A Biblical Critique of Calvinism Part 3:
The Unlimited Nature of the Gospel Invitation

September 13, 2012

by Dr. Michael A. Cox, Pastor of First Baptist Church in Pryor, Oklahoma, and author of Not One Little Child: A Biblical Critique of Calvinism


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This is the sixth of a series of articles by Dr. Cox, with a Biblical critique of Calvinism drawn in part from his book Not One Little Child.
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Doctrines referencing a “limited” atonement simply do not harmonize with the overall teaching of Scripture. Man is ordered to love God with all his heart, soul, and mind (Deut. 6:5; Matt. 22:37). This is a statement no one would deny. Therefore, since all are commanded to do so, it is necessary that all be capable of doing so. One does not issue commands to unconscious entities, nor does one hold them responsible.1 Man is conscious, and those who reach the stage of accountability are held responsible. Jesus said that God loves the entire world (John 3:16). Our Lord also declared that God desires for all of mankind to be saved, and this is recorded in the writings of several Apostles. Matthew recorded the words of Jesus when He disclosed that it is not the will of the Father that even one little child perish (Matt. 18:14), and every person begins as a little child. Likewise, John recorded the Gethsemane prayer of Jesus, which plainly published His desire that the whole world would believe in Him (John 17:21). Paul said the same thing when he wrote to Timothy and said that God desires that all people be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Tim. 2:4).

The context of 1 Tim. 2:1-7 has to do with instructions concerning prayer. The passage declares that there is one God, one Christ, who is the one mediator, and one target group: mankind. It further expresses that God cares for all; all should care for God; and all should care for one another enough to pray for all others. These instructions given by Paul to Timothy are intended to guide the church in its prayer life and conduct, for the measure of one’s religion is reflected in the scope of his or her praying, and true Christian prayer must embrace the needs of all classes and conditions of men, beginning with everyone’s need for salvation. Prayer is addressed first in Paul’s discussion of worship because of its importance. Prayer for all (1 Tim. 2:1) is urged from every facet: entreaties, a word which intimates supplications for definite needs and suggests man’s helplessness without God’s aid; prayers, a general word suggesting reverence and worship; petitions, a word indicating freedom of access to God and reminding of the privilege of making requests for others; thanksgivings, a word instructing one to pray in steady, sustained ways, not just in times of crisis, to show gratefulness to God for the privilege of having access to Him at all times, and to thank Him for mercies already received. Paul told Timothy to pray on behalf of all others. Pray for those who may not pray for themselves, which includes sinners and saints. The fact of the matter is that there is nobody who is “not” worth praying for (double negative for emphasis). Moreover, these instructions to pray for all people remind that God wants all to walk in His light. Why would God instruct believers to pray for all people if He is not interested in redeeming and helping all? The answer is that He would not.

Next in order, Paul urged that prayer be made for those in authority (1 Tim. 2:2). He implied that this is to be done in order to help share their burdens. Paul said to pray for the leader, like Nero, not to him, because those in authority need to be saved too. He admonished Timothy and his Christian readers to pray for good rulers and bad ones as well. He would say to pray for the President, governors, and senators. He would agree that heavier responsibilities bring heavier needs and that we are less compelled to criticize those for whom we are earnestly praying and we will be more likely to recognize the heavy burdens resting upon their shoulders. He would say to pray that God will direct their decisions, which He will, and that they will follow His directions, which they often do not. Then, Paul listed the fruits of prayer for authorities: in order to live a quiet and peaceable life, because ungodly leaders make for disturbing days and restless nights; to live a godly life, because the better the leadership, the easier it should be to live in godliness; and to live an honest life, because the better the leadership, the easier it should be to be virtuous in all dealings.

Praying for those in authority pleases the Lord (1 Tim. 2:3). Praying for the salvation and the good of all people in general and authorities in particular pleases God. The Savior’s nature is to rescue, not to condemn, so praying for the salvation and good of all is implied by the word savior. Christians must pray for the arch persecutors of the faith. As believers, we must pray for the salvation of all people and put feet to our prayers by modeling Christianity and by aggressively evangelizing the world. Clearly, this passage is a rallying cry for missions.

Next, we come to the heart of the message under consideration in this passage: God desires all to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Tim. 2:4). The Greek text actually says that God wills (thelei) that all be saved. This is not teaching Universalism! On the contrary, the fact that all are not being saved suggests that God’s will is being violated by man’s will in the matter of individual salvation. But an active response of faith and repentance to God’s grace is necessary. And, this wording is in the present tense. God is still willing all people to be saved. We, too, should be actively willing the same.

God does not desire the death or destruction of any human (Ezek. 33:11). Our prayers ought to seek to include all just as God’s grace seeks to include all: inclusive prayer and inclusive salvation are clearly in context. We see that Christ died to save all people. This obviously expresses the theology of an unlimited (general) atonement. Also, understand that Jesus Christ died to save people, not pets or even angels, and that God has one divine purpose for all of mankind: to know Him personally and have fellowship with Him for eternity. God wants all people to have full knowledge of spiritual truth. Additionally, “to come” necessitates man’s response to God’s truth: people come freely and actively, not forcibly and passively. This stresses the necessity of evangelism and the fact that truth is found in Jesus Christ. Those who do not know truth cannot be ruled by it. Therefore, Christians must model, preach, teach, and write truth.

Further, Paul argued that there is only one God and only one mediator (1 Tim. 2:5-6). By teaching that there is only one God and one mediator the Bible is stating that the gospel of Jesus Christ is exclusive (1 Tim. 2:5). By stating that there is only one God the Bible implies that God intends good will to all, suggests the solidarity of the human race in terms of its common ancestry, teaches that the one God is common to all people, infers that the one God can reach all of mankind, asserts that only one God rules the universe, and takes for granted that salvation is available to all but originates from one source – the biblical triune God. Look carefully at this paragraph in the Bible and you will see the universality of prayer (for all people), the universality of God (one God for all people), the universality of God as the one mediator (one mediator for all people) who was enfleshed (the man) in the one Christ (Jesus), and the universality of God in Christ Jesus as Savior (one savior for all people). Thus, the universality of grace, meaning that it is available to all, is rooted in the universality of God, who is accessible to all. This is not teaching Universalism! This is teaching the universal accessibility of God, His grace, and His redemptive activity. The insistence that there is only one mediator means that believers can mediate regarding prayers to God for others, but only one can mediate as the Savior. And, “mediator” presupposes that a controversy exists, that two sides are at odds. An intermediary must be able to identify with both groups. Only the God-man, Christ Jesus, can do this. There are no angelic mediators of redemption between God and man. There is no need for a priest, patriarchal saint, or a virgin mother. As Moses was the mediator of the old covenant, Jesus Christ is the mediator of the new covenant. Thus, the finite can enter into relationship with the Infinite by grace through faith and repentance.

As if the point had not yet been driven home, Paul proceeded to explain that this one Christ gave Himself as a ransom for all (1 Tim. 2:6), which echoes the very words of Jesus spoken in Mark 10:45. This indubitably teaches the doctrine of a general (unlimited) and substitutionary atonement, in that Christ Jesus gave Himself in exchange for all sinners. No other substitute would have been accepted. He paid the debt for all. He paid the penalty for mankind to gain freedom from sin and its wages and His entrance into the world and His exit therefrom were right on time.

Paul viewed himself as appointed (ordained) by God to be a herald of the gospel (good news), a special itinerant ambassador for Christ, and as a teacher who would labor in the word and in doctrine. He was called and commissioned by God, entrusted with interpreting the meaning of the Christian faith, had a personal faith in what he taught and preached, promised that he rendered a truthful representation of the Christian faith as he understood it, and even argued that he really was sent to preach and teach to Gentiles. No lie! People routinely ridiculed and challenged Paul’s calling, ministry, methods, and authority. Today, people twist his words to say what he never would have said: that Jesus Christ died as a ransom only for the elect and that God does not will the salvation of all.

There is plenty of scriptural testimony that Christ gave Himself as a ransom for all of mankind, not for a limited few. Isaiah said that the iniquity of us all fell upon the Messiah (Isa. 53:6). Peter even dared to proclaim that Jesus died for false prophets and heretics (2 Pet. 2:1)! This means that the ungodly were bought by the blood of Christ, regardless of the “degree” of ungodliness, for we are all miserable wretches in need of the Savior. I believe that these Scriptures sink the ship of a limited atonement theory. If Jesus died for false teachers, the implication is that He died for those who deny Him as Lord, meaning unbelievers who remain in their unbelief. The biblical fact that Jesus died for one who denies Him as Lord presents an insurmountable obstacle for belief in election and limited atonement as propounded by Calvinism because it says Jesus died only for the elect; yet, here are real people for whom Christ died. Jesus bought them with His blood. Since Christ died for false teachers and the teachers died unsaved, swift destruction having been brought upon themselves, the blood of Jesus was not shed only for the so-called “elect” but for all people. The doctrine (teaching) of a limited atonement is therefore scripturally indefensible. Unconditional election is therefore scripturally untenable.

Peter, like Paul, declared that God wants all to come to repentance (2 Pet. 3:9). Therefore, He is the potential Savior of all of mankind, but the actual Savior of believers only. John the Baptist announced that Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). Lest you, or anyone else, slide down the slippery slope toward Universalism, Paul reminded in 1 Tim. 4:10 that Jesus was the [potential] Savior of all, but especially of believers. Good servants labor and strive to spread this trustworthy statement, and the work of the servant is arduous. He explained that good servants fix their hope on the living God and announce the scope of God’s saving plan. Jesus is the potential Savior of all but the actual Savior only of believers in Christ. His grace is adequate for all who will believe but effective only for all who do believe. He stands ready to deliver all. None are outside the scope of God’s saving plan; His way is inclusive, not exclusive; He is the only hope people have; He is the source of all blessings and kind providence. The only barrier to salvation lies in each unbeliever’s refusal to repent of sin and receive Christ as Savior.

In Titus 2:11 Paul wrote that salvation had been brought to all of mankind. He said that God’s grace has appeared, bringing salvation to all. Grace is undeserved love, unmerited favor, and is absolutely free, for it cannot be earned. It, grace, has appeared at a definite time. This epiphany was a historical occurrence. Once hidden, now God’s grace is revealed, and the best explanation for this revelation is that it is a reference to the incarnation (first coming) of Jesus Christ. The human situation was very bleak until God’s grace appeared. God’s grace arrived bringing salvation to all, not to a select few. But notice carefully that salvation was brought, not applied. The purpose of God’s grace is to bring salvation to all. Redemption, then, is universal in its scope, since the Bible teaches that Jesus gave Himself as the ransom for all (1 Tim. 2:4). Clearly, Paul’s words teach a general atonement (Jesus died for the sins of the world), not a limited atonement (Jesus died only for the sins of the elect). All are invited to partake, even those who hated and crucified Jesus. God’s grace was disclosed for all to see (2 Tim. 1:10) and is available for all to receive, but God’s grace is not automatically applied. It is set before every person like a Christmas present and left there waiting to be opened by way of personal faith and repentance. Salvation has been brought to all, not applied to all, for God violates no one’s conscience.

The writer of Hebrews declared that Jesus tasted death for everyone (Heb. 2:9). This means that Jesus is the factor that makes all the difference. The writer said that Jesus was made, for a little while, lower than angels. But why? Because the suffering of death allowed Him to be crowned with glory and honor, because the suffering emphasized His humanity, and because the Savior must identify with the people He intends to save. He had to be a sufferer. Use of the word “death” in the verse emphasizes the fact that His experience went well beyond suffering, it concluded in crucifixion. Death defeated man but not the Son of Man. In the Son of Man’s victory over death He made a mockery of it and opened its door. Thus, He is rightly crowned or rewarded with glory and honor. Note carefully the paradoxes: He was made lower than angels but given authority over all things; He was crowned with glory and honor in reward for sacrificial humiliation; and in Jesus, God stepped from eternity into time, and he did so for all sinners, including me. In some mysterious way, the grace of God allowed Jesus Christ to taste death for everyone. This was part of God’s plan for redemption. Christ tasted death, He experienced it, for all. None are excluded except those who exclude themselves. Jesus died on your behalf. His sacrificial death is sufficient for all but only efficient for all those who repent and place faith in Him.

The writer of Hebrews also explained that Jesus is the source of eternal salvation to all who obey Him (Heb. 5:9). He was made perfect. He was tried severely and proven to be without blemish. This perfection advanced Him to the final completeness of the goal fixed by God. He had reached the end of the fleshly road and His obedience extended even unto death on a cruel cross. He graduated from the University of Physical Life with honors. And through His perfection, suffering, death, and resurrection He became the source of eternal salvation. Not a source but the source, to all those who obey Him. Notice the condition. No universalism allowed. Salvation is conditioned upon the loyalty of faith in Christ alone. And observe that the salvation He offers is eternal. Calvinism has an insurmountable restrictive weakness.

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The next article in this series will explore the revelatory weakness of Calvinism.


1John Wild, “The Present Relevance of Catholic Theology,” in Christianity and Reason (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1951), 28.

 

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Joe Blackmon

I’m a five-point Calvinist, so I disagree with you. :-)
BUT…I’m not commenting to disagree with you or defend Calvinism, because that’s just stupid. I just wanted to comment on the tone of the article. I appreciate the fact that you were not inflammatory or unkind. You stated what you believe and supported it. I may not agree with you, but I can respect someone who believes the gospel but understands minor points of theology differently than I do who expresses himself like this. Good show!

    Lydia

    Hey Joe, Great to read you here!

    Norm Miller

    Which “minor” point of theology is Dr. Cox addressing, here? — Norm

Steve Martin

Excellent points.

Salvation is for ALL who obey Him…by faith.

“Faith is a gift of God”. It is not something that ‘we do’…or that we can muster up.

The Lord always grants is us, that which He requires.

Some hear the gospel and come to faith…and many do not.

There are not enough words in the English language, or all the languages put together, that can explain that fact.

Thanks.

    Robert

    Hello Steve,

    You keep making the same mistake, over and over and over again.

    You wrote:

    “ “Faith is a gift of God”. It is not something that ‘we do’…or that we can muster up.”

    Steve:
    Faith **is** something we do.

    Faith is our choice to trust that the Lord alone to save us.

    It is not something God does, not something God does in our place, not something our parents do in our place, not something our friends do in our place.

    In order for a person to have faith, each individual must choose himself/herself to trust the Lord.

    Yes God saves us, but No your claim that faith/”it is not something that ‘we do’” is not true at all.

    I understand that your concern is that you want to make sure that we maintain that God alone saves us.

    But it is not necessary to argue that we are not the ones who have faith to maintain that God alone saves us.

    Regarding who has faith, it has to be us.

    If it is not us, then we will not be saved.

    When the Phillipian jailor asked Paul “what must I do to be saved?” The answer was that YOU must believe. And the faith that that Jailor then had was definitely something that he did.

    Steve why do you refuse to acknowledge your error on this?

    Robert

      Christian

      Everybody in the world lives by faith. The difference in a Christian and an unconverted person is not the fact of faith but the object of faith. The unsaved person trusts himself and others, the Christian trusts God. When I consider the claims of Christ I can choose to trust Him or not. If not I walk away rejecting the Savior. Everyone has faith. The question is do I want to trust Christ or myself.

        Robert

        Hello Christian,

        Your words are right on:

        “Everybody in the world lives by faith. The difference in a Christian and an unconverted person is not the fact of faith but the object of faith. The unsaved person trusts himself and others, the Christian trusts God. When I consider the claims of Christ I can choose to trust Him or not. If not I walk away rejecting the Savior. Everyone has faith. The question is do I want to trust Christ or myself.”

        I make this exact point a lot when evangelizing.

        An atheist for example will say “I don’t have a stupid faith like you do!” Or even “I don’t have faith like you do!”

        I will respond, that you may consider my Christian faith to be stupid, but make no mistake you live by faith just like I do. Just like all of us do. Your object of faith is different, but you live by what you put your trust in, everybody does. Normally with the atheist, staying with this example, their faith or trust is placed in themselves or in science or technological progress or . . ..

        I also challenge other believers that: faith for us is to put our confidence in God and what He says in His Word no matter what our circumstances are or how bad that it looks.

        It is extremely important to remember that in the only chapter in the bible in which God actually talks about people who were well pleasing to him is Hebrews 11 the faith chapter. Scripture says as you received him (which is by faith) so walk in him (which means the Christian life is a daily lifestyle of constantly and repeatedly walking by faith, walking by placing your confidence in God and His Word).

        One of my favorite incidents in the whole bible is when Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego are about to be placed in the fire. Check out their response: they say that they know that God can deliver them from this trial, if he wants to. But even if he doesn’t choose to deliver them, they will trust Him anyway! (see Daniel 3: 8ff)

        Here are their words:

        “If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire: and He will deliver us our of your hand, O king. BUT EVEN IF HE DOES NOT, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” (Dan. 3:17-18).

        Now that is THE attitude of faith that a believer ought to have. I will choose to trust the Lord no matter what. I know he can deliver me from this, but even if he chooses not to, I will continue to serve and trust Him.

        And you can be a Traditionalist and trust in this way, you can be a calvinist and trust in this way, you can be Catholic and trust in this way, Eastern Orthodox and trust in this way, open theist and trust in this way, etc. etc. etc. etc.

        Robert

      Steve Martin

      That is not what the Bible says about it, Robert. It clearly says, “faith is a gift”.

      And Jesus made it quite clear in many places, that faith comes from God and it is not our own doing. Re-visit the conversation with Nicodemus…and with Peter.

      “We are born NOT of the will of man, but of God.”

      That is the truth of it.

        holdon

        “Strive with earnestness to enter in through the narrow door, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter in and will not be able.”
        “For narrow the gate and straitened the way that leads to life, and they are few who find it.”
        “You must be born again”

        These things were said to Jews who “were born by the will of man” (natural descent) into their religion. With Jesus time had come that that would no longer work. It would take effort to seize this new truth of the kingdom of God.

carl peterson

Dr. Cox,

“Therefore, since all are commanded to do so, it is necessary that all be capable of doing so.”

Not to be unduly inquisitive but why? Where did you get this?

“God desires that all people be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Tim. 2:4).”

Okay. But why are not all saved then? Does God maybe desire something else more than some people’s salvations? Please note I am not asking why humans do not choose God. I am asking why God does not save all if He desires all to be saved.

These are just questions. I think the second set is hard for all Christians. But I think it might also show that this is a complicated issue.

    Robert

    Hello Carl,

    Seems to me that you are just parroting common calvinist points here. Points that have been answered in the past and yet for whatever reason, calvinists keep pushing these same old staid and already answered arguments.

    You wrote:

    “Okay. But why are not all saved then?”

    People are not saved because they reject the grace of God they receive and continue to do so for their entire lives. A person is only damned if they remain unrepentant for their entire lives (some even repent at the last moment, so-called death bed conversions, for example like the theif on the cross).

    “Does God maybe desire something else more than some people’s salvations?”
    No, because if non-calvinists, non-determinists are correct, it is God ****himself**** who set up the plan of salvation and the way of salvation. The plan being that Jesus would die for the world so that God could be just and justifier of whomever he wants to save. God the Father would provide the Son for the World, but this atonement would only be applied to those who trust the Lord alone to save them. And God himself set it up in such a way that a person who becomes one of his, freely chooses to trust the Lord alone to save him/her.

    If THAT is the way that God **himself set it up**, THEN IT IS GOD’S WILL that those who are saved are those who freely choose to trust Him.

    What could God desire more than seeing His own will be done?

    What calvinists seem to forget or better yet, don’t want to accept: is that it is God who sets up how people are saved. If he sets it up in such a way that a person must freely choose to trust Him alone for their salvation, THEN THAT IS THE WAY IT IS GOING TO BE.

    And regarding this issue of people having free will. That is also something that the non-calvinist, the non-determinist believes is God’s will as well. It seems clear that God designed human persons to have the capacity to have and make their own choices. If He did that, if that **is** His will, then that is the way it is going to be. It seems odd to me that people are not bothered that God does not change the design plan or rules of the game mid stream (i.e. later down the line creating people with four arms so that they can do more things with more arms, or creatinig people with two brains so that they can think better, or creating people with wings so that they can fly and go more places and evangelize more, etc. etc. etc. etc.). They have no problem that God has not changed any of that. But then when it comes to free will, determinists knowing they have to eliminate it in order for their deterministic theology to be true, start arguing against God’s design plan. In some cases even mocking this part of God’s design plan.

    They don’t seem to understand that not only is the evidence for free will overwhelming (both in the bible and in their own daily experience of having and making their own choices), but some things would not be possible unless free will existed. Take God being sovereign for example. I define sovereignty as God’s right to do whatever he wants in any and all situations in line with his character and plans and promises. Put simpy he does as He pleases in all situations. But for that to be true, he has to have free will (if his actions are necessitated then he does not do as he pleases he has to do whatever the necessitating factor causes him to do).

    Or take our own true worship of God.In order to worship the one true God as opposed to other false gods, we need the ability to consider different choices (the true God versus false gods) we need to be able to make the choice of one God over the others (which means we have to be able to prioritize and say one is more important, more worthy than others). But we can’t do any of that unless we have free will as ordinarily understood.

    Or take ordinary language use. We choose which language we will use, what words we will say or not say, how much we will say, how we will say it, etc. etc. Ordinary language use is fully of instances of our having and then making choices. None of it would be possible unless we have free will. Any time you engage in ordinary language use you experience free will.

    Rationality presupposes free will in that you hear differing presentations and then choose the one you believe to be true, consistent, factual, preferable. Whenever we seek to persuade we assume that the other person has a choice to choose what we are urging them to accept or they will choose to accept the other view or position. We experience free will in this way all the time. It is so comon that most of us don’t even think about it, until we are dealing with determinists who want us to believe that free will does not exist (i.e. that we never ever have any choices).

    “Please note I am not asking why humans do not choose God. I am asking why God does not save all if He desires all to be saved.”

    He set it up and He plays by his own rules. If he set it up so that a freely made choice to trust is part of it, then he is not going to contradict his own plan of salvation and force people to believe against their wills or by taking over their wills and controlling their choices.

    “These are just questions. I think the second set is hard for all Christians. But I think it might also show that this is a complicated issue.”

    I don’t think these questions are hard at all. They are only hard if you operate by certain false assumptions/presuppositions. If you operate by God’s plan of salvation, these problems don’t exist. They only exist if certain things are falsely assumed.

    Robert

      carl peterson

      Robert,

      “People are not saved because they reject the grace of God they receive and continue to do so for their entire lives. A person is only damned if they remain unrepentant for their entire lives (some even repent at the last moment, so-called death bed conversions, for example like the theif on the cross).”

      “I don’t think these questions are hard at all. They are only hard if you operate by certain false assumptions/presuppositions. If you operate by God’s plan of salvation, these problems don’t exist. They only exist if certain things are falsely assumed.”

      Okay but respectfully I think you did not answer or missed the point of my questions. The Traditionalist has to answer as much as the Calvinist why God chooses to not save some.

      Okay but again I did not ask why men do not choose to be saved. I asked why God does not choose to save everyone. so you did not answer the question.

      “No, because if non-calvinists, non-determinists are correct, it is God ****himself**** who set up the plan of salvation and the way of salvation. ”

      Okay. I think Calvinists would agree that it is God who determines the way of savlation. However, my point is that if He desires for all men to be saved (above anything else) but some are not, then why are some not saved? Why did he determine a system in which some would not choose Him? He did not HAVE to do it that way. Why did He?

      “He set it up and He plays by his own rules. If he set it up so that a freely made choice to trust is part of it, then he is not going to contradict his own plan of salvation and force people to believe against their wills or by taking over their wills and controlling their choices.”

      Okay then according to you God values freedom of choice in such a way that it limits his desire or will to see all men saved. He could save everyone but he chooses instead for men to have freewill thus choosing not to save some. He knows some will not be saved. He even makes it so it is very hard(compared to others) to be saved. But that is fine with God. I am not saying He is happy that some are not saved but he is happy about His system of savlation in which he knows some will not be saved.

        Robert

        Hello Carl,

        “Okay but respectfully I think you did not answer or missed the point of my questions. The Traditionalist has to answer as much as the Calvinist why God chooses to not save some.”

        I don’t agree with how Calvinists frame this point. As monergists who believe that free will as ordinarily understood does not exist and who believe that God unilaterally saves people. The monergist/calvinist believes that God could merely exercise his power and so save everyone. In contrast, the non-calvinist (sometimes referred to by determinists as “synergists”) does believe that free will exists and also believes that God does not save in a unilateral fashion (i.e. it is more relational, God works with people to get them to respond to Him, he does not force people to believe against their will or without them freely choosing to trust Him). And since free will exists people can and do sometimes resist God. For the monergist the sole use of power will get people saved. But the non-calvinist believes that God’s plan of salvation is set up in such a way that a freely made choice to want to be saved is part of the process of salvation. If that is the case, some people can also freely choose to reject God and his grace.
        Synergists/non-calvinists recognize that if monergists/calvinists are right, that free will does not exist and if God unilaterally saves people, then he could save everyone, because he could simply use his power and force everyone to believe. We also believe that determinists are wrong about both free will and God saving people apart from their freely made choices.

        “Okay but again I did not ask why men do not choose to be saved. I asked why God does not choose to save everyone. so you did not answer the question.”

        We don’t have to answer why God chooses to not save some as the determinists do because we believe that according to the plan of salvation which is in fact in play, God will not force someone to believe against their will. We also believe that according to God’s plan of salvation God desires that human persons would freely choose to trust Him, freely desire to be saved. If free will is involved in this way (because God wants it that way, because God decided the nature and plan of salvation would be that way), then God is ****not going to contradict Himself****. Again he plays by the very rules which he has set up. If part of the game involves free will, then God does not stop in the middle of the game and eliminate free will from the game by simply forcing everybody to believe.

        “Okay. I think Calvinists would agree that it is God who determines the way of savlation.”

        Well they may agree with that point, but they don’t take it to its logical conclusion.

        If that point is valid, if God determines the way of salvation, then if he determines that he will create a world of genuine persons with free will rather than puppets, certain things will follow. In that world that he purposed, people would have free will, people could both choose to trust Him and choose to reject Him, etc. etc. In that world God will not force everyone to become believers.

        “However, my point is that if He desires for all men to be saved (above anything else) but some are not, then why are some not saved? Why did he determine a system in which some would not choose Him? He did not HAVE to do it that way. Why did He?”

        You include the words “above anything else” here. And that is a major part of the problem. Determinists want to put two claims in opposition against each other (i.e. their claim that God does what he does because his “greatest desire” is to glorify himself versus what they claim is the non-calvinists belief: that God’s “greatest desire” is to save all men). But this contrast is inaccurate and misleading because the bible does not declare what God’s “greatest desire” is. It does not say that his desire to glorify himself is his “greatest desire”, nor does it say that his “greatest desire” is to for all men to be saved.

        The better and more biblical way to view things is that God desires for His will to be done, it is not an either/or (God’s desire to glorify Himself versus His desire to save everyone are to be pitted against each other).

        Rather it is both/and (God’s will is both to glorify Himself AND His will is that He desires to save all people). There are other things that God wills as well. God wants His own people to seek to be holy. God desires an intimate and loving relationship with people. God desires for people to love him and love each other. It is a mistake to go around trying to pit differing desires of God against each other speculating which is the “greatest desire”. Instead, we should realize he has multiple desires and they do not conflict with one another nor should we be having discussions where we attempt to rank them in priority, declaring which desires of God are more important and which are less important.

        Again the determinist wants to frame salvation as solely an issue of power: if God desired to He could simply use his power and force everyone to believe. The non-calvinist objects to this and points out that God works in a much more relational manner including when it comes to salvation. God does not unilaterally use his power and force people to become believers. Instead he works with people, neither overpowering or forcing them to believe. We see this same thing with believers, God does not force us to become more mature, force us to be obedient, these are all choices that we make.

        Sanctification is obviously relational and “synergistic”. The fact that different people receive different rewards at the judgment also suggests that God does not force His people to do good works, they freely choose to do them.

        What the determinist also seems to forget is that God will not contradict Himself, he will not deny Himself. So the way he purposes to create man at the beginning is not a design plan that he will later change or contradict or abandon.

        He would be contradicting his own plans, his own purposes (and the bible says that GOD WILL NOT DENY HIMSELF, or put differently, if God purposed for human persons to have free will when he created them, then he is not going to contradict his own purposes and take it away from human persons later).

        This is why I said in my previous post (and I notice you made no comment about it at all) people are not troubled or bothered that God does not contradict his own design plans further down the line when it involves our arms or our brains (i.e. he purposed for us to have two arms and one brain when he originally created us, later on he does not start creating us with four arms and two brains). People don’t expect that and fully understand that God does not do that. And yet with free will, some don’t want to believe that God is consistent with his own design plan for human persons. If he purposed us to have free will at the beginning he does not later take it away and so DENY HIMSELF/****contradict his own purposes.****

        “Okay then according to you God values freedom of choice in such a way that it limits his desire or will to see all men saved. He could save everyone but he chooses instead for men to have freewill thus choosing not to save some. He knows some will not be saved. He even makes it so it is very hard (compared to others) to be saved. But that is fine with God. I am not saying He is happy that some are not saved but he is happy about His system of savlation in which he knows some will not be saved.”

        I don’t agree with your first statement here. I don’t claim that God values freedom of choice so that he then limits his desire or will to see all men saved. I don’t view our capacity for free will to be something that God values over his desire to see all men saved (so that he could put the value of saving everyone over the value of free will and so force everyone to believe).

        The reason God does not force everyone to believe is not due to lack of power (he has the power to do it) or due to him valuing free will over people being saved. The reason is that God does not deny himself, does not contradict his own plans and purposes. He will not contradict his own plan of salvation (i.e. if his plan includes freely made choices, then later down the line he is not going to save people without freely made choices being involved).

        God was no incompetent designer when he created mankind. He created and designed man to be exactly what God wanted him to be in that initial creation (and that original design includes man having the capacity for having and making his own choices). Man having free will was not an accident, not a chance event, it was purposed, planned by God, the way God designed us to be. God purposed dolphins to be a certain way and have a certain nature (likewise God created everything to have its own nature, in Genesis it speaks of “kinds”, these are creatures with a set nature that God designed them to have, and those “kinds” include human persons as well). God does not later contradict his own design plan for man and start creating people with four arms or two brains. Likewise as he created man with free will at the beginning he does not later take away free will.

        Robert

          Robert

          Carl you also claimed that:

          “He even makes it so it is very hard (compared to others) to be saved. But that is fine with God.”

          Where does it say in the bible that he makes it so hard for some to be saved because of where they live?

          That may be a common assumption held by determinists, but is that what the bible says?

          Apparently you have not sufficiently considered what God himself has said regarding making Himself known to people worldwide.

          Paul witnessing at Mars Hill told the Athenians:

          “and He made from one every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times, and the boundaries of their habitation, THAT THEY SHOULD SEEK GOD, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though he is not far from each one of us” (Acts 17:26-27).

          Note this text says that God determined things so that mankind should seek God.

          Incidentally Dr. Cox presents more scripture making this same point in his post:

          “A Biblical Critique of Calvinism part 4” of September 14, 2010.

          The assumption that God could merely use his power and force people to believe is false because God will not contradict his own plan of salvation (a plan in which the freely made choices of human persons are involved). The assumption that God makes it so hard for people to come to him is false (God’s inspired apostle Paul said that God himself sets things up so that people will seek after God).

          Robert

lindencarlwolfe@yahoo.com

Could Dr. Cox or someone else provide the texts that are the basis for ” the age of accountability” doctrine?

Steve Martin

Robert,

You say that I am “making the same mistake”.

I really don’t understand why you believe that trusting what Holy Scripture says about it, and or what Jesus says about it, is a mistake.

I think that trusting in your reason, and your gut feeling about it, is a mistake. And a big one at that.

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