Regarding human freedom, R.C. Sproul’s Calvinism once again sends him retreating to “it is a mystery.” He says, “Predestination seems to cast a shadow on the very heart of human freedom. If God has decided our destinies from all eternity (unconditionally), that strongly suggests that our free choices are but charades, empty exercises in predetermined placating. It is as though God wrote the script for us in concrete and we are merely carrying out his scenario.”[i] I must admit that, although I adamantly disagree with his Calvinism, I appreciate and admire such candor. He goes on to say, “It was certainly loving of God to predestine the salvation of His people, those the Bible calls the ‘elect or chosen ones.’ It is the non-elect that are the problem. If some people are not elected unto salvation then it would seem that God is not all that loving toward them. For them it seems that it would have been more loving of God not to have allowed them to be born. That may indeed be the case.”[ii] (italics added) This is what I mean when I argue elsewhere that God’s salvific love for the non-elect is virtually indistinguishable from indifference or hate. Various distinctions proffered by Calvinists that supposedly mitigate this reality are, eternally speaking, merely distinctions without a difference; how things play out eternally is what really matters. Continue reading
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William G.T. Shedd, writing about God’s choice regarding the origin of sin and allowing sin to continue, says, “The permissive decree as related to the origin of sin presents a difficulty that does not exist in reference to the continuance of sin…. is an inscrutable mystery”[i] (italics added). Of course, the origin of sin is a “difficulty” and “inscrutable mystery” only because of Calvinism’s compatibilist view of free will. Continue reading
Calvinists believe that man is free to choose according to his greatest desire. For example, Jonathan Edwards believed in what he called “strength of motive.”[i] He said concerning such, “I suppose the will is always determined by the strongest motive.”[ii] Therefore, Edwards argued that one freely chooses to act according to his “strongest motive.” Regarding the nature of free choice, he also said that it is “the ability to do what we will, or according to our pleasure.”[iii]
Consequently, according to Edwards, man’s freedom to choose is determined by his nature and his desires. In other words, man is free to choose to do his greatest desire. Of course, this is the Calvinist view of free will as defined by compatibilism.[iv] It is important to note two very important components of this view. First, the desire or nature from which the desire emanates is not chosen—i.e. a person’s past. Second, the unchosen desire is in fact determinative of what the free choice will be.
That is to say, the Calvinist believes man is free to choose according to his greatest desire but not contrarily. Therefore, his free choice is actually determined by his desire. For example, according to Edwards, sinful man will always freely choose to do his greatest desire, which is to sin. The greatest desire is a part of his nature. Fallen man will never choose to follow Christ without first having his nature changed to emanate new desires; this is the basis for the Calvinist position that regeneration precedes faith.[v]
This view of freedom also highlights the compatibilist’s inability to answer satisfactorily the question of what caused the first sin. Because if man chooses according to his greatest desire, and man chose to sin, then sin must have been his greatest desire. This leads to the disturbing question of where did the desire come from? Of course, it had to come from God since God created everything. Thus, according to Calvinism, God gave the desire, which unavoidably birthed the choice to sin, and this desire God called “very good” (Genesis 1:31). Therefore, God must have, in some very significant sense, desired for man to sin or else He would not have given him a nature or past emanating such desire (this desire being more than merely the desire to create, which all recognize), a disquieting reality. In the same way, when God desires people to be saved, He must choose to regenerate in order to give them a new nature with new desires so they will freely choose to exercise faith in Christ. Continue reading