Evanescent Grace

Here is the Calvinist doctrine Temporal Grace, as taught by John Calvin:

John Calvin: “Let no one think that those [who] fall away...were of the predestined, called according to the purpose and truly sons of the promise. For those who appear to live piously may be called sons of God; but since they will eventually live impiously and die in that impiety, God does not call them sons in His foreknowledge. There are sons of God who do not yet appear so to us, but now do so to God; and there are those who, on account of some arrogated or temporal grace, are called so by us, but are not so to God.” (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, p.66, emphasis mine)

John Calvin: “Experience shows that the reprobate are sometimes affected in a way so similar to the elect that even in their own judgment there is no difference between them. Hence, it is not strange, that by the Apostle a taste of heavenly gifts, and by Christ himself a temporary faith is ascribed to them. Not that they truly perceive the power of spiritual grace and the sure light of faith; but the Lord, the better to convict them, and leave them without excuse, instills into their minds such a sense of goodness as can be felt without the Spirit of adoption .... there is a great resemblance and affinity between the elect of God and those who are impressed for a time with a fading faith .... Still it is correctly said, that the reprobate believe God to be propitious to them, inasmuch as they accept the gift of reconciliation, though confusedly and without due discernment; not that they are partakers of the same faith or regeneration with the children of God; but because, under a covering of hypocrisy they seem to have a principle of faith in common with them. Nor do I even deny that God illumines their mind to this extent .... there is nothing inconsistent in this with the fact of his enlightening some with a present sense of grace, which afterwards proves evanescent.” (3.2.11, Institutes, emphasis mine)

Calvin adds: “Yet sometimes he also causes those whom he illumines only for a time to partake of it; then he justly forsakes them on account of their ungratefulness and strikes them with even greater blindness.” (Institutes of Christian Religion, 3.24.8, emphasis mine)

Therefore, by “some arrogated or temporal grace,” God illumines only for a time” the alleged non-elect in order to overcome his Total Inability and thus temporarily think that he was “of the predestined.” Realize that Calvin taught the doctrine of Temporal Grace because he needed to plug a hole in his theology, such as how to explain passages such as Matthew 7:21-23, where the perishing, that is, those who are being condemned to Hell, had performed miraculous things that spiritually dead people are not supposed to be able to do, according to the Calvinistic doctrine of Total Inability. Calvins answer for such instances was a temporary grace. 

John Calvin: “Whoever has sinned, I shall delete him from the book of life. … But the meaning is simple: those are deleted from the book of life who, considered for a time to be children of God, afterwards depart to their own place, as Peter truly says about Judas (Acts 1:16). But John testifies that these never were of us (1 Jn 2:19), for if they had been, they would not have gone out from us. What John expresses briefly is set forth in more detail by Ezekiel (13:9): They will not be in the secret of My people, nor written in the catalogue of Israel. The same solution applies to Moses and Paul, desiring to be deleted from the book of life (Ex 32:32; Rom 9:3): carried away with the vehemence of their grief, they prefer to perish, if possible, rather than that the Church of God, numerous as it then was, should perish. When Christ bids His disciples rejoice because their names are written in heaven (Lk 10:20), He signifies a perpetual blessing of which they will never be deprived. In a word, Christ clearly and briefly reconciles both meanings, when He says: Every tree which My Father has not planted will be rooted up (Mt 15:13). For even the reprobate take root in appearance, and yet they are not planted by the hand of God.” (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, pp.151-152, emphasis mine) 

John Calvin comments on Hebrews 6:4-6: “...God certainly bestows His Spirit of regeneration only on the elect, and that they are distinguished from the reprobate in the fact that they are re-made in His image, and they receive the earnest of the Spirit in the hope of an inheritance to come, and by the same Spirit the Gospel is sealed in their hearts. But I do not see that this is any reason why He should not touch the reprobate with a taste of His grace, or illumine their minds with some glimmerings of His light, or affect them with some sense of His goodness, or to some extent engrave His Word in their hearts. Otherwise where would be that passing faith which Marks mentions (4.17)? Therefore there is some knowledge in the reprobate, which later vanishes away either because it drives its roots less deep than it ought to, or because it is choked and withers away.” (Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries: Hebrews and I and II Peter, p.76, emphasis mine) 

Calvinist, Mark Talbot: “Now of course, nothing, that I, nor anyone else, can say can guarantee that anyone will continue to believe. Faith is a gift of God that we cannot produce.”  (Sin and Suffering in Calvin’s World, emphasis mine)

In other words, the fact that you believe today is no guarantee that you will still believe tomorrow, or the next day, or the day after. You can only hope for the best, that your ordained fate is better than others, and that your grace is not a temporary grace, here today and gone tomorrow. Mark Talbot explicitly offers no illusion for your hope of tomorrow. There is nothing that you can do, but hope for the best. It’s completely out of your hands and completely in God’s hands. If you should find yourself an unbeliever tomorrow, your gift has run out.

One member of The Society of Evangelical Arminians: “The Calvinist’s assurance is obliterated by the fact that God ordains the illusory salvation of the seemingly-saved folks. This makes them a special sub-set of the damned. In Calvinism, God glorifies Himself by damning the ‘eternally reprobate.’ But the seemingly-saved folks have the unique privilege of ‘glorifying’ God in their earthly lives, by appearing to be saved on their way to Hell. Because God has pre-ordained this, there is nothing any apparently saved person can do. God has ordained the illusion! Of course, this brings up another question: Why is the God (who is Himself truth) ordaining such an illusion? How can God be truthful if He unconditionally pre-ordains illusions? And what kind of God could or would ordain such an illusion for the sake of His glory?” (SEA, emphasis mine)

One member of The Society of Evangelical Arminians: “For every person who has ever followed Jesus and then forsaken his name, we have to conclude that God ordained that said person would be eternally damned, but on their way to being damned, God ordains the illusion of redemption in Christ, in that they would come to know Jesusexhibit kingdom fruit, and then apostatize, all for the sake of divine glory.” (SEA, emphasis mine)

​Question: If there is a Temporal Grace, then how do Calvinists know whether this will some day apply to them?

Answer: If they stop persevering, then that is how they know, according to Calvinist, Erwin Lutzer. 

Calvinist, Erwin Lutzer: “Historic Calvinism stresses the ‘perseverance of the saints,’ namely that true believers never fall away, and if they do, it is not for long. If a person fails to continue in the faith, he is giving proof that he was never saved.” (The Doctrines That Divide, p.231, emphasis mine)

Arminian, Robert Shank: “In other words, the only real evidence of election is perseverance, and our only assurance of the certainty of persevering is—to persevere!” (Elect in the Son, p.214, emphasis mine)

Dave Hunt: “It is Calvinism that in effect offers salvation by works because it looks to works for assurance of salvation. Biblically, assurance comes by faith in the promise of eternal life in Christ made by ‘God, who cannot lie...before the world began (Titus 1:2).” (Debating Calvinism, p.416, emphasis mine)

Question: How do Calvinists know if they are of the Calvinistically elect?

Answer: They presume it. 

Walls and Dongell: “This dreadful possibility is what haunts Calvinists who struggle with the assurance and certainty of salvation. Times of moral failure and depression can easily be construed as evidence that one is not chosen after all and that God is hardening one’s heart for not responding more faithfully to his grace.” (Why I Am Not A Calvinist, p.202, emphasis mine)

Thus, the Calvinist actually has less security than the Modern Arminian who teaches Conditional Security, since the Arminian would at least be trusting in Christ for security, rather than merely presuming upon a secret election. However, Calvinists sharply disagree. But do they have a valid basis?

​Arminians are Christians by promise, knowing that God promises “eternal life” to whoever believes in His Son.

Calvinists are Christians by presumption, presuming to be “one of the elect,” and hopefully do not possess a mere Temporal Grace.

Of course, Calvinists claim that Calvinism is the only true source of confidence:

Calvinist, John Piper tweets: “I fall asleep quietly confident that I will be a believer in the morning not because of my free will but God’s free grace. ” (Tweet)

But with Calvinism, faith rests in a presumptuous and unknowable Election, in which even Calvinists admit to secretly doubting, from time to time, and especially in times of moral failure. Conversely, with Arminianism, faith rests in the sure promise of God to save anyone who believes in His Son, knowing that Jesus died for us, since He died for all. So which is a more sure ground for confidence?

John Calvin: “If we have to go back to the origin of election to make it obvious that salvation springs from Gods mercy alone, those who try to banish the doctrine are wrongly obscuring what they ought to emphasize, and eradicating true humility. Paul clearly states that it is only when salvation is attributed to undeserved election that we can know God saves whom he wills of his own good pleasure. He is under obligation to no one. Those who try to keep people from the doctrine are unfair to God and man alike, because there is no other way to humble us or to make us realize what we owe to him. There is no other sure ground for confidence.” (Institutes of Christian Religion, p.214, emphasis mine)

John Calvin: “...before the beginning of the world we were both ordained to faith and also elected to the inheritance of heavenly life. Hence arises impregnable security. The Father who gave us to the Son as His peculiar possession is stronger than all, and will not suffer us to be plucked out of His hand.”  (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, p.57, emphasis mine)

But as you are about to see, there is really no confidence at all, with this kind of doctrine:

John Calvin: “Men preposterously ask how they can be certain of a salvation which lies in the hidden counsel of God. I have replied with the truth. Since the certainty of salvation is set forth to us in Christ, it is wrong and injurious to Christ to pass over this proffered fountain of life from which supplies are available, and to toil to draw life out of the hidden recesses of God.” (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, p.126, emphasis mine)

John Calvin: “If Pighius asks how I know I am elect, I answer that Christ is more than a thousand testimonies to me.” (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, p.130, emphasis mine)

Thats his “sure ground for confidence”? The focus is shifted away from simply trusting in Christ, to hoping that one is a member of the secret “elect.” This is of foremost concern to a Calvinist:

John Calvin: “All who do not know they are God’s special people must be miserable and in constant fear.” (Institutes of Christian Religion, Book 3, Part 12, Chp. 21, Section 1, emphasis mine) 

Indeed, as Spurgeon recalls:

Calvinist, Charles Spurgeon recalls: “I frequently meet with poor souls, who are fretting and worrying themselves about this thought—‘How, if I should not be elect! ‘Oh, sir, they say, ‘I know I put my trust in Jesus; I know I believe in his name and trust in his blood; but how if I should not be elect?’ Poor dear creature! you do not know much about the gospel, or you would never talk so, for he that believes is elect. Those who are elect, are elect unto sanctification and unto faith; and if you have faith you are one of God’s elect; you may know it and ought to know it, for it is an absolute certainty. If you, as a sinner, look to Jesus Christ this morning, and say—‘Nothing in my hands I bring, Simply to thy cross I cling, you are elect. I am not afraid of election frightening poor saints or sinners.”  (Election, emphasis mine)

Here you have people who claim to trust in Jesus, but yet do not know whether they are saved, because they might not be “elect.” Spurgeons answer: “Have faith you are one of God’s elect.” Calvinists will rage that this is a mischaracterization of the faith of Calvinists, but guess what? This is documented history. Calvinists were, in fact, trusting in a process, moreso than a person. This is something unique to Calvinists. Arminians have no such such fear of an eternal draft. Arminians can simply trust in Christ.

Spurgeon concludes: “Let your hope rest on the cross of Christ. Think not on election but on Christ Jesus. Rest on Jesus—Jesus first, midst, and without end.” (Election, emphasis mine)

Exactly. The Christian perspective ought to be that of an Arminian: just trusting in Jesus.

Calvinist, D. James Kennedy: Do you know that you are elect of God, chosen of God, predestined to adoption as a child of God before the beginning of time? You can know for certain.”  (Solving Bible Mysteries, p.27, emphasis mine)

And yet, you have documented history with Spurgeons church, that Calvinists who claimed to trust in Jesus, were actually just trying to trust in an election. Arminians, on the other hand, dont believe in such an “eternal draft (God gets this one, devil gets that one, God gets this one, devil gets that one, ect). Arminians believe in “whosoever will, and therefore just trust in the promises of God for the believer in Jesus. Thus as an Arminian, my hope rests upon the promise of salvation, rather than the presumption of election, and thats the fundamental difference between a Calvinist and an Arminian.

Martin Luther: “If one fears that he is not elected or is otherwise troubled about his election, he should be thankful that he has such fear; for then he should surely know that God cannot lie when in Psalm 51:17 He says, The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise. Thus he should cheerfully cast himself on the faithfulness of God who gives this promise, and turn away from the foreknowledge of the threatening God. Then he will be saved as one that is elected. It is not the characteristic of reprobates to tremble at the secret counsel of God; but that is the characteristic of the elect.” (Commentary on Romans, p.132, emphasis mine)

But not all Calvinists draw security from that presumption:

One former Calvinist turned Atheist candidly comments: “I am really not sure I remember what came first. I think it probably began with a serious spiritual dissatisfaction with God and my life under His providential care (so I believed then). I started getting less and less out of church, so I wondered what I was doing wrong. I tried to justify my feelings by saying, God just didn’t move today. But others would occasionally seem to actually be touched by the Spirit, so I supposed. Then I started wondering if I was praying enough. I prayed more. Then I started wondering, is there unconfessed sin in my life? None that I could think of. I had (and this is deeply personal but probably not surprising at all to you) problems of lust and covetousness (not of money, but of social success and friendships and relationships and such), but these were ongoing confessions in my prayer life, with associated ups and downs but no real deliverance. I was desperately lonely and could not understand the providence of God in my life to allow not only crushing loneliness, unanswered prayers (forgot to mention, a rather big omission that) in various and numerous requests to God, but also the apostasy of near and dear friends who held devoutly to the same religion of Christianity that I held to, and the absence of saving faith in so many family members (again, more unanswered prayers) who were variously Catholic, or nominally religious at best, some not hostile but completely apathetic to religion (something I just for the life of me could not understand, especially with all the wonderful experiences in the Christian faith I had, wonderful relationships inside the church at least, at one-time a very growing and healthy spiritual life, and the like, and how could anyone not want more than the daily grind of a never-ending rat race offered by the world?). I even began doubting my election in the sovereign grace of Christ, having no real proof for it with which I could satisfy myself (and I had been given several times the spiritual tests given by Peter to see how one’s personal spiritual growth lined up with the expectation and assurance of the Scriptures, and probably other passages which I cannot remember right now).” (Why I Doubt Christianity, emphasis mine)

Of course, Scripture demonstrates that God puts the ball back in our court: “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” (James 4:8) But if you’re a Calvinist, trusting in a secret draft, you can’t be sure of whether this applies to you, as everything rests upon a precarious foundation of presumptions. 


Calvinists believe that Calvinism is biblical theology. As mind-boggling as it may seem (that Calvinists could actually think that Calvinism is in any way representative of God), the fact is that they do think this way, and there is documentation from various Calvinists that doubts over whether they are [Calvinistically] “elect” troubles them, and articles such as this can weaken their faith, and could be used by the devil. So it is important to remind Calvinists that there is security, real security, in knowing Christ and trusting in the promise of God to save whosoever believes in His Son, and that this is the only true source of confidence.

Former Calvinist, Steven Hitchcock recalls: “I had only been a Christian for about a year when I was first introduced to Calvinism. My first year as a Christian was blessed with many opportunities to work with others in evangelism as the Lord had given me a zeal for sharing the gospel. I had just returned to California from a trip to Europe where I had the privilege of meeting Christians from all over the world, when a dear Christian brother dropped a bombshell in my life - Calvinism. I had never heard of it before. My first reaction was a profound sense of awe and wonder of this view of God that emphasized His majesty above everything else. I was duly humbled before such a view of God in which I was informed that He had first chosen me and had caused me to believe. Immediately upon leaving my brother I began to experience a dark period that frequently occurs among those who have no argument against it. Some respond with anger, some with depression, but almost all experience some sort of negative feeling when first confronted with the seemingly irrefutable Scriptural arguments. A common characteristic of this dark period among initial converts to Calvinism is the personal questioning of one’s own salvation. This is because the emphasis shifts from personal faith in Jesus to a view of God holding the keys to our personal salvation in His secret counsels of eternity. The obvious implication of Calvinism for the individual is whether or not he or she is one of the elect. Did God choose me in eternity past to be one of His elect. The whole experience is like crossing a river in which you cannot feel the bottom until you are over on the other side. After a difficult period, everything seemed to change. I suddenly became a debater of Calvinism. I changed gears in my Christian life and never questioned the subtle change in my heart toward the lost. I did notice there had been a change in that area of my life. I became embarrassed about my former ‘work’ of evangelism, as it was not the ‘right way.’ I was then being taught I had been spreading a man-centered gospel, rather than a God-centered gospel. I became inculcated into a Calvinistic fellowship. I was impressed with the sense of the weighty doctrines, the earnest godliness all around me, the profound sense of fellowship, and sermons that conveyed such authority over my life from God’s Word. It was so powerful and the people all around me were so loving and earnest. The thing that was strangely missing was that there was very little emphasis on witnessing and very few, if any souls, being saved. Christians surrounded me, who like myself, had come from other churches, rather than from the world. Witnessing became awkward because now I had to explain what a Reformed Baptist was and it seemed there was a particular understanding that sinners needed to know, in addition to the gospel. The question I have is why do people want to affect you like this? Was it really that important to know about Calvinism? Why did my brother in Lord feel it was so important to enlighten me about these things? Why did I also begin to spread the word about Calvinism? Why was it so important that now it overshadowed the gospel?”  (Recanting Calvinism, pp.xxv-xxvi, emphasis mine)

Hitchcock adds: “For almost twenty years of my Christian life I have been a Calvinist. ... I was absolutely certain of the ‘doctrines of grace,’ being truly of that mindset, and yet the cause for concern is not that I have now recanted Calvinism, but that I had shifted from my original faith-centered position of the gospel when I first became a Calvinist. ... I exchanged the joy of the gospel for the glory of Calvinism when the basis of belonging was no longer faith in Jesus, but a complex brotherhood that identified itself as God’s chosen people. To be the Elect, as a Calvinist understands it, is to be one whom God has uniquely selected from out of the mass of sinful humanity. God has bestowed on the Elect a standing before Him that is glorious, because it mysteriously began in eternity regarding an insignificant, finite sinner. To imbibe Calvinism is to imbibe this new sense of glory, ironically seen as profound humility. It is everything to be one of the Elect, for it means that you are ‘in’ and bound for glory. Think of it. He chose you and not another!”  (Recanting Calvinism, p.xxvii)

When Calvinists defect, other Calvinists will say that such a person was never truly Born Again, or ever given a saving grace. So how did such a person overcome Total Inability? For the Calvinist, the doctrine of Total Inability hangs in the balance. The doctrine of Evanescent Grace solves this dilemma. However, in this testimony, the defection was only from Calvinism, and not from Christ.

Hitchcock concludes: “I am so very thankful to God that I have come back to the joy of a faith-centered gospel. How wonderfully refreshing to know that God does want everyone to be saved, that Jesus has died for all, and that faith is possible among those who are totally depraved. I call upon Calvinists to join with me in Recanting Calvinism for a Dynamic Gospel.”  (Recanting Calvinism, p.xxviii)

Here is an article on Evanescent Grace from SBC Today.

Question:  What is Evanescent Grace?

Answer:  It is the Calvinist doctrine of Temporal Grace, in which God overcomes a non-elect persons Total Depravity and Total Inability, by giving them an Effectual Grace or Irresistible Grace, but only temporarily until God later withdraws that grace. Calvinists often denounce the doctrine, but fail to consider why Calvin needed it.