You Can’t be Both Pre-Trib and Calvinist

If you are a Calvinist:

  • you believe that God has “elected” or “chosen” those who would be saved from before the foundation of the world.
  • you believe that those whom God has chosen have been predestined to respond to the gospel when God woos them.
  • you believe that salvation comes entirely without regard to human works or merit.
  • you believe that “elect” and “true followers of Jesus” are two ways of describing only one group.

If you are Pre-Trib:

  • you believe that the rapture event will remove from earth all who are followers of Jesus.
  • you believe that after the rapture event, the Tribulation will involve the salvation of some and their subsequent persecution.

The Contradiction

These two positions are in contradiction to each other because the Calvinist must believe that those saved before the rapture and those saved after the rapture are part of the same group God elected before the foundation of the world. The only difference between the two would be the timing of God’s effort at wooing them or the timing of their willing response to his call.

The former case would indicate that God had specifically not wooed some of his elect in time for them to join in the rapture of the rest of the saints (as if God were showing favoritism to one group of his followers)

The latter case indicates that participation in the rapture event, unlike salvation, depends upon the timing of a person’s response to the gospel which seems close to a works-based system.

To be both Calvinistic and Pre-Trib a person must believe that the rapture is an event for only some of the elect either by their own merit or by God’s favoritism among them. Both options are distasteful for the majority of Calvinists.

However, I’d like to hear what other people have to say on this. Your comments are welcome and encouraged!

Update (Aug 1, 2009)

I apologize for sending this post out before without the support of any specific biblical text. The contradiction as I see it from the Bible comes from the juxtaposition of these three biblical concepts:

  1. John 6:44, Romans 8:29-30, 2 Thessalonians 2:13, and 2 Timothy 1:9 teach that salvation only occurs in response to God’s activity of election, that this election happens by his choice, before the beginning of time, and “predestines” people for salvation. Therefore, by these verses, the Calvinist would conclude that God presently knows every human who will be saved because he has claimed them as his own, and they are rightfully called “the elect.”

  2. Matthew 24:31 and Mark 13:27 both indicate that when Christ returns, he will “gather his elect” from the whole earth. This seems to indicate that the gathering will include all who are “his elect.”

  3. Revelation 20:4 clearly teaches there were people who had the opportunity to worship the beast and receive his mark but refused both and remained faithful to Christ. Matthew 24:24 refers to those who resist false prophets and remain faithful to Christ and calls them “the elect.”

Therefore, here is the exact logical argument:

  • Whenever Christ’s “gathering” takes place, it appears to include all who are elect.
  • If election is determined before the foundation of the world, the gathering event must leave behind only the non-elect.
  • If election is necessary for salvation, the gathering event Jesus mentions would indicate that the door for salvation was now closed.
  • However, there are clearly believers alive (and martyred!) during the Tribulation period.
  • Therefore, the Matthew 24 event cannot happen before the Tribulation period—unless we are missing something.
  • Therefore, we are left with only three possible options:
    1. God’s election is not eternally determined. Those who are already “elect” at the time of the rapture will be taken, but others will become “elect” afterwards.
    2. Matthew 24 is not speaking of the rapture of the church, and it is God’s prerogative to take in a secret rapture some of his elect leaving others behind.
    3. The rapture of God’s elect happens after the Tribulation.