It appears to me that the so-called "Doctrines of Grace" contain a practical contradiction. The T in TULIP states that the reprobate (and even the unregenerate elect) are zealous in their hatred of God. The reprobate completely and totally despise God with their words, thoughts, actions, etc. The P in TULIP states that all of God's elect will be regenerated and will persevere in faith unto death. Now these two points do not seem contradictory in and of themselves, but what of the subject of apostasy? From Biblical texts and our own experience, we come to understand that some people who appear to love God eventually lose interest for one reason or another and fall away from the faith. Jesus even speaks of such people, who accept the gospel with great joy, only to eventually fall back into the world because they get busy and distracted with the cares of daily life.

It is a typical Calvinist response to simply say that those people were never saved to begin with. Fair enough, but if they were never saved, then they were never regenerate, and if they were never regenerate then they must experience vicious hatred towards God according to TULIP's T. So what would compel a reprobate hater of God to go to church, read their Bible, pray fervently, ask God for forgiveness of sins, get baptized, etc. These do not seem to be actions of people who despise God. Why would a reprobate man experience joy upon hearing the gospel, as Jesus plainly stated?

To Calvin's credit, he attempted to plug this hole by coming up with a doctrine called evanescent grace. Roughly speaking, God in his good pleasure, actively causes a deception to fall upon some reprobate men, which gives them a fleeting desire to worship him and follow Christ. However, this false faith is never the 'real deal' and at the appointed time, God removes the illusion and leaves the man in a worse state than he began. This gives God all the more justification to judge the man to death and condemnation.

Understandably, Calvinists do not appear to have endeared themselves to this doctrine. I'd venture to say that many Calvinists have never ever heard of it. But if a Calvinist does not subscribe to evanescent grace, then there must be some other explanation as to what would compel a God-hating reprobate to praise the name of Jesus Christ, even if only for a limited period of time. What explanations, other than evanescent grace, have Calvinists posited to solve this seeming contradiction in their theology?

Our natural, fallen inner disposition is to hate the God of the Bible – the true and living God who created us – and to replace Him with gods (or “concepts of god”) more to our liking. -- http://lakeopc.net/2017/calvinism-101-total-depravity/

Total Depravity means that every sinner is possessed with a nature, inherited from Adam's fall, that is completely hostile toward God. We were all born with a "positive" aversion to God and His authority. By nature, every sinner wants "his own way." Romans 8:7 makes this fact very clear. "The sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so." -- https://www.monergism.com/doctrine-total-depravity

But a man who is totally depraved can not will to be saved. He hates God and wants nothing to do with Christ's death. So it must not be said that Christ died for all men. -- http://www.prca.org/pamphlets/pamphlet_41.html

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    Do you have a reference that Total Depravity means "zealous in their hatred of God"? I'm thinking of how to respond, and it would help to have more concrete references for what you've written here.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Jun 28, 2019 at 23:23
  • I've added a few quotes. I could probably do better but am a little short on time.
    – pr871
    Commented Jun 28, 2019 at 23:41
  • This blog article about the consequence of Evanescent Grace in the Calvinist system brings into a sharper relief the concern that the OP presents here. It's rather snarky and possibly offensive to Calvinists, but helpful and I think quite faithful to the Calvinist position, showing the weakness of the system. John Piper gave an excellent explanation of prevenient grace but unfortunately didn't address this Evanescent grace issue. Commented Nov 13, 2019 at 5:16
  • We need a biblical understanding of hatred. We cannot be a disciple unless we hate mother, father, sister, etc. This does not describe some zealous, active, passion filled enmity; it describes disordered affections: If God is not first it is hatred. Not only is sin deceitful but the human heart also is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. It is possible to deceive oneself into believing that we belong to God and there is no need of Evanescent Grace to explain it. "Lord, Lord, haven't we done all kinds of great stuff in your name? Depart from me, I never knew you!" Commented Apr 11, 2020 at 12:50
  • "Ecclesia Reformata, Semper Reformanda" has long been forgotten or "done away" by the reformed traditions, and so has "sola Scriptura." As the saying goes, even the best gets wrong," I might add " got wrong, gets wrong, and will get wrong." If we truly hold those wonderful tradition of the Reformers, we should NOT be afraid of ridicules and intimidation , but humbly submit to the Holy Scripture for its Elenctic examinations!
    – Sam
    Commented Jun 4, 2020 at 0:26

5 Answers 5


Total depravity is not itself a zealous hatred of God, but an emphasis on the entire corruption of the whole person. Every faculty of the sinner has been corrupted by the fall. Nevertheless, unregenerate sinners hate God at different degrees, while regenerate sinners retain their sinful natures until glorification wherein there is a conflict between the new man and the old man, which explains why the regenerate still sin.

When we meet unregenerate people who by ordinary standards are nice people, we can be sure that God's grace is restraining their evil natures, and even recognize with thanksgiving the good that the unregenerate does at times, receiving it as it were by the hand of the Lord.

A falsely converted person may well have received real grace, just not regenerating grace. They would be all the more likely to receive these restraining graces because of their entry into the church where God's law will be taught and they will have godly examples from others.

Once clarifying our definitions, it appears the objection is now gone.


You ask,"Why would a reprobate man experience joy upon hearing the gospel"? When the children of Israel saw God's deliverance at the crossing of the Red Sea their minds were mightily impressed. They thought God is with us we will sing to Him. Exodus 15v1. . Was this spiritual rejoicing at being born again or intellectual and emotional rejoicing at not being killed? I will not try to answer that here but as I understand it intellectual and emotional rejoicing are valid forms of rejoicing. Knowing about God might lead to intellectual joy and deeds such as trying to be honest, and to "faith" based on intellectual arguments. But only spiritual rebirth can lead to faith which is based on knowing God. John 17v3 "this is eternal life that they may know you, the only true God". Here knowing is first hand spiritual knowing God, not second hand intellectual knowing about.


I'm not entirely sure what the precise question is here, but I can offer some guidance that might clear it up for you. It appears you are conflating "Total" depravity with "Utter" depravity. The depravity of man is not such that he always does the most morally reprehensible thing imaginable, his nature is not corrupted to the uttermost; rather every action he does do is morally reprehensible in some way, his nature is totally (wholly) corrupt.

So a lost person may profess faith falsely and may partake outwardly of things Scripture calls good, but in his heart these actions are done for reasons which oppose God in some way.

  • No, I have not conflated 'total' depravity with 'utter' depravity. I recognize that Calvinists do not teach that men are as evil as they could be or that men are completely without conscience. However, it is a fundamental tenet of Calvinism that unregenerate men hate God and do not desire to be in God's presence. If this is not the case, then there is no necessity for irresistible grace or supernatural regeneration. Christ-worshipping reprobates are an oxymoron according to Calvinism, and yet they exist. Why is that? Calvin said 'evanescent grace'. What do other Calvinists say?
    – pr871
    Commented Jul 3, 2019 at 19:01

In Matthew 25, Jesus tells the parable of the Talents:

14 “For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants[c] and entrusted to them his property. 15 To one he gave five talents,[d] to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. 16 He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. 17 So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. 18 But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master's money. 19 Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. 20 And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here, I have made five talents more.’ 21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.[e] You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ 22 And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here, I have made two talents more.’ 23 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ 24 He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, 25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here, you have what is yours.’ 26 But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? 27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. 28 So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. 29 For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 30 And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

I like to connect this parable to the parable of the soils. God gave to people representing the first three soils some talents. The first rejected the gift immediately (the bird snatched it). That person represents one who is not even one of the Lord's servants. The next two soils (rocky and thorny) correspond to the person who hid their talent. That person was a servant (his initial gift was spiritual, seeming to some to be true salvation) but did not use what was entrusted to him to produce a return on the investment. His place will be taken from him. He failed the test. That test was to prove whether or not he was a faithful servant, not just a servant.

In the parable of the soils, no one disputes that the soils are soil, just whether they are good soil or not. Likewise, no one disputes that the man in the parable of the talents was a servant, just whether he was a good servant or a bad one.

I see that there are these categories of people:

1) Never interested in the Gospel (no question of saved then lost it)

2) Professing Christians who have not been tested (maybe saved, maybe not)

3) Professing Christians who have been tested and passed (saved, and now with full assurance)

4) Professing Christians who have been tested and failed, proving they were never really saved

5) Professing Christians who have been tested and failed, seem to have wandered from the faith, but eventually pass a later test and return to the faith.

  • Before a Christian has been tested, no one but God can tell if one is truly saved.

  • If a Christian has been tested and fails, I believe the rest of their life may be one long test which may eventually reveal their true state.

  • Telling the difference between categories four and five is not something that we on Earth can do. Jesus wanders far and wide to find his lost sheep. Some take lots of time.

Before reading this question, I had never heard an explanation of prevenient grace. I think that the talents given to the servants by the master include spiritual gifts short of salvation which enable such people to contribute to God's work in this world. Those talents may be prevenient Grace short of salvation for the one-talent receivers or full and permanent salvation for the two and three-talent receivers. It is not that God deceived anyone; he merely gave less to some than to others, according to his soveraign plan. What's more, he told us that he was going to do that, and it sure looks like that is what is happening.

  • You quote Matthew 25, not Matthew 5. Commented Nov 12, 2019 at 15:13
  • John Piper's explanation of prevenient grace is excellent; helps me understand the core difference between Calvinism (with "all the way" irresistible grace) and Arminianism (with partial regeneration that allows a sinner to have genuine free will to reject or accept the gospel). Unfortunately, he doesn't touch Calvin's notion of evanescent grace. Prevenient is Arminian term (meaning restoring freedom of will from depravity) and evanescent is Calvinist term (meaning the delusory, ephemeral grace). Commented Nov 13, 2019 at 3:57

The Total Depravity angle you mentioned is a red herring, as John Piper clearly explained in his answer about the Arminian concept of prevenient grace that both the genuine and pseudo-elect believers have been given grace by God to overcome their Total Depravity by having their freedom of will restored from the Fall so they can respond to the gospel positively. The difference is that the pseudo-elect receives only prevenient ("preparatory") grace while the genuine elect receives "full" grace that last him/her to persevere to the end. At the point of receiving the gospel, both genuine and pseudo-elect can exhibit genuine faith, behaviors, and even some forms of inner joy & peace. The issue is what happens afterwards.

Mr. Bultitude already wrote an extensive answer to a related question about assurance of salvation which I think can be used as an alternative to using the concept of evanescent grace to explain how a pseudo elect, which in God's eyes is a reprobate, can experience subjective pseudo assurance of salvation. (A reprobate by definition is someone whom God doesn't choose as one of the elect). His answer is because the pseudo-elect / reprobate mistakenly use "unstable grounds of assurance" to think that he/she is one of the elect. In other words, the reprobate deceives him/herself.

What to do about John Calvin's solution of evanescent grace (in his book The Institutes Of Christian Religion), which is a solution framed in terms of what God does to the believer, which come across as a deception to unsuspecting believers? Like you mention, Calvinists tend to stay away from that solution. It looks like later development of Calvinism solved the problem differently, as Mr. Bultitude quote teachings from various Reformed confessions. So the apparent contradiction you feel, as well as pointed out in articles such as this one, has been resolved by removing the necessity of believing that God purposely deceives some of the reprobates by letting them to feel as though they are the elect. Again, the solution is that a believer needs to be very careful in distinguishing true from false assurance, as Mr. Bultitude describes in detail in his answer. Mr. Bultitude also reminds us that Calvinism teaches that 1) only the elect can have that experience of full assurance, and 2) the full assurance may not come immediately.

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