Comments: The Question of Free Will

And to think all these years I was misreading Matt 24:14:

For many are called but few are chosen.

It must really mean: Many are called, but few end up choosing God.

And I must be misreading John 6:44:

No one comes to me unless the Father who sent me draws him…

It must really mean: No one comes to me, unless they feel like it.

And I must be misreading Romans 3:10-11:

As it is written: "There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God.

It must really mean: Some are righteous. Some understand. Some, all on their very own, seek God.

And Romans 8:30:

Those whom He predestined He also called...

That must really mean "Those whom he predestined, which is everybody, He also called and now hopes that they accept..."

And Romans 9:11:13:

[*before they were born*] Jacob I loved but Esau I hated",

it really means: AFTER THEY WERE BORN AND JACOB ACCEPTED ME AND ESAU REJECTED ME then and only then I loved Jacob and hated Esau.

And when He said to Moses (Rom 9:14) I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy", it really means "I will have mercy on whoever asks me for it."


And those vessels of wrath and mercy, prepared *ahead of time* in Romans 9:22-23. They must not be a metaphor for the damned and saved, but literally clay vessels. Who would have thunk it?

You may choose to believe in a God who has his fingers crossed, hoping somebody assents to His gospel so that his son didn’t die in vain. I’ll continue to believe in the God of scripture, a God who by his absolute sovereignty has assured a people for his Son.

Posted by David Heddle at August 4, 2003 11:12 AM

Dr Heddle --

Well, yes. You are misinterpreting it. In fact, I would say you've got it all backwards, just as Calvin had it all backwards. Calvin's decretum horrible caused rather a lot of strife back in the 16th century, and I hate to see that continue today in even a rhetorical form.

Of course, what you believe is your own business. God has given us free will, after all. It is that free will which makes us men; and which will lead us all to accept or reject Him. I do not argue that you have not accepted Him; I think it is pretty clear that you have. But it concerns me that you openly proclaim a doctrine which pushes men away from the Gospel rather than towards it.

-- BJK

P.S. Why the deuce would you think I believe in a God who has His fingers crossed over whether people accept His doctrine?

He gave us the free will to accept or reject Him; He wrote the ground rules; He gives us a few mulligans along the way. It's up to us to decide whether we want to go along with His doctrine.

Your argument, sir -- that God chooses or forces people to follow Christianity -- suggests that God is somehow insecure or vain or has a quota to fulfill. That seems to me a very proud and very troubling argument.

P.P.S. By the way, I'd be interested in hearing your interpretation of Matthew 16:18.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at August 4, 2003 07:48 PM

Matt 16:18 is an important verse. The "upon this rock" could mean one of two things (or even both). That Peter is confirmed as an apostle and an "elder" if you will of the early church. It may also refer back to the previous passage, i.e. the rock might mean idea that the faith in Christ Peter expresses in verse 16 is a gift from God (verse 17). Christ goes on to say the gates of Hades will not prevail against the church. I think that means the church will be victorious, and the great commission will succeed. This verse is reason for great optimism.

The "cross His fingers" refers to this. If man must chose God of his own free will before God will save him, then you must allow for the possibility, however remote, that NOBODY will choose God. Christ might have come for nothing. There is a chance, in this view, that everyone rejects the gospel.

Benjamin, I believe you are making a common mistake. To wit., you are saying God should be like "a rational person" would be if they were God. If I were God, I would let anybody chose me. And I wouldn't punish people for how they were born. And kids wouldn't die. But I am not God. All I can do is look at how scripture describes God. I gave a handful of verses in my previous comment. You say I got it backwards. But can you show that, not from how you would like God to be, but how scripture describes Him?

In my opinion, the bible clearly teaches that man is so depraved as a result of the fall that on his own NOBODY would chose God. God has to do it all. For His reasons He choses not to show mercy to all. Why? I don't know. But I am not free to complain that I would do it differently. The creation cannot argue with the creator.

Posted by David Heddle at August 4, 2003 08:09 PM

The creation cannot argue with the creator?

Well, if God created me, I can happily assure you that I'm arguing with him right now: Hey God, you shouldn't put people in Hell just because they have trouble believing that Jesus was your son. That's morally repugnant and would make you evil--sort of a like a big giant child who enjoys torturing small animals. Stop doing that, it's wrong!

There, Dr. Heddle. I just argued with the Creator, didn't I?

Either that, or God made me do it. In which case anything you have to say about it is irrelevant, isn't it?

I note that there are diferent ways to interpret at least some of the verses that Dr. Heddle chooses to cite, by the way. I also note that there seems something inherently blasphemous in his views: that God decides in advance who will sin and who will not, and that God is ultimately, therefore, the source of all sin and all evil.

Really is a rather warped and twisted view of God. Not much reason to preach the Gospel, either, is it? God's going to decide all this anyway, we're all just puppets on his strings.

Posted by Dean Esmay at August 5, 2003 12:48 AM

I am reminded of the old saying: "The Devil may quote Scritpure to his purpose." (I may be paraphrasing slightly, but the meaning is clear nontheless). What it really comes down to is the fact that none of us will know which of the two of you is right until we kick the bucket. Each of you has equal faith that you are right. That much is certain. But, logically, you cannot possibly both be right. Well, actually, perhaps you can, but that is a topic for a later day. In any event, your attempts at using logic to disarm each others' arguments is itself illogical.

Both of you believe what you do based on faith, and not logic. Faith that the Bible is something other than it appears to be, which is a simple book purporting to be the word of God as opposed to the actual word of God. You also each have faith that your spin on that book is the unfailingly correct view. Faith is based not on logic or reason, but rather a fervent and unfounded hope. This isn't a bad thing--in fact, in some instances, it can be quite a good thing. But it is, nevertheless, wholly subjective.


A battle of faith versus faith logically cannot be settled until you both die, and even then (let's face it) you might both turn out to be wrong.

Posted by Geoff Brown at August 5, 2003 12:52 AM

Will anyone actually try to explain away Heddle's list of verses? You can't possible expect to win this argument by asserting that these verses mean something other than their plain meaning without so much as an explanation.

Another thing: free will/predestination debates can often be confusing because of ambiguous words. Let us do a thought-experiment to illustrate this. Suppose there is a person Bob. From Bob's point of view, he has free will. He is never forced by anyone to believe what he believes or forced to live a particulary virtuous or unvirtuous life, as he lives in a fairly liberal society. Bob thinks he has free will and he takes responsibility for his actions.

Nevertheless, Bob has been predestined to go to Hell. How is this consistent with his free will? Well it depends on what you mean by free. If free means uncoerced then Bob, living in a sufficiently tolerant society, is free in matters of religion, and free to accept or reject the Gospel.

But suppose God predestined that Bob will never hear the Gospel. This is not an unreasonable assumption. If God knows the future and has complete control over the universe then by definition whatever happens, God predestined it. (The only way you can dispute the previous sentence is to dispute the premises or the way I use the word predestined, which just illustrates my point.) Therefore, we must conclude that since millions have heard and rejected the Gospel, God predestined this. So just imagine Bob to be one of these millions. It follows, depending on what we mean by predestination and freedom, that divine predestination of Bob to Hell does not conflict with Bob's free will.

Using more precise philosophical lingo, predestination is not fatalism but more like soft determinism, with God as the ultimate determiner. He has determined that some of us will go to Hell, which shouldn't shock us, as it is the place each and every one of us deserves to go. The shocking Good News is that he has predestined some of us to be saved, through history's greatest act of grace.

Posted by Dave Milovich at August 5, 2003 04:15 AM

The problem being discussed here is one resulting from a confusion of Law and Gospel. In answer to the question, "Why are YOU not saved?," the Law answers, "YOU have not been willing." (Matt. 23:27). In answer to the question, "Why are YOU saved?," the Gospel answers, "God chose YOU." (Ephesians 1:4-6)

These are existential questions not philosophical assertions. Scripture speaks to the unbeliever and says, "Believe." The unbeliever cannot ascribe responsibility to God for his lack of faith. Scripture speaks to the believer and says "nothing shall separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus" because your faith results from God's choice not yours. Who wants to rob believers of that comfort attested to so often by scripture?

Calvin's error was in trying to combine the two questions and come up with one answer. Armininians err in the same way with the opposite result. Luther let the paradox stand and Law and Gospel separate and distinct.

Posted by Allen Brill at August 5, 2003 10:03 AM

I've got some points to make:

1) Dr. Heddle isn't being rude, where as Mr. Kepple is.

2) The Apostle Paul is the perfect scriptual example for predestination.

3) Part of being protestant is that we don't consider Catholic tradition to be worth squat.

4) Likewise, I've never even heard 'Sirach'. I'm guessing its an Aprocyphal book or somesuch.

5) Even among people who claim to be Calvinists, there's a range of beliefs. Some are very fatalistic, and some (such as myself) are more of the, as Mr. Milovich put it, Deterministic types.

6) Which is more important? Believing in the Roman Catholic church or beliving in the Holy Trinity (of which there is no God the Pope).

7) If simple repentance to acts of sin was all that was required, then Our Lord would never of had to die for them. How revolting must our human sin be that it required so perfect a sacrifice to absolve it.

8) I agree with everything Mr. Milovich wrote.

9) I need more coffee.

Posted by Kevin St. Andre at August 5, 2003 10:19 AM

Dean,

Yes in that sense you can argue with God, for all the good it will do.

You are equating predestination with fatalism. “We are all just puppets…” What a tiresome criticism. Do you think after 2000 years you are the first person clever enough to come up with that one? “Not much reason to preach the gospel..” Gee, never thought about that! Could it be, just maybe, that we preach it because God commands us to? For His glory? Does it bother you that man's chief aim is to glorify God?

God does not decide in advance who will sin and who won’t. It’s a foregone conclusion: we all will sin. That is not Calvinism or Arminianism but orthodox Christianity, something all Christians agree to. It is original sin. We sin because we are sinners, not the other way around. God is not the originator or author of sin. Who/what is? I don’t know. It is a great mystery.

Geoff:

Indeed the devil does quote scripture, even to Christ in the desert. And Jesus didn’t answer him by saying “well I just think you are wrong!” He trumped his misuse of scripture with other scripture.

Posted by David Heddle at August 5, 2003 11:05 AM

While we're [basically] studying comparative religion, let me just say that in the Lutheran faith (as I understand it), everyone is "predestined" to go to Heaven. That was God's great gift to man. Everyone goes to Heaven.

Thus, as Lutherans we don't worship because we're trying to earn that boarding pass for the bus going to Heaven; we don't live a virtuous life because otherwise we'll be judged unfit for Heaven.

We worship because God's grace is worthy of worship. We live a virtuous life because it's the "right thing to do", not because we're afraid of the ravages of Hell.

Posted by Kevin White at August 5, 2003 01:02 PM

Nobody seems to be comparing the "predestined - forechose" verses to the Old Testament, in which God's people are chosen and chosen again. Even when they sin, even when they stray, He reminds them, saves them, punishes them. They're His, on earth.

But none of that determines that each separate person has a free pass into Heaven because God told the guy at the door to let them in regardless of behavior.

If the "predestined" verses have weight, then so do the particular judgement verses, where Jesus will recognize or not recognize us because of our clothing/feeding/visiting/comforting the least of our brethren. These actions, which only take place with the help of God's Grace, make us the inheritors of the Kingdom. We were made adopted children by Baptism; we come into the Kingdom, beginning here on earth, when we are in Christ and He in us.

Nobody has to go to Hell. I believe it grieves God when He sees us choose it.

Posted by Therese Z at August 5, 2003 02:25 PM

I would think that the major flaw with any idea that our fate with respect to heaven and hell is predetermined, that is, that it's already been decided whether we're going to heaven or hell regardless of what we do or don't do, would completely remove any incentive to abide by the Bible or any religious authority. I know that, if I knew I were going straight to hell, I probably wouldn't make any effort whatsoever to live a vitruous or good life, instead doing whatever the hell I want whenever I want--after all, what's the point of doing otherwise? For that matter, the same would really hold true if you knew that your salvation has already been predetermined. If you were going to heaven no matter what, what would be the point of doing anything other than whatever you might want to do when you want to do it?

The next question would be: exactly how does one know which path has been chosen for him or her, really? I mean, wouldn't that necessarily only be known at the appointed time?

Either one of these points would seem to make scripture, the Bible, and church pointless as anything other than a time filler or a curiousity.

Posted by Geoff Brown at August 5, 2003 11:35 PM

To put it simply, the crux of the matter is the calvinist belief that choosing God is an act of "works", while they still hold that salvation is by grace. However, we cannot be saved by works, so hence God "chooses" us (by regenerating us) and saves us by grace. It all depends on whether it's valid to believe that by merely choosing or exacting our free will, it constitutes "works". Calvinists believe it does, "Armenians" believe it doesn't. I'm with the Armenians on this one.

The analogy of the gift is appropriate here. If someone gives me a gift and I choose to receive it, it doesn't mean I earned it, or that I worked to obtain such a gift. Salvation is also "the gift of God", but such a gift has no bearing on our ability to either receive or reject it.

The other issue is that the Bible states that God isn't willing that ANY should perish, but that ALL should come to repentance.

"Ezekiel 18:32 For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord GOD: wherefore turn [yourselves], and live ye."

We believe such phrases such as "all" and "world" and so on are all-encompassing. The calvinists simply do not. They believe "all" refers ONLY to the elect.

These differences should help clarify the two positions. An excellent book that discusses calvinism and its roots is "What Love is This" by Dave Hunt, which can be found at The Berean Call

Hope this helps! :-D

Posted by Mac Swift at August 5, 2003 11:41 PM

To Geoff, re posting at August 5, 2003 11:35 PM:

In your first paragraph, you suggest that predestination removes any incentive for good behavior--what's the point, if my fate is already determined, for weal or woe? You have a valid criticism if predestination is held as an isolated doctrine.

However, in Calvinism, that doctrine is always held as part of a larger theological context that obviates your objection. We insist that God doesn't simply predestine people to be saved from hell: he also predestines them to be conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29). Justification and regeneration are always accompanied by sanctification, the process of being made more holy, more Christlike. Unlike regeneration, sanctification is synergistic, that is, the believer willingly cooperates with the Holy Spirit in this process. It may be a slow process with little obvious fruit, and it may not easily be perceived even by the believer, but it unfailingly accompanies justification. If a person who regards himself as a believer doesn't find some evidence of a new heart towards God & neighbor, and some evidence of growing Christlikeness (be it ever so little), then that person ought to examine himself whether he be in the faith (2. Cor. 13:5). Because in Calvinism sanctification is yoked to justification, no one who persists in sinning and won't repent has any license to think himself elect. You can't live like hell and think you are going to heaven.

In your second paragraph, you ask how one can know whether one is elect or reprobate. For semi-pelagians, such as Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Weslayans, Arminians, and even most Lutherans, one can't really know until the end, because there is always the possibility of falling away in a manner unforeseen earlier in one's life.

The Calvinist's answer is connected with the question of sanctification: we examine our lives and our attitudes toward God and toward our neighbor. Do I have any affection for Christ? Do I at least sometimes regard his sacrifice on behalf of sinners with awe and gratitude? Am I seeing more fruits of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22, 23), which is evidence that Jesus is pruning my life (John 15:1-11)? Am I making use of the means of grace (the Word and the sacraments) to grow in grace? Am I more loving toward my neighbor than before?

As you can see, this is a complex question, especially as it is manifested differently in each Christian life.

Posted by Chuck Bearden at August 9, 2003 02:02 AM

Interesting, but nothing new here at all in this 200 year old debate. I'm a Calvinist. My best friend of 25 years is a hard core Arminian. I love him like a brother and I am convinced that this doctrine should not be a cause for division. So take my following remarks in that context. They are to the point, but not intended to sound smug or offensive. I am, as are we all, in constant need of correction. And I also realize that there are exceptions to the generalizations I make here, but in many years of discussion and teaching on this subject I have found what I say below to be almost invariably the case. So here goes:

I would issue this challenge to you free-willers out there. There are two books written on this subject which Arminians tend to simply ignore. They address every objection that Arminians raise and they have never been answered by the Arminian side. I speak of _The Cause of God and Truth_ by John Gill and, of course, _The Death of Death in the Death of Christ_ by John Owen. Both books give detailed responses to the way Arminians interpret the Bible and the verses they typically use to defend freewill.

I have read lots of Arminian stuff and plenty of Reformed stuff as well. Arminian authors typically repeat the same arguments they have always offered up while showing no sign that they have ever interacted with the key Reformed works on this important question. This is even more the case in internet debates on predestination. The same old objections are repeated time after time and the discussion is closed, as if that were the final word, when really nothing could be further from the truth. And the typical Arminian that I have encountered, as a result, never gets beyond a very superficial level of understanding the subject. All the while he imagines that he has adequate intellectual reasons for rejecting Calvinism, when if fact, he has yet to seriously interact with it. A lot of time and energy could be saved if Arminians would take the time to read serious Calvinistic literature and really deal with it.

So, I would say that until you have read Gill and Owen and have honestly confronted their Scripture based arguments, you cannot really say that you have an informed opinion about the question.

I would also add a reference to the best contemporary book on predestination by far, _No Place for Sovereignty_ by R. K. McGregor Wright. One of the helpful things about this book is that he demonstrates how Arminianism, both logically and historically, leads to theological liberalism. We are seeing this process unfold before our eyes at this moment among evangelicals in the form of Clark Pinnock and the Openness of God movement, which denies God's forknowledge of the future and seriously questions the inerrancy of Scripture. This is, as Wright points out, merely a repetition of what happened to the Arminians of the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, once the presupposition of freewill was allowed to work its way out logically. They finished up as Socinians and Unitarians.

In any case, I do tire of hearing freewillers repeat the same old worn-out criticisms of Calvinism, as if these objections had not been thoroughly answered many times before. So I would just ask that before you repeat such arguments as if they settled the case, that you read the Calvinists' responses to them and then answer those arguments. At least you would be contributing something new to the debate.

BTW, even if the Bible did not teach Calvinism from cover to cover (which it does), I would think that on the basis of John 10:26 alone it would be impossible to be an Arminian. Jesus told the unbelieving Jews, "You do not believe BECAUSE you are not my sheep." I have often wondered how any Arminian could ever say such a thing. An Arminian would have to say, "You are not my sheep BECAUSE you do not believe," which is exactly the opposite of what Jesus said. The interesting thing is that I have yet to encounter an Arminian book or commentary that addresses this verse in any substantial way. Most every one I have ever seen simply jump over the verse as if it did not exist.

Anyway, I may have missed something, so I will be glad to read check out any Arminian works anybody wants to suggest, if I can get hold of them. But I don't expect to see much of anything I have not already seen.

By the way, I appreciate brother Dave Hunt's zeal for the Lord, especially in his diligent fight to expose New Age teaching. However, he has no real theological training and cannot in any way be considered a competent authority on this question. If you want to see what are some of the best examples of recent Arminian defenses you might check out _Grace Unlimited_ and _The Will of God and the Will of Man_, both edited by Clark Pinnock and both of which include a wide range of some of the best contemporary Arminian theologians. You might also check out H. Orton Wiley's _Christian Theology_ for a solid representation of Arminian thinking. All that being said, none of these works refute Owen or Gill.

Finally, concerning Mr. Esmay's accusations against God, I recommend as a starting point my posts on God and Evil, found here: http://imagoveritatis.myatts.net/comments.php?id=P62_0_1_0 ,
as well as my challenge to skeptics which can be accessed from my main page. Until atheists can give a coherent account of evil on the basis of their own world view, I really don't think their objections to Christianty are worth much of anything. Atheism as a world view is inherently irrational and unless they can demonstrate otherwise, the atheists' objections are without a rational basis and pose no serious threat to the Christian.


books mentioned should be available at www.christianbook.com

Posted by Alan Myatt at August 10, 2003 09:48 PM

In my above comment I closed with a statement that implies that Dean Esmay is an atheist. In fact, I'm not quite sure if that is correct or not. I have not read a lot of his stuff, so I want to make sure I have not erroneously labeled him. His blog is quite good and well worth reading. And I fully endorse his promotion of open-minded tolerance. However, whatever Mr. Esmay's personal beliefs may be, I stand by my remarks about atheism.

(and yes, I know that the controversy is 2000 years old, not 200)

Posted by Alan at August 10, 2003 10:16 PM

"However, he has no real theological training..."

Neither did the disciples, most of whom were just fishermen.

Using this argument to dismiss any writer you disagree with is inconsistent with what the Bible teaches. In addition, the Bible is not wall to wall calvinism as you claim, in fact, most of the calvinist argument hail from a few chapters in Romans and a few verses in John for the most part. THEY completely ignore entire segments of Scripture that clearly show the existence of free will. Rather than balance the apparent writings of predestination as Paul made them, they use his writings to override any other verses in Scripture that speak of free will, and not only that, but warns BELIEVERS to guard their salvation. Peter's epistle still bears witness today to those calvinists who wrest with Paul's epistles to their own destruction, calling them foolish and unlearned.

I maintain that a man who is a calvinist is a man who does not know God. He may be saved, but the purpose of salvation, which is to bring us into a deep communion with God that supersedes the relationships the mighty men of Scripture had with the Lord, is often completely lost on him.

What I find amusing about the calvinists is that they appear to be far more involved in reading theological works than in reading Scripture itself. Their propensity is to quote John Gill's interpretation of the Bible rather than simply being satisified with quoting Scripture itself. It adds another layer of theological gunk that complicates the simple nature of the gospel, and soteriology is rendered so complex that few could begin to understand it.

Posted by Mac Swift at August 13, 2003 11:55 PM

The above post contains a number of statements that truly make me sad. As I have said before, some of the most godly men I have ever known have been Arminians. Likewise, others who have a deeply profound relationship with God that I know are Calvinists. This kind of blanket statement that Calvinists do not know God is exactly the kind of mean-spirited, arrogant attitude, that Calvinists are frequently accused of. Surely it shows a level of prejudice and contempt for other brothers in Christ that must grieve our Lord. Do you seriously mean to say that such men as Augustine, Martin Luther, Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield, Charles Spurgeon, William Carey (the founder of modern missions), B.B. Warfield, Abraham Kuyper, and J. Grescham Machen did not know God? How could you possibly imagine yourself to be in a position to make such a judgment? I would plead with you, my brother, that you not contribute such a divisive spirit to the discussion.

There is also the question of to what extent this post reflects a capitulation to the worldiness of post-modern, anti-intellectualism that has infected the church. Irrationalism is a fruit of modern secular thought. Rooted in the atheism of the Enlightenment, it has run rampant throughout our culture expressing itself in the New Age Movement, existentialism, as well as modern pragmatism. As David Wells has pointed out so well in his book (No Place for Truth) it has had a deadly effect on the church. The disdain for learning expressed here is reminiscent of this.

Yes, it is true that some apostles were not trained theologically, just as it is true that Paul had the highest level of theological and philosophical training available in that day. And it was he that God used to write the most theologically complex epistle, Romans. There is no virtue in ignorance and the Bible does certainly COMMAND us to STUDY in order to correctly handle the Word (2 Tim 2:15).

Yes, I believe in the perspecuity of Scripture, but it is also true that knowledge of biblical languages, history, hermeneutics, as well as the history of theology does make one better qualified as a Bible interpreter, just as a person who has years of advanced studies in nuclear physics is much better qualified to research and write on the correct way to construct a nuclear reactor.

My response was not a case of simply using this argument to dismiss a writer with whom I disagree. This should be obvious from the fact that I mentioned several Arminian writers who ARE qualified and competent to deal with the question. I still disagree with their conclusions, but I respect them as godly men and Bible scholars. I disagree with them because I believe that their philosophical presuppositions are not allowing them to correctly interpret Scripture. The disagreement comes down to the exegesis of texts. My point was that if one wants to see the best of Arminian arguments, and thus evaluate their beliefs fairly, then they should read the best qualified Bible teachers on that side of the question. A writer who has actually read Calvin, Gill, Owen, etc., is in a much better position to respond to their arguments than someone who admits that he has never bothered to do so.

And it is patently false that Calvinists base most of their arguments on a few verses from Paul and John. That is another reason why I urge Arminians to actually READ what the Calvinist theologians have written. Even a cursory reading of Gill and Owen show that this is a totally false characterization. In fact, Calvinists start from Genesis 1 and go straight through to the end of Revelation, carefully showing that the doctrines of grace, including predestination are found throughout the Bible. That is because the Bible teaches a consistent world view whose warp and woof is centered in the all-embracing sovereignty of God.

Next Calvinists are called foolish and ignorant (more insults rather than dealing with the substance of Calvinist exegesis), and it seems to me practically lumped together with unbelievers who deny Christ completely. Is that what you really think of Calvinists? Am I reading this wrong or do you really hate us? And what about what John says about those who do not love their brothers in Christ? Or do you not believe that Calvinists are your brothers in Christ?

Additionally, the accusation that Calvinists are more involved in reading theological works than the Bible is another slanderous remark. The reason for pointing the Arminian to the books I mentioned is because they are deeply grounded in Scripture. Indeed, both Gill and Owen discuss hundreds of passages from the entire Bible, not just isolated texts. John Gill, in fact, is one of, if not the only man in history, so far as I know, who actually preached through every book in the Bible and published it all in the form of an exhaustive Bible commentary. Anyone who has spent any time reading his works knows that the kind of accusations made above are not only false, but simply dishonest.

And I think that is what is most grevious. It is one thing to disagree. I will debate with you about the questions and if you are not persuaded then I will give you a hug, pray with you, love you as a brother and not lose one ounce of respect for you. As I said, my best friend is Arminian and I would trust him with my life in a heartbeat. However, when someone makes accusations about others that are so far removed from the truth as to give the impression of being dishonest, it is difficult indeed to maintain any respect for that. And the kinds of accusations made here against Calvinists appear to be just of that nature.

I have read the Bible many times from cover to cover and studied it for years. I have yet to find any segment of Scripture that I am persuaded supports the doctrine of free-will, and I doubt very seriously that you can show me any passages that I have not already considered. I do respect my Arminian brothers who think they do see such passages and I am willing to discuss those texts with them. However, I must point out that free-will is taught quite clearly and with great zeal by the Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, Masons, Moonies and a whole host of other cults who all have in common their hatred of Calvinism. That alone gives me pause for thought. I do not consider my Arminian brothers to be cultic, but I do think that they need to really examine the root source of the presuppositions behind their free-will doctrine.

In the end it is not a simply matter of quoting verses. It is a matter of doing solid exegesis of biblical passages, chapters, and books, taking into consideration all the issues of culture, language, history as well as the theological and philosophical presuppositions and questions relevant to constructing a biblical world view from the teaching of the entire Bible. Typically I find Arminian teaching to be fragmented and prone to syncretistic compromise with non-Christian ways of thought. My Arminian friends disagree. Regardless, it is my hope that even in our disagreements we can seek the face of God together in mutual love and respect.

Posted by Alan at August 16, 2003 04:10 PM