And Jesus said to His disciples, “Truly I say to you, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” When the disciples heard this, they were very astonished and said, “Then who can be saved?” And looking at them Jesus said to them, “With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
According to Calvinism, it’s not only “possible,” but it’s also easy: Irresistible Grace.
One member of The Society of Evangelical Arminians explains: “How ‘hard’ is it to be irresistibly regenerated unto faith, repentance and salvation, thus entering the kingdom of heaven?” (SEA) Another member of The Society of Evangelical Arminians states: “If we are to believe in the Calvinist doctrine of ‘irresistible grace’, then why should it be any harder for a rich man to be saved? Surely God could simply regenerate them with the same ease that He regenerates poor people?” (SEA)
Calvin-bot-2000: Anyone who understands the fallen state of man, in deadness and sins, and in utter dependence upon God for divine mercy, through sovereign grace, certainly has no problem with recognizing the difficulty of fallen man to come to Christ.
But Calvin-bot, while I understand that fallen man is subject to the depraved nature, and is totally reliant upon the grace of God for mercy, since this verse states that it is harder for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God, doesn’t it stand to reason, then, that it is conversely easier for a poor man to enter the kingdom of God, and if not, then what is the point of connecting wealth with conversion? And how would it be easier? It would be easier, generally speaking, because a less wealthy person would be less attached to the things of this world, and hence less resistant to the preceding grace of God, which convicts a person of their sins and instills a need for a Savior.
In a parallel passage, Mark 10:21 states: “Looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him and said to him, ‘One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.’” Jesus was pointing out that a man’s heart can controlled by his riches. Jesus also said, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21)
John Calvin comments: “But these men although they were afraid and wanting to know who can be saved, do not swerve from Him but desire to conquer their despair. … Thus He helped men’s weakness wisely, not attributing anything to them, but rousing their minds to the hope of God’s grace.” (Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries, A Harmony of the Gospels: Matthew, Mark and Luke, Vol. II, p.260, emphasis mine)
Did Calvin deem it “wise” that the Lord did not answer their question of “who can be saved” with an explanation on Irresistible Grace and Election? Again, if the Lord’s disciples had been taught Calvinism, then why did they ask that question? Clearly, the disciples envisioned one common class of the “lost” (Luke 19:10), rather than two classes of the eternally elect sheep vs. eternally non-elect goats.
The Calvinist’s interpretation for it being more difficult for a rich man to be saved must be that God predestines an individual’s wealth/poverty status so that He can use it as a basis for election.
Steven Hitchcock comments: “Jesus here says that it is hard for a rich man to become saved. If the doctrine of Total Depravity, as the Calvinist maintains it, is correct then Jesus’ words are meaningless. For whether you are rich or poor is of no significance for all are equally incapable. On the contrary, our particular relationship with sin does make a huge difference. For the Rich Young Ruler, Jesus expressly states, it was specifically his love of wealth that prevented him from entering the kingdom of heaven. And so Jesus can make the general statement that for a rich man it is hard to enter the kingdom of heaven, as opposed to those less materially fortunate.” (Recanting Calvinism, p. 212, emphasis mine)