The serpent’s temptation of Adam and Eve gives every indication of being one in which man could obey or disobey God, and God desired obedience (Genesis 2:17). It also seems clear that the serpent’s effective temptation was a direct challenge to God’s call for man to live by faith based upon God’s worthiness and the essential dissimilarity between God and man. God knows everything infinitely, even sin, although He has never sinned, while man only knew about sin by trusting what God said prior to choosing to sin (Genesis 3:5). This dimension could include things like death (Genesis 2:17), temporary pleasures (Hebrews 11:25), and the deceitfulness of sin (Hebrews 3:13), as well as all of the immitigable suffering from sin and death; things God knows exhaustively without needing to experience sin.[i]
Thus, Extensivists contend that the desire of God was to create man in His own image; a man who would express true love, righteousness, and compassion as God did to man. God knew that unlike Him, man would not choose to do that but rather he would use his freedom to sin, which God did not desire. God’s redemption plan from eternity past included the determination of God to provide salvation for all through the death of Christ and grace enablements, providing man a real choice between following Christ or remaining in his sin.
Theologians and philosophers recognize that there seem to be things that are truly impossible even for God; these fall into to two categories. The first is that which is logically impossible, and the second is that which is contrary to His nature. W.T. Shedd says, “God can do anything that does not imply a logical impossibility. A logical impossibility means that the predicate is contradictory to the subject.”[ii] Regarding those actions that are contrary to God’s nature, Shedd comments, “Again, God cannot do anything inconsistent with the perfection of divine nature. Under this category fall the instances mentioned in Heb. 6:18 (“it is impossible for God to lie”); 2 Tim. 2:13 (“he cannot deny himself”); and James 1:13 (“God cannot be tempted”).”[iii]
Others would add to Shedd’s list, with whom I would agree, the impossibility of creating true human freedom with otherwise choice with the guarantee that man will not use it for evil (when that option is available as it was in creation). Another actual impossibility is to force man into heaven against his will because to do so would destroy man as God’s image bearer; therefore, the redeemed would not be the same being created by God who then chose to sin, thereby making God’s redemption only a partial redemption of man.[iv]
As a part of his free will defense, Alvin Plantinga argues what he refers to as “transworld depravity.” He summarizes, “What is important about the idea of transworld depravity is that if a person suffers from it, then it wasn’t within God’s power to actualize any world in which that person is significantly free but does no wrong—that is, a world in which he produces moral good but no moral evil”[v] “and that it is logically possible that every person suffers from transworld depravity.”[vi] Regarding libertarian freedom, Peter Kreeft comments, “One gives a polish to a table, or a pony to a schoolboy, but one does not give three sides to a triangle or free will to a human being. Free will is a part of our essence. There can be no human being without it. The alternative to free will is not being a human but an animal or a machine.”[vii]
Accordingly, people are in hell because they are born sinners, practicing sinners, and they rejected an accessible opportunity to choose freely to be delivered from hell to heaven. In the Garden of Eden, God provided an environment in which man could freely choose to walk in relationship with Him or walk away from Him. In like manner, God provides a salvific environment in which man can choose to accept an opportunity to come back to Him or reject Him. Man chose to leave his relationship with God, and man must choose to return; without such choice, what is redeemed from sin is not what was lost in sin. Man as man is destroyed and only an ersatz man is redeemed.
Calvinism’s commitment to compatibilism means that man chose to sin, but could not have chosen not to sin, and that man is in heaven or hell because God desired—elected—him to be and man could not have chosen otherwise. That is to say, according to Calvinism, God’s desire is the ultimate and sole determiner and reason why man sinned and why man is saved. George L. Bryson sums up the essence of Calvinism thusly, “Calvinistically speaking, the lost will not be eternally lost for committing sins or being depraved, any more than the saved will be eternally saved for believing the Gospel or receiving Christ. That is, Calvinism asserts that the elect are eventually, ultimately and inevitably saved unconditionally, just as the unelected are eventually, ultimately and inevitably lost unconditionally.”[viii]
In contrast, Extensivism contends that Scripture’s clear and ubiquitous message regarding the nature of God and man (as well as the pervasive descriptive and prescriptive Scriptures depicting the interactions between the two) is that man is endowed with otherwise choice, which misuse of includes the truth that man is the efficient cause of sin with all of its ghastly horror. Moreover, God provisioned for such eventuality so that the reason people perish in hell is because they reject God’s genuine offer of salvation by faith in Christ, which they could have received by God’s grace enablement. People are in heaven because they, as eternally unworthy beggars, received by faith via God’s grace enablements what they otherwise could not have received. This provision is solely because “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
Conclusion Coming Soon!
[i] In heaven, after having experienced sin and redemption, man will be more like God, having learned what God already knew about sin. Then man will use his freedom only for righteousness and never misuse free will again (see my article Is Libertarian Free Will Eternal posted 9/12/13, which includes issues as a range of options and God’s other protective eternal works as well).
[ii] William Greenough Thayer Shedd, Dogmatic Theology, ed. Alan W. Gomes, 3rd ed. (Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R Pub., 2003), 289. Electronic Edition Logos Bible Software.
[iv] In Calvinism, although man technically freely believes, everything prior to such an act is predeterminately forced upon man, which is undeniable according to compatibilism, monergism, unconditional election, and irresistible grace; all of which predeterminately precede an unalterable free exercise of faith.
[v] Alvin C. Plantinga, God, Freedom, and Evil (Grand Rapids, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1974), 48.
[vii] Peter Kreeft and Ronald K. Tacelli, Handbook of Christian Apologetics: Hundreds of Answers to Crucial Questions (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1994), 3. Electronic Edition Logos Bible Software.
[viii] George L. Bryson, The Five Points of Calvinism: Weighed and Found Wanting (Costa Mesa, CA: The Word for Today, 2002), 35.