Trinitarian Christianity leads to... Calv? Kath? (Arm? {g})


Luke, one of our new members, explains in a comment here that “you [Alex] are able to be a Christian and a Universalist because you don’t deny things like the resurrection and the Trinity and you affirm that salvation comes from Christ alone. However my ‘reformed/Calvinist’ mindset sees the chain of consequences and wants you to see it also.”

So I thought I would set up a thread for Luke, if he wants (and has the time and energy), to discuss why he thinks Calvinistic soteriology, distinct from Katholic (universalistic, not Roman Catholic) soteriology, follows logically from trinitarian Christianity (plus apparently from the fact of the resurrection of Christ, and from the principle that salvation comes from Christ alone).

My own argument for universalism from ortho-trin can be found formally summarized in this thread, for comparison.

Any Arminianistic proponents (Protestant or otherwise) are welcome to take a shot along this line as well, if you consider one or another type of Arm soteriology to follow logically from trinitarian Christianity.

Trinitarian Christianity leads to Universalism? (Or not?)
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Pastor Neal Punt and his website

I’m curious, are you looking for an overview of Calvinism, or my answer to the question: is Calvinism Trinitarian? Which sounds loaded, implying that it’s not and I need to explain why. The other related difficulty I have is the assumption your position is somehow “orthodox” while Calvinism needs to be shown to be “orthodox”.

Calvinism, like Roman Catholic theology, or like Arminianism is merely the label given to a particular way of interpreting the Scriptures. Calvinism like Roman Catholicism etc would trace it’s authority back to the Patristic Fathers and like each of these streams of interpretation would hold up some authors as representative.

Everyone has a system of interpretation, no-one has a pure inside track of understanding Scripture more clearly then one of the other interpretative streams. That’s why we argue about church history and Scripture, and not about personal experience because were all trying to defend, explain and deepen our particular interpretation. The only non-viable position is to argue you don’t have an interpretative position.

Interestingly the question seems to be what place does universalism have in the wider Christian interpretive tradition. Is it Evangelical, Calvinist or Arminian? Are the differences so great it needs its own interpretative framework? These are big legitimate questions, which I’d prefer to debate.


Finally catching up on this thread after several months! whew…

I thought I was pretty clear what I was asking for. To recap from the comment I was linking to, you had written (to Alex), “[Y]ou are able to be a Christian and a Universalist because you don’t deny things like the resurrection and the Trinity and you affirm that salvation comes from Christ alone.” You then continued (my bolding for emphasis), "However my “reformed/Calvinist” mindset sees the chain of consequences and wants you to see it also. If you were a non-Christian, I would share the motivation of all Christians (Calvinist of not) in seeing you become a Christian. However my particular desire to debate the particulars of universalism comes (I believe) from my desire to follow my “Calvinism” to it’s natural destination.

This looks rather like you think Calvinism follows logically from holding to the doctrines of orthodox trinitarian theism per se (under which set I would include doctrines such as the resurrection and salvation from Christ alone.)

This interested me, because I first came to believe universalism to be true (I thought, and still think) by following out the implications of ortho-trin to their logical conclusion (a position I have frequently brought up in this forum. Including as justification for why I engage in ortho-trin apologetics per se on this forum, such as the huge BSM series of threads: because I think the precepts, when put together, lead to one or another kind of universalistic soteriology.) Whereas, I have rarely ever seen non-universalists defend Calv or Arm soteriology in anything more than an occasional piecemeal fashion as following logically from holding to ortho-trin theology.

Therefore, I set up this thread to provide Calv (or Arm) guests, you first of all (if you wanted), to provide some extensive argumentation on how Calv (or Arm) soteriology follows logically from holding to ortho-trin. Relatedly, I provided a link to a post where I argued formally for Universalist soteriology (of one or another kind) following logically from precepts of ortho-trin theology, for sake of comparison.

Possibly I misunderstood you, though, about whether you thought Calv soteriology follows logically from ortho-trin. Maybe you meant something else?

At any rate I am not (formally speaking) “assuming” universalism is theologically orthodox; I arrived at it (rightly or wrongly) from ortho-trin. I will say that I have often found Arms and Calvs both holding to positions, as part of effectively denying universal salvation, that explicitly or implicitly contravene doctrines of ortho-trin. The common denial by Calvs that God is essentially love, is one example–that denial is something I would strenuously oppose as a trinitarian Christian theologian and apologist, even if I wasn’t also a universalist. In effect it denies that God is, in His own active self-existence, a self-begetting self-begotten interpersonal unity. If God is essentially trinitarian (or even only binitarian) then God is essentially love; if God is not essentially love but only occasionally does love, then God is not essentially trinitarian (or even only binitarian) either, in which case some kind of modalism or Arianism must be true.

The question of whether God is essentially love, or not, is a hugely important issue for me as someone who believes trinitarian theism to be true. (Also in the Patristic tradition, going back at least as far as Augustine, where affirming this was hugely important to his trinitarian theology, and maybe as far back as Athanasius–although Bulgakov seems to think the issue only sporadically arises in Patristic theology from Ath up to Aug.) But that wasn’t what I wanted to focus on (not primarily anyway) for this thread. I already talk a lot about how I find universalism to follow logically from ortho-trin, and I wanted to give visiting Calvs and Arms (not just Kaths like myself) an opportunity to do the same thing.

Thus this thread. :slight_smile:

A worthy question, too; but not what I was after in setting up this thread. :slight_smile:


I see, I misread your question. “*Does Calvinism flow naturally from Trinitarian Christianity?” * I believe it does and am willing to enter into a limited defense with a number of caveats. I prefer posting and reading shorter posts. Secondly, Calvinism is a broad theological movement but within that context I’d personally take predestination (election and reprobation) as it’s defining theological feature. The Father chooses a redeemed people as a gift for his Son, who sacrifices himself obediently in order that the Holy Spirit may transform these people to participate (as far there creatureliness will permit them) in the divine fellowship of God. Thirdly, I also reject the idea that God’s essential characteristic is “love” because it overemphasis one characteristic at the expense of the others and threatens the distinctive and ordered nature of the Godhead. Finally, I’m debating for cousin Alex’s sake, in order to show him that traditional theology still has good answers to the questions universalism raises.


Hi Luke, was just passing by this thread and saw this statement from you. I know a lot of people, especially Calvinists, that feel this same way, that we should not overemphasize love as God’s main characteristic at the expense of the others, like His justice. They see God’s love and justice as being in opposition. Maybe I shouldn’t say this? Forgive me, it’s almost too predictable that you might feel the same? Perhaps, though, there is something different to your view? It seems we’re so influenced in our understanding of the nature of God from what we’ve been exposed to in our reading and as we interpret it with the help of surrounding influential teachers.

Someone that’s greatly influenced me is Thomas Talbott. In Thomas Talbott’s book, The Inescapeable Love of God , he makes a good case for why God’s justice, love, mercy, are united in purpose, that everything God’s justice requires God’s love also requires. It was a revolutionary concept for me, one I’d never heard. After studying it, It opened my eyes to see how the word justice in the OT was not God treating people just as they deserved, but desiring to see them be made whole. And, of course, there are all the references to justice being to care for the poor, etc. and that we should follow the way of justice, which I assume is to love our enemies.

If you have not read him he’s an interesting read. And there is all kinds of free stuff he’s written on the net. From what I gather, without reading closer, you are a Calvinist? Maybe not, but if you are, I really enjoyed reading a discussion he had with Piper. Maybe you are familiar with Piper? In that discussion I especially liked Talbott’s read of Romans Chapters 9-11. If you are interested, I’ll have to see if I can get the link. It’s probably on the site somewhere. I apologize this is totally off the subject of Trinitarianism.

Even as I understand God’s love, as everything, I’m able to take more seriously his disdain for sin and the consequences that are needed for correction. I strongly disagree that to uphold love is to do so at the expense of other characteristics. I think this is a serious misjudgement, although I understand how it happens.

Whenever I read Paul’s words that it’s God’s love that compels us, I’m encouraged that love, indeed, is everything! I’m also struck with the fact that it says God IS love and never does it say God IS wrath, though I’d agree he judges and there are consequences as a result of our sin. This may mean little to you and is probably nothing as significant as the whole of the scripture that I think testifies to the faithful love God has for his creation as he seeks to reconcile it all. Col. 1:20.

I think it’s nice that you take an interest in dialoguing here, for your cousin’s sake. That’s very thoughtful! You all are great people!! I wish I had a cousin that would dialogue about these things, really. It’s great to be able to talk calmly about our convictions, even as we feel passionately that our own are the correct ones.


Thanks, that’s very kind of you :sunglasses:

Amy, here are Luke’s reviews of Talbott’s book:
Part 1 post-apocalyptictheology.blogspo … -love.html
Part 2: post-apocalyptictheology.blogspo … n-two.html

I like your post Amy and think it presents some good points.


Alex, wonderful! I haven’t had anyone really read the book, much less engage it! Thanks for the links! I’m looking forward to reading them. I wonder if Luke, though, has seen that article between Piper and Talbott? Maybe he’s not interested. That was one of the best articles, ever, and stands out in my mind as a must read, especially for a Calvinist.

I think what I left out of the my previous post, as I think about it, is not only does our view not cheat, or cheapen, any of God’s characteristics it brings them together and makes sense of them. This, for me, is the draw and the strength of evangelical universalism, that we understand God has wrath, but it’s for a purpose, and not at the expense of contradicting his love, sacrificing the full empact of that characteristic. I’m looking forward to seeing how Luke handles that.


I’m not sure how that counts as a “caveat” per se, but as a detail it’s certainly appreciated. :slight_smile: I’ll be getting back to it in a moment.

I don’t think I disagree with any clause or phrase of that. Moreover (and in regard to why I set up this thread :wink: ), I’m pretty sure I could derive this eventually from the precepts of trinitarian theism.

So obviously this is not yet the defining theological feature of Calvinism (broadly or otherwise), even if Calvs tend to specially stress it compared to Arms (who don’t deny it either.)

Nor would persistence of this transformative act in regard to those elected for salvation be the defining theological feature–since obviously Kaths share that doctrine with Calvs. (Though that’s a defining feature for both of us compared to Arms, who deny the persistence of God for at least some of those He acts to save.)

I notice you included reprobation (meaning the opposite of re-probation, of course, because that would be setting free from imprisonment, or salvation :wink: ) as part of the predestination package, although you didn’t talk about it when discussing predestination. Maybe it’s reprobation (as you understand it) that’s the defining feature of Calvinism broadly, then, compared to Kath or Arm soteriology?

If so (or even if you don’t think it’s the defining difference but still affirm the doctrine), then the question with regard to this thread is how (or if?) you see God’s non-salvific sovereign choice of ‘reprobation’ following logically from the doctrinal set of trinitarian theism per se. (Not only from supernaturalistic theism, which could be mere monotheism like Muslims or non-Christian Jews or unitarian Christians or modalist Christians would have it.)

Not sure how that counts as a “caveat” either, but obviously it’s a hugely important doctrinal distinction that’s logically prior to questions of salvation and which logically affects soteriology.

So, again along the thrust of this thread: how do you see this rejection of God being essentially love (not merely that God’s essential characteristic is love–which is not what I, as a trinitarian theist instead of any other kind of theist, am primarily claiming) following from the doctrinal precepts of trinitarian theism per se (compared to any other kind of theism)? Or, do you think that a denial of “God being essentially love” doesn’t follow from the doctrinal precepts of trinitarian theism per se, but you still affirm it anyway?

And for purposes of this thread, that would be “in order to show him that orthodox trinitarian theism still has good answers, as ortho-trin (and not as some other theistic doctrinal set), to the questions universalism raises.”

Proceed! :slight_smile:


Am I correct that Gene has provided a clean copy of the Piper-Talbott debate on this side?


Here is the article Bob Wilson is referring to.


Thanks Aug, I was about to post that link.

For Luke to continue to participate in this thread, I think he wants shorter post. Please try to keep your posts, no matter how good :slight_smile: , to the size of the post composer box. i.e. 15 lines (I think quotes don’t count)


Thanks Alex for your concern, I’ve just pumped out a long one now, so I don’t want to be a hypocrite, but shorter is sweeter.

I’m aware my description of the how God has revealed himself would be acceptable to many Christians of many denominations, universalist or otherwise. Affirming the doctrine of the Trinity in belief and practice is one of the defining aspects a being a Christian. While clearly all true doctrine has it’s source in the Trinity it’s often unnecessary to trace it formally back to the Trinity itself because we have it spelled out in the recorded words and actions of the Trinity. Furthermore we shouldn’t be too hasty in collapsing all doctrine back into the Godhead, while the immanent and the economic Trinity are the same, God is not part of history[doctrine]. If Calvinism is true it will be naturally Trinitarian because it’s based on the recorded words and actions of the Trinity!

‘God = love’ is a true but incomplete statement and if made absolute, a wrong statement. If God is essentially anything, he is being: “I AM” (Exodus 3:14). However I don’t have a problem with love and justice being essential characteristics of God. So universalism can appeal to one of God’s characteristics but this characteristic can’t be made his defining identity.

So I’m currently understanding the question then as: is reprobation an un-Trinitarian idea?


Hey Alex, I had one of two of the shortest posts on the thread so you keep your short :laughing:

On a serious note, I’m with Luke, it’s hard to read a 400 paragraph post only for you to write a 1 line question which returns another 300 paragraph post only for you to write a 2 line question only to get a 400 pargaraph answer.

Keep em short and keep em focused.

Also, We could move this into the Guest dialogues and which would restrict JP, Luke, Alex and Bob Wilson - 3 on 1 is better than 24 on 1. Or if Luke would like to engage one person to demonstrate for Alex the false assertions of Universalism that would be fine too.

Just an Idea.



:laughing: I better :sunglasses:

I think we need a nodding smilie, as I find myself writing “I agree” very often!

Excellent idea. As JP started the topic, I think it should be just Luke & him. What do you think Luke?


No, it’s an important discussion, I’d prefer to keep it open to everyone. If more people jump in I trust the moderators to keep the discussion focused on the original question/s.


Very well, open it is, but I’ll ask everyone to stay targeted and keep the questions to a mim. unless it’s a humdinger :slight_smile: Seriously Luke can only handle a few at a time so I think posting your ideas would be benfecial but try not to overload with too many questions.

As for Luke, well heak he looks so calm and cool with that cig. in his mouth.


Well, my answer to “Trinitarian Christianity leads [most naturally] to…” would be Kath, for the following reasons:

]Within the Trinity there are only loving relationships and no everlasting conscious torment of any member of the Trinity./]

]There is submission in the Trinity, but only out of love. i.e. God the Father hasn’t suppressed Jesus but Jesus willingly and joyfully submits. Likewise I would expect perfect submission outside of the Trinity to necessarily mirror Jesus’ submission of complete heart, mind and body./]

]God purposely uses the analogy of “Father & Son” in the Trinity to highlight that this type of relationship is extremely important to Him. i.e. so much so that He will eventually bring everyone into this type of relationship with him./]


Alex, we have to be careful reading things back into the Trinity, us human-creatures desire to be loved and to love, however the Godhead is self sufficient, while he loves, He has no need to be loved. This means that even a single redeemed person is a gift from the Father to the Son. Furthermore while the immanent and the economic Trinity are the same, we have to also maintain the “otherness” (holiness being God’s goodness and otherness) of God.


I agree, but I’m honestly not sure which one of these is reading something back into the Trinity? :confused:

I agree He does not need to be loved, that doesn’t mean He doesn’t like/want beings to love Him.

Nods (I still can’t find a good nodding smiley!). How much more a gift is all people, redeemed :mrgreen:

Sure, I think I follow what you mean :sunglasses:


But this implies that God is lacking something, that he needs or wants more than he already has in the Godhead. Even a few redeemed people are unnecessary to make God greater, he is entirely self-sufficient. That’s a really important point. There is no Trinitarian need for God to save everyone.

(What I mean by reading things back into the Trinity is being careful not to say it’s like this on earth therefore it must be like that in the Godhead. Instead we should say it is revealed to us like this therefore it’s like this or should be like this on earth. That’s what I meant by his “otherness”, the parallels between my relationship with my daughter and God with us don’t quite work.)