Can and Does
There is no question but that God can do what the Calvinists say He does.
"The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes."
Speaking of the vision of two baskets of figs, the Lord says through Jeremiah,
"Then I will give them a heart to know Me, that I am the Lord; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God, for they shall return to Me with their whole heart."
In other words the difference between the faithful exiles and the apostatizing remainder was the Lord's' work,
not the summation of a multitude of autonomous decisions.
However, the sum total of the Bible evidence shows that, in general, the
divine will is not the sole factor; not that the Lord would be unable to create
a Calvinist world, but that He prefers not. Consider the warning to
“Now it came to pass at the end of seven days that the word of the Lord came to me, saying,
‘Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; therefore hear a word from My mouth, and give them warning from Me:
when I say to the wicked, “You shall surely die,” and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life, that same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand.
Yet, if you warn the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered your soul.
““Again, when a righteous man turns from his righteousness and commits iniquity, and I lay a stumbling block before him, he shall die; because you did not give him warning, he shall die in his sin, and his righteousness which he has done shall not be remembered; but his blood I will require at your hand.
Nevertheless if you warn the righteous man that the righteous should not sin, and he does not sin, he shall surely live because he took warning; also you will have delivered your soul.’”
For whose blood is Ezekiel to be held responsible, if no actions or
omissions on his part have anything to do with the outcome? Jesus
commanded His followers to preach the gospel to every creature. When
asked why this should be, given that many are not elect, Calvinists
plausibly reply that they must preach the gospel to all because they do
not know who are the elect and who are not. But Jesus certainly did
know, and He proclaimed His mission to those He knew would not respond: "But you do not have His word abiding in you, because whom He sent, Him you do not believe.
. .But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life." (John
5:38-40). The proclamation of the gospel must be a bona fide offer;
it is blasphemous to suppose otherwise, as the Calvinists themselves
"It is blasphemous to think that God would be guilty of
equivocation and deception, that He would say one thing and mean
another, that He would earnestly plead with the sinner to repent and
believe unto salvation, and at the same time not desire it in any
sense of the word."
(Berkhof, Louis. Systematic
Theology (Kindle Locations 9634-9635). GLH Publishing.)
How this matter is composed by saying the "external" call is a bona fide offer,
while the one which counts is not, is beyond comprehension.
If there is no human freedom, then what is the "glorious liberty"
of the children of God?:
"Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God."
God forbid it should be license, but the Calvinists seem determined it cannot be liberty either.
It would seem that in Calvinism, Jesus, who is known to have come to
set the prisoners free, never quite gets around to it. Indeed it is
conceptually impossible. Paul speaks of it in the past tense:
"It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery."
(Galatians 5:1 NASB).
He made us free, aorist, done deal. . .but human freedom is conceptually
impossible? The Calvinists are not the only ones who approach this
conundrum from the standpoint of human philosophy. Some people offer an a priori proof of human freedom in this
form: God created man in His image, therefore man must possess real
freedom at some point in his salvation trajectory, or he would not
be anything like God at all. Moreover, love implies some degree of
"Furthermore, without choice, love is meaningless. God
is neither a cosmic rapist who forces his love on people, nor a
cosmic puppeteer who forces people to love him. Instead, God, the
personification of love, grants us the freedom of choice. Without
such freedom, we would be little more than preprogrammed robots."
(Hank Hanegraaf, The Complete Bible Answer Book, Kindle location
This seems like a hazardous way to argue, though, because it sets
conditions on God's acts outside of and prior to the Bible. It is
popular, however, in rebuttal of Calvinism: "'Calvinism robs the
individual of responsibility for his/her own conduct, making a
person into a puppet on a string or a robot programmed from birth to
death with no will of his/her own.'" (William Estep, quoted Kindle
location 3845, Calvinism: A Southern Baptist Dialogue, edited by
Brad J. Waggoner, E. Ray Clendenen). The Calvinists respond to this
objection mostly by redefining 'free-will' so that it is has nothing
to do with self-determination, but rather that an agent is acting freely
When Euclid worked up his geometry he faced the difficulty that
the truth, or falsity, of the geometrical statements he wished to
make was not immediately apparent. One hook or handle with which to
grasp the prize, he found, was to elucidate the various consequences
of a given proposed theorem. If these consequences, which logically followed
from the point in question, conflicted with something already known
to be the case, the theorem was disproved. Human reason cannot do
without this powerful tool. Unfortunately, its deployment leads to
much ill-will in discussions of theology. Those confronted with an
unwelcome, and unfamiliar, consequence of their assertions often react
as do the victims of hate-speech or bigotry, complaining that they
are maliciously misrepresented. But if the conclusion follows in accord with
valid rules of inference, the defenders of the theorem must come to
grips with it. Such is the case with the implications of the denial
of free will as compared with Biblical statements like,
"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved."
or "God is love," (1 John 4:8). Compare this with,
"Reprobation is the exact, explicit denial that God
loves all men, desires to save all men, and conditionally offers
them salvation. Reprobation asserts that God eternally hates some
men; has immutably decreed their damnation; and has determined to
withhold from them Christ, grace, faith, and salvation."
(David Engelsma, Hyper-Calvinism and the Call of the Gospel, 58, quoted in
Calvinism: A Southern Baptist Dialogue, editors Brad J. Waggoner and
E. Ray Clendenen, notes, Kindle location 4729).
If a certain view implies consequences which contradict the Bible, then that view is not Biblical.
In John 5:34, Jesus is quoted as saying to His hearers, "Yet I do not
receive testimony from man, but I say these things that you may be
saved." He is explaining His motivation in speaking to these people. He is not speaking
at random or to hear the sound of His own voice. But we know that His
goal, His own stated goal in initiating this conversation, was not
achieved, because He also says: "But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life."
(John 5:40). Since a will is expressed in the goal Jesus set for the
conversation, "that you may be saved," and yet, at the end of the
encounter, the goal remains unachieved: "you are not willing," there is
not here on display one sole and only will. We should count as many wills as
does the Bible.
Though of course not inspired or authoritative, it is interesting to notice that the apocryphal book of
Ecclesiastic makes a bow toward free will:
"Do not say, 'It was he who led me astray; ' he has no
use for sinful men. The Lord hates every kind of vice; you cannot
love it and still fear him. When he made man in the beginning, he
left him free to take his own decisions; if you choose, you can keep
the commandments; whether or not you keep faith is yours to decide.
He has set before you fire and water; reach out and take which you
choose; before man lie life and death, and whichever he prefers is
his." (Ecclesiasticus 15:12-15).
There is a contemporary movement called 'open theism' which denies in
principle that free will decisions, such as choosing the peanut butter
sandwich over the taco, are in principle incompatible with God's
omniscient knowledge of all things past, present and future: "'Clark
Pinnock, for example, says flatly, 'Philosophically speaking, if choices
are real and freedom significant, future decisions cannot be
exhaustively foreknown.'" (quoted in Millard J. Erickson, What Does God
Know and When Does He Know it?, p. 158). This same open theist also
says, "'It is plain that the biblical doctrine of creaturely freedom
requires us to reconsider the conventional view of the omniscience of
God.'" (ibid., p. 158). Ironically, many contemporary Calvinists make
the very same claim! The Calvinists differ from the open theists on this
point in that the former, who generally hold a high view of scripture,
are not willing to let go of the scriptural affirmation of divine omniscience,
while the latter are only too willing. I have not been able to verify that John Calvin
himself held any such aberrant notions about God's knowledge of what, to
us, is futurity, i.e., that God cannot in principle foreknow anything except
His own volition. Rather, his view was that a certain choice, i.e., of good
over evil, was unavailable to us owing to the corruption of our nature. The
problem is this: how can a vile tree, the unregenerate sinner, put forth
good fruit, namely repentance? Just as the Rabbis felt moved to place a
hedge around the law, Calvin's successors sought to protect his insights
by denying in principle the possibility of free will. Thus a system of
Bible interpretation morphed into bad metaphysics.
The open theists say that they believe in the Bible,
while other people believe in Greek philosophy. Is this so?: