Calvinism and the Rich, Luke 18:18-25

18 And a certain ruler asked Him, saying, Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?
19 And Jesus said to him, Why do you call me good? None is good, except God alone.
20 You know the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.
21And he said, All these things have I observed from my youth up.
22 And when Jesus heard it, He said to him, One thing you still lack: sell all that you have, and distribute to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven: and come, follow Me.
23But when he heard these things, he became exceeding sorrowful; for he was very rich.
24 And Jesus seeing him said, How hard it is for those who have riches to enter into the kingdom of God!
25 For it is easier for a camel to enter in through a needle’s eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. (Luke 18:18-25)

According to Calvinism, God has elected His people unconditionally. But here Jesus clearly states that it’s difficult for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God (verses 24 & 25). If Calvinism’s unconditional election is true, then what difference does it make whether a person is rich or not? The truth is, it wouldn’t make any difference at all. Would they have us believe that it’s harder for God to regenerate a rich person than a poor person? Here is another case where the election of Calvinism simply makes no sense.

Doesn’t this passage make much more sense when viewed from the Arminian perspective? Doesn’t it make much more sense that receiving the truth unto salvation is actually conditional, a matter of individual freedom to choose?

The Bible teaches that in order to be saved, we must be willing to humble ourselves in faith. What’s the issue with the rich man in this passage? The issue is pride. The issue is his wealth. Rich people tend to put their trust in their riches. In this particular case, the rich man was not willing to give up his riches. Matthew 19:22 tells us that he walked away.

What this passage teaches, is that when a person comes to Christ, they must be willing to surrender their will to the will of God. Saving faith is accompanied by humility, a willingness to turn from going our own way, to go God’s way. The rich man in this passage was not willing to do that. It was a demonstration of pride. Pride is what keeps people from coming to Jesus. Thus salvation is conditioned on a person’s willingness to humble himself before God.

This humble faith that Jesus describes here, is the condition of salvation. As the gospel of Christ is presented, as the Holy Spirit works in our hearts, convicts us of our sins, opens our eyes to the truth, we must be willing to respond in humility and faith as the Holy Spirit enables us. As you can see, Arminian theology is in perfect harmony with what we see in this passage of Scripture.

On the other hand, Calvinism is quite at odds with it. I don’t know how they can honestly harmonize this passage with their theology. I believe this is another example of where they have to scramble to try to figure out a way to do that. I believe this puts them in a position where they must try to force it to conform to their position in some way that is not at all natural or sensible. But even then, I don’t see how they can.

For example, if they say that God gives His elect the needed humility, then that would violate God’s universal law regarding pride and humility. Both Peter and James say the same thing about this:

“God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (1 Pet 5:5)

“God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6)

If God chooses unconditionally, and draws His elect irresistibly, thereby regenerating them and giving them the needed humility and faith, then that would require God to violate His own law regarding pride and humility. Here’s how. To regenerate a person is totally the grace of God. However, Peter and James is clear that God will not do that unless a person first humbles himself. However, according to Calvinism, a person is not able to humble himself in their dead, unregenerate state. Therefore, Calvinism has God giving humility in order to be able to exercise humility.

Let me simplify this:

God only gives grace to the humble.

Calvinism teaches that people are unable to humble themselves in their dead, unregenerate state. So Calvinism says that God must first regenerate them so they can.

However, Calvinism says that regeneration is totally the grace of God.

Therefore, Calvinism has God giving grace in the form of regeneration (which includes humility and faith) before a person humbles himself.

In other words, Calvinism has God providing humility so a person can exercise humility!

How does a Calvinist sensibly explain this? There’s simply no way that they can. On top of that, they still have to provide an adequate answer for what Jesus said about the difficultly of the rich getting into the Kingdom of God. If God elects unconditionally, then why would being rich provide any kind of hindrance to that? If they agree that pride is the issue, then they have to be able answer how God could violate His own law about pride and humility. For God can’t give to the prideful His grace (in the form of regeneration) without violating James 4:6 and 1 Peter 5:5.

The reality is, if the election of Calvinism is true, then God must violate His own law regarding pride and humility. There’s just no getting around that. However, God is consistent and true to Himself. Truth always has all of God’s attributes and laws working in perfect harmony with one another.