without any hope to eternal hell.

Calvinist church historian Phillip Schaff writes:

Calvinism…starts with a double decree of predestination, which antedates and is the divine program of human history.  This program includes the successive stages of the creation of man, a universal fall and condemnation of the human race, a partial redemption and salvation: all for the glory of God and the display of His attributes of mercy and justice.  History is only the execution of the original design…[4]

Note that Schaff does not shy away from affirming that God Himself decreed the fall of man, and is thus the author of sin!  As the omnipotent cause of every event, God is therefore the absolute and final determiner of who will be saved, and who will be damned.  Calvin clearly affirms this view of God:

By predestination we mean the eternal decree of God, by which he determined with himself whatever he wished to happen with regard to every man.  All are not created on equal terms, but some are preordained to eternal life, others to eternal damnation; and, accordingly, as each has been created for one or other of those ends, we say that he has been predestined to life or death.[5]

God not only foresaw the fall of the first man, and in him the ruin of his posterity; but also at his own pleasure arranged it.[6]

Islam teaches the same thing.  According to Islam, Allah is absolutely deterministic.

En sh’Allah means “Allah wills it.”  One of the foundational doctrines of Islam is the absolute sovereignty, to the point of determinism, of Allah.  Allah knows everything, determines everything, decrees everything, and orders everything.  Allah is even the cause of evil.[7]

It follows that Allah predestines all who will be saved, and all who will be eternally damned.  Of those who cannot be saved, Surah 2.6-7 states:

It is the same to them whether you warn them or do not warn them; they will not believe.  Allah has set a seal on their hearts and on their hearing.  And on their eyes is a veil; Great is the chastisement they [incur].

Fatalism.  It follows that Calvinism and Islam are both inherently fatalistic.  In Calvinism, the sovereign God elects those who will be saved, and rejects all others.  Chuck Smith declares,

According to Calvinism, it is futile to try to convert the lost who are not predestined to be saved.[8]

Fatalism is seen repeatedly in Calvin’s writings:

…some are preordained to eternal life, others to eternal damnation; and, accordingly, as each has been created for one or other of those ends, we say that he has been predestined to life or death.[9]

…God…arranges all things by his sovereign counsel, in such a way that individuals are born, who are doomed from the womb to certain death…[10]

In the same way, Allah leads astray those he pleases, and saves who he pleases (Surah 14.4).  Caner and Caner summarize:

Allah is exalted and pleased as he sends people to hell: this is the fatalistic claim of Islam.  Fatalism is a belief that events are fixed in advance for all time in such a manner that human beings are powerless to change them.  In this case, Allah will send to heaven whomever he pleases, and send to hell whomever he pleases.”[11]

An old joke recounts the Calvinist who fell down the stairs, got up, and said, “Boy, I’m glad that’s over!”, since after all, every event is predetermined by God and must happen.  Interestingly, Caner and Caner recount from their Islamic childhood:

Our father used to say, “If you fall and break your leg, say, ‘Allah wills it,’ because he caused it to happen.”[12]

At the heart of both Calvinist and Islamic theology proper is a God who is entirely deterministic.

The Love of God in Islam and Calvinism

Perhaps the most fundamental of all aspects of God’s character is love.  He that loveth not, knoweth not God, for God is love (1 John 4.8).  For God so loved the world… (John 3.16)  God demonstrates His own love toward us… (Romans 5.8).  These are just a few of the numerous biblical texts which affirm the universal, sacrificial, eternal, personal, and unconditional love of God for all mankind.  No character of God is more central to the message of the Gospel; the incarnation and substitutionary atonement shout it.  Everything in God’s saving action toward mankind declares it.  But what do we see in Islam and Calvinism?

Love de-emphasized.  In Islam, Allah is virtually devoid of love.  Caner and Caner list 99 names of Allah, and only one includes a reference to love (and this only to those who are “his own”).[13]  They write:

When Allah is discussed within the Islamic community, the absence of intimacy, atonement, and omnibenevolence becomes apparent.  In all the terms and titles of Allah, one does not encounter terms of intimacy. . .  Even the most faithful and devout Muslim refers to Allah only as servant to master; Allah is a distant sovereign.[14]

But what do we find in Calvinism?  God’s sovereignty – His power and holiness, are emphasized at the expense of His love.  Hunt observes:

But where is God’s love?  Not once in the nearly thirteen hundred pages of his Institutes does Calvin extol God’s love for mankind.  This one-sided emphasis reveals Calvinism’s primary defect: the unbiblical limitations it places upon God’s most glorious attribute. . .  Something is radically amiss at the very foundation of this unbiblical doctrine.[15]

Limited love.  As we look closer, we find reasons for this muting of God’s love in Islam and Calvinism.  For example, Calvin’s God, and Islam’s Allah are both bereft of unconditional love for everyone.

Allah’s heart is set against the infidel (kafir).  He has no love for the unbeliever, nor is it the task of the Muslim to “evangelize” the unbelieving world.[16]

Caner and Caner note, “This is why so many Muslims quickly disown children who have converted to another religion, especially Christianity.  Why love them when almighty Allah will never love them?”[17]

But is this any different than Calvinism?  Dave Hunt puts it bluntly:

Never forget that the ultimate aim of Calvinism…is to prove that God does not love everyone, is not merciful to all, and is pleased to damn billions.  If that is the God of the Bible, Calvinism is true.  If that is not the God of the Bible, who “is love” (1 John 4:8), Calvinism is false.  The central issue is God’s love and character in relation to mankind, as presented in Scripture.”[18]

Conditional love.  While Calvinists (but not Muslims) would object to the idea that their God has a conditional love, that is the effect of their doctrine.

This doctrine is openly announced in Islam: Allah loves not transgressors (Qur’an 2:190).  For [Allah] loves not any ungrateful sinner (Qur’an 2:276).  For Allah loves not those who do wrong (Qur’an 3:57).  For Allah loves not the arrogant, the vainglorious (Qur’an 4:36).

Calvinists claim to teach that God’s love is unconditional because He gives it ‘unconditionally’ – not in response to anything we do.  But whether or not one is actually loved – in a ‘salvific’ way – is ultimately determined and demonstrated by what we do.  This fact is enshrined by the last of the Five Points of Calvinism, ‘Perseverance of the Saints.’  Because all who are saved will inevitably ‘persevere’ in living a faithful life, God’s saving love, in the end, is determined by our works.[19]  Notably, as is always the result with synergism (salvation by faith and works), no amount of good works can assure that one will go to heaven.[20]

Insecure love.  It is impossible in Calvinism and Islam to know that you are loved by God.  While Calvinists proclaim their belief in eternal security, what they mean by this is that if you are really saved (which you cannot know with absolute certainty until you die), then you will never lose your salvation.  But the threat of falling into some sin, and thus finding out that you were never really saved in the first place, is a ‘Damocles’ Sword’ which hangs over the head of every Calvinist.

Similarly, and blatantly, Islam teaches this same doctrine.  Caner and Caner make this clear:

The Qur’an contains many words of wisdom and pieces of good advice.  What is lacking is the promise of life everlasting.[21]

The Qur’an hints that the believer in Allah can be confident of his or her eternal destiny, but there is no guarantee, even for the most righteous. . .  In Islam, the answer to the question, “What must I do to go to heaven?” is mysterious and complex. . .  Islamic tradition argues that the guarantee of heaven is as impossible to find as a chaste virgin and pure speech.  Consequently, the devout Muslim makes every effort to please Allah and thereby obtain heaven.  But fate (kismet) in the hands of the all-powerful Allah will decide the outcome.[22]

There is no security for the believer of Islam.  One is left wanting and waiting for the will of Allah to be accomplished. …the question of whether one is admitted to heaven is left unanswered until the Day of Judgment.[23]

The promise of eternal security is the ultimate motive behind the passion for Allah in the eager young Muslim warrior. …if he is killed in battle, he achieves the desire of his heart – Allah’s guarantee of a spot at the highest level of Paradise.[24]

No Muslim has eternal security.  Every Muslim fears the scales of justice, which weigh his good deeds against his bad deeds.[25]

Clearly, the love of God is at best compromised in both Islamic and Calvinistic theology proper.

The Violence of God in Islam and Calvinism

Despite appeals to the contrary, Islam is demonstrably a religion of violence.  This should come as no surprise.  A god (Allah) who is arbitrary, distant, and crass in his nature, and devoid of love, will naturally demonstrate this in violence toward whomever he chooses.  Caner and Caner entitle their chapter on the history of Islam, “A Trail of Blood.”[26]  In countries across the middle east, north Africa, and southeast Asia today, those who defy Islam, especially Christians, are beheaded and mutilated.  These ‘infidels’ are given three options: Convert to Islam, leave, or face persecution (often death).  For Muslims fighting in jihad (holy war), “ethical values [seem] to play little or no role.  Whatever the Muslims [do is] justified, since their cause [is] just.”[27]

This same kind of violence showed itself in Calvin’s Geneva, where rejection of Reformed dogma brought three options: convert (to Calvinism), leave (deportation), or face persecution (imprisonment or death).  The similarity to ‘pure’ Islam is unmistakable.  In February of 1555, Calvin and his supporters gained absolute control in Geneva.  Those who disagreed with Calvin’s theology were excluded from communion, and fled.  Four who failed to escape were beheaded, quartered, and their body parts hung in strategic locations as a warning.  Calvin referred to them as “henchmen of Satan,” and justified his barbarity by saying, “Those who do not correct evil when they can do so and their office requires it are guilty of it.”  From 1554 until his death in 1564, “no one any longer dared oppose the Reformer openly.”[28]

While there are many cases throughout history of violence by those claiming to be Christians, when the founder of a religious movement demonstrates a capacity for violence, it is more significant.  The fact that both Calvin and Mohammed distinguished themselves by their violence toward those who disagreed with them reflects their impaired view of God and His love.

A Curious Connection: Mormonism

More than a century ago, Bruce Kinney wrote Mormonism, The Islam of America,[29] revealing the similarities between Islam and Mormonism – a ‘modern form of Islam.’  In his book, he details the plan of Mormons to take over the world, their violence toward ‘unbelievers’ (one illustration, the Mountain Meadow Massacre in 1857), and their practice of polygamy (Young himself had at least 25 wives and 44 children – a number no one thinks is complete, since he had women “sealed’ to him in almost every town in Utah).[30]  Mormon doctrine imagines every faithful Mormon man having celestial wives – a ‘heavenly harem’ to mother countless spirit children, who will then populate the world of people for whom they will be “god”.  I could go on, but the similarities between Mormon practice and Islamic practice are pervasive.

In 1997, a book entitled How Wide the Divide? A Mormon & an Evangelical in Conversation[31] was published, co-authored by Craig L. Blomberg (a professor at Denver Seminary) and Stephen E. Robinson (a professor at Brigham Young University).  The authors concluded that the difference between evangelical and Mormon doctrine is less than is usually understood.[32]  It is important to note, however, that Craig Blomberg writes from a strong Calvinist evangelical viewpoint.  As a Calvinist, he found common ground with Mormon doctrine![33]

I submit that it should not be surprising that if a Calvinist theologian finds common theological ground with Mormonism – the ‘Islam of America,’ there will be similar common ground between Calvinism and Islam.  While this will surely be an uncomfortable comparison for most Calvinists to admit, it is undeniably true.  At the very least, it should give Calvinists pause to realize that their view of God so closely reflects the view of God within Islam.

[1] Ergun Mehmet Caner and Emir Fethi Caner, Unveiling Islam (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Kregel Publications, 2002), 103-104.
[2] Charles R. Swindoll, The Grace Awakening (Dallas, TX: Word Publishing, 1990), 17-19.
[3] Even the Calvinist idea that faith itself is a gift given arbitrarily by God, without which no one can be saved, is reflected in Islam; “…eternal faith is ultimately given at the subjective whim of Allah…” (Caner and Caner, 150).
[4] Phillip Schaff, History of the Christian Church (Albany, Ore.: The Ages Digital Library, Books for the Ages, Ages Software, Version 1.0, 1997), Book 8, Ch. 14, Sec. 114.
[5] Calvin, Institutes, iii, xxi, sec.5, 1030-1031.
[6] Calvin, Institutes, iii, xxiii, sec. 7, 1063 (emphasis mine).
[7] Caner and Caner, 109.
[8] George Bryson, The Dark Side of Calvinism, (Santa Ana, CA: Calvary Chapel Publishing, 2004), from the Foreword by Chuck Smith, p.9.
[9] Calvin, Institutes, iii, xxi, sec. 5, 1030-31.
[10] Calvin, Institutes, iii, xxiii, sec. 6, 231.
[11] Caner and Caner, 31-32.
[12] Caner and Caner, 109.
[13] Ibid., 110-117.
[14] Ibid., 117.  See also the moving story of a Muslim convert to Christianity in Caner and Caner, pp.37f.
[15] Dave Hunt and James White, Debating Calvinism (Sisters, Oregon: Multnomah Publishers, 2004), 47.
[16] Ibid, 118.
[17] Ibid., 33.
[18] Hunt and White, 21.
[19] See Bryson, Dark Side, 351-357; David R. Anderson, Bewitched: The Rise of Neo-Galatianism (Grace Theology Press, 2015), 66-67; Zane C. Hodges, The Gospel Under Seige: Faith and Works in Tension, 2nd ed. (Dallas: Redención Viva, 1992), 40.
[20] Philip F. Congdon, “John Piper’s Diminished Doctrine of Justification and Assurance,” JOTGES 23:44 (Spring 2010), 59-73.
[21] Caner and Caner, 151.
[22] Ibid., 144.
[23] Ibid., 31.
[24] Ibid., 36.
[25] Ibid., 18.
[26] Ibid., 66-81.
[27] Ibid., 48.
[28] Hunt and White, 23-24; Francois Wendel, Calvin: Origin and Development of His Religious Thought, trans. Philip Mairet, (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker, 2000), 100; Bernard Cottret, Calvin: A Biography (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2000),198-200.
[29] Bruce Kinney, Mormonism, The Islam of America (New York: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1912), republished most recently in 2010 by Nabu Press.  Kinney is not alone in seeing a link between Mormonism and Islam.  In 1856, a Danish convert to Mormonism, John Ahmanson, emigrated to Utah.  He knew Brigham Young personally, and was an eyewitness to early Mormon history.  Unlike many, he left the Mormon Church, and survived to tell about it, in his book originally entitled Vor Tids Muhamed (“A Mohammed of Our Time”).  The book is available in English now: Secret History: An Eyewitness Account of the Rise of Mormonism, by John Ahmanson, trans. Gleason L. Archer (Chicago: Moody Press, 1984).
[30] Ibid., 28.  For a detailed account of the violent and polygamous history of Mormonism, see the entire first chapter, pages 15-44; also Secret History.
[31] Craig L. Blomberg and Stephen E. Robinson, How Wide the Divide? A Mormon & an Evangelical in Conversation (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1997).
[32] See Philip F. Congdon, “How Wide the Divide? A Mormon and an Evangelical in Conversation:  A Review,” JOTGES 13:25 (Autumn, 2000), 67-72.
[33] It is notable that the Mormon Robinson is effusive in his agreement with John MacArthur in The Gospel According to Jesus, and other Calvinists: “We would agree with Bonhoeffer and MacArthur that one cannot “have eternal life yet continue to live in rebellion against God.” I would judge the terms “being saved,” “coming to Christ,” “accepting the gospel,” “entering the covenant,” “making Christ Lord in my life” and “serving Christ” as being roughly equivalent. It follows, then, that saying “I have come to Christ, but I refuse to serve him” is self-contradictory.  How does one accept Christ without accepting Christ as Lord?  And to accept Christ as Lord is to accept myself as his vassal, and vassals do the will of their Lord, not their own will” (How Wide the Divide?, 148-149); see ibid., 70.

Comments (23)

  1. Great article Phil. Well written and calls for us to lean more completely on a biblical theology rather than systematic theology — though I see the value in both. I hope this blog will be published more widely to provoke all of us to greater understanding of Who God has revealed Himself to be, and robust discussion of strange allegiances to decidedly unbiblical points of view.

  2. harry murphy

    Overall a Great article. There are just too many issues with Calvinism for it to be embraced as biblical. Yes, the Calvinist uses Scriptures, but so do most Christian cults. Unfortunately, Calvinists ignore, or worst, they twist those Scriptures that contradict their theology. Bottom line is that the preponderance of Scriptural evidence does not support Calvinism.

  3. Martin McDonald

    I cant tell you how much I appreciated reading this very insightful and well written piece.

  4. Dennis M. Martin

    Pastor Phil,
    With all do respect I must strongly disagree with your analysis of John Calvin. I have studied God’s word for 40 years. How is it that I come up with completely different conclusions than you, my brother in Christ. I agree that there are different views among Christians as to how and why we believers come to faith in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. I will not speak harshly of you or any one who is a “non-Calvinist”. Ps 15.4 says that I should “honor those who fear the Lord”. Unlike you “your apparent disdain/hatred of any so called Calvinist is quite evident) even though men like: St Augustine, Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli, John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, CH Spurgeon, Donald Grey Barnhouse, RC Sproul, John MacArthur, and Tim Keller all believed/believe in divine election. Yes, II Pet 1.10 says “I should make my election and calling sure….”. You say God in Calvinism is not a God of love. Yet Eph 2:4 clearly states that “because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses made us alive together with Christ…..” You imply that Calvinist’s say God causes sin, yet Pro16.4 says “The Lord has made all for Himself, Yes, even the wicked for the day of evil.” And both Acts 2.23 and 4.28 indicate that His own hand determined that sinful acts would be committed against our Lord. And how does Jn 6.44, Matt 11.27 read to you, not to mention Acts 13.48 and II Tim. 1.9. I will patiently wait your exegetical explanation of these verses. I could also cite several verses that you would quote to reference man’s “free-will” in choosing Christ. All men are indeed held guilty and accountable. I must say that, like Martin Luther, I personally can not change until He thru His Word and the Holy Spirit convict me otherwise. I can do no other.
    Respectfully in Christ,
    Dennis M. Martin
    PS: You may want to read Martin Luther’s “Bondage of the Will” although Calvin get’s the blame…..yet Martin Luther puts Calvin to shame concerning divine election.

    • MelRae Ambs

      Dennis, thanks for your response. Christians often disagree on points of theology, but even when we do, we can disagree agreeably! In that spirit, a few thoughts:

      1) You wrote that you would “not speak harshly of” me, then wrote that my “hatred of any so called Calvinist is quite evident.” If that isn’t harsh, I don’t know what is! I have never expressed hatred for Calvinists; sympathy, perhaps, and sadness, but not hatred.

      2) You list men who believe in election. So do I. However, the men you list do not all view election the same way, and neither do I. You should know that there are different views on election within Calvinism. The question is not whether or not we believe in election, but what election actually refers to.

      3) You seem to agree with the teaching of some Calvinists that God does cause sin. If that is your view, I cannot concur. Nevertheless, I hope you will actively obey Christ’s call and ‘preach the gospel to all creation’ (Mark 16.15).

      Phil Congdon

    • I can’t respect a man (Calvin) who murdered his best friend for disagreeing with his (Calvin’s) theology. NEXT

  5. Susan

    Phil….extremely valuable comparisons of Calvinsim to Islam and Mormonism. Very easy to see the truth and error between Bilblical Christianity and false religion.

  6. Pastor Congdon,
    Thank you for your response and also for the admonishment. My comments were harsh and I ask your forgiveness. I wrote in the heat of a passionate reply to be sure. Ps 15.4 convicts me as I am to “honor those who fear the Lord”.

    I agree that the 10 men I listed did not agree on all things. However I still believe that all 10 were on the same page when it comes to soteriology. That is, how do we come to faith in Jesus Christ. I have found nothing in the writings of all ten that would not agree with the following comment: “We reject outright any notion of cooperative effort in the rebirth of the believer.” If you have any writings of the men I listed, refuting this characterization, I will stand corrected.

    I would like to make one humble suggestion in regards to your article. You are desirous of teaching believers/people that the God of Calvinism is wrong. Please consider using scripture alone to prove and admonish. If you are correct in your interpretation then certainly scripture would convict of wrong thinking. Using Islam is using human reasoning in my opinion. No different than if I taught that Arminianism is very close to Darwinism because it appears to be survival of the fittest. (One person wants Christ more than the other).

    I do not believe that God sins or causes sin. Yet God in His sovereignty governs all things. Lk 22.22 says the Son of Man goes as has been determined. Acts 4:27 clearly states that our Savior was crucified by men who were “gathered together to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done.” See also Acts 2:23, Prov 16.4. I would also suggest reading Isa chapter 10 to see in the narrative how God used wicked Assyria (vs 5)to accomplish His plan. Yet He held Assyria guilty (10:12).

    May the Lord continue to bless you and your congregation. Regardless of our differences, Christ is be proclaimed. We have both been blessed to have “come out of Egypt” by His mighty Hand.

    Respectfully in Christ,

    Dennis M. Martin

    • MelRae Ambs

      Dennis, thanks for your comments. I hold no grudge against you. I agree we should adhere to Scripture, and not the teachings of men. That is why I don’t follow in lock-step with Calvin (or any other theologian), as many do. My only purpose was to expose how Calvinism’s view of God resembled Islam’s view of Allah. Neither reflects the holy, loving, triune God of Scripture. Finally, I concur with your final admonition that ‘Christ be proclaimed.” Amen!
      Phil Congdon, Pastor

  7. Mark Webster

    Very well written. I believe Jacque Ellul had some similar thoughts on this subject a number of years ago.
    It’s amazing how many parallels there are between Mohammed and Joseph Smith.

  8. Darius

    I’m an Eastern Orthodox Christian. And you are right about the many similarities between Calvinism and Islam. Calvinism and Islam do indeed teach believers that God hates sinners and that believers should do the same. On top of that, there is another major common ground between Calvinism and Islam. Both Islam and Calvinism have made theocratic governments, like ISIS and Puritan colonies respectively for example. Such theocratic states like these often executed those who disagree and unbelievers and forced their religious laws over everybody. Even today, there are few extreme Calvinists who believe in this Dominion theology, to make America a theocracy and some of those even say that God is cursing our nation with tragedies because we allow things like religious freedom and we don’t have to OT law, etc.

  9. Darius

    I’m an Orthodox Christian (Eastern Orthodox). I do see many a lot of similarities between (Fundamental) Calvinism and Islam. Both believe that God(or Allah) hates sinners and God (or Allah) commands his believers to hate the sinner. For example, this Calvinist website,, believes that God commands believers to hate sinners just like the Muslims do. if you don’t believe me, check this link for yourself: done by Dr. H Gerstner

    This perfectly explains why fundamental Calvinists, like the notorious Westboro Baptist Church go around protesting that “God hates Fags” and picket funerals of dead soldiers and people who died in tragedies, like mass shootings. They believe that anybody outside of their circle is unelect and going to hell. Every time a tragedy like a mass shooting or hurricane strikes, fundamentalist Calvinists, like the WBC, believe that God caused it because he hates sinners. The fundamental Calvinists also believe that religious freedom is unbiblical and that God is cursing our nation because we don’t put mosaic law in place. Again, don’t believe me, look this up and there are 3 parts to the article all done by a Calvinist:

    Gee, that sounds pretty much like the “moderate” Muslims, who we should have similar laws on our lands, which is of course, Sharia law.

    Furthermore, on top of the Geneva situation you explained, the Calvinists also created theocracies, like the Puritans did in England and in the American Colonies. The Puritans, like ISIS, forced religious laws down everyone’s throats and persecuted dissenters like witches, Catholics, and Anabaptists.
    Now don’t get me wrong, I understand that not all Calvinists are vile and hateful towards unbelievers and in fact many are caring towards unbelievers and give charity to them. And those Calvinists defend religious freedom. Furthermore, not all Calvinists believe in full blown Calvinism, there are 4 point Calvinists, who believe in all of Calvin’s doctrine expect for limited atonement.

    • MelRae Ambs

      I am careful not to overstate my position. For example, we should not equate Calvinists with the Westboro crowd. People of very different theological persuasions have harshly attacked those who disagree with them. Let’s be sure we don’t become guilty of the very thing we accuse others of doing!

      Phil Congdon, Pastor

      • Darius

        I am not equating the Calvinism with the Westboro Baptist Church. In fact, I know that even five-point, regular Calvinists don’t like the theology and the picketing of the WBC. Regular, five-point Calvinism believes that man has free-will, but believe only God, himself, can choose to save a man. Hyper-Calvinism, which is what the types of theology the Westboro Baptist Church believes in, believes that God basically puppets and programs men like robots. Hyper-Calvinism is different and more extreme in comparison to regular Calvinism.
        While it’s true and I acknowledge that hyper-Calvinists, like the Westboro Baptist Church, does not really represent Calvinism, they’re not the only ones who believe that God hates both that God hates both the sin and the sinner and loves only the elect. Well-known regular Calvinists, like Paul Washer, believes that God hates sinners and loves only the elect. This video is proof of that:

      • Darius

        Phil, I’m not overstating my position. As I said, many Calvinists are not radical like the WBC or the Puritans. In fact, I know some Calvinists who refute radical Calvinism.

  10. Mark David Griswold

    May I ask a question?!? I have a phenomenal friend who is a 4 point Calvinist, and we have had our share of ‘friendly'(?!?) disagreements over Calvinism. But I would like your Expert opinion on the differences between “Born Again” in the Bible AND ‘born again’ in ‘Reformed Theology’!!
    In my estimation, the ”’REFORMED”’ (‘born again’) view is a totally UN-SCRIPTURAL & HUMANist FABRICATION, making any serious adherants to it’s BELIEF UN-Christian AND UN-SAVED!!! {Referring solely to the ‘born again’ aspect!!!}
    Do you find any Merit in my Assessment?!?

    Thankyou for your thoughtful response!


    • MelRae Ambs

      Mark, I’d encourage you not to jump to conclusions about the eternal position of anyone. The vast majority of Calvinists believe Jesus died for their sins, and rose from the dead.

      Because of their theology, they may lack assurance, and are often confused about the character and nature of God, the extent of the atonement, and the place of faith and works in the gospel.

      Calvinists today (and there are many) who teach that faith and works are required to get into heaven are teaching an unbiblical gospel.


  11. James

    “But the threat of falling into some sin, and thus finding out that you were never really saved in the first place, is a ‘Damocles’ Sword’ which hangs over the head of every Calvinist.”

    This article describes Calvinists who don’t know whether they’re in the elect. Actually, the answer is no, not even the majority of Calvinists think this way. This creates a different problem. A group of people who are absolutely convinced they are “in the elect.” The outcome is a congregation that is just as smug and secure about their salvation as a works based, pelagian Southern Baptist. If you’re absolutely convinced that you’re saved, you never spiritually grow, but become frozen.

    Lately, I’m finding that the Lutherans have a solution, that salvation comes through faith, and grace and works come with. The Lutheran theology solves a lot of problems.

    • MelRae Ambs

      No honest Calvinist can know for certain they are one of the “elect” according to their own system. While I grant that most Calvinists would say they are “elect,” they cannot know this, because they cannot know for certain whether or not they will persevere in faithfulness to the end of their lives. Calvinism states that “your works confirm that you are saved.” But how many works? How consistently? How far short of perfection is ‘good enough’ to pass the test? John Piper writes (in “You Can Believe the Promises of God and Be Lost,” May 27, 2015), “It is possible to believe the promises of God, and have the assurance of salvation, and yet be lost forever.” Many Calvinists are sure of their salvation, but that is because they are inconsistent Calvinists. The consistent Calvinist can never know he or she is one of the “elect” until this life is over.

      Can someone have ‘false assurance’ that they are saved? Yes. Someone can say they believe in Jesus, and not know even what that means, or just say it to sound ‘spiritual.’ But that does not change the gospel: Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life (John 6.47). If a person believes in Jesus, they are saved. Period. Furthermore, they can know they are saved eternally (1 John 5.12-13). Believing in Jesus as Savior and knowing you are eternally saved does not lead to smugness, but gratitude, and growth.

      I’m sorry you have been exposed to so many smug or ‘cold’ Christians, but embrace grace…and discover the joy and significance there is in living as a child of God!


    • Jason

      Where is this Calvinist Church you speak of? Please let us address something real which we can find common ground to unite us as believers in Christ!

  12. Jason

    First of all, any time I read the words “Calvinism” it so often relays some idea of a cult, but the truth is that there is no such thing as organized Calvinism. I am absolutely stunned by this consistent straw man attack and furthermore, an article that attacks God fearing Christians by paralleling them to Muslims??? There is a consistent call for those who embrace Reformed Theology to refrain from demonizing Arminian views yet the Arminians who support this are allowed to speak adnauseam about something that does not “really” exist. I’m guessing it would not be appreciated if Reformed Christians paralleled Armenians to Roman Catholics?
    Lastly, for anyone who has read and studied the books of Ephesians, Philippians, Romans or James for that matter to say that Reformed theology is light on love is so appalling that all I can say is no, no, no. Pastor, we may indeed meet in Glory, but I can assure you that attacking people for their embracing of the clear teaching of scripture by demonizing certain aspects you personally disagree with is absolutely sinful. I ask you to repent of this terribly hurtful writing. One last thing, I noticed a lady commented that she couldn’t accept “Calvinism” because he killed his best friend??!! And you didn’t even think it was necessary to clarify that? John Calvin did not invent “Calvinism”!!! But, King David, a man after Gods own heart murdered a close friend too didn’t he?

  13. Jason

    The more I try to digest this, the how and why a brother, even yet a pastor could publish something so divisive to the Body of Christ is disturbing for me. Please, as a brother, I beg you to remove this article and allow this to be a one to one direct question for question conversation that we can use scripture to lay out an honest assessment of what you believe vs what Reformed Christians believe. I truly think we are much more alike than you express here in this article. Please don’t use “Calvinist” as a blanket catch phrase which doesn’t really point to any specific group. If you truly believe that Reformed Believers are akin to Muslims, I believe you are horribly wrong and you are absolutely attacking fellow Christians.

    • Augustinian Calvinism has been around for 500 years, but has intensified in recent decades, making God out to be capricious and arbitrary in “choosing” some people to be saved eternally, and others to be damned to eternal hellfire, before they are even born. In addition, no one can know they are saved because perseverance in good works is required to get into heaven, instead of believing in Jesus Christ and His finished work on the cross. The Calvinist idea that God ‘decreed’ or ‘predetermined’ everything that happens (known as Determinism) results in hopeless fatalism. All this is far removed from the God of love and grace for all mankind found in the Bible.


Comments are closed.