I have a strong desire to enable people to more readily recognize the unmitigated determinism within every aspect of Calvinism. This serves to make dialogue regarding the merits and liabilities of Calvinism clearer as well as enabling everyone a better opportunity to be aware of what they are actually embracing when they don the title Calvinist. In view of that, I frequently speak about the nature of compatibilism, which is Calvinism’s chosen perspective regarding man’s freedom as contrasted with libertarianism, Extensivism’s belief about man’s freedom. If the entailments of these perspectives are misunderstood, the conversation is unproductive.
An important component of my attempt to elucidate this issue is to help people become apt at seeing Calvinism’s omnipresent determinism while reading Calvinist literature that is often beclouding at best. To that end, I believe it is helpful for people to be shown how to see beyond the obscurant language often employed in writings of well-known knowledgeable committed Calvinists as well as lesser-known knowledgeable Calvinists. In this article I look at Wayne Grudem’s less than clear explanation of moral freedom from the perspective of Calvinism. I do not assign ill-motive, and I am appreciative of the clarity of some of his comments. Continue reading
This question seems to presume that not everyone has heard, seen and understood enough about God to respond positively to His revelation. Scripture, however, indicates otherwise. In Romans 1:16-2:16 for instance, the apostle Paul declares that the powerful gospel appeal has been sent first to the Jew and then the Gentile (1:16) and the “righteous live by faith” (1:17). This is in contrast with those who continue to “suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (1:18) and as a result will be “given over to their defiled minds” and cut off from further light of God’s gracious truth (1:24-26). (See also Psalm 19)
In other words, those who continually suppress the truth by “trading it in for lies” will grow more and more calloused and cut off from the light of divine revelation. Eventually their consciences will become seared, their hearts hardened, and they may no longer be able to see, hear, understand and turn to God for healing (see also Acts 28:23-28). Continue reading
Calvinists teach that all of humanity are born God haters due to their fallen condition and can do nothing except reject the good news brought by the Spirit because of their innate animosity toward their Creator. Even God’s own appeals for reconciliation are insufficient to enable a fallen person to respond freely according to this particular kind of “Reformed Theology.” For instance, Calvinistic scholar Albert Mohler gave his exposition on Romans 1:18-32 by teaching, in part:
“Paul’s story of universal human sinfulness and depravity is our story. In these words, we discover the explanation of how it is that we find ourselves in this condition of sinfulness… Every single human being is part of the intellectual activity described here. All descendants of Adam are involved in the suppression of ‘truth in unrighteousness’… This text is about humanity. The verb tense in the phrase ‘God gave’ is past tense — this has already happened. God has given humanity over. The apostle Paul includes everyone in the indictment as he describes the giving over of all of humanity to sinfulness”…
Theologically, this is referred to as the noetic consequences of the fall. The phrase ‘noetic effects’ refers to the intellectual consequences of sin. John Calvin said there were three great causes of this noetic disaster…<link>
Mohler continues in this message to describe Calvin’s doctrine of “Total Inability,” the belief that all of humanity is born morally incapable of responding positively to any appeal of God unless they are first regenerated by an “irresistible” or “effectual” work of grace (i.e. the “T” and “I” of the “TULIP” soteriology).
In other words, Mohler believes people must be born again (regenerated) before they can believe in God’s own appeals to be reconciled through faith in Christ (i.e. pre-faith regeneration). Mohler and other Calvinists are convinced that God’s gracious work in sending His Son, the Spirit, the Apostles, the Scripture, His Bride and the Gospel appeal needs yet another gracious work (an “irresistible work”) to be sufficient to enable a positive response. Does God’s gracious work need more grace to work? And must God’s gracious gifts be irresistibly applied for Him to get full credit for giving them? Apparently Calvinists believe so.
What Mohler and Calvinists in general fail to recognize is that Paul is contrasting “the righteous who live by faith” in Rom. 1:17 with those who “suppress the truth in unrighteousness” in vs 18. Paul is not attempting to say that every human has continually suppressed the truth in unrighteousness, traded the truth in for lies, been given over to their defiled minds, become homosexuals and approve of all who do these sinful acts. Paul is attempting to demonstrate how all people (both the Jews with the direct revelation of God’s law and the Gentiles with only their inborn conscience) have broken the commandments of God and thus may only attain righteous by grace through faith in God and not by meritorious deeds.
KEY POINT: Proof that no one is morally capable of attaining righteous by works of the law is not proof that no one is morally capable of believing in God so as to be credited as righteous by His gracious provision through Christ.
A common objection against our Traditional free will theology is that “it exalts mankind” because it maintains mankind’s moral ability-to-respond to God’s appeals (i.e. “responsibility”). We regularly hear Calvinists accusing our view of “stealing God’s glory and exalting humanity,” but is this a fair accusation? Let’s objectively examine the natural (lost/un-regenerate) man of each system and you decide which perspective really has the “lower” view of the natural man:
The Non-Elect Unbelievers (“reprobate”) who die in rebellion:
? Were born hated and rejected by God (speaking salvifically)
? Were born incapable of morally accepting God’s own appeals to repent
? Were born with a nature that could only hate God, just as he was first hated by God
? Live their entire lives incapable of willingly repenting in response to God’s revelation
The Calvinistic view of God in relation to those (“reprobate”) who die in unbelief:
? Hated and rejected the reprobates before the creation of the world
? Refused to grant the reprobates the ability to repent to His own appeals and then judged them for their unwillingness to repent in light of Christ’s word
One can only feel pity for the non-elect reprobate of the Calvinistic system. They are born victims of God’s eternal decree and without hope of salvation. The only thing more devastating than a lost soul is a lost soul without anyone looking for her or providing her hope of being found.
On Calvinism the reprobate (most of humanity) are born in a hopeless and helpless condition which is beyond their control. They are born rejected and unloved by their own Creator. How devastating is this!? This is not good news! This is horrific and terrible news!
The good news is that our God is good! Because He is good we know that no child is born unloved by their Creator, rejected by their Maker, or unwanted by their God.
“God is love” (1 Jn. 4:8)
“The Lord is gracious and merciful; Slow to anger and great in lovingkindness. The Lord is good to all, And His mercies are over all His works” (Ps. 145:9).
“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
“This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people. This has now been witnessed to at the proper time” (1 Tim. 2:3-6).
Our God loves and wants the aborted, abandoned and unwanted children of this earth. He saves the weak and humble because He is gracious and kind (Ps 18:27).
In many ways, the reprobate on Calvinism is like the clinically insane in our own judicial system. The unfortunate people born with mental illness who literally cannot control their behaviors due to tumors, chemical imbalances or other similar ailments may be declared “insane” and hospitalized, but our judicial system still recognizes their “innocence” due to their incapacities. The court’s ruling of “innocent by reason of insanity” relates to this contrast because it points to the true nature of what makes a man responsible and thus blameworthy.
How do you feel about a judge who sends a mentally ill criminal to the electric chair for committing a crime that he literally could not have refrained from committing? How do you view that criminal? In this scenario the judge is painted in a very bad light and the criminal is seen as a victim of sorts. In contrast, if the criminal is shown to have committed a premeditated crime with malice and full responsibility as a sane person, the judge seems much more just and the criminal far more guilty.
For this reason, a good District Attorney seeking a guilty conviction would vehemently argue that the defendant was of “sound mind” and “had the capacity to refrain from the criminal behavior” for which he stands trial.
So too, the Traditionalist, like myself, stands to make a parallel argument against all unbelievers who end up in Hell. The lost unbeliever cannot resort to the defense of “Total Inability.” Those perishing in Hell cannot rightly say, “I was born hated and rejected by my Maker, unable to choose otherwise,” or “The revelation of God, even through the powerful truth of the gospel, was insufficient to enable me to willingly respond in faith.” The lost do not have any excuses for their unbelief (Rom 1:20). And I cannot think of any better excuse than that provided by the teaching of Calvinists regarding the incapacity of man’s nature to respond willingly to God Himself.
Unbelievers are guilty of unbelief because it is their responsibility (read “ability to respond”) to believe God’s gracious and abundantly clear revelation. To remove that ability (moral or otherwise) is to undermine their guilt and God’s justice. So, let’s look at the condition of the natural man on Traditionalism in contrast to the Calvinistic worldview:
The Unbelievers who die in rebellion:
? Were born sinners under wrath, but loved and wanted by God nonetheless
? Were born capable of morally accepting God’s gracious appeals to repent
? Were born with a nature that could either respond in love or hatred to God’s provision of self-sacrifical love and atonement
? Live their entire lives freely rejecting God’s revelation though they have no excuse for doing so because they had the capacity to morally respond in faith
The Traditionalists view of God in relation to those who die in unbelief:
? Loved and provided the means of salvation for them all
? Graciously granted all the ability to repent to His own appeals and then judged them for their choice to rebel or repent in light of Christ’s word (see John 12:47-48)
Those who perish only perish because the refused to love the truth so as to be saved (2 Thess. 2:11). The lost cannot claim they were rejected by their own Maker before they were born. They cannot say they were unloved or not provided the necessary grace needed to believe and be saved! They were not born haters of God who couldn’t have chosen to do otherwise because of a divine unchangeable decree prior to the creation of the world.
Watch the video below for a quick answer to the question, “Are all people born haters of God?”
NOTICE: This is not a new argument against deterministic views, by any means. In fact, in the first and second century we have record of the Earliest Church Fathers making this same case:
“God therefore has given that which is good, as the apostle tells us in this Epistle, and they who work it shall receive glory and honor, because they have done that which is good when they had it in their power not to do it; but those who do it not shall receive the just judgment of God, because they did not work good when they had it in their power so to do.
“But if some had been made by nature bad, and others good, these latter would not be deserving of praise for being good, for such were they created; nor would the former be reprehensible, for thus they were made [originally]. But since all men are of the same nature, able both to hold fast and to do what is good; and, on the other hand, having also the power to cast it from them and not to do it, — some do justly receive praise even among men who are under the control of good laws (and much more from God), and obtain deserved testimony of their choice of good in general, and of persevering therein; but the others are blamed, and receive a just condemnation, because of their rejection of what is fair and good. And therefore the prophets used to exhort men to what was good, to act justly and to work righteousness, as I have so largely demonstrated, because it is in our power so to do, and because by excessive negligence we might become forgetful, and thus stand in need of that good counsel which the good God has given us to know by means of the prophets. … No doubt, if any one is unwilling to follow the Gospel itself, it is in his power [to reject it], but it is not expedient. For it is in man’s power to disobey God, and to forfeit what is good; but [such conduct] brings no small amount of injury and mischief. … But because man is possessed of free will from the beginning, and God is possessed of free will, in whose likeness man was created, advice is always given to him to keep fast the good, which thing is done by means of obedience to God.(Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Bk. IV, 37)
Justin Martyr (AD 110-165)
“But lest some suppose, from what has been said by us, that we say that whatever happens, happens by a fatal necessity, because it is foretold as known beforehand, this too we explain. We have learned from the prophets, and we hold it to be true, that punishments, and chastisements, and good rewards, are rendered according to the merit of each man’s actions. Since if it be not so, but all things happen by fate, neither is anything at all in our own power. For if it be fated that this man, e.g., be good, and this other evil, neither is the former meritorious nor the latter to be blamed. And again, unless the human race have the power of avoiding evil and choosing good by free choice, they are not accountable for their actions, of whatever kind they be. But that it is by free choice they both walk uprightly and stumble, we thus demonstrate. We see the same man making a transition to opposite things. Now, if it had been fated that he were to be either good or bad, he could never have been capable of both the opposites, nor of so many transitions. But not even would some be good and others bad, since we thus make fate the cause of evil, and exhibit her as acting in opposition to herself; or that which has been already stated would seem to be true, that neither virtue nor vice is anything, but that things are only reckoned good or evil by opinion; which, as the true word shows, is the greatest impiety and wickedness. But this we assert is inevitable fate, that they who choose the good have worthy rewards, and they who choose the opposite have their merited awards. For not like other things, as trees and quadrupeds, which cannot act by choice, did God make man: for neither would he be worthy of reward or praise did he not of himself choose the good, but were created for this end; nor, if he were evil, would he be worthy of punishment, not being evil of himself, but being able to be nothing else than what he was made.” (Justin, First Apology, XLIII)
Tertullian (AD 145-220)
“In order, therefore, that man might have a goodness of his own, bestowed on him by God, and there might be henceforth in man a property, and in a certain sense a natural attribute of goodness, there was assigned to him in the constitution of his nature, as a formal witness of the goodness which God bestowed upon him, freedom and power of the will, such as should cause good to be performed spontaneously by man, as a property of his own, on the ground that no less than this would be required in the matter of a goodness which was to be voluntarily exercised by him, that is to say, by the liberty of his will, without either favor or servility to the constitution of his nature, so that man should be good just up to this point, if he should display his goodness in accordance with his natural constitution indeed, but still as the result of his will, as a property of his nature; and, by a similar exercise of volition, should show himself to be too strong in defense against evil also (for even this God, of course, foresaw), being free, and master of himself; because, if he were wanting in this prerogative of self-mastery, so as to perform even good by necessity and not will, he would, in the helplessness of his servitude, become subject to the usurpation of evil, a slave as much to evil as to good. Entire freedom of will, therefore, was conferred upon him in both tendencies; so that, as master of himself, he might constantly encounter good by spontaneous observance of it, and evil by its spontaneous avoidance; because, were man even otherwise circumstanced, it was yet his bounden duty, in the judgment of God, to do justice according to the motions of his will regarded, of course, as free. But the reward neither of good nor of evil could be paid to the man who should be found to have been either good or evil through necessity and not choice. In this really lay the law which did not exclude, but rather prove, human liberty by a spontaneous rendering of obedience, or a spontaneous commission of iniquity; so patent was the liberty of man’s will for either issue. Since, therefore, both the goodness and purpose of God are discovered in the gift to man of freedom in his will, it is not right, after ignoring the original definition of goodness and purpose which it was necessary to determine previous to any discussion of the subject, on subsequent facts to presume to say that God ought not in such a way to have formed man, because the issue was other than what was assumed to be proper for God. We ought rather, after duly considering that it behooved God so to create man, to leave this consideration unimpaired, and to survey the other aspects of the case. It is, no doubt, an easy process for persons who take offence at the fall of man, before they have looked into the facts of his creation, to impute the blame of what happened to the Creator, without any examination of His purpose. To conclude: the goodness of God, then fully considered from the beginning of His works, will be enough to convince us that nothing evil could possibly have come forth from God; and the liberty of man will, after a second thought, show us that it alone is chargeable with the fault which itself committed.” (Tertullian, Against Marcion, Bk. II, ch. vi)
HERE we also discuss the glory of God and the accusation that Traditionalism seeks to steal it somehow.