MY RESPONSE TO CALVINISM
Helen Fryman (now Setterfield)
September, 1994; revised January 2012
I remember the first time I heard the idea that God chose who would be saved, regardless of anything a man might want or do, long before the creation of the world. I was either a teenager or a young adult in my twenties. My reaction, as a Christian, was something along the lines of "That is really dumb. Who could love a God like that? Who could believe that?"
It was not until I was in my mid-forties, a couple of years ago, that I was really forced to understand that there is a rather large segment of the Christian church which honestly believes in what is sometimes called "double predestination." I was involved with interpreting for the deaf at an R.C. Sproul conference in San Diego, and during one lecture the concept was presented as normal doctrine. I remember I felt as though all my mental faculties had skidded to a halt as shock took over. I was not the interpreter at that particular moment, which is probably a very good thing. I remember looking around to see if anyone else was reacting. Everyone was nodding and so I thought maybe I had misunderstood what the lecturer was saying. Afterward I asked one of the leaders about it and yes, I had understood correctly. They all believed it, or said they did.
That was my first experience with what is known as "5 point Calvinism (see extra reading, below)." I left the conference stunned and very, very bothered by the concept that man has no choice. God simply chooses, to our minds seemingly at random, who will be saved and who will be damned before we are ever born. I couldn't accept it. But all these wonderful Christian brothers and sisters seemed quite convinced and sure about it! What was wrong with me? What was wrong with what I had believed for so many years?
That started a year-and-a-half of searching. Talking to people. Writing letters. Reading the Bible over and over again. Thinking. Praying. Reasoning. Reading other books. Trying to explain my thought processes to (for the most part uninterested) friends. It was absolutely vital to me to know the true character of my God. It was not an optional, hobby-like quest -- the question burned in the deepest part of my soul: who is God, really?
Something that really astounded me was that very few people had ever given it any thought. That included pastors. They just figured that God did what He did and that was that. But I knew I could not really love someone I did not know, and, since God had commanded me to love Him, I must find out more about Him. It was simply not an option -- if I was going to love and obeyHim, it was absolutely necessary that I know Him for sure. To this day, I do not understand why so many long-time Christians do not bother with this question. Or consciously avoid it. I understand new Christians, because they are still feeding on milk. I understand if a person has been busy grappling with other questions of doctrine in their quest to know God. But I do not understand the many, many "mature" Christians who have avoided this question altogether.
Calvinism immediately presented me with one logical problem. Because I am a mother, I know what it is to love my own child. And I love all my children with a strong, committed love. I would do anything I could to help them at any time (of course, my idea of "help" and their idea of "help" may sometimes be radically different -- a lot like God and us!). If God had not chosen one of my children to be saved, then I was faced with the impossibility that I loved that particular child more than God loved that child! How could I love anyone or anything more than God loved that person or thing? Impossible! "God is love..." How could I out-God God?
John 3:16 says, "God so loved the world..." The world. Everyone. And 2 Peter 3:9 says, "The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance." Everyone. Not wanting anyone -- not one person -- to perish. I knew the Bible must be read altogether, not one verse lifted out to the exclusion of other verses. So I knew I had not found the whole answer. But I also knew that there was no way correct doctrine could avoid these verses. And I knew it was not right to add a separate meaning to them, such as "God so loved the part of the world that He planned to save...." or "not wanting anyone He has previously chosen to perish, but everyone He has chosen to come to repentance." Those qualifications were in neither verse.
In part, my heart had already found part of the answer: God, of course, loved my children far more than I ever possibly could.
Clearly, God's perfect will was that everyone was to be saved. Well, why were they not? The only logical answer was that there was another, or more than one, will at work
Then could God NOT overrule those other wills? Was God not omnipotent? Of course God is omnipotent. But the other wills were at work, because so many people go to hell. So the only option is that God is allowing the other wills to work.
Does this match what I see? Yes. But it is very important to understand that a person's desires are not the same as his actions. Romans 8:28 clearly and unequivocally states that God controls all circumstances -- ALL -- for the benefit of those who love Him. This means that no matter what an evil man may want to do in his heart, God will control how that evil expresses itself, so that the evil man will never be able to do real damage to any one of God's children.
For instance, all my life I have wanted to fly. I just have this thing about flying. Me, personally -- not in a plane. Maybe because my legs are bad. It is a desire somewhere deep inside me. But can I fly? Nope. Not one little bit. No wings. Besides, I'm a little heavy and my first attempt would probably give me a wing sprain even if I had them. No matter how much I want to fly, I cannot. But no one ever could stop me from the wanting. Wanting is free. My will -- my want -- is to fly. But that is not in accordance with Romans 8:28, so I cannot. Maybe later.
Or, let's take something more common to us. In 1992 I was divorced. I did not want the divorce. I loved my husband, but he had had other women for a number of years, and finally left us for one of them. As it turned out, he had wanted to leave for a long time. I didn't know that. He was free to want to leave me, but God prevented him from carrying out the wishes of his heart until God had set up the situation to benefit me and the children. My husband was not allowed to do what his heart wanted to do until God's timing was right. On the other hand, I wanted desperately for my marriage to succeed. But I could not do it. Still, I was free to want. But my life could not match my desires. (note added later: I was married again in October of 2000, to a wonderful and godly man, Barry Setterfield)
And if we are free to want in the daily areas of our lives, then are we not free to want salvation? Are we not free to want God? Are only the people who are predestined for salvation free to want God? And if only they are free, then the want is not free at all, because they are predetermined to want what they want. And, suppose we are really not free to want to be saved -- then all the other freedoms to want mean nothing. They are a cosmic joke. Because the most important thing of all is denied to us.
My logic continued: how can I love God if I am not free NOT to love God? God has commanded me to love Him. In all the other commandments, they are given because I not only have a choice about what I do, but I have the natural tendency to do the wrong thing and therefore must have a commandment to NOT do the wrong thing and, instead, choose to do the right thing. There is no commandment about "Thou shalt sleep" because there is no option about sleeping. Sleep or die. There is no commandment about eating, because there is no choice about eating. Again, eat or die. Breathing is the same. But "Honor your parents." That's different. In fact, the natural tendency of all of us is to NOT honor our parents. If the natural tendency were to honor our parents, then we would not have needed the commandment, would we? The commandment would simply read something along the lines of, "Behave toward your parents as you naturally want to behave toward your parents" which, in fact, is no commandment at all. But we are so proud and ornery that God had to command us to honor the people who gave us birth and raised us! The same for stealing, lying, adultery, and worshiping idols. Our tendency is to steal, lie, commit adultery, and aim our lives toward anything BUT God. And so the commandments were given to show us what is right, so that we could choose right.
Which is not to say we can do right. Paul makes a point in Romans 7 about our inability to do the right, no matter what we desire. In fact, Romans 7 was the chapter in the Bible that convinced me that Calvinism was wrong. How can a man want what he cannot do or achieve unless his want is, in fact, independent of his sin nature?
God commanded us to love Him. That means two things: first, that our natural tendency is to NOT love God and, second, that there is a way open to us to go against our natural tendency and obey God in loving Him. Is love, then only a feeling? No, because we cannot control a good number of our feelings. Feelings come and go with circumstances and our good or bad behavior and what others do to us, etc. One cannot command one's feelings. But actions and decisions can be controlled. Loving is a decision. Loving is an action. Loving means caring and service and commitment. Loving means giving up of yourself for the benefit of another. We cannot benefit God per se, but we can certainly benefit His reputation here on earth -- we can certainly, as it were, carry the banner. And we can obey. "If you love me, you will obey me.
Caring, commitment of oneself, service, obedience: we can choose to do these things. We may notalways be able to do them ourselves, but we can want to do them.
There is no way I could look at myself or at the people around me and not come to the conclusion that wanting was free -- free will existed. Not actions, not performance, not obedience, not even thinking -- in none of these areas were we free. But our wants, our wills, were totally free. Free to acknowledge God as Creator and Redeemer and free to deny. Free to want to fly, free to want to be 21 years old -- finally! Free to imagine a million impossible things. Free to be proud or free to submit. Free to respond to God in our hearts, or free to turn away.
That explained to me why Jesus said God judges the heart. What did I want? Really want?
Still, Romans 8 talks about God predestinating people because of His foreknowledge. Foreknowledge of what? He created everyone, so He knows everyone intimately. (John 1 and Psalm 139). So the foreknowledge that led to predestination could not have been simply of the people themselves, but of something about the people. Go back to Deuteronomy 30:11-20, and pay close attention to Moses' words (I am using the NIV, but the King James has no different meaning):
Look at that! "Now choose life...that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him." Moses was commanding the people to choose! And that choice would lead to the fulfilling of the commandment to love God.
And then I began to realize that all through the history of the Old Testament, one of the things God is demonstrating is that many times He is willing to restrain Himself to only reacting to man's choices. God spends thousands of years demonstrating where our choices lead. And if our choices were not free, or could not be changed, then why all the history in the Old Testament? Why the same lesson over and over again: "Choose this day whom you will serve..."?
I began to see something I had not seen before. The entire Bible is predicated upon the supposition that man is truly free to choose.
BUT, God knows everything even before it happens. This does present a problem, doesn't it? If God knows who will want Him, then is that how He predestines who will be saved? Look again at the predestination verses in the Bible. If you look at them carefully, you will find they never say God has predestined who will be saved, but rather how that salvation will be accomplished and what the end result of that salvation will be.
Let's look at some of the verses the Calvinists use to support their theology. I am using the Greek transliteration, and this in large part because the King James was translated by Calvinists at the time when Calvinism was part of the state religion. Thus, when you read the King James version, the words and punctuation are done in such a way as to support Reformed theology. Here is the word for word English from the Greek:
Please note the bold: "having previously trusted in Christ." That is ignored by Calvinists. Those who have previously trusted in Christ are predestined, according to this passage, to "be holy and unblemished before Him" and to be adopted through Jesus Christ. Those who have trusted Christ are also "chosen to an inheritance." Considering that these have "previously trusted Christ" the concept of predestination to believe is explicitely denied here.
The first and primary identification Paul makes is regarding "the ones loving God." If you love God, here is the purpose He has called you to: not only will all things (eventually) work to your good, but you are predestined to be conformed to the image of Christ Himself, and in the process you will be justified and glorified. Again, there is a primary consideration given to "the ones loving God" -- and God chose before the world began that those who love Him would be forgiven, justified, glorified, and finally conformed to the image of His Son.
In the writings and the sermons I have heard from Calvinists, I have never come across one pastor who starts the Romans 8:28-30 salvation doctrine from the beginning of the verse. They always start with "...who have been called according to his purpose." But that is not the beginning of the sentence. The beginning sets everything up: "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, ..." Those who love him. Those who choose life (as Moses said) and thus are able to want to love and obey God. And God, knowing who would be who in all the future ages, called those who would love him, in accordance with his purpose. We cannot even love him except that he loved us first. We can't do anything right. But we can want to. We can choose life. And then we will be empowered to love Him. And then, ultimately the cross and, after, glory. His glory. But it all starts with the choice. Not the action, which we cannot do, but simply the heart's desire.
The Bible states clearly that there is only one name under heaven by which we must be saved. "Name" is an idiom for "character." Only one Person, and it is through His character we are saved. Jesus firmly declared "I am the way ... no man comes to the Father but through me." We are saved by grace and grace alone, so that no one can boast. But God allowed us to want the truth, and the truth will always lead us to Him. It is interesting that, in Romans 1, we read that God's wrath is being poured out on those who suppress the truth. In other words, some amount of truth is there for them to see and respond to, but they have consistently chosen to push it away, or suppress it. Jesus also referred to the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of Truth. And again, Jesus said that all sins would be forgiven except the sin against the Holy Spirit. Putting these verses together, we can see that suppressing the truth is the one sin that cannot be forgiven. After all, if you turn away from the truth, what is left but the lie? The key to all of this is "What are you going to do about the truth you do know?" You can follow it to Christ or ignore and suppress it.
Does this mean you can save yourself? If you follow the truth you can save yourself? Absolutely not! Again, the Bible is incredibly clear that it is by grace, through faith, that we are saved. There is nothing we can do to accomplish our own salvation. But the desire to be saved is a free desire. The desire for the truth is a free desire. What you choose to want is never predestined. God has allowed us to choose to obey or disobey, although true obedience itself must be empowered through the blessed Holy Spirit, as we are absolutely helpless to perform any righteous act in and of ourselves. But we can want to. And that is the key.
In Matthew 7:17, Jesus says, "If anyone chooses to do God's will..." We can choose. Maybe we cannot act. The thief on the cross was totally incapable of doing more than saying a few words. But he made the choice. And God, who knows all men's hearts, honored the choice and empowered him to say a few more words by way of testimony. And those few dying words that God allowed him to say have touched every Christian in the world who has ever had a copy of those words to read or who has heard them preached.
Calvinists say that if you do not believe in God's sovereign choice, uninfluenced by anything a man may think or do, then you believe in salvation by works. That is not true. There is a deep difference between a man's desire and his actions. Paul could not have made that more clear than in Romans 7. It is only after we are born again of the Spirit that we are given the power to act in accordance with our desire to love and obey God. In one way, an unregenerate person and a redeemed soul are exactly the same: in and of themselves they are powerless to do any purely good deed. In fact, the unredeemed soul is even powerless to do all the evil he may wish to do -- he can only do that evil God will permit and that will, in some way, benefit God's children and thus bring glory to God. A redeemed person is really no more capable of doing good deeds than an unredeemed person EXCEPT that the Holy Spirit, dwelling within the redeemed person, empowers that person to obey the Father and thus become more and more the image of Jesus Christ. It is very possible and extremely logical to say a man is free to want God but still powerless to do anything about his own salvation.
But God knew. He knew the hearts before the hearts were born. He knew who would choose to want Him. He knew who would take a look at their own person and feel deeply sick and ashamed. "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are those that do hunger and thirst [deeply want] for righteousness, for they shall be filled...." And so, as God showed us through the entire Bible, He responded to those who wanted Him even before they were created! In the same way, Revelation 13:8 refers to Christ as the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. It was all in place from the beginning.
The whole Bible seems to say the same thing. God does not want one to perish. He sent His only beloved Son for the world "that whoever believes on Him shall not perish, but have eternal life." We can want to believe. "Lord, I believe -- help thou mine unbelief!" We are so trapped when we can only want the impossible.
And that is why I love God so much! Through His power, through His Holy Spirit, He caused the impossible to become possible for me. I can love and obey Him. I can serve Him. As Steve Green sang in one of his songs, "Any strength I have, Any good I do, Comes from the life I found in You; so in all I am, And all I do, I give the glory to You!"
We cannot "choose this day" if we do not have free choice. We cannot love if we do not have the freedom and the ability to refuse to love. Obedience means nothing if we cannot choose to disobey and, in fact, obedience becomes doubly precious because our natural tendency is to disobey. Therefore it is only when Jesus, through His Holy Spirit in us, enables us to obey that our desire can find fulfillment in the gift of His power.
THAT is why we work out our salvation in fear and trembling. Because through Him we have everything we need on this earth to be more than conquerors. But we also, then, have the capacity to shame His name by not obeying, not paying attention to Him, our Lord. That should cause fear, that we should cause shame to His name instead of bringing glory to it through our joyful, but humble obedience to His will.
Before, I could only want salvation -- somehow, someway to be better than what I was. A blind groping in a fog of ignorance, but the desire for something called beautiful, something called changed and improvement. It was the beginning of repentance.
When I first saw the mess that I was inside, that was my first choice: I could make excuses for myself or I could hate myself. Forget self-esteem. The safest way is to call white white, black black, sin sin, and good unknown. I hated what I was. Not that I didn't try to make up excuses for my behavior and my whole personality, but the honest truth is that when I saw myself spiritually, I sort of wanted to throw up. IF I had continued to suppress the truth with more wicked behavior, and in the process lived according to the excuses I tried, then there would have been no hope for me. Ultimately, God would have given me over to the lie I had chosen. Paul explains about that in Romans 1 and 2. But thank God I had a father who refused to compromise with the truth so that, after a youth of increasingly skilled lying, when my life depended on my acknowledging truth inside my heart about myself, I came down on the side of the truth. I stunk. Of course, there were enough other people helping me along to that judgment so that I would have had to work really hard to miss it, but God knew I needed a pretty good shove. And He is always faithful to give us everything we need -- ALL of us.
That was my first choice: about myself. To admit I was truly awful and to want to change.
But I couldn't change. Not by myself. I had one more choice to make. Did I want to try to change myself, or was I willing to give up everything and put myself in the hands of the God who created me? Which? That is the second free choice. Would I submit to Jesus Christ? This is, perhaps, where a lot of people who think they are Christian will find they are not: they are trying to improve themselve "for Christ." There is nothing we can do "for" Christ -- we can only submit "to" Him.
Yes, God knew what I would choose. But He did not force me to choose it.
Some people have incredible conversion experiences, where they remember the day and even the hour. Not me. I don't remember the point at which God would have been able to tell the angels, "This is the moment for her, she is a child of Mine now." The reason is because, since I was a little girl, I believed what was taught in church. But none of the churches I went to ever told me that loving God was the same as obeying Him. Obedience was never mentioned, nor was repentance. But I believed. So was I a Christian? I can tell you two things: first, I was as "Christian" as I knew how to be (which was not terrific), and, second, God kept me alive so that I would not die before I found out about obedience and being a servant. I cannot tell you other people's stories. I can only tell you my own.I do remember at Hope Center in Pleasant Hill, California, when a song was taught to us entitled, "Make Me a Servant." God used that song to teach me about obedience. I remember one Sunday singing that song and suddenly meaning it with all my heart. Please, God, do something with me to make me as I ought to be. I was free to want that, although I was totally incapable of accomplishing my desire.
God answered yes.
And when that happened, then I gave up my own will. Now His will is operating in me, becoming one with my mind. It's a slow process, but I had to pray "Not my will, but Thine be done" for the very reason that I did/do have a will contrary to my Father's. And so that prayer assumes an urgency no Calvinist can ever comprehend. I give up my will to God. The freedom He gave me I give back. That's what submission means. Submission has no meaning if I do not have a will with which I can oppose God -- the ability to refuse to submit.
The whole Bible, again, is predicated on the fact that God has allowed us free will -- the freedom to want whatever we choose to want. Does that take away from His sovereignty? Not at all. It was His choice to do that, and it continues to be His choice to operate everything as He desires. The fact that He gave us both the opportunity and the ability to oppose Him in no way reduces His power -- but rather demonstrates to us how much above our ability to comprehend Him He really is. We can only vaguely imagine someone whose will is so much superior to ours that our various wills are no threat to Him at all. We can only vaguely imagine a power so great that nothing we do, or want to do, can deter it in the slightest. And we cannot at all imagine a love so great that He was willing to BECOME sin for us, change places with us, be separated from the Father for us ("My God, my God, why have you forsaken me!?”), die for us -- do everything for us -- and still allow us to choose against Him! How can that be? We are so weak, so grossly ignorant, and still such insolent beings. But He loves us. That we cannot comprehend to any degree at all, we can only experience it.
"For now we see through a glass, darkly, but then...." But then we will know, we will see, we will understand. And we will have all eternity to learn to know Him better and love Him more. Just because we wanted to, and He allowed us to want that and then He responded to our desire -- the desire He knew we would have since before the beginning of time.
This is the only doctrine which does not ignore any part of the Bible's teaching. This is the only doctrine that pulls it all together.
My love for my children is but a very dim reflection, or possibly overflow from my own life, of God's love for them and for me. God loves far more than I could ever comprehend -- His very nature is love.
And it is only because we truly have free will -- the freedom to want -- that, in the long run, no man has an excuse. If man was not free to choose, free to want, then it would not matter how clearly God showed His nature in creation; and therefore every man, woman, or child who ended up in hell would have an excellent excuse: "I never had a chance at heaven." It would be the cosmic cruelty -- to blame people and judge them for something they were ultimately helpless to influence or do anything about. Even we, poor wretches that we are, know better than that.
The Calvinists say we just cannot understand it. Moses disagrees. So does Isaiah.
In other words, reasoning with the Lord means you can understand enough for salvation -- and this is followed by IF you are willing (meaning "if you want") and obedient... God directly associates reasoning with choice and choice with obedience (and therefore with love: "If you love Me you will obey Me.").
And Moses said, as I quoted above, that God's word is not too hard to comprehend nor too far away. We CAN understand. The Bible says so. We CAN choose. The Bible commands us to. And we CAN obey when God honors our free desire to be His, to become a servant.
That is what "I believe, help Thou mine unbelief" means! The man was saying, "I know who you are. I believe this truth. But I am helpless to act on it if you do not help me! Lord, help me follow through. Do it through me, Lord, because I cannot do it myself, but, yes, I BELIEVE!
When Jesus said (John 6:37) "All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away," what was He saying except the same thing? God knows the desire in each man's heart, and the broken-hearted, repentant sinners who want righteousness (which is only found in God/Jesus Christ) will be given to Jesus Christ -- and none of them who go to Jesus will ever be turned away. This shows the two step process. God gives the repentant sinner to Jesus. These people God knows will freely choose Jesus, are given to Jesus -- and Jesus will never tell one of them "No." Never. That is His promise.
In conclusion, there are three phrases in the Bible which MUST be put together without disagreement if we are to understand what happens. First, God is not willing that one person should go to hell. That is His perfect will (2 Peter 3:9). That means that every man, at some time in his life, is presented with a conscious understanding to some degree of both the truth and God's holy and powerful nature through creation. This is stated in Romans 1. Every man is given the opportunity to compare himself with the glory of creation and see how far short he comes. Then the man must choose to repudiate himself or make excuses for himself.
Second, many are invited, or called (Matthew 22:14). Those who take a good honest look at themselves and hate what they see are summoned by God. The Calvinists say God's irresistible grace makes it impossible for any man to refuse this summons. Jesus Himself says differently when He adds the third of the three phrases, "But few are chosen.
In other words, repentance is not enough. Just like John's baptism was not enough. It is never enough to turn away from something ugly and bad, one must then turn toward something beautiful and good. And so God summons all repentant sinners to Jesus Christ. Why don't all people who repent go to Jesus Christ? Paul explains in 2 Corinthians 7:10 (and in the entire discourse surrounding this verse). "Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death." If a man is sorry about who he is only because he does not like the pain he is experiencing, or the unpopularity, or the lack of success, then he will never answer God's summons to Jesus Christ. Although I must add here that many churches seem to use the name Jesus Christ to attract these very people with the promise that Jesus will solve all their earthly problems and add riches on top of that. So then these people think they are Christians, but they are not following Jesus -- they never submitted to Him. But godly sorrow means that your sorrow is centered on God -- you have compared what you are with what He has shown you about Himself through creation and, hopefully, through a good presentation of the gospel message. And you have crumbled inside, realizing you deserve hell and there seems to be nothing you can do about it. Both types of repentant sinners "repent." Both types are summoned by God to "Follow Me." But only the sinner whose repentance was caused by godly sorrow can follow. Only that person will have any way of understanding his own helplessness and be willing to turn to follow Christ, the only Right, the only Good -- the Shepherd.
God does not want any to perish, so all will be confronted, at some point, with their own sinfulness and rot as compared to what is revealed about God in their lives.
Choice one: accept himself and make excuses for his behavior? Or feel sick with shame and pain inside? Which?
Many are called. As many as want to turn away from their own rot and sin are summoned by God. But His grace is not irresistible, for a good many do resist it, preferring to follow one of men's religions or formulas for success rather than submit.
Choice two: Try to improve myself or give up and put myself unconditionally in God's hands? Which?
Few are chosen. Only Jesus is the way. Only when a person (meaning an adult at this point, as the relationship between God and children and infants and the profoundly retarded is something else altogether) believes (before knowledge of Jesus Christ) in God's promise to reconcile men to Himself through His own work and through His own plan or (after knowledge of Jesus Christ) in the fulfilled promise of Jesus Christ who became sin for us, dying and was raised on the third day, for all time conquering sin and death, and giving His Holy Spirit to all who submit and give up their lives to Him -- only then is the person truly saved, and therefore chosen.
In the long run, the Bible indicates Jesus' flock is small -- at least compared to all the people ever created. And yet we may take comfort that when John was given his wonderful vision of heaven, there were more than he could count or see of the redeemed.
There are many other verses, many other indications in the Bible of God's gift to us of the freedom to want, and therefore the freedom to love. But after a year-and-a-half of struggle with the Calvinist doctrine of "double predestination" I strongly feel the Bible itself totally repudiates it not only in the verses themselves but in the entire intent of the Bible itself.
A couple of other thoughts. About the time each of my children was four years old, I started allowing them to make some decisions. The first, invariably, was, "Would you like to stay up from your nap and go to bed early, or would you rather stay up late with daddy and mommy tonight but take a nap now?" I knew, without a doubt, what each one of my children would choose in his or her turn. I give them free choice, but I knew what the choice of every one of those four-year-olds would be. And I knew that those who chose to forego naptime would not be happy with the consequences later. It was the beginning of a long and hard road of learning to take responsibility for one's own decisions and learning to choose wisely. But, still, I knew what they would choose. Did I cause them to say it? Did I present the choice in such a way as to "load the question?" No, I didn't. I think that is a bit of a picture of God and us. God knows without a doubt what each of us will choose, but that in no way influences our freedom to choose.
From the way I read the Bible, it appears to me that since creation has been completed, God, for the most part, has restricted Himself to responding to man. Starting with the forbidden fruit, on through the first murder, the total rebellion of men (culminating in the Deluge), the tower of Babel, etc., God shows his character and credentials in history, in prophecy, in revelation -- primarily in the framework of reacting to men. We raise our children similarly. It is no wonder Jesus taught us to call Him "Our Father."
This, by the way, helps explain the power of prayer. Can we get God to do something for us just by praying? Yes and no. He wanted to do it, so, in that way, our prayer didn't matter. But, because He seems to have restricted Himself primarily to responding to us, our prayer becomes vitally important: we have done that to which He has promised us He will respond. In addition, at the same time, prayer is a means God uses in establishing an intimate relationship with Him. Prayer is something like opening to door for God to act in a situation. He will not force the door down -- He has chosen not to -- but His desire is still to act in any given situation. Will He change His actions because of prayer? The Bible indicates that yes, He will. This is, perhaps, a change from His permissive will to His preferred will.
The one point I will concede is that, because God foreknew each person's heart, couldn't He have created each person with a heart to choose Him, since He has told us He is not willing for one person to perish? At this point I find myself stopping, willing to wait for heaven to understand more. Maybe our Father has given someone else the wisdom to go past this point, but I don't think that someone is me.
What I do know is that it would probably require a computer to count the number of "if....then" clauses in the Bible. God did not tell the Israelites, "when you disobey me, then....." but, rather, He always said, "IF you disobey me, then...." "If" means a choice is presumed. Not the power, skill, or even the wisdom to follow through -- that is never part of the whole thing apart from God. Balaam wanted to curse the Jews, but couldn't. Would God judge his words or his heart? Jesus tells us "heart." God did everything else.
The freedom to want which God gave us (which is implicit in being created in His image) has nothing to do with salvation by works and in no way takes away from the sovereignty of God.
The free will -- the freedom to want -- God gave us is the absolutely necessary ingredient to allow us to love God and obey Him. For if the only alternative were true -- if our will was not free, but "programmed" into each of us -- then we could not truly love or obey God. We would only be humanoid robots responding to the programs built into us. God has told us He created us in His image. Freedom is part of that.
The reason I am willing to confront on
this issue is that the end result of Calvinism is "too bad for most of the
world, God didn't REALLY love you enough to send His son for you; it was
only for us chosen who were predestined from before birth."
That does not sound to me like only those God has already chosen will be
allowed in. Does it sound like it to you?
Barry and I totally reject that concept on biblical grounds.January, 2012
After having re-read this page and changed a few bits along with the background code, there is one more thing that absolutely needs to be mentioned. The actual ethical and moral result of Calvinism (also called "Reformed theology") is that any person can do anything he wants, for he is either saved or not saved, regardless. Both Barry and I have known people who have stated that very belief and because they believed they were saved, had no compunctions at all about some very nasty parts of their lifestyles. Calvinists will deny this concept, and yet this is the way it actually works out. And, because of this, too, it is not only a non-biblical doctrine, but an anti-biblical doctrine which has done immense damage all around the world.
Calvinism -- an apologetic for CalvinismSoteriological Implications of Five-Point Calvinism -- a critique of Calvinism