C.S.Lewis and the Arminianism Vs. Calvinism debate.

As the debate over Calvinism and Arminianism wages on, and I suspect it always will until one day the truth is known, I thought it would be fun to go back through the writings of C.S. Lewis and see what he thought on the issue. Lewis is one of my personal favorites when it comes to Christian Apologetics, and I had always heard he was a classical Arminian so I wanted to investigate for myself.

Turns out that my final evaluation is Lewis is neither, and his conclusions fall on both sides not because he is confused, but because he thinks that it is mostly a non-issue.

According to Lewis God exists beyond space and time. This is a fact that neither Calvinists nor Arminians will dispute and neither would I. Lewis poses the argument then that if God created time then time has no effect outside of our existence, and the two views are based on time, therefore they are meaningless in the big picture.

Furthermore, we can’t discuss God within the confines of time. God would not have foreknowledge or past knowledge of an event, he would just have knowledge of it period. So our discussions of God’s omnipotence and omniscience can’t be done in a linear fashion. God is everywhere and knows everything and the topic ends there, we can’t qualify it with words by saying God knows everything that is going to happen, because to God there is not a future linear time.

This leads Lewis to write in a letter that was later put into a book called Yours, Jack, “When we carry it up to relations between God and Man, has the distinction perhaps become nonsensical? After all, when we are most free, it is only with a freedom God has given us: and when our will is most influenced by Grace, it is still our will. And if what our will does is not ‘voluntary’, and if ‘voluntary’ does not mean ‘free’, what are we talking about? I’d leave it all alone.”

In another letter Lewis states, “”Of course reality must be self-consistent; but till (if ever) we can see the consistency it is better to hold two inconsistent views than to ignore one side of the evidence . . . It is plain from Scripture that, in whatever sense the Pauline doctrine is true, it is not true in any sense which excludes its (apparent) opposite.”1 Lewis is referring to the Pauline Doctrine of predestination that is being discussed in the letter, and to that point Lewis believes in predestination, but believes in free will at the same time. He says that it is better to hold these views even if they seem inconsistent to us at times, rather then the alternative which is to ignore facts.

The Bible teaches predestination, that is a fact, and we have the freedom to make choices that is also a fact that we know to be true. What the Calvinist says in response to this is the same thing Lewis said and would agree with, and that is God does not contradict because if he did then he would not be God. What I have not read from Lewis and I do read from Calvin is that if we think there is a contradiction like this it is us that do not understand and we need to dig deeper for the meaning. Unfortunately I hear Calvinists sometimes dismissing teachings of free will, and Arminians dismissing predestination, or trying to make them fit a specific presupposition we have. Lewis does not shy away from either as we see in the Chronicles of Narnia when Jill wanted to come to the water; she mentioned that she had called to Aslan. But Aslan said she would not have called him unless she had been called by him. Lewis understood the doctrine of Grace, but he also understood free will and he did not choose to put them in places where they contradicted.

One interesting part of Lewis’s fiction where he does bring the two together is when Ransom discovers on Perelandra that freedom and necessity are the same thing. This might be confusing on its face, but John Calvin wrote about this same thing in The Bondage and Liberation of the Will. Calvin says,

And from this it is possible to deduce what a great difference there is between necessity and coercion. For we do not say that man is dragged unwillingly into sinning, but that because his will is corrupt he is held captive under the yoke of sin and therefore of necessity will in an evil way. For where there is bondage, there is necessity. But it makes a great difference whether the bondage is voluntary or coerced. We locate the necessity to sin precisely in corruption of the will, from which follows that it is self-determined. (John Calvin, BLW pp 69, 70).

Calvin is essentially saying the same thing that Lewis is leading to in his science fiction novel Perelandra. Calvin says that we have the freedom to act as far as our fallen nature allows us to. If left to ourselves we will choose evil out of necessity because we are in bondage to it. If God did not condescend to us by his grace then we would be doomed to choose evil. This means that the only reason we would ever choose anything good is God’s grace, which Lewis seems to articulate very clearly in his writings. Lewis explains his idea of necessity and freedom when talking about his conversion in Surprised by Joy. Lewis says that a man is what he does and pontificates on whether or not the act of “waking” is done out of freedom or necessity. Even though Lewis does not go down the same road as Calvin with this line of though, I think it is interesting that they would come to the same conclusion on the matter.

In the end I would say that Lewis had both Arminian and Calvinist beliefs and if alive today would probably not commit to either. The biggest contribution Lewis gives us is his understandable insight on both issues without getting caught up in the defense of either. That being said I think that in the younger Lewis we saw more Arminian ideas, and in the older more mature Lewis we saw this shift to an overall Calvanist ideology that did not deny free will but simply accepted it with the idea that his free will was not all that important.

I glean this from his final interview where Lewis was asked if he felt he made a decision at the time of his conversion. Lewis stated that his decision was not important, and that he was the object and not the subject of his conversion. He went on to say that he did choose, but it was not possible to for him to choose the opposite, and that the most deeply compelled action is also the freest. This explains freedom and necessity the best in my opinion.

It is clear that God’s decision for us is the important thing, and even though we are given free will it is God’s grace that does so and without grace our free will would condemn us. So I would agree with Lewis that our decision is not ultimately important, and it is God’s decision for us that makes the difference. One day when we stand before God he might ask us why we fought so much over this issue since ultimately it was not important. I just think that in doing so it will be the Arminian he scolds.

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45 thoughts on “C.S.Lewis and the Arminianism Vs. Calvinism debate.

    • If God scolds the calvinist it would have to be for giving God too much credit. If God scolds the Arminian, it will be for giving man too much credit. The latter seems more perverse to me.

      • That really doesnt mean anything for only God can save but man is responsible for accepting it.

        Man cannot be saved outside of God but man can reject it but no credit ever goes to man, that is a fabricated calvinitic veiw that a man thats house is on fire gets has something to boast about if he climbs down the firemans ladder.

        Abraham believed God and it was accounted unto him as righteousness.

      • As a former Armenian now Calvinist, I would agree totally with the Gospel as the ladder analogy… but leads me to two questions:

        1. How could I be saved if the ladder never came to me? (As in the Gospel was never preached to me… the tribe in the Jungle that has yet to be evangelized)

        2. Who in their right mind would not climb down the ladder?

        This is the heart of Calvinism, it is a supremacy of the power and efficacy of the Gospel to save, despite man’s setting their building on fire.

      • This is an old thread and Jonny is probably long since forgotten this comment, but I reply for the consideration of those like myself who stumble in here after the fact.
        The issue is not about who gives God MORE credit, but about WHAT we give God credit for. As a human, I certainly appreciate getting the credit for anything I do that is good. On the other hand I really don’t want credit for something evil, especially if I didn’t do it. I certainly am willing to give God all credit for all that is good, and most especially my salvation. But if I do so in such a way that entails that he also get the “credit” for everything that is evil as well, I’m not sure God appreciates that.
        If we reject the excuse that “the devil made me do it”, how much more should we reject the excuse that “God made me do it”.

  1. Most of what Lewis thought and wrote along his journey was slanted Arminian, however you can see Calvinist thoughts creep in towards the latter part of his writings as I talked about in the post. I think that this quote is interesting

    ”I take it as a first principle that we must not interpret any one part of Scripture so that it contradicts other parts . . . . The real inter-relation between God’s omnipotence and Man’s freedom is something we can’t find out. Looking at the Sheep & the Goats every man can be quite sure that every kind act he does will be accepted by Christ. Yet, equally, we all do feel sure that all the good in us comes from Grace. We have to leave it at that. I find the best plan is to take the Calvinist view of my own virtues and other people’s vices; and the other view of my own vices and other peoples virtues. But tho’ there is much to be puzzled about, there is nothing to be worried about. It is plain from Scripture that, in whatever sense the Pauline doctrine is true, it is not true in any sense which excludes its (apparent) opposite. You know what Luther said: ‘Do you doubt if you are chosen? Then say your prayers and you may conclude that you are.’”

    Lewis talks about predestination here and is saying that it is true in some sense and holding contradicting views is better then disregarding them completely. However I think that as Lewis got toward the end of his journey he figured out that his thiking was not as contradictory as he once thought it was.

    I understand the Biblical teachings on this matter as Lewis did and at first they do seem contradictory but I don’t think that they are at all just like the Westminister confession also agrees with Predestination and freedom.

    Ransom discovered on Perelandra, freedom and necessity are the same thing. In “Til we have faces” Orual can’t see the things until the gods allow her to. And in the Chronicles of Narnia there are different occasions When characters are told they would not have called to Aslan unless they were called by Aslan to do so.

    It seems to me, and I think that untimately it was clear to Lewis, that we have freedom to choose God only when God allows us to. If God does not reveal himself then we will not choose him because of our bondage to sin. In this way we do have freedom, we just don’t have the power to be free without the working of God through the Holy Spirit.

  2. As you say,

    It seems to me, and I think that ultimately it was clear to Lewis, that we have freedom to choose God only when God allows us to. If God does not reveal himself then we will not choose him because of our bondage to sin.

    I agree:

    We cannot choose God unless he reveals himself to us. I think that is clear in scripture.

    My question is this:

    Why would He give everyone free choice if each person doesn’t get the chance to chose?

    I haven’t done a deep study into Calvinism but on the surface the main point of contention I have is the supposition that only some (the elect or predestined) ever have a chance of salvation.

    I believe the scripture says many times and I’ll just mention this one for discussion…John 3:16 For God so loved the WORLD (I have supposed that he means everyone in the world)…

    If then Christ died for the world and everyone has free will the only logical position to take is that everyone would get an opportunity (provided by God’s grace) to believe or trust in Him for salvation or reject Him and His salvation. Even those He hardened or created for His purposes to show His glory…even they get a chance. I don’t suppose to know the mind of God, is there anywhere in scripture that I’m missing that directly contradicts that point?

    I have been examining this issue for a couple months:

    How can a loving God not give each person an opportunity to chose Him if He has given them free will to exercise? My supposition is that God isn’t limited by means of communication. In this scenario, each person that has ever lived on this earth has had at least one opportunity to chose the one true God as their God in the OT and as their Savior (Jesus) for the time of Christ onward. I can’t back this up or disprove it by scripture yet.

    Would love it if you have any insight or scripture in support of either position.

  3. The first thing that is helpful when talking about free will and election is to understand that election and predestination are indeed clearly talked about in the Bible.

    Romans 8 is very clear
    “For those whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brothers. And those He predestined, He also called; and those He called, He also justified; and those He justified, He also glorified” (Rom. 8:29-30 HCSB).

    Romans 9 is also quite clear
    “though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad-in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of his call” (Rom. 9:11 ESV).

    Ephesians 1 leaves little doubt as well
    “just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will” (Eph. 1:4-5 NKJV).

    John 6:35-40 is also a good example.

    I could continue with more examples however it is clear that Calvinists are not making this idea up, the only question is how to interpret what the passages are saying against other passages such as the one you posted in John 3:16.

    Lets also consider that most of the creeds through history have also confirmed that the doctrines of election and predestination are clearly taught in the Bible. The Westminster Confession of Faith for Presbyterians is probably the most famous and it deals directly with election and predestination. The Baptist confession of faith in 1689 also describes these doctrines in detail. Because of this a Christian needs to have an understanding of what the doctrine says and take it seriously instead of pretending it doesn’t exist.

    So lets approach the doctrine logically for a moment. Most Christians believe that God is omniscient meaning he “knows all”. When considering how this works, we also understand that God must be outside space and time since he created it. It would then follow that God would have to have some current knowledge of what is happening as well as what will happen. For us time is in the future, but for God there is no linear time so the future is now. This would seem to negate the “surprise” theory that suggests God does not know who will be saved until it happens. So we can remove one theory based on logic alone, although there are plenty of Bible verses that relate to God’s Omniscience. The Church fathers and theologians of the past were not making that up either.

    The second theory I have heard is that God is sort of learning as things happen and making decisions on the fly. This would mean that God changes and is no longer immutable. The Bible says that God doesn’t change, and logic dictates once again that this is the case. Why would an all knowing God ever change or have to learn unless he had a way to block himself from his own knowledge. To me this is stretching and we should not dismiss the plain and obvious for the complicated.

    What we are left with is the idea that God does know all things and therefore also knows who is saved and who will be saved. To say otherwise flies in the face of logic and what the Bible says. So if we get this far we are left with the problem of reconciling this with our free will and decision making which is obvious to us, and the Bible clearly demonstrates we have been given. Some objections are based around the idea that God couldn’t possibly have created human beings who were doomed to spend eternity without God because God is love. Everyone must have the opportunity to reject him of their own free will.

    So lets explore this main objection. Almost all Protestant religions teach that you are saved by Grace. This is not something you earn, but a free gift made possible by the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. These same people tend to believe that they can freely accept or reject the gift. In addition, I also hear many of the same people say they believe that man is by nature sinful which in the world of theology we call total depravity. If this were not so then you would not need a savior at all, or you would not need grace as a gift because you could get to God on your own through a works based salvation.

    The Bible is clear that man does not seek God himself and is dead in his sin. What else could be meant by Romans 3:9-10,18? What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, 10 as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; There is no fear of God before their eyes.

    This means that if God gave you a choice you would reject God unless the choice was given after you were regenerated or “saved”. So a choice given to a man who is dead in his sin would always be to remain dead because he can’t do otherwise under his own power. So without election of some variety every man would make the choice to deny God and spend eternity without him.

    Now as for the question who did Christ die for, if you have understood what has been said above this will not be as much of a leap for you, because this is where many reject election. If Christ died for everyone in the same way then the atonement was not sufficient for sinners to be saved. Sinners need to come and accept Christ before regeneration can take place. This puts the responsibility on the person that we already said can’t be done because they would choose against God every time.

    So what about the verses like John 3:16 and 1 Timothy 4:10, not to mention verses that speak of God’s desire that all men be saved? The answer is in the idea that God did send his son to save the world, and does offer his mercy to all, however not in the same way. Lets take a look at some verses that support this idea.

    John 10:25-30
    “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not part of my flock. 27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of tthe Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”

    In John 17:6,9,19 Jesus prays, “I have manifested Thy name to the men whom Thou gavest me out of the world; Thine they were, and Thou gavest them to me…I am praying for them; I am not praying for the world but for those whom Thou hast given me, for they are thine…And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be consecrated in truth.”

    These verses are pretty clear that Christ died for the world to prevent its immediate destruction and condemnation so that grace could be given, and it is given to all for this is the only reason people can live in rejection of God. However, Christ died specifically to redeem a people from the world. This brings an understanding of 1 Timothy 4:10 when it says that God is the savior of all men, especially those who believe.

    I think that John Piper sums it up best

    If Christ died for all the sins of all men, then why are not all saved? They answer, Because some do not believe. But is this unbelief not one of the sins for which Christ died? If they say yes, then why is it not covered by the blood of Jesus and all unbelievers saved? If they say no (unbelief is not a sin that Christ has died for) then they must say that men can be saved without having all their sins atoned for by Jesus: Christ died for all the sins of some men. That is, he died for the unbelief of the elect so that God’s punitive wrath is appeased toward them and his grace is free to draw them irresistibly out of darkness into his marvelous light.

    It is for these reasons and more that I do lean towards election and predestination as doctrines that the Bible does indeed teach. I also think that Lewis began to realize this toward the end of his life. Likewise I think that all Christians that put enough thought into the Bible finally come to a knowledge of these doctrines although you don’t need to understand it all in order to experience grace.

  4. This is much more succinct view written by Lewis. I think he thinks the whole argument is not of much value…

    “A Little More C.S. Lewis – On Free Will and the Existence of Evil
    “God created things which had free will. That means creatures which can go either wrong or right. Some people think they can imagine a creature which was free but had no possibility of going wrong; I cannot. If a thing is free to be good it is also free to be bad. And free will is what has made evil possible. Why, then, did God give them free will? Because free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having” (C.S. Lewis).”

  5. llondy,
    I appreciate your explanation of this but I still feel that Chad’s question goes unanswered.

    “Why would He give everyone free choice if each person doesn’t get the chance to chose?”

    The Calvinist system for salvation seems by common sense and natural law ,which I believe (and Lewis believed based on his writings in Mere Christianity), to be inherently unfair. It’s like a spiritual Apartheid. One group is treated unequally for no known reason. There is a sense of fairness that is set in the human heart and I don’t know why God would put that there if His plan and system for salvation violates it.

    If God’s call is undeniable, then why wouldn’t He just go ahead and call everyone? How does it bring Him glory or praise to withhold His call from those who are to spend eternity in Hell. It makes me not understand God and I have trouble worshiping when those thought enter my mind.

    You seem to be a very reasonable and intelligent person, llondy and I would very much appreciate your opinion on these issues.

    • This was initially the hardest thing for me to understand as well so I appreciate the question. I actually think that Lewis struggled with this as well so if he did why shouldn’t we. However I do believe that the Bible supports this view and that there are at least 2 logical explanations that can be made as well. Let me attempt to do so as best I can.

      First, I would hope you and Chad would both agree that the Bible can’t contradict. Therefore I start out by offering the Biblical defense of predestination and welcome your thoughts.
      God the Father has made a covenant with God the Son, and this must have been an eternal covenant if we believe in the triune eternal God. This covenant is explained in several verses but I will choose John 6:39 (ESV) where Christ is talking about himself being the Bread of Life. “And this is the will of him who sent me (God the Father) that I should lose nothing that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day”. The next verse goes on to say that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life and I will raise him up on the last day. In context, God will give give all true believers to the Son and none that he gives will be lost since they will look upon the Son and he will raise them up. You can go further into John chapter 10 and read the verses about the sheep and how he knows them and they come when called. The Father gave the son the sheep and he will not lose one of them. This sets the tone for the redemption story and sends a clear message that it is not only about us as it relates to glorifying the Father through the Son. Which is to say that it has very little to do with us at all.

      So there is an eternal covenant between the Father and Son that will not be broken. Since we all agree that God is Omniscient (Knows all), and we should further agree that God is outside of space and time (Because he created it), we must logically lead to the fact that God knows who he will give to the son, and in our way of thinking, must have know it before the foundation of the world.

      Man’s condition of depravity fits into this construct easily. Man is totally depraved according to the Bible which means he is completely dead in his sin. Some people dispute this and say that there is something good in us that God acts on, or at the very least the man can act naturally in some way toward God. But the Bible is clear that this is not the case. Ephesians 2:1-5 tells us that we are dead in sin, carrying out the desires of body and mind and were by “nature” children of wrath like the “rest” of the world. He goes on to say it is only by grace that we are saved. There are other passages that point to this (Romans 3:9-12), but one that I also like is Romans 6:20. Here Paul gives thanks to God for taking us from slaves to sin, to slaves of righteousness. Meaning that before we are regenerated we can do no good in the sight of God, only by his grace can we do good post-regeneration. So “Naturally” man belongs eternally separated from God or in Hell. So when you speak of “Natural law” I think we would have to conclude that without a supernatural regeneration we would all naturally go to Hell (1 Corinthians 2:14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of Go, they are folly to him.).

      Now, I say all that to lead to the most pressing question. If this is true, what about free will? We all have free will right? We all make decisions right? Of course we do and like you I would never believe anything that flew in the face of human experience. I will give the answer from the Bible and then logic to answer this presupposing you agree with what has been said so far because if you don’t that would be a discussion for a later time.

      Many Calvinists will say, and by the way even though I lean in that direction based on logic and Biblical study I don’t identify as one and furthermore don’t believe John Calvin would want me to do so, that man has free will in so much as his desires allow. You are free to sin before regeneration and free to please God after. We fall during sanctification because we are not perfect but our desire is no longer to do evil and it is impossible to stay in that state of disobedience. This is where repentance comes in as God conforms us to Christ. Understand that Calvinists are very much supported Biblically on this explanation, but I add that logic can give some explanation as well that isn’t necessary supported by Calvinists.

      Man is limited by his nature and God is limited by his. God is omnipotent but it does not mean he can do everything, it just means he can do everything that is possible. God can’t sin, God can’t make another God, God can’t make a wet towel dry etc. Man in a sinful state is limited to sin unless God intervenes on his behalf. In Matthew 19 we see the story of the man who asks Jesus what he needs to do to have eternal life. By the end of the story the man walks away sorrowful and the disciples were confused saying, “Who then can be saved?” Jesus replies, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible”. How then can a man choose to be saved without first being chosen by God? And if an Omniscient God chooses first how does he not know what he chooses? Remember that we need to thank God for choosing because if in this condition if it were really up to man to choose God we would all choose Hell instead.

      Think of this question for a moment. We all agree that some will be accepted into eternal life with God and some will be left to spend eternity without him. Let’s say that God has ended time as we know it and you and your friend are being judged. You are saved but your friend is not so you are accepted and Christ says to your friend “Depart from me for I never knew you”. Why does Christ not know your friend? Is it because you are smarter then your friend and accepted Christ when your friend didn’t so he had a relationship with you? I don’t think that anyone would answer yes to this. Is it because Jesus knew you both but your friend rejected him for some reason so Christ forgot about him? Simply put, Jesus never knew your friend because there was never a relationship between them since the Father never gave your friend to him.

      So far I believe I have answered the “natural” question. It is in the “natural order” of things for everyone to go to Hell. This leads to the answer to fairness. It would be fair for everyone to go to hell for we are all naturally sinners separated from God. Those that spend eternity without God do get what they deserve, those that spend eternity with God only do so by God’s grace. Nothing is violated in natural law except for one could argue the supernatural power of regeneration.

      Now, natural law actually makes things more understandable regarding free will as well and this is where the pure logic kicks in. God created the universe which is indeed under laws and guided by time. God is not subjected to time because he is outside of it. This means God knows all things at once or at least not in the “past, present, future” tense like we do. This allows us to make decisions in time that effect our lives every day and be held accountable for them. Since we don’t know what will happen tomorrow, and we don’t know who is saved, we are engaging in decision by our own free will even though it would not be libertarian free will since ultimately “God knows”. God has created us as finite beings within time which gives us the ability to act freely within time and within our own desires, but our free will can’t be completely libertarian if we are created by an omniscient and sovereign God.

      How does this bring God glory? That is what the eternal covenant is all about. God will receive all the glory by giving the bride (the Church) to the groom (his Son). People of the true church that chose with their own minds to love Christ. People that God the Father promised he would give the Son from the foundation of the world. People who Christ came to this earth to redeem. People who deserve nothing and had no power but to accept grace. God could not have created a world of robots to accomplish this, but a world with order and laws that must be followed except for the supernatural work of regeneration through grace. So God is not witholding a call and sending people to Hell as you say, He is giving a call and sending people to Heaven, while allowing the rest to remain apart from him and being glorified by both conditions, one through his love for his Son, and the other through Justice (Which makes sense since Justice and Love explain the atonement as well and you can’t have one without the other).

      There of course is more to say but I will be done for now and hope that this has given you and others some new ways to think about things and lead to further discussion

      • Hello
        Question: In what state and how are dead toward God spiritually? How does a spirit die? These are actually very crucial questions to answer if your explaining what kind of total depravity we are in.

  6. Very compelling arguments, and yet Calvinism still leaves us with a few key questions.

    1. if all of these statements are true and are based on mans sinful and fallen nature, why did God allow Adam and eve to be tempted in the first place? If that is the case then weren’t we fallen before we actually fell because god knew we would choose to sin? Could we really choose not to sin? how did we sin before sin existed anyway? And if that is true then we couldnt really be created in his image because we were fallen from the beginning before we were even tempted? We didnt really choose to be fallen or sinful based on the argument that God “predestines” our entire life?

    2. what of the aethiest’s and non christian’s who have some righteousness? It seems to me that god is saying we are naturally bent towards sin and can not live up to his standards but not that we are without “any” good at all? I believe Christ died for our sins not because we were without any good at all but rather because we couldnt live up to God’s standards. God’s Gift is available to all who realize they cannot live up to his standards NOT that we do not want to, we just Can not no matter how hard we try. although there are some who do not want to.

    Comments welcome

  7. Thanks for the questions Tony.

    In response to question 1, one could argue that by simply creating any “being” God had to allow for the potential of “sin”. Sin being defined here as choosing anything “other” then God. God could not create another God because He is the eternal first cause. Therefore creating another lesser being would constitute a being that isn’t God, and that being would have to be allowed to choose other then God. Another thing to keep in mind here is that God would choose to create other beings to glorify himself, that we would say was His motive. We could say that it would have been better not to create beings at all if some would perish but it seems God would disagree.

    So God did not cause Adam to Sin but did have to allow it by the simple fact that he is a created being. Did Adam choose to sin (want something other then God)? Yes he did. Did God know what Adam’s decision would be? Yes he did. Did Adam know what his decision would be before he made it? No he didn’t, and is responsible for that decision. Did God know that the entire creation would have to be plunged into sin before it could be saved? I think he did, but once again God decided that He would create for His glory anyway.

    You asked if sin “existed” before Adam. It is important to understand that sin is not created like God created the world. By creating the world the potential of sin had to exist which has been explained. Sin is only manifested when beings choose something other then God and it is something that we all do at some point. Did God know this would happen? Yes, and he created us anyway. The whole world would fall under condemnation if not for Christ taking the penalty on himself which he willingly agreed to do even before creation. Therefore just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.

    Question 2 concerns God’s standards and the righteousness of the non-Christian. With all do respect, I am afraid that the Bible does not agree with either of your assumptions. In regard to non-Christians having righteousness I think you are referring to them having some “good” in them which is true in the sense that God’s creation was deemed “good”. But this ability does not have anything to do with salvation as the Bible explains “there is none righteous no not one, there is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God” (Romans 3:10-11). The word righteous here means innocent or Holy which we know none of us are before we are regenerated. The only way to achieve righteousness in the eyes of God is through the sacrifice of his Son. Another good passage in regard to this is 1 Corinthians 2:12-16.

    So why does this “good” we find in all men not up to God’s standards at all? Because before you are saved you don’t do the things you do to please God. You do the things you do to please yourself which seems good in your own mind. The Bible says that God puts eternity in the heart of every man, however we are constantly working to evade this truth and seek our own. So the general revelation given to everyone gives us abilities to comprehend and understand things, even to do good things for others and rationalize good from bad, but we are working all of that for our own purpose. Romans 1:18-21 explains this a bit saying that the wrath of God is revealed to all unrighteousness and it is through this unrighteousness that men suppress truth. What can be known of God has been shown to them since the beginning of creation and because of this they are without excuse. For although they know God they do not honor him as God or give thanks. We see another verse supporting this in Ecclesiastes 7:29 “See this alone I found, that God made man upright, but they have sought out many schemes.

    God’s standards for men can only be achieved through Christ because it is the only way we can reach the standard of blameless and righteous before Him. I think that we agree on this. However the idea that there is some good in us that gives us a desire to meet God’s standard but we just can’t do it without the help of Christ I don’t think it supported by scripture. Christ says that you should love the Lord your God with all your heart soul and mind. That is how Christ loved the Father, but we can’t ever do that because of sin. We haven’t just fallen short of God’s standard a little bit as depraved sinners and need the help of the Holy Spirit to push us over the top. We do nothing for God until the Spirit gives us the power to do so.

  8. Guess i tangled with the wrong theologian! just kidding, however i am impressed at the detail of the last reply. No doubt some very brilliant thinkers here! If i may, id like to restate what i meant another way.

    If we are assuming that god knows everything we do before we do it, regardless of “free will”, then isnt it true to say that when he created adam he knew adam would sin and would therefore be unworthy of eternity with god? if that is the case God sent his only son to rescue us but if we are under the impression that only some are elected for this, then the very act of god allowing adam to be tempted condemned many people to hell since only some were to be “elected”. To clarify; god knew adam would sin and therefore be unworthy, by being unworthy we were condemned unless saved by christ. God would have had to have known that he was condemning many people just by the act of allowing adam to be tempted. The part i struggle with is the idea that we dont all have a chance to choose salvation through christ. If we dont many of us never stood a chance because when god allowed adam to be tempted he knew what would happen and ultimately didnt give all of us a chance to receive salvation. i hope this makes sense? it seems much of the argument is based on the idea that none of us are worthy of heaven so if god takes any of us its a bonus, but the only reason we arent worthy in the first place is because he allowed adam to be tempted knowing he would fail. look forward to more discussion, thanks!

    • Yes, it would be correct to say that God knew that his desire to create and love his creation would result in it falling. When Adam and Eve sinned God was not shocked. The question is why do most of us find this so shocking? God creates man with an intelect and a conscience so he can willing choose or not choose him. Why? Because He wants to be glorified in that choice. The fact that God knows the decision doesn’t take away the glory, after all God knows all things, so how does a God who knows all things receive glory? He tells you how in his word.

      So try and think about things a little differently even though I admit it is harder then those that tell you differently. It is much easier for us to think that God loves everyong and provides eternal love for everyone. The facts are that this is not the case and we shouldn’t try and turn it into this. We should try and understand how the Bible really explains things if we are Christians which many people still call themselves today. It isn’t just a “bonus” if God chooses to give us eternal love, and our decision to love God back should not be diminished simply because God has knowledge of it.

      So here is how I think the Bible explains this situation and I hope it helps a bit. God creates to be glorified by his creation. He knows that part of his creation will be rational thinking people with a conscience that can make choices unlike the rest of creation that simply follows the natural order. He created all of creation initially good because he is only good, but the fact that he did not create human’s to be mindless robots that would do nothing but praise him eternally posed a problem even for God. Sometimes I wonder if in his eternal state he thought about this. Do I create mindless beings? Do I create beings at all? One question I can’t answer for you is why God decided to create at all other then to say this was how he knew he would be glorified even as an eternal and omniscient being.

      Regardless, once God decided to create for his glory he had to create lesser beings with intelect and conscience that could make rational decisions. He also would show everyone who he was through his “good” creation and also through the conscience and “heart” of man. However, God had to allow for sin in a creation such as this. Could he have made a different creation? I don’t know do you? If he could of would he? Would you really want him to? What would you be if he did? All human beings are able to love, hate, think, engage in charity, give to the poor etc. Could anything else other then a conscience, thinking, feeling human engage in all of this? One does not have to be saved to do this thanks to God’s creation.

      Now ask yourself, could all this be available if we had to choose God in our own minds? I don’t think so. We all can and do sin in the eyes of God because without the ability to do that we could not also love God freely in our own mind. Does God know this? Yes. Do we know the mind of God? No, and this is important. Important enough for God to banish Adam and Eve from the garden and important enough for God to send the angels that chose other then God to an eternal existence without his love and grace. We are lesser beings without the eternal mind of God that engage in decisions out of our own free will. God grants those decisions on an eternal basis because the Bible says that we were made for eternity. Out of our own free will we would all choose against God, so God delights in allowing many of us the ability to choose him while allowing many others to get what they want as well which is something other then God. Some would argue that God must allow this or Human beings would not have any ability to make a choice at all.

      So God knew all of this before the foundation of the world and created us anyway because he wants to love us. He knew that he could only create people that would be doomed to eternity without his love, so His Son stepped in and took the Holy wrath of the Father so that some could be saved. It is an amazing story of an eternal God that created beings less then himself that he will give to his Son one day to glorify Him forever in eternity. I submit that we don’t try and humanize the magnificence of it so that it fits with what we think is fair and just. We will all understand even more clearly one day when thanks to Christ we that believe are all back in the state that Adam once enjoyed.

  9. Llondy,

    1. The purpose in this writing is to stimulate thinking and provide a reasoned alternative to your argument. I apologize for the length of this response, but it is difficult to be to be brief on this topic without appearing flippant. I will therefore make a reasonable effort to explain the Scriptural basis for my thought process, rather than simply saying what I think.

    2. CS Lewis is also one of my favorite authors. I agree with your concise appraisal: “Turns out my evaluation is Lewis is neither, and his conclusions fall on both sides not because he is confused, but because he thinks that it is mostly a non-issue. … In the end I would say that Lewis had both Arminian and Calvinist beliefs and if alive today would probably not commit to either.”
    Count me in the same camp. I think there are some things we can’t understand—Divine Mysteries, if you will. The true “mechanism of Salvation” remains known only by God. I only put forth my thoughts as a counter to your position for informational purposes in the spirit of reasoned debate.

    3. Ultimately, any theological doctrine can speak with relatively little authority about the nature of God or the correct interpretation of Scripture. Doctrines can only explain what the adherent of that doctrine believes about the nature of God and Scripture. I write this in the hope that it will defuse some of the emotional fervor that often catches defenders of one doctrine or another, who see themselves as champions of “the Truth,” or “standing up for God.” Sincere Christians hold different positions on many different topics—infant baptism, teetotalism, electric guitars in church—to name just a few. Humility is required to allow that none of us has a complete handle on the Truth, and that what pleases God is when we demonstrate charity towards others who disagree far more than our doctrinal purity.

    4. Chad wondered, “How can a loving God not give each person an opportunity to choose Him if He has given them a free will to exercise?”

    Part of your response was, “The Bible is clear that man does not seek God himself and is dead in his sin. What else could be meant by Rom. 3:9-10,18? … This means that if God gave you a choice you would reject God unless the choice was given after you were regenerated or “saved.” So a choice given to a man who is dead in his sin would always be to remain dead because he can’t do otherwise under his own power. So without election of some variety every man would make the choice to deny God and spend eternity without him.”

    5. Your answer is a standard Calvinist response: being spiritually dead equals being spiritually insensate or at least spiritually incapacitated. This is an assumption that I will attempt to demonstrate is not necessarily the case.

    6. Death, from the normal human perspective, is a non-responsive state. But I think there is good reason to believe that the Scripture writers spoke and thought figuratively, not literally.
    A. Adam and Eve
    Gen. 2:16-17 And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden, but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.”
    Gen. 3:6-10 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and at it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked…Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” He answered, “I heard you in the garden and I was afraid…”
    Gen. 3:22-23 And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever. So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden…
    Note several facts:
    i. The forbidden tree was the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.
    ii. Eating the fruit (that is, sin) opened their eyes—it did not close them.
    iii. The man and woman died spiritually when they ate the fruit—yet they remained aware of God, and could hear and talk with Him.
    iv. Adam knows he did wrong—eating the forbidden fruit gave him knowledge of good and evil.
    The story of the Fall completely counters the basic Calvinist concept that fallen man is unaware, or at least unconcerned, about his fallen state. The story of the Fall is about sin giving man knowledge—they became wise—they were not plunged into ignorance.

    B. The “Dead” Prodigal Son.
    Luke 15:24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again…
    Luke 15:32 …this brother of yours was dead and is alive again…
    In both cases, the Greek word nekros is used, and means “dead.” It should be obvious that the word is used figuratively. The son was very much alive and aware of his condition, repent, and able to admit to his folly.
    Luke 15:17 When he came to his senses ….
    In this parable, there is not the slightest hint that the father, who represents God, does anything to influence the son to return home. The implication is strong that the son makes a choice to return home to his father after he ponders his poor circumstances.
    It should also be noted that the father (God) is waiting and watching for the son’s return:
    Luke 15:20 …But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.
    The end of the story makes no sense whatsoever from the Calvinist perspective. The (Calvinist) father had to somehow cause the son to repent, so he would have not needed to be watching for his son since he knew when he was coming back. Nor would his heart be filled with compassion at the sight of him—he would have had compassion much earlier when he caused him to return. And, since the son’s return was anticipated, the feast could have been ready beforehand—no need to tell the servants to kill the fatted calf when you know your prodigal son is returning, right on schedule.

    C. “Dead” to Sin
    Rom 6:11-12 In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin … Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires.
    The same Greek word, nekros, is used here as in Luke. Once more, it is obvious that “death” cannot mean insensate and unaware. Even though believers are “dead to sin” they still feel its desires—often intensely—and are instructed to resist. I conclude, therefore, that “death” is used figuratively in Scripture and find the Calvinist theory unreasonable that “dead” means unaware or unresponsive.

    7. The Other Son
    Calvinist theory cannot explain why the father pleads with the older brother of the prodigal son The Greek word, parakaleo, means “to beseech, earnestly request, or beg.” The word is used, for example in Matt. 14:34-35 (….People brought all their sick to him and begged him to let the sick just touch the edge of his cloak…)
    You wrote: “What we are left with is the idea that God does know all things and therefore also knows who is saved and who will be saved. To say otherwise flies in the face of logic…”
    But if this is the case, there is no logical reason why the father in the story would plead with a son that he knew was not going to change his mind. The Calvinist model suggests that God engages in activity that He knows is futile—and not simply from the human perspective, but from God’s perspective.
    A possible Calvinists explanation might be that “God shows his incredible kindness and patience with sinful man by pleading even with those who He knows will still reject Him.” You hint at this when your wrote: “…God did send his son to save the world, and does offer his mercy to all, however not in the same way.” This is not a satisfactory explanation—it doesn’t work. It’s like asking a blind man to point out his favorite color from a palette, or asking a deaf person to listen to an audio CD. It’s not kind—it’s cruel. Asking people to do things you know are impossible for them to do is sick and perverse.
    On the other hand, if the older son really had the moral freedom to choose to welcome his brother back or not, then such pleading makes complete sense.

    8. Repentance vs. Salvation
    Scripture seems to make a distinction between repentance and salvation—they are not the same thing and are not necessarily simultaneous.
    Matt. 3:11 I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I….He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.
    John 7:39 But this he spake of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive; for the Holy Ghost was not yet given…
    A distinction is made in Matthew between repentance and the work of the Holy Spirit. John 7:39 says that people believed before the Spirit was given. Since it is the Spirit that regenerates (John 6:63 …it is the Spirit that quickeneth..), I just don’t see what Scriptural argument remains that people must first be “quickened” or “regenerated” before they repent. It is logically contradictory to claim that people are empowered to believe by the Spirit when people believed before the Spirit even came.

    9. Uncertainties
    Acts 17:22-31 contains an address by Paul to the Athenians in which he recounts the works of God as Creator, the Lord of heaven and earth who does not live in a temple made by human hands, who made every nation of men and determined their times and places. Then he says:
    Acts 17:27 God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.
    This statement creates several difficult questions for Calvinism:

    Why would God expect men to seek him?
    Calvinist theory is that unregenerate men can’t and won’t seek God. Paul’s explanation for God’s activities becomes meaningless if Calvinism is correct. As you said, “If left to ourselves we will choose evil out of necessity because we are in bondage to it. If God did not condescend to us by his grace then we would be doomed to choose evil.”
    One Calvinist tried to explain it to me by saying, “Well, God uses common means to accomplish divine ends.” Once more, the explanation fails—life still remains an illusion—we only appear to be seeking God with events and circumstances seeming to influence us–but God still has to pull our spiritual strings for us to truly seek him. Our “decisions” are only reactions to what he decided first. Humanity is reduced to spiritual puppets or robot people.
    On the other hand, if circumstances are real, and we’re not just part of a spiritual kabuki theater, then we really can look at the evidence of Creation, our circumstances, and the voice of God in our conscience, His Word, and his witnesses, and make a real decision. That seems to be much more in accord with what Paul said to the Athenians.

    Why does Paul use “perhaps”–a word indicating uncertainty?
    You said, “…God does know all things and therefore also knows who is saved and who will be saved…” Such deterministic certainty is not echoed by the Greek word, ara, which means “perhaps.” Paul’s use of a word indicating uncertainty is very odd if the future is completely immutable.
    On the other hand, if people have a real hand in their future, then the statement is very reasonable. This need not be “open theism” that even God doesn’t know the future. It could easily be within God’s ability and knowledge that any number of futures are possible, or at least, some aspects of the future are variable, and that God is aware of them all. In other words, God not only knows what will happen, but what might happen or could happen. This allows for some variation in the future—all within the knowledge and control of God. There is no requirement that the future is completely fixed and predetermined. As Lewis suggested, our understanding of time is generally linear—but it is a mistake to assume that God is limited in the same way.
    This idea has sound Scriptural support:
    Exodus 13:17-18 …For God said, “If they face war, they might change they minds and return to Egypt.” So God led the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea.
    It seems reasonable that God was able to look at a possible future and intervene directly so that it did not occur. The point here is that God seems to have knowledge of futures that do not happen.
    2 Sam. 24:11-12 Before David got up the next morning, the word of the Lord had come to Gad, the prophet, David’s seer. “Go and tell David, This is what the Lord says: I am giving you three options. Choose one of them for me to carry out against you.’”
    There can be little argument that God explicitly presents the possibility of three different futures to David as a punishment for his census. A Calvinist explained this by saying, “Well, from David’s perspective there were three possible futures, but from God’s perspective there was only one. Since God knew which option David would choose, he would, by necessity, pick the one God knew he would pick.”
    I think it is theologically weak to claim to know God’s perspective when the best we can do is guess. But in any case, the contention is not that God didn’t know what choice David would make. I simply suggest that the point of the whole narration is that David could have picked any of the three choices. There were three, legitimate and equally possible futures—and God gave David a real choice to decide down which pathway time would flow.

    Groping
    The Greek word is pselaphao, and means “to feel, verify by contact, to search for.” The word is also used in Heb. 12:18 (You have not come to a mountain that can be touched…) and 1 John 1:1 (..that which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim…)
    It makes little sense that God has certain knowledge of the future and yet only enables the chosen few elect enough power to “perhaps reach out for him,”(NIV) “somehow reach for him,” (ISV) or “grope for him.” (Weymouth’s NT)
    On the other hand, Paul’s statement makes sense that God gave man—through the Fall—at least a limited amount of instinctive, rational, or experiential knowledge of him for which each person is responsible:
    Ecc. 3:11 …He has placed eternity in the hearts of men, yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.
    Ps. 19:1-4 The heavens declare the glory of God., the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.
    These references, as well as the story of the Fall in which man gains the knowledge of good and evil, seem to establish that at lease some knowledge of God is available to everyone through the conscience and in nature. The following verse confirms that natural man is indeed, aware of God:
    Rom. 1:21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.
    Notice the sequence:
    The wicked know God,
    they refuse to worship God,
    their thinking becomes futile,
    their hearts are darkened.

    Calvinist theory places this in reverse sequence:
    The hearts of the wicked are darkened,
    their thinking becomes futile,
    they refuse to worship God,
    the wicked cannot know God.

    There is little justification for this reversal except to make Scripture conform to Calvinist theory.

    Why does Paul say God is “not far from each one of us?”
    Paul is not addressing a body of fellow Christians, he is addressing a group of pagan philosophers, so the collective “we” (hemon) cannot mean “we fellow believers,” so he must mean that God is within reach of absolutely everyone. But if Calvinism is right and some people are “vessels of wrath created for destruction” as the theory interprets Rom. 9;22, then God must be very far indeed from some—he is infinitely separated from the reprobate—always has been, and always will be. Calvinism makes Paul’s words are a cruel lie.
    On the other hand, if God has truly reached out to every person that has ever lived, and salvation is a real possibility for anyone, anytime, anywhere, then Paul’s words are a wonderful statement of hope and truth.

    10. Why not Save All?
    You quote John Piper: “If Christ died for all the sins of all men, then why are not all saved? They answer, Because some do not believe. But is this unbelief not one of the sins for which Christ died? If they say yes, then why is it not covered by the blood of Jesus and all unbelievers saved? If they say no. (unbelief is not a sin Christ has died for) then they must say that men can be saved without having all their sins atoned for by Jesus; Christ died for all the sins of some men. That is, he died for the unbelief of the elect…”
    Piper tackles a universal, long-standing question, then provides only a narrow and sectarian answer. To understand why he does this requires a little background.
    Piper is a product of Reformed Theology. The Reformed concept resulted from of the work of the Reformers, primarily Martin Luther, who stressed salvation through faith rather than salvation through works. A primary doctrinal passage is Romans 3:28 (For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law.) This doctrine of sola fides (“only faith”) is understandable. The Reformation grew from Luther’s effort to reform the Catholic Church which asserted that salvation is obtained through a combination of efforts of both God and man. Forgiveness of sin occurs by grace—but forgiveness is only obtained through the Church and doing the sacraments, such as baptism, penance, and confession. Luther disagreed, and maintained forgiveness was directly available to individuals through faith—not the Church or its ordinances.
    But justification by faith presented a logical problem for Luther: If a man is justified or saved by faith and not by works, then the source for the work of faith could not be the man himself, otherwise a man could be saved by his own spiritual effort.
    The problem was “solved” by citing Ephesians 2:8-9 (For it is by grace you have been saved through faith—and this not of yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.)
    “This” was taken to refer to faith. This meant that even if faith was a “work,” it was a work of God, not of man. Faith is given to a man as a gift. This enables the man to believe and accept salvation, since, as was articulated earlier, man is “dead in sin” and cannot respond to God in any positive way on his own.
    The “solution” came with the price of the loss of the concept of human free moral will. Man’s moral will is not free, but bound to sin. Whatever freedom of choice it enjoys, it can only choose evil.
    In this light, Piper’s answer makes sense: If unbelief, or lack of faith, is a sin that is covered by Christ, then unbelief is irrelevant—everyone should be saved whether they believe or not. But if unbelief is not covered by Christ’s atonement, then the only remedy is faith. But faith is a gift from God. In other words, those that have faith do not need to have the sin of unbelief forgiven because God gave it to them. Given God’s knowledge of the future combined with the gift of faith, Calvin’s doctrine of predestination of salvation of the elect and damnation of the reprobate logically follows.

    Bus is faith a work?
    Romans and Ephesians both distinguish faith from works. If faith is a work, then the separation should not be a distinction between faith and works, but distinguishing the works of man from the works of God. Neither text does this.

    Is faith a gift?
    “This” in the Ephesians text need not refer to faith. It seems more likely that it refers to grace. It simply cannot be argued that grace is gift of God. Let’s re-write the Ephesians text with both substitutions:

    For it is by grace you have been saved through faith—and this faith is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast
    For it is by grace you have been saved through faith—and this grace is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast

    As can be seen, the verse says that we are saved by grace through faith. It seems to me that salvation results from grace, which is then accessed by means of faith. It seems more reasonable that the explanatory emphasis is on the on the primary result, not the secondary means. Hence, I conclude that the gift spoken of in this text is grace, not faith.

    But let’s set this linguistic puzzle aside. The idea that faith is a gift from God is simply not well supported. For example, even demons have faith:
    James 2:19 You believe there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.

    The Greek word for faith in James is pisteuo and means “to have faith”, whereas Paul uses a variation, pistis, which means “persuasion or credence.”

    I don’t think the difference is important, as the word is translated “faith” in both cases, and both are used almost interchangeably throughout the Gospels. An example is the following pair of texts:
    Matt. 8:10 When Jesus heard this he was astonished and said to those following him, I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. (pistis)
    Matt 8:13 Then Jesus said to the centurion “Go! It will be done just as you believed it would…” (pisteuo)

    The Matthew 8:10 reference presents additional problems for Calvinists. A Roman centurion asks Jesus to heal his servant. Jesus expresses astonishment at his faith. But, if faith were a gift from God, then why would Jesus be surprised at someone having it? And why would Jesus even be looking for faith to find in the first place?

    Jesus sees the faith of the friends of a sick man (Matt. 9:2). Jesus tells a healed woman your faith has healed you (Matt. 9:22) Jesus rebukes his disciples for their inability to cast out a demon due to their lack of faith (Matt. 17:20) There are many more similar verses. Praising or chiding people for the amount of faith they display makes no sense if they have no control over how much they are given.

    James 2:14-26 goes into great detail describing useless, dead, faith. (v. 26 …faith without works is dead.) Does God give the gift of dead faith? That hardly seems likely—and there isn’t the slightest hint in this section that faith is a gift or a work—just the opposite. (v. 17 faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action is dead.)

    The point is, if faith is given by God at His discretion, there is no logical reason why Jesus would look for faith, praise those who had it, or rebuke individuals who lacked it, when all of them had nothing to do with their condition of faith. There would be no reason why people would possess dead, useless faith. Nor can faith be a “work” since it is possible to have faith without works.
    Imagine a father who gives one of his children a dollar, another a penny, and a third nothing. We would rightly consider the man a total goofball if he then complimented the child who had received the dollar for his large amount of money, rebuked the second child for only having a penny, and punished the third child because he had none. Would it be fair? No. Would it be just? No. Would it demonstrate mercy or grace? No. But that’s the how Calvinists view God.

    11. Gifts and Faith
    The words “gift” and “faith” occur at the same time in the following verses:
    Romans 12:6, 1 Corinthians 12:9 and 13:2, Ephesians 2:8, and Hebrews 11:4.

    Let’s examine each in detail:
    Romans12:6 We have different gifts based on the grace that was given to us. So if your gift is prophecy, use your gift in proportion to your faith.
    Grace is given to us. Prophecy is a gift. Faith is not a gift, or else the last phrase would essentially be “use the prophecy gift in proportion to the faith gift.” It makes little sense that one gift is apparently needed to control another gift. Dueling gifts? I don’t think so.
    The only reasonable meaning is that faith is something within the individual and over which the individual has control and responsibility.

    I Corinthians 12:8-9 To one has been given a message of wisdom by the Spirit; to another the ability to speak with knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit; to a other gifts of healing by that one Spirit;
    Faith is listed as a gift in this passage; however, the context is not regarding salvation but a believer receiving an additional gift of the Spirit. In any case, the theme here is that some receive one gift (prophecy, wisdom, healing, etc.). It makes no sense that some believers have the gift of saving faith and others do not. Whatever form of faith is being discussed here, it is not faith for salvation.

    1 Corinthians 13:2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can understand all secrets and every form of knowledge, and If I have absolute faith so as to move mountains, but have no love, I am nothing.
    Prophecy is specifically listed as a gift, but faith is not. But let’s assume that Paul is referring back to the gift type of faith mentioned in 12:8-9. The main point is that without love, that faith is worthless, and it makes no sense to me that God would give a worthless gift.

    Ephesians 2:8-9 has already been thoroughly discussed.

    Hebrews 11:4 By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain did, and by it he was declared to be righteous, since God himself accepted his gifts. And by faith he continues to speak, even though he is dead.
    The appearance of the words in this passage is merely coincidental; however, the entire chapter, known as “the faith chapter,” chronicles many heroes of faith—without once mentioning that any of these people received their faith as a gift from God! If faith is a gift –and the evidence for this is extremely tenuous–then the omission of this fact in this lengthy discourse on faith is remarkable. Indeed, focusing on a particular gift is quite odd. Why not a chapter detailing the remarkable healings by the prophets and the apostles? Why not a chapter reviewing the great prophecies or praising those who had received any of the other gifts?
    On the other hand, if faith is something else—possibly something originating from within the believer himself–then not describing faith as a gift makes sense, and praise and admiration from God when people demonstrate it not only makes sense, but is just what we would expect.

    12. The Unforgivable Sin
    Mark 3:28-29 Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter. But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of eternal sin.
    This statement presents at least three insurmountable problems for Calvinism:
    a. Jesus assures his listeners that all sins and blasphemies can be forgiven. Calvinism asserts that the sins and blasphemies–of any kind or type–of the reprobate, can never be forgiven, which directly contradicts the text.
    b. Jesus warns his listeners that blaspheming the Holy Spirit is the one sin that can’t be forgiven. Calvinism asserts that the reprobate are dead to the Spirit, so how can they speak against something of which they are unaware? But if they are aware of the Holy Spirit enough to mock and ridicule Him, then they must recognize their need enough to mock God’s means to meet it. This counters the key tenet of Calvinist thinking that fallen man is unaware of his sinful state and need for repentance.
    c. The entire statement makes no sense in the Calvinist context. Jesus should be talking about the elect (all of whose sins are automatically forgiven) and the reprobate (none of whose sins are ever forgiven). Listing a separate, specific, unforgivable sin seems confusing and pointless when the elect cannot commit the unforgivable sin, and the reprobate whose sins are all unforgivable.

    Based on this text, Piper’s tentative supposition that people are not saved due to unbelief is incorrect. People are not saved because they do not believe, rather, they are not saved because they blaspheme the Holy Spirit. Jesus rebuked his disciples on multiple occasions for their unbelief (Matt. 8:26, 14:31,16:8 and so on) yet they were saved. Jesus said that even a tiny amount of faith—the size of a mustard seed—would move mountains. (Matt. 17:20 …if have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there, and it will move…) I know of no one in Scripture or history that has ever evidenced such faith. Whatever faith we possess, it must be miniscule, indeed.
    “Blaspheming the Spirit” is never clearly defined, but it seems unlikely that it is a specific act, but rather the continued rejection or dismissal of the Spirit as useless or unnecessary. Since “the spirit give life” (Matt. 6:63) to reject the Spirit would be to reject the only thing that brings eternal life.
    I have tried to establish a Scriptural basis that natural man has the capacity to be aware of his sinful state. This awareness makes it both reasonable and possible that natural man can hear the voice of God and accept the help that is offered. How this “works” and what happens after that is known only to God, but until that moment—from the human perspective, at least—it seems the individual has a genuine, legitimate choice obey the Spirit or to reject it.
    Additional Questions
    13. If faith is a gift from God, why do people have so little of it (see Matt. 17:20 above), especially when generosity is a characteristic of God? (James 1:5 …who gives to everyone generously without rebuke…)
    14. If faith is a gift from God, why would Paul “hope” that it would grow? (2 Cor. 10:15 ..we cherish the hope that your faith may continue to grow…) (hope=elpis; faith=pistis) Is Paul hoping the faith given isn’t a dud?
    15. If faith is a gift from God, how is it possible to wander from it? (1 Tim. 6:10 …Some people, in their eagerness to get rich, have wandered away from the faith…) (pistis)
    16. Some Loose Ends
    A. I seems to me that Arminians view “accepting grace” as an active verb—accepting or taking hold of grace. I see it differently—as surrender—a non-action. I agree with Calvinists that natural man does not nave the power to grasp grace—but that’s not the same as giving up and surrendering. Unrepentant man can resist the Spirit (Acts 7:51 You stiff-necked people with uncircumcised hears and ears…You always resist the Holy Spirit!) The opposite of resisting is ceasing to resist—doing nothing. Doing nothing is not a work. It is illogical to insist natural man lacks the capacity to do nothing. The Scriptural warrant for this is 2 Chron. 30:8 Now be ye not stiffnecked…but yield yourselves unto the Lord…This is a direct instruction to surrender.
    B. Ultimately, Salvation is a Divine Mystery that no human explanation can completely describe. I view it in the same way that I view Jesus being God and Man at the same time—I accept it without trying to get into the mechanics of it.
    C. I very much disagree with the Arminians that “free will” means that people not only have the ability to accept grace and once saved, retain free will to reject it and “fall away.” I agree with Calvinists that once a person is regenerated, the change is permanent. We are adopted children of God, and He will never disown us. (Rom. 8:15 …you have not receive a spirit of slavery that leads you into fear again. Instead, you have received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba! Father!”)
    D. I am not a Pelagian, since I think all humanity suffers from original sin. In fact, I think that “sin” is our condition—not simply the bad things that we do. In other words, we are not sinful because we do bad things, we do bad things because we are sinful and fallen. Such a state cannot be remedied by any human effort.
    Perhaps a word picture will clarify this.
    Humanity is like a group of people slowly sinking into quicksand. No matter how hard they struggle or try to reach for something to pull themselves out, they cannot escape the quicksand on their own. Without someone to rescue them, they will perish.
    Calvinists picture Jesus as something of a “Cosmic Cowboy” who lassos a select few here and there and pulls them to solid ground. The decision as to who will be saved who will be left to sink is entirely in God’s hands.
    Arminians picture Jesus as standing on solid ground, calling to everyone and asking them to hold out their hands if they want to be rescued. He throws a rope to those who respond and says, “Hold on!” He starts pulling them toward solid ground, but if they let go, they start sinking, again.
    But as I understand the Good News, Jesus walks over the surface of the quicksand, and speaks to each and every sinking person. No one is missed. He quietly whispers that He can save them. All He asks is that they trust Him enough to stop struggling—to stop trying to save themselves. Some respond right away, some fight until they are almost under before they give up. Some never stop struggling even as they disappear into the muck. But for those who heed His voice and cease their own futile efforts, Jesus takes hold of them, lifts them up, and carries them all the way to solid ground. He doesn’t stumble or drop even one. And once you’ve been held in the Savior’s arms, you don’t want to be anywhere else.

  10. The scriptures that talk about election are not as clear cut as it seems. They must al be put in contextr which for some reason calvinsits dont do.

    One cannot just say that because the bible talks about election that God had no basis for election but just what he wanted to do.

    The Children of Isreal were elected also but many were condemned.

    Judas was chosen and given power over demons and siknesses and preached Christ.

    • With all due respect, if you think that Calvinists take the Bible out of context then you have not read their arguments correctly or you don’t know scripture very well. They try harder then any other Christians I know to interpret in context.

      There is a wonderful basis for election, I engourage you to read John Owen’s “The death of death in the death of Christ” to gain a further understanding

  11. Rich

    1. The purpose in this writing is to stimulate thinking and provide a reasoned alternative to your argument. I apologize for the length of this response, but it is difficult to be to be brief on this topic without appearing flippant. I will therefore make a reasonable effort to explain the Scriptural basis for my thought process, rather than simply saying what I think.

    Thanks for your gracious response. It is very difficult to get everything into one post regarding this issue because there is so much depth to it. In fact there is so much involved here we will never grasp it 100% in this life so no worries about the length..;)

    2. CS Lewis is also one of my favorite authors. I agree with your concise appraisal: “Turns out my evaluation is Lewis is neither, and his conclusions fall on both sides not because he is confused, but because he thinks that it is mostly a non-issue. … In the end I would say that Lewis had both Arminian and Calvinist beliefs and if alive today would probably not commit to either.”
    Count me in the same camp. I think there are some things we can’t understand—Divine Mysteries, if you will. The true “mechanism of Salvation” remains known only by God. I only put forth my thoughts as a counter to your position for informational purposes in the spirit of reasoned debate.

    Lewis is my favorite non-Calvinist, 20th century thinker, although I think he might have eventually turned to the reformed position if he could have come to terms with free will and predestination. His last couple interviews were very interesting to read and present a different take then his early non-fiction. Regardless, I appreciate his free thinking as he was seemingly not beholden to one viewpoint, and he invited me into his most joyful and painful thoughts to which I am very grateful.

    3. Ultimately, any theological doctrine can speak with relatively little authority about the nature of God or the correct interpretation of Scripture. Doctrines can only explain what the adherent of that doctrine believes about the nature of God and Scripture. I write this in the hope that it will defuse some of the emotional fervor that often catches defenders of one doctrine or another, who see themselves as champions of “the Truth,” or “standing up for God.” Sincere Christians hold different positions on many different topics—infant baptism, teetotalism, electric guitars in church—to name just a few. Humility is required to allow that none of us has a complete handle on the Truth, and that what pleases God is when we demonstrate charity towards others who disagree far more than our doctrinal purity.

    Agreed. I happen to be a reformed Christian that holds to believers Baptism, enjoy a mix of traditional and contemporary music, and believe in an old earth view on creation (Although I admit to not knowing precisely which view I like best between Progressive and Historical). So I would say I am open minded to debates on non-essentials that are not given to us plainly in the Bible.

    4. Chad wondered, “How can a loving God not give each person an opportunity to choose Him if He has given them a free will to exercise?”
    Part of your response was, “The Bible is clear that man does not seek God himself and is dead in his sin. What else could be meant by Rom. 3:9-10,18? … This means that if God gave you a choice you would reject God unless the choice was given after you were regenerated or “saved.” So a choice given to a man who is dead in his sin would always be to remain dead because he can’t do otherwise under his own power. So without election of some variety every man would make the choice to deny God and spend eternity without him.” Your answer is a standard Calvinist response: being spiritually dead equals being spiritually insensate or at least spiritually incapacitated. This is an assumption that I will attempt to demonstrate is not necessarily the case.

    Although I believe that it is more then an assumption, I hope you can demonstrate your case because the Doctrine of Total Depravity is hard to accept and if one chooses to study deep enough to understand this Theological topic the first, second, third and maybe even fourth take will be to reject it. However I don’t believe the Bible gives us anywhere else to go.

    6. Death, from the normal human perspective, is a non-responsive state. But I think there is good reason to believe that the Scripture writers spoke and thought figuratively, not literally.
    A. Adam and Eve
    Gen. 2:16-17 And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden, but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.”
    Gen. 3:6-10 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and at it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked…Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” He answered, “I heard you in the garden and I was afraid…”
    Gen. 3:22-23 And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever. So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden…
    Note several facts:
    i. The forbidden tree was the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.
    ii. Eating the fruit (that is, sin) opened their eyes—it did not close them.
    iii. The man and woman died spiritually when they ate the fruit—yet they remained aware of God, and could hear and talk with Him.
    iv. Adam knows he did wrong—eating the forbidden fruit gave him knowledge of good and evil.
    The story of the Fall completely counters the basic Calvinist concept that fallen man is unaware, or at least unconcerned, about his fallen state. The story of the Fall is about sin giving man knowledge—they became wise—they were not plunged into ignorance.

    The story of the fall actually is not about sin giving man knowledge in respect to sin being something that makes men full of wisdom. All wisdom comes from God who can’t sin so we have to rule this idea out I think. So lets talk about the story of the fall and see if we can understand what it means. There are 2 trees in the garden. One is the tree of life which is only available to those who enter through the second Adam or Christ who gives eternal life. Then there is the tree of knowledge of good and evil which would give full autonomous knowledge of good and evil apart from God which God was saving as well so man could not have it. God wanted man to walk in faith through his Word. Why God put the trees in the garden is another topic for another day so lets leave that aside for now.
    So there are 2 trees in the garden and then God places man and woman there as well. They are not born into sin like I am claiming that we are, however they were born into righteousness. They were our representation as righteous human beings in the presence of almighty God. They walked with God and talked with God, they were naked and not ashamed, they were innocent and not affected by sin in any way or they would not have been able to be in God’s presence.
    There is nothing special about the apple or trees. It is simply representative of them having dominion over everything but what God said they couldn’t have. So when our righteous, innocent, representation took the fruit of that tree and ate it their righteousness before God was removed and man-kind was condemned because it would be theoretically impossible for any creature post Adam to do any better given the fact that sin had entered the world. There new knowledge of sin leaves them condemned to it without God’s righteousness to keep them innocently from it and they hide from God because of it. God then removes them from the garden (His presence) eternally (You shall surely die) unless the second Adam intercedes making them whole again to be in His presence.
    Here is where total depravity kicks in. It doesn’t mean that you are “ignorant”, it simply means you are corrupted by sin to your core. It is a “radical” corruption where sin taints every part of your being. We can’t remove ourselves from it, and we can’t overcome it on our own. We will all be separated from God should we remain in this state and God knew it since he is omniscient. The great thing is that it did not stop Him from creating us. You see here is the rub in my view. When God created us he didn’t want to create robots. He wanted to create autonomous people with free will that would freely choose to bring him glory. He could not create another God (Yes there are some things God can’t do) so he created righteous human beings in his image that were innocent of sin. However he could not prevent them from sinning at all or they would be robots with no choice. I don’t want to get into the Free will debate because it is off topic so we will let that go for now as well.
    So to sum up in an attempt to answer your summary points, their eyes were open to sin and shame because full knowledge apart from God includes sin. They did die spiritually and hid from God in their shame eventually resulting in their banishment from His presence. The result of the fall is condemnation which means that it isn’t so much that fallen man is unaware or unconcerned about sin, it is that he has “fallen” from righteousness and can do nothing to regain his standing with God (Phil 2:13). Man is in bondage to his sinful condition (John 6:34-36) because he loves himself instead (2 Tim 3:2). We are now by nature children of wrath (Eph. 2:3). Total Depravity is the inability to keep the great commandment in any regard (Matthew 22:37-39) something that Christ fulfilled 100% qualifying him to be the perfect sacrifice when there was no other way. Paul qualifies this nicely in Romans 8:1-13. I could go on and on but it is clear that the Calvinist approach to the fall of man is in line with N.T. Explanations as well as providing a clear understanding of what happened in the garden itself. It is also the one view that puts all glory to God and hold nothing back for human abilities which I believe is Biblical as well.

    B. The “Dead” Prodigal Son.
    Luke 15:24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again…
    Luke 15:32 …this brother of yours was dead and is alive again…
    In both cases, the Greek word nekros is used, and means “dead.” It should be obvious that the word is used figuratively. The son was very much alive and aware of his condition, repent, and able to admit to his folly.

    The Prodigal Son and Adam were both spiritually and morally dead. I see no problem with the interpretation of the Greek here. In fact the story only reinforces the idea that there was nothing the son could do to earn his father’s acceptance. By all rights the father should have refused him just as our Father should refuse us.


    Luke 15:17 When he came to his senses ….
    In this parable, there is not the slightest hint that the father, who represents God, does anything to influence the son to return home. The implication is strong that the son makes a choice to return home to his father after he ponders his poor circumstances.
    It should also be noted that the father (God) is waiting and watching for the son’s return:
    Luke 15:20 …But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.
    The end of the story makes no sense whatsoever from the Calvinist perspective. The (Calvinist) father had to somehow cause the son to repent, so he would have not needed to be watching for his son since he knew when he was coming back. Nor would his heart be filled with compassion at the sight of him—he would have had compassion much earlier when he caused him to return. And, since the son’s return was anticipated, the feast could have been ready beforehand—no need to tell the servants to kill the fatted calf when you know your prodigal son is returning, right on schedule.

    Your critique would be valid here if the point of the parable was free will vs. predestination, however the point that is clearly driven home is the complete forgiveness and restoration of the Son without anything done on the part of the son to deserve it. This is a description of human beings that have no ability to see the future or any ability to change the heart of another human being so if there were going to be a parable to drive home the idea of free will/predestination it would have to be done in a different way.

    C. “Dead” to Sin
    Rom 6:11-12 In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin … Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires.
    The same Greek word, nekros, is used here as in Luke. Once more, it is obvious that “death” cannot mean insensate and unaware. Even though believers are “dead to sin” they still feel its desires—often intensely—and are instructed to resist. I conclude, therefore, that “death” is used figuratively in Scripture and find the Calvinist theory unreasonable that “dead” means unaware or unresponsive.

    The point has been argued so not much further to say here other then to reiterate the Calvinist position that being spiritually dead in your sins means to be unable to bring yourself out of it because your desires are not that of Godliness but you desire sin as opposed to being unresponsive or unaware.

    7. The Other Son
    Calvinist theory cannot explain why the father pleads with the older brother of the prodigal son The Greek word, parakaleo, means “to beseech, earnestly request, or beg.” The word is used, for example in Matt. 14:34-35 (….People brought all their sick to him and begged him to let the sick just touch the edge of his cloak…)
    You wrote: “What we are left with is the idea that God does know all things and therefore also knows who is saved and who will be saved. To say otherwise flies in the face of logic…”
    But if this is the case, there is no logical reason why the father in the story would plead with a son that he knew was not going to change his mind. The Calvinist model suggests that God engages in activity that He knows is futile—and not simply from the human perspective, but from God’s perspective.
    A possible Calvinists explanation might be that “God shows his incredible kindness and patience with sinful man by pleading even with those who He knows will still reject Him.” You hint at this when your wrote: “…God did send his son to save the world, and does offer his mercy to all, however not in the same way.” This is not a satisfactory explanation—it doesn’t work. It’s like asking a blind man to point out his favorite color from a palette, or asking a deaf person to listen to an audio CD. It’s not kind—it’s cruel. Asking people to do things you know are impossible for them to do is sick and perverse.
    On the other hand, if the older son really had the moral freedom to choose to welcome his brother back or not, then such pleading makes complete sense.

    Election is difficult but Biblical and does not make God sick or perverse in any way or as Paul says “By no means” (Romans 3:5-8, Romans 9:14). Sin makes the world sick and perverse and God can’t have any of it. If you have pure libertarian free will in a sinful state you will choose Hell every time the choice is given. This was proven when Adam chose “other than God” even in a righteous state, if that is so how do we stand any chance at all in a sinful state? God chooses to save a people from this condition and not save all and people say “How cruel of this terrible God, I will not serve that God” Instead of praising God for saving anyone at all. He could have chosen not to create, and then there would be no “You” to save. He could have chosen to not save any and then you would spend eternity without God. This is what the fall of man, and Satan for that matter is about. Created beings who can’t be God choosing other then God and condemning themselves then needing a Savior to redeem them. Which only God can provide and does so for his glory. You can blame God for creating anything if you want and tell Him he is cruel for doing so, but what alternative do you suppose He had other then creating in the way he did? In my mind the only alternative is no eternal human creation at all which some have supposed would be better but I disagree with that notion and apparently so did God.

    8. Repentance vs. Salvation
    Scripture seems to make a distinction between repentance and salvation—they are not the same thing and are not necessarily simultaneous.
    Matt. 3:11 I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I….He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.
    John 7:39 But this he spake of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive; for the Holy Ghost was not yet given…
    A distinction is made in Matthew between repentance and the work of the Holy Spirit. John 7:39 says that people believed before the Spirit was given. Since it is the Spirit that regenerates (John 6:63 …it is the Spirit that quickeneth..), I just don’t see what Scriptural argument remains that people must first be “quickened” or “regenerated” before they repent. It is logically contradictory to claim that people are empowered to believe by the Spirit when people believed before the Spirit even came.

    The passage in John 7:39 is clearly talking about the Spirit being given at Pentecost. The Holy Spirit is eternal if you believe in the Trinity so the Holy Spirit was there but not in the special capacity He is now. This is why Jesus said that we are better off with the Spirit before He ascended. There is no contradictory statements here as Christ is talking in a spiritual sense regarding the future. Jesus Spirit quickened people while he was here, and the Holy Spirit was given to quicken us when He left.

    9. Uncertainties
    Acts 17:22-31 contains an address by Paul to the Athenians in which he recounts the works of God as Creator, the Lord of heaven and earth who does not live in a temple made by human hands, who made every nation of men and determined their times and places. Then he says:
    Acts 17:27 God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.
    This statement creates several difficult questions for Calvinism:

    Difficulties yes, impossibilities no.

    Why would God expect men to seek him?
    Calvinist theory is that unregenerate men can’t and won’t seek God. Paul’s explanation for God’s activities becomes meaningless if Calvinism is correct. As you said, “If left to ourselves we will choose evil out of necessity because we are in bondage to it. If God did not condescend to us by his grace then we would be doomed to choose evil.”
    One Calvinist tried to explain it to me by saying, “Well, God uses common means to accomplish divine ends.” Once more, the explanation fails—life still remains an illusion—we only appear to be seeking God with events and circumstances seeming to influence us–but God still has to pull our spiritual strings for us to truly seek him. Our “decisions” are only reactions to what he decided first. Humanity is reduced to spiritual puppets or robot people.
    On the other hand, if circumstances are real, and we’re not just part of a spiritual kabuki theater, then we really can look at the evidence of Creation, our circumstances, and the voice of God in our conscience, His Word, and his witnesses, and make a real decision. That seems to be much more in accord with what Paul said to the Athenians.

    This passage shows us man’s free will which is not disputed by Calvinism. What Calvinism says is that people choose freely according to their will. There is nothing that says people can freely choose God without the Spirit in this passage. What else do you do with this passage in light of all other passages that say the sinner does not seek God directly? Since there is no contradictory statements in the Bible we must interpret scripture with scripture and when it is clear that “nobody seeks God” and “Not one is righteous” then we have to take note that those who are called to seek in this passage must have the Spirit to quicken them as the Bible also says. (Reference Ephesians 2, Romans 6:20-23, Matthew 19:26, John 6:63-65,John 3:6)

    Why does Paul use “perhaps”–a word indicating uncertainty?
    You said, “…God does know all things and therefore also knows who is saved and who will be saved…” Such deterministic certainty is not echoed by the Greek word, ara, which means “perhaps.” Paul’s use of a word indicating uncertainty is very odd if the future is completely immutable.
    On the other hand, if people have a real hand in their future, then the statement is very reasonable. This need not be “open theism” that even God doesn’t know the future. It could easily be within God’s ability and knowledge that any number of futures are possible, or at least, some aspects of the future are variable, and that God is aware of them all. In other words, God not only knows what will happen, but what might happen or could happen. This allows for some variation in the future—all within the knowledge and control of God. There is no requirement that the future is completely fixed and predetermined. As Lewis suggested, our understanding of time is generally linear—but it is a mistake to assume that God is limited in the same way.
    This idea has sound Scriptural support:
    Exodus 13:17-18 …For God said, “If they face war, they might change they minds and return to Egypt.” So God led the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea.
    It seems reasonable that God was able to look at a possible future and intervene directly so that it did not occur. The point here is that God seems to have knowledge of futures that do not happen.
    2 Sam. 24:11-12 Before David got up the next morning, the word of the Lord had come to Gad, the prophet, David’s seer. “Go and tell David, This is what the Lord says: I am giving you three options. Choose one of them for me to carry out against you.’”
    There can be little argument that God explicitly presents the possibility of three different futures to David as a punishment for his census. A Calvinist explained this by saying, “Well, from David’s perspective there were three possible futures, but from God’s perspective there was only one. Since God knew which option David would choose, he would, by necessity, pick the one God knew he would pick.”
    I think it is theologically weak to claim to know God’s perspective when the best we can do is guess. But in any case, the contention is not that God didn’t know what choice David would make. I simply suggest that the point of the whole narration is that David could have picked any of the three choices. There were three, legitimate and equally possible futures—and God gave David a real choice to decide down which pathway time would flow.

    First, I am not sure where you are referencing the word “Perhaps” so I will just move on to your basic point that there could be multiple futures possible for every person God created. I have a friend that has posited something similar although not identical so lets look at this logically and then Biblically and see if it holds up. Logically first because it can only take us so far because “Who can know the mind of God” although I still believe that we can understand enough to have peace in our mind.
    Let’s say that God gives you three choices as he did David. Can there be multiple futures or outcomes that are possible and that God knows? Well what do we know about God? We know that God is truth and that he knows all things because he is omniscient. You will choose one thing because you can’t choose more then one so you will not choose 2. The one you choose is the truthful outcome in reality making the others false. I would argue that God being truth does not know the false and therefore knows the true outcome of your choice. God is not within space in time so does not think in past, present, future like we do. Everything simply “is” and therefore “is” true.
    I will say it in another way. Let’s say you are going to get up and get a snack to eat because you are hungry. However you are also watching your weight and decide against this action and to wait until Dinner to eat. Were you ever really going to get something to eat, and could God have known it if you were? An omniscient God would have to know that you would not get something to eat and would therefore not know the false. The omniscient God would also know that you had the choice to make, and God knowing the outcome of the choice had no effect on you making the choice. A wise man once said that it is foolish to think that God is ever trying to do or allow something that he knows is false or that can’t come to pass. Offering several different futures would in my opinion fall in to this idea.
    So in my view “knowledge” of God is not the problem, it is actually the “determinism” that the Bible talks about which is a larger issue. If God is sovereign and everything is under his providence, and the future is in some way determined by Him and all things are sustained by Him as once again the Bible says clearly then what place do our decisions that we make every day have in this? Well let us move from the logical reasoning which I admit is somewhat limited to what the Bible says about it and then attempt to answer the question posed again from the Bible.
    Look at Isaiah 10 and read that story. It truly is amazing when you see how God is working. God uses a pagan nation, who it says has no intention at all to be used of God, to come out against the people of his wrath (Israel). We are even shown the mind of the Assyrians who think they are just going up against another nation who is actually weaker then nations they have already conquered. God says He is going to use them and then punish them even harder then Israel for their arrogance that they think they can accomplish this without God. You say this is crazy, how can God punish people who are not acting of their own “free will”? There must be some other explanation for this. Well, the answer is there is not other explanation for this. God decrees and holds man responsible for his actions within that decree. You say I don’t believe it, you are taking something out of context. Fine, then lest move to John and Paul and see what they say.
    John 3:6 says that “flesh produces flesh” so we know that through verses like this that the flesh can’t lead us to spiritual things. Further in the same chapter we have Nicodemus asking the questions many are familiar with. He says what do I have to do to be born again and Christ basically says “nothing” by saying the wind blows where it wills and you don’t know where it comes from. Then we move to John 6 and twice it tells us that all that the Father gives will come and nobody can come unless the Father draws them. Then verse 40 says that the Will of the Father is that anyone who looks on the Son and believes will have eternal life. Furthermore verse 36 in the same chapter says that the problem is you don’t believe. We can’t lower God’s sovereignty or raise our culpability. We have to simply conclude that they are compatible
    Of course this never becomes more clear than in Romans chapter 9 through to chapter 12. Read the whole thing a few times and see if you still feel the same. Paul starts out talking about how He would cut his own self off if the Jews would all be saved but that was never God’s purpose. Then he says is this unjust? No! For God told Moses that he would have mercy on whom He would have mercy. It depends NOT on human WILL or exertion but on whomever He WILLS and hardens whomever He WILLS. Paul continues in the very next verse and sees the objection coming which I hear from everyone all the time in our own culture today. Why does He still find fault? Who can resist His will? Answer….Who are you to answer back to God? What if God desired to show his wrath and endured with vessels of wrath prepared for destruction (Like Pharaoh) to display His power and show His mercy? Then Paul goes into O.T. Prophesy and shows in Isaiah how it was prophesied that a remnant would be saved. Paul does not stop there but continues. What shall we say then? Israel pursued righteousness through the law and failed but Gentiles were given righteousness when they were not even pursuing it. Why? Because the Jews had no faith and the Gentiles did.
    Now here is the other side of the coin in chapter 10-11. Paul says don’t ask question that bring Christ down or lift Him up but confess with your mouth and believe. So we go once again from Determinism and sovereignty to the human being being responsible for believing. Then because the human being is responsible for believing we must go out and preach the Gospel. Paul quotes again from Isaiah and says Isaiah was bold to say I have been found by those who did not seek me. I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me. Paul moves though the rest of Romans 11 saying the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable (Verse 29). God has consigned all to disobedience that he MAY have mercy on all (In context of giving to Jews and Gentiles and remembering that God will have mercy on whom he will have mercy like we have already read). It is after all of this that Paul proclaims at the end of Chapter 11 who has know the mind of the Lord? For from Him and through Him and to Him ARE all things. To Him be the glory.
    So we ask ourselves What shall we say then? Do we have libertarian free will to act in any which way we please at any time? By no means! What are you free from to engage in this will? Free from God? Free from Sin? I would argue that not even the Atheist would be free even if there was no God because he is bound by his thoughts and experiences and motives etc.. The Bible says that man does not have libertarian freedom apart from Him or sin. In fact man is in bondage to sin and under the curse of God (Read Romans 6 where Paul “speaks in human terms because of our natural limitations” about being a slave to sin). What you do have freedom from is coercion so you can voluntarily act according to what you desire at the moment which is what even an atheist does without possibly even realizing it.
    Given all this my answer is that God does not have knowledge of things that do not happen in reality. God has all knowledge at once of things that will happen and you have the freedom to act voluntarily within that ultimate decree. You might not like it, and you might try and work your way around it philosophically because you want to give yourself more credence or bring the God of the Bible to a lower capacity in some way, but the Bible simply leaves us no other conclusion and I also believe that we were not meant to have full comprehension of it in this life even though we are given enough light to debate on it like we are doing now.

    Groping
    The Greek word is pselaphao, and means “to feel, verify by contact, to search for.” The word is also used in Heb. 12:18 (You have not come to a mountain that can be touched…) and 1 John 1:1 (..that which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim…)
    It makes little sense that God has certain knowledge of the future and yet only enables the chosen few elect enough power to “perhaps reach out for him,”(NIV) “somehow reach for him,” (ISV) or “grope for him.” (Weymouth’s NT)
    On the other hand, Paul’s statement makes sense that God gave man—through the Fall—at least a limited amount of instinctive, rational, or experiential knowledge of him for which each person is responsible:
    Ecc. 3:11 …He has placed eternity in the hearts of men, yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.
    Ps. 19:1-4 The heavens declare the glory of God., the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.
    These references, as well as the story of the Fall in which man gains the knowledge of good and evil, seem to establish that at lease some knowledge of God is available to everyone through the conscience and in nature. The following verse confirms that natural man is indeed, aware of God:
    Rom. 1:21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.

    Hopefully you can see your idea here in light of everything I have said so far and maybe achieve a different perspective. God does give a general sense of himself to all through creation and conscience so that “all are without excuse” He has indeed placed eternity in the heart of his creation, some to eternity with him and by virtue of that some not. Everyone is reaching or groping for something to fill the void even if they don’t realize it. However they “cannot fathom” what God has done and will not seek Him unless the Spirit moves. Not the elect or anyone else.

    Notice the sequence:
    The wicked know God,
    they refuse to worship God,
    their thinking becomes futile,
    their hearts are darkened.
    Calvinist theory places this in reverse sequence:
    The hearts of the wicked are darkened,
    their thinking becomes futile,
    they refuse to worship God,
    the wicked cannot know God.
    There is little justification for this reversal except to make Scripture conform to Calvinist theory.

    But this has been demonstrated not to be the sequence at all.
    Adam knew God within a righteous state although he wasn’t sealed by it like we are now. He fell in that state and sin entered the world as we know it because we were no longer innocent of it and we have no ability to overcome it being in even a worse state then Adam due to sin. Your sequence starts with “The wicked know God” which is false. Adam was not wicked and he knew God and still fell leaving the rest of us helpless without Christ.

    Why does Paul say God is “not far from each one of us?”
    Paul is not addressing a body of fellow Christians, he is addressing a group of pagan philosophers, so the collective “we” (hemon) cannot mean “we fellow believers,” so he must mean that God is within reach of absolutely everyone. But if Calvinism is right and some people are “vessels of wrath created for destruction” as the theory interprets Rom. 9;22, then God must be very far indeed from some—he is infinitely separated from the reprobate—always has been, and always will be. Calvinism makes Paul’s words are a cruel lie.
    On the other hand, if God has truly reached out to every person that has ever lived, and salvation is a real possibility for anyone, anytime, anywhere, then Paul’s words are a wonderful statement of hope and truth.

    Good question, God is not far from each of us because he is everywhere. He is by the sinner and the saint. We are sustained by him completely and the fool says that there is no God. Calvinism affirms Paul’s words only, it doesn’t make them up. You can’t say “If Calvinism is right” and then quote Paul as you do as if this mysterious thing called Calvinism brought it out of some other authority. Paul says that God is not far from us and that it is God who has mercy and it is God who makes vessels of wrath for His own glory not Calvinists. Calvinist simply accept Biblical authority while others try and parse it for their own purposes.

    10. Why not Save All?
    You quote John Piper: “If Christ died for all the sins of all men, then why are not all saved? They answer, Because some do not believe. But is this unbelief not one of the sins for which Christ died? If they say yes, then why is it not covered by the blood of Jesus and all unbelievers saved? If they say no. (unbelief is not a sin Christ has died for) then they must say that men can be saved without having all their sins atoned for by Jesus; Christ died for all the sins of some men. That is, he died for the unbelief of the elect…”
    Piper tackles a universal, long-standing question, then provides only a narrow and sectarian answer. To understand why he does this requires a little background.
    Piper is a product of Reformed Theology. The Reformed concept resulted from of the work of the Reformers, primarily Martin Luther, who stressed salvation through faith rather than salvation through works. A primary doctrinal passage is Romans 3:28 (For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law.) This doctrine of sola fides (“only faith”) is understandable. The Reformation grew from Luther’s effort to reform the Catholic Church which asserted that salvation is obtained through a combination of efforts of both God and man. Forgiveness of sin occurs by grace—but forgiveness is only obtained through the Church and doing the sacraments, such as baptism, penance, and confession. Luther disagreed, and maintained forgiveness was directly available to individuals through faith—not the Church or its ordinances.
    But justification by faith presented a logical problem for Luther: If a man is justified or saved by faith and not by works, then the source for the work of faith could not be the man himself, otherwise a man could be saved by his own spiritual effort.
    The problem was “solved” by citing Ephesians 2:8-9 (For it is by grace you have been saved through faith—and this not of yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.)
    “This” was taken to refer to faith. This meant that even if faith was a “work,” it was a work of God, not of man. Faith is given to a man as a gift. This enables the man to believe and accept salvation, since, as was articulated earlier, man is “dead in sin” and cannot respond to God in any positive way on his own.
    The “solution” came with the price of the loss of the concept of human free moral will. Man’s moral will is not free, but bound to sin. Whatever freedom of choice it enjoys, it can only choose evil.
    In this light, Piper’s answer makes sense: If unbelief, or lack of faith, is a sin that is covered by Christ, then unbelief is irrelevant—everyone should be saved whether they believe or not. But if unbelief is not covered by Christ’s atonement, then the only remedy is faith. But faith is a gift from God. In other words, those that have faith do not need to have the sin of unbelief forgiven because God gave it to them. Given God’s knowledge of the future combined with the gift of faith, Calvin’s doctrine of predestination of salvation of the elect and damnation of the reprobate logically follows.
    Bus is faith a work?
    Romans and Ephesians both distinguish faith from works. If faith is a work, then the separation should not be a distinction between faith and works, but distinguishing the works of man from the works of God. Neither text does this.
    Is faith a gift?
    “This” in the Ephesians text need not refer to faith. It seems more likely that it refers to grace. It simply cannot be argued that grace is gift of God. Let’s re-write the Ephesians text with both substitutions:
    For it is by grace you have been saved through faith—and this faith is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast
    For it is by grace you have been saved through faith—and this grace is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast
    As can be seen, the verse says that we are saved by grace through faith. It seems to me that salvation results from grace, which is then accessed by means of faith. It seems more reasonable that the explanatory emphasis is on the on the primary result, not the secondary means. Hence, I conclude that the gift spoken of in this text is grace, not faith.
    But let’s set this linguistic puzzle aside. The idea that faith is a gift from God is simply not well supported. For example, even demons have faith:
    James 2:19 You believe there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.
    The Greek word for faith in James is pisteuo and means “to have faith”, whereas Paul uses a variation, pistis, which means “persuasion or credence.”
    I don’t think the difference is important, as the word is translated “faith” in both cases, and both are used almost interchangeably throughout the Gospels. An example is the following pair of texts:
    Matt. 8:10 When Jesus heard this he was astonished and said to those following him, I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. (pistis)
    Matt 8:13 Then Jesus said to the centurion “Go! It will be done just as you believed it would…” (pisteuo)
    The Matthew 8:10 reference presents additional problems for Calvinists. A Roman centurion asks Jesus to heal his servant. Jesus expresses astonishment at his faith. But, if faith were a gift from God, then why would Jesus be surprised at someone having it? And why would Jesus even be looking for faith to find in the first place?
    Jesus sees the faith of the friends of a sick man (Matt. 9:2). Jesus tells a healed woman your faith has healed you (Matt. 9:22) Jesus rebukes his disciples for their inability to cast out a demon due to their lack of faith (Matt. 17:20) There are many more similar verses. Praising or chiding people for the amount of faith they display makes no sense if they have no control over how much they are given.
    James 2:14-26 goes into great detail describing useless, dead, faith. (v. 26 …faith without works is dead.) Does God give the gift of dead faith? That hardly seems likely—and there isn’t the slightest hint in this section that faith is a gift or a work—just the opposite. (v. 17 faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action is dead.)
    The point is, if faith is given by God at His discretion, there is no logical reason why Jesus would look for faith, praise those who had it, or rebuke individuals who lacked it, when all of them had nothing to do with their condition of faith. There would be no reason why people would possess dead, useless faith. Nor can faith be a “work” since it is possible to have faith without works.
    Imagine a father who gives one of his children a dollar, another a penny, and a third nothing. We would rightly consider the man a total goofball if he then complimented the child who had received the dollar for his large amount of money, rebuked the second child for only having a penny, and punished the third child because he had none. Would it be fair? No. Would it be just? No. Would it demonstrate mercy or grace? No. But that’s the how Calvinists view God.
    11. Gifts and Faith
    The words “gift” and “faith” occur at the same time in the following verses:
    Romans 12:6, 1 Corinthians 12:9 and 13:2, Ephesians 2:8, and Hebrews 11:4.
    Let’s examine each in detail:
    Romans12:6 We have different gifts based on the grace that was given to us. So if your gift is prophecy, use your gift in proportion to your faith.
    Grace is given to us. Prophecy is a gift. Faith is not a gift, or else the last phrase would essentially be “use the prophecy gift in proportion to the faith gift.” It makes little sense that one gift is apparently needed to control another gift. Dueling gifts? I don’t think so.
    The only reasonable meaning is that faith is something within the individual and over which the individual has control and responsibility.
    I Corinthians 12:8-9 To one has been given a message of wisdom by the Spirit; to another the ability to speak with knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit; to a other gifts of healing by that one Spirit;
    Faith is listed as a gift in this passage; however, the context is not regarding salvation but a believer receiving an additional gift of the Spirit. In any case, the theme here is that some receive one gift (prophecy, wisdom, healing, etc.). It makes no sense that some believers have the gift of saving faith and others do not. Whatever form of faith is being discussed here, it is not faith for salvation.
    1 Corinthians 13:2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can understand all secrets and every form of knowledge, and If I have absolute faith so as to move mountains, but have no love, I am nothing.
    Prophecy is specifically listed as a gift, but faith is not. But let’s assume that Paul is referring back to the gift type of faith mentioned in 12:8-9. The main point is that without love, that faith is worthless, and it makes no sense to me that God would give a worthless gift.
    Ephesians 2:8-9 has already been thoroughly discussed.
    Hebrews 11:4 By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain did, and by it he was declared to be righteous, since God himself accepted his gifts. And by faith he continues to speak, even though he is dead.
    The appearance of the words in this passage is merely coincidental; however, the entire chapter, known as “the faith chapter,” chronicles many heroes of faith—without once mentioning that any of these people received their faith as a gift from God! If faith is a gift –and the evidence for this is extremely tenuous–then the omission of this fact in this lengthy discourse on faith is remarkable. Indeed, focusing on a particular gift is quite odd. Why not a chapter detailing the remarkable healings by the prophets and the apostles? Why not a chapter reviewing the great prophecies or praising those who had received any of the other gifts?
    On the other hand, if faith is something else—possibly something originating from within the believer himself–then not describing faith as a gift makes sense, and praise and admiration from God when people demonstrate it not only makes sense, but is just what we would expect.
    12. The Unforgivable Sin
    Mark 3:28-29 Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter. But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of eternal sin.
    This statement presents at least three insurmountable problems for Calvinism:
    a. Jesus assures his listeners that all sins and blasphemies can be forgiven. Calvinism asserts that the sins and blasphemies–of any kind or type–of the reprobate, can never be forgiven, which directly contradicts the text.
    b. Jesus warns his listeners that blaspheming the Holy Spirit is the one sin that can’t be forgiven. Calvinism asserts that the reprobate are dead to the Spirit, so how can they speak against something of which they are unaware? But if they are aware of the Holy Spirit enough to mock and ridicule Him, then they must recognize their need enough to mock God’s means to meet it. This counters the key tenet of Calvinist thinking that fallen man is unaware of his sinful state and need for repentance.
    c. The entire statement makes no sense in the Calvinist context. Jesus should be talking about the elect (all of whose sins are automatically forgiven) and the reprobate (none of whose sins are ever forgiven). Listing a separate, specific, unforgivable sin seems confusing and pointless when the elect cannot commit the unforgivable sin, and the reprobate whose sins are all unforgivable.
    Based on this text, Piper’s tentative supposition that people are not saved due to unbelief is incorrect. People are not saved because they do not believe, rather, they are not saved because they blaspheme the Holy Spirit. Jesus rebuked his disciples on multiple occasions for their unbelief (Matt. 8:26, 14:31,16:8 and so on) yet they were saved. Jesus said that even a tiny amount of faith—the size of a mustard seed—would move mountains. (Matt. 17:20 …if have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there, and it will move…) I know of no one in Scripture or history that has ever evidenced such faith. Whatever faith we possess, it must be miniscule, indeed.
    “Blaspheming the Spirit” is never clearly defined, but it seems unlikely that it is a specific act, but rather the continued rejection or dismissal of the Spirit as useless or unnecessary. Since “the spirit give life” (Matt. 6:63) to reject the Spirit would be to reject the only thing that brings eternal life.
    I have tried to establish a Scriptural basis that natural man has the capacity to be aware of his sinful state. This awareness makes it both reasonable and possible that natural man can hear the voice of God and accept the help that is offered. How this “works” and what happens after that is known only to God, but until that moment—from the human perspective, at least—it seems the individual has a genuine, legitimate choice obey the Spirit or to reject it.

    I appreciate the lengthy discussion of faith here, but it appears that it comes out of a desire to put the human being higher in responsibility then is needed. The Bible is clear in my demonstration that belief is not only necessary but required and I will not go into that further. People that blaspheme the Holy Spirit indeed reject God so they do not believe. I agree with you that how everything in regeneration works is not given to us 100%, but what it given 100% is that Faith in God in no way can be had in a spiritual way unless the Spirit moves in a supernatural way, and this will not happen to whom the Father does not give to the Son. From the finite human perspective I agree that that it seems we have a legitimate choice to obey the call as well as make a host of other decisions every day. We are held accountable for these choices as we make them and on this we would also agree. However based on that human perspective you can’t dismiss the perspective of the infinite creator of the universe that declares his providence and sovereignty in the Bible. These two things must be compatible according to scripture.

    Additional Questions
    13. If faith is a gift from God, why do people have so little of it (see Matt. 17:20 above), especially when generosity is a characteristic of God? (James 1:5 …who gives to everyone generously without rebuke…)

    Because the road is very narrow that leads to salvation. According to James God shows generosity in giving wisdom, but there is nothing that says he gives it abundantly to all. James continues and says it must be asked in Faith with no doubting. There is no faith in God in the sinner.


    14. If faith is a gift from God, why would Paul “hope” that it would grow? (2 Cor. 10:15 ..we cherish the hope that your faith may continue to grow…) (hope=elpis; faith=pistis) Is Paul hoping the faith given isn’t a dud?

    No, he is hoping that people will continue to grow in faith so that it becomes stronger. Faith is possible once a work is “started” in you by the Spirit. Notice the Bible does not say that faith is given as a gift upon regeneration and there is nothing left to do. It will be a lifelong process which Paul eludes to often

    15. If faith is a gift from God, how is it possible to wander from it? (1 Tim. 6:10 …Some people, in their eagerness to get rich, have wandered away from the faith…) (pistis)

    The next verse begins “But as for you O man of God” suggesting that the rich in the previous verses are not of God and therefore never received any faith at all.

    16. Some Loose Ends
    A. I seems to me that Arminians view “accepting grace” as an active verb—accepting or taking hold of grace. I see it differently—as surrender—a non-action. I agree with Calvinists that natural man does not nave the power to grasp grace—but that’s not the same as giving up and surrendering. Unrepentant man can resist the Spirit (Acts 7:51 You stiff-necked people with uncircumcised hears and ears…You always resist the Holy Spirit!) The opposite of resisting is ceasing to resist—doing nothing. Doing nothing is not a work. It is illogical to insist natural man lacks the capacity to do nothing. The Scriptural warrant for this is 2 Chron. 30:8 Now be ye not stiffnecked…but yield yourselves unto the Lord…This is a direct instruction to surrender.

    Natural man does nothing but resist and turn away from God. We are all stubborn and stiff-necked until such time as the Spirit of God moves to regenerate you. The metaphors Stephen uses are Old Testament words meaning spiritually stubborn and unregenerate. This among other things is why the people understood what he was saying and stoned him for it.

    B. Ultimately, Salvation is a Divine Mystery that no human explanation can completely describe. I view it in the same way that I view Jesus being God and Man at the same time—I accept it without trying to get into the mechanics of it.

    I agree with this for the most part. We are given what we need to know to be saved and then are left to debate the rest until we step into eternity where more knowledge will be given. However we will never have the mind of God and will continue to know him. If we figured everything out now what would we do then?


    C. I very much disagree with the Arminians that “free will” means that people not only have the ability to accept grace and once saved, retain free will to reject it and “fall away.” I agree with Calvinists that once a person is regenerated, the change is permanent. We are adopted children of God, and He will never disown us. (Rom. 8:15 …you have not receive a spirit of slavery that leads you into fear again. Instead, you have received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba! Father!”)

    On this we also agree and there are many other reasons why Arminians are wrong in their interpretations and views. I think C.S. Lewis would agree with most of what both of us do. However the question remains what are you “free” from to “will” An Arminian would at least be consistent to say that you can “choose” it and “loose” it but many times is able to grasp once saved always saved. It is much harder to grasp I can’t loose it and I can’t do anything to gain it on my own and I understand why that is so. As humans we want to put ourselves higher then we should naturally and Calvinism gives all of the glory to God for salvation which is much more Biblical in my estimation. God secures your salvation in Christ because He started it and promised to finish the work.


    D. I am not a Pelagian, since I think all humanity suffers from original sin. In fact, I think that “sin” is our condition—not simply the bad things that we do. In other words, we are not sinful because we do bad things, we do bad things because we are sinful and fallen. Such a state cannot be remedied by any human effort.

    Agreed, Praise God for his grace

    Perhaps a word picture will clarify this.
    Humanity is like a group of people slowly sinking into quicksand. No matter how hard they struggle or try to reach for something to pull themselves out, they cannot escape the quicksand on their own. Without someone to rescue them, they will perish.
    Calvinists picture Jesus as something of a “Cosmic Cowboy” who lassos a select few here and there and pulls them to solid ground. The decision as to who will be saved who will be left to sink is entirely in God’s hands.
    Arminians picture Jesus as standing on solid ground, calling to everyone and asking them to hold out their hands if they want to be rescued. He throws a rope to those who respond and says, “Hold on!” He starts pulling them toward solid ground, but if they let go, they start sinking, again.
    But as I understand the Good News, Jesus walks over the surface of the quicksand, and speaks to each and every sinking person. No one is missed. He quietly whispers that He can save them. All He asks is that they trust Him enough to stop struggling—to stop trying to save themselves. Some respond right away, some fight until they are almost under before they give up. Some never stop struggling even as they disappear into the muck. But for those who heed His voice and cease their own futile efforts, Jesus takes hold of them, lifts them up, and carries them all the way to solid ground. He doesn’t stumble or drop even one. And once you’ve been held in the Savior’s arms, you don’t want to be anywhere else.

    A very nice word picture but I am afraid that it diminishes the Calvinist view and props up the Arminian view. It supposes that the sinking people grab the rope that Christ is offering and while that would be great if it happened that way I don’t think it is Biblical based on everything I have shown. The Biblical word picture would have a different ending I am afraid with Christ throwing the rope of salvation that not one person can see because the quicksand (sin) prevents it and everyone sinks to their doom. Calvinism would not picture Christ as a cowboy throwing ropes to helpless people. However the same analogy could be used if tweaked so let me give it a try.
    The Father, Son , and Holy Spirit as one God stand on dry land. All humanity has walked into quicksand in disobedience to the Father and is sure to perish for there is no amount of struggling that can free them on their own. Because of their disobedience they all deserve to sink to their doom, but the Son has made a deal with the Father before one toe ever touched the quicksand. The deal is that the Son will jump into the quicksand because He is the only one that can avoid sinking and make it to the other side safely. Once to the other side the Father will send the Spirit who has the power to give people a new body that is not completely consumed by the quicksand so they are able to see out of it and reach there arms through it. Those people grab onto the Son and cling to Him with the help of the Spirit still slipping and sinking as they are pulled along because these new bodies are not consumed by the quicksand but are still effected by it until they reach the other side where they are washed clean of the quicksand completely and presented to the Son in glory. The rest of humanity slips into the abyss separated from God because of the disobedience they are responsible for and therefore deserve.
    God Bless

  12. llondy,

    Thank you for the response.

    I will not respond point-by-point because you are simply providing the standard Calvinist response without actually considering my argument. You are free to do this, of course. In the end, each reader must do their own evaluation, anyway.

    I will, however, comment on your response to my word picture.

    a. You wrote:

    “A very nice word picture but I am afraid that it diminishes the Calvinist view and props up the Arminian view. It supposes that the sinking people grab the rope that Christ is offering and while that would be great if it happened that way I don’t think it is Biblical based on everything I have shown.”

    This is true of the Arminian view–which I reject–but it fails to address the 3rd way of the model I propose.

    b. Your wrote:
    “All humanity has walked into quicksand in disobedience to the Father and is sure to perish for there is no amount of struggling that can free them on their own. Because of their disobedience they all deserve to sink to their doom…”

    This is not correct if you hold to the concept of original sin. If we are born in sin, we don’t “walk into the quicksand in disobedience”–we are born in it. This casts doubt on your conclusion that we “deserve to sink.”

    As I wrote, “We are not sinners because we do bad things, we do bad things because we are sinners.” Another brief word picture to clarify this:

    A father informs his children that he will punish them if they play in the mud. It would be unfair if he then drops his children into the mud and then punishes them.
    Yet this is the situation humanity is in–born in sin–yet declared guilty of disobedience. We need a Redeemer far more than we need a Judge.

    It is irrational that God would blame sinful creatures for being in a condition over which they had no control and arbitrarily selecting a few for redemption.

    On the other hand, it is completely reasonable that God set up the universe as we kinow it, allowed sin to enter it for the purpose of moral growth and instruction, and provided a means of escape which–at least to some unknown degree–each individual could accept or reject.

    The news that salvation is available to all truly is Good News!

    I bid God’s peace to you and your readers.

    Rich : )

    • llondy,

      I will not respond point-by-point because you are simply providing the standard Calvinist response without actually considering my argument. You are free to do this, of course. In the end, each reader must do their own evaluation, anyway.

      It is unfortunate that you think I did not consider your arguments in my response whether it be from the Calvinist view or not. Although I do not hold to all Calvinist views, when it comes to the Gospel I believe it is the most Biblical after many years of study so I can’t really respond in a “new” way, nor do I know what you were expecting me to say that you have not heard before. Some of the ideas of Lewis were Calvinistic in nature and others were not, but I don’t read anything “new” into his positions either and respect him for his views as I do yours. There is nothing “new” under the sun, there is only the Bible and our discussion is rooted in it and that is all that is needed, call it what you will.

      I will, however, comment on your response to my word picture.

      a. You wrote:

      “A very nice word picture but I am afraid that it diminishes the Calvinist view and props up the Arminian view. It supposes that the sinking people grab the rope that Christ is offering and while that would be great if it happened that way I don’t think it is Biblical based on everything I have shown.”

      This is true of the Arminian view–which I reject–but it fails to address the 3rd way of the model I propose.

      Once again I was showing different views in general as they have been stated by many for centuries. Your word picture leans more to one then the other and I must admit the third model you are now talking about I don’t see as clearly defined. I can see how it is in contrast with Calvin’s view but not the Arminian argument. Perhaps if you wish to do so in the future you can explain your model briefly and I can comment in turn. For example I have a friend who claims a different model where regeneration and faith happen at the same exact moment but still calls himself Arminian in general just to quickly explain his view. In the same way I call myself a Calvinist even though I have different ideas here and there.

      b. Your wrote:
      “All humanity has walked into quicksand in disobedience to the Father and is sure to perish for there is no amount of struggling that can free them on their own. Because of their disobedience they all deserve to sink to their doom…”

      This is not correct if you hold to the concept of original sin. If we are born in sin, we don’t “walk into the quicksand in disobedience”–we are born in it. This casts doubt on your conclusion that we “deserve to sink.”

      It holds to original sin in the sense that the human race was disobedient through Adam who was more free to do right by God then any of us. He willingly in and of himself walked into the quicksand and we are all right there with him. But in specific regard to us only you are correct to say we are born in it.

      As I wrote, “We are not sinners because we do bad things, we do bad things because we are sinners.” Another brief word picture to clarify this:

      A father informs his children that he will punish them if they play in the mud. It would be unfair if he then drops his children into the mud and then punishes them.
      Yet this is the situation humanity is in–born in sin–yet declared guilty of disobedience. We need a Redeemer far more than we need a Judge.

      But we get both a redeemer and a judge according to the Bible so I am not sure how you can say we need one more then the other. The word pictutre of God dropping us in the mud and then punishing us I don’t support and I would say neither does John Calvin. God does not coerce us or physically “drop” us in sin. We willingly do so in and of ourselves because we are in bondage to it due to Adam’s disobedience. God’s choosing some for Glory and some for wrath brings glory through judgement for many and redeeming for some.

      It is irrational that God would blame sinful creatures for being in a condition over which they had no control and arbitrarily selecting a few for redemption.

      First I don’t think you can prove your definition of arbitrary in the sense where God has no specific purpose in selection other then playing a game of heads or tails. If God does it that way then I would agree it would be irrational and be left to think I believe in a irrational God.
      Secondly we are in this condition not because God put us here or because there was no control on our part. from the first man to the last. God didn’t create man and immediately plunge every man into darkness through which we are all doomed. By one man sin entered into the world and the Second Adam redeemed and will judge. That is the story of the Gospel. It may be a tough one to accept in regard to us being guilty in Adam but I do think there is a valid explanation which I have attempted to provide but you rejected as “Calvinist” argument. I haven’t heard to many of my Calvinist friends provide an explanation because they feel like they don’t have to since the Bible clearly states it. however I think that if God created man with free will he had to allow for sin and yet he created us anyway for His glory

      On the other hand, it is completely reasonable that God set up the universe as we kinow it, allowed sin to enter it for the purpose of moral growth and instruction, and provided a means of escape which–at least to some unknown degree–each individual could accept or reject.

      The news that salvation is available to all truly is Good News!

      And I don’t necessarily disagree with you on that. On some level we do accept or reject and are held accountable for doing so. But I must reject the idea on Biblical, not John Calvin’s, grounds that sin was ordained by God for our instruction as if it was some teacher of morality. Sin corrupts and destroys us but it is God in his mercy that saves and sanctifies. You might have meant it that way but I thought it needed clarification.
      In the final analysis I don’t think that we are too far off from each other since I do think that the good news is that the Gospel is available to all “who will believe”. The facts are that many will not believe and maybe we slightly disagree on why that is. I think that anyone who believes that Christ’s work on the cross was the finishing work must believe in election to some degree, otherwise he only died for the ability to receive and we have to finish it in some way ourselves.

      I bid God’s peace to you and your readers.

      Rich :

      God bless you my friend

  13. Wow you two, quite possibly one of the best most civil arguments I’ve seen on either side of the subject. A acquaintance ask me last week if I was a Calvinist I told him no, he responded (with some satisfaction) Oh, your an Arminian. I replied, I didn’t say that, I just said I wasn’t a Calvinist.

    I’m intrigued in with the idea that both sides have correct element and are not necessarily polar opposites. The consideration for God’s existence out side of time and space is interesting. These means that he could call us knowing what our free will response to that call would be. I’m resistant to the idea of unconditional election for the reasons stated above. But I can also agree in my complete inability to save myself. But what if it were unconditional election from God’s perspective (ie outside of time and space and knowing our choice as produced by his grace) but conditional election for our perspective from with in time space.

    I’m kind of new to this stuff, but this seems to fit with scripture. God adopts us knowing what kind of Children we will be. It’s really amazing, all these years and I still can’t get over this fact. What I want to avoid is Calvinism that degenerates into gnostic elitism. A couple years ago a lady in our bible study stated in somewhat haughty way, “I’m just glad God elect me and my family for heaven.” I said to her, “Yah, too bad he elected the Johnson (a well known kind, but unbelieving family) to be plunged into hell.” It this kind of thinking that I still struggle with.

    • Wow you two, quite possibly one of the best most civil arguments I’ve seen on either side of the subject. A acquaintance ask me last week if I was a Calvinist I told him no, he responded (with some satisfaction) Oh, your an Arminian. I replied, I didn’t say that, I just said I wasn’t a Calvinist.

      I think this is perfectly acceptable. The reason I will go ahead and say I am a Calvinist is because most of what I believe about the Gospel is how the reformers like John Calvin believed. We put people in groups because it is easier to understand quickly where the person is coming from. However I believe that John Calvin would have never called anyone a Calvinist and grimaces up in Heaven every time he hears the word because he was much too humble for that. Calvinism does not have all the answers to everything in the Bible, but to me they have the best and most Gospel oriented answers.

      I would also like to say that Calvinism is much more then the 5 points or “Tulip”, it is a covenant theology that I think is amazing when understood correctly. It is a shame that so many do not take the time to understand it completely, but with our human limitations it doesn’t surprise me that even those who do come to understand take a long time to mature into it. That being said let no “Calvinist” tell you that they closed the books of the reformers and those that have come after them and have all the answers because they do not. There is nobody who knows the mind of God and we will spend eternity knowing him and never fill our cup.

      I’m intrigued in with the idea that both sides have correct element and are not necessarily polar opposites. The consideration for God’s existence out side of time and space is interesting. These means that he could call us knowing what our free will response to that call would be. I’m resistant to the idea of unconditional election for the reasons stated above. But I can also agree in my complete inability to save myself. But what if it were unconditional election from God’s perspective (IE outside of time and space and knowing our choice as produced by his grace) but conditional election for our perspective from with in time space.

      Calvinism and Arminianism are not polar opposites, and I respect the Arminian way of thinking knowing that many of them truly are brothers and sisters in Christ. Both believe in the Triune God and that salvation is by grace through Christ alone. The problems lie in a deeper theology when one tries to understand regeneration and the Bible as much as possible. Is the work on the cross complete, or do we have to step in and accept to finish the work? How does an all knowing God outside of time and space not know our ultimate choices and does that take our free will away? The truth is that most people getting to know the Gospel are Arminians, and some continue to be since they know they make choices that do not seem to be coerced every day and this flies in the face of what they consider “libertarian freedom”. I am sure you have heard of the God who plays games with people by pulling their puppet strings. It is a very easy thing to think and I understand the thought process completely.

      I also note that most Arminians don’t have a problem with the doctrine of total depravity or an omniscient God, they struggle with limited atonement primarily because it seems to take away your free will ability to choose. However I say that this is not the case at all. Although nobody has complete libertarian free will to do anything and everything they want, meaning that there is always something guiding and confining your possible decisions, you do have free will to make your own choices in and of yourself not forced by any higher being. The fact that God knows your decision in no way forces or coerces the decision. Knowledge does not seem to be a forcing agent with respect to God’s relationship with us, or even in the things we do. I can know that something is going to happen, I know that my neighbor is going to go to work tomorrow, but that does not mean I am forcing him.

      Now of course this relates to us and God differently since he has all knowledge and we don’t, and I think the way you have put it is exactly how it is. God knows what you are going to do, but you have no idea until you make a final decision what you will do. Some will answer that this makes God a puppeteer and I say that it does not. There are no strings attached to the knowledge of God and we do what we will in and of ourselves according to what we desire at the moment. If we had God’s knowledge (As Adam, Eve, and Satan wished to have) then we would know the end result of our decisions and things would be different. But this is not the case and we are accountable for our actions apart from God’s knowledge because we are knowingly acting upon our own will.

      Why did God do it this way? I say that he had no other choice. He wanted to create creatures with free will to love him or not but how does an all knowing God do such a thing? He created them within a time space continuum where their knowledge is finite because God can’t create another being that is infinite. Finite creatures with free will apart from the knowledge of God must be able to choose against God (sin). The only other option would have been for God to create robots and that was not what he wanted to do.

      The next question is then why did God create at all, and this is the best question there is in my opinion. I think that God deems it worthy that many will perish if one will not just look at the story of Noah. Therefore, God knew that if he created man all would perish because all would choose against Him in the end due to sin having to be available. Here is where the covenant theology comes in that is so amazing. The Father and the Son have an eternal covenant that if the Father created the Son will save. The Son provides the sacrifice in place of creation that is doomed if created and left alone. This covenant has nothing to do with you the human being other then that you are able to choose to love and hate God and others thanks to God’s grace. Those who choose to love God will spend eternity with him and those that don’t will not. Either way God is glorified in that those whom the Son died for will be given back to him forever, and those who rejected the Son’s sacrifice in this life will be judged accordingly by the Son fulfilling the ultimate love and justice of an almighty and infinite God. The death of the Son was the only way that any of the Father’s creation could be deemed worthy and together with the Holy spirit it was done willingly. This gives all the glory to God where it should be and none on us where it should not be. For me it also answers the Free will vs. determinism debate that so many rightly struggle with who want to put more emphasis on the human choice then there needs to be.

      I’m kind of new to this stuff, but this seems to fit with scripture. God adopts us knowing what kind of Children we will be. It’s really amazing, all these years and I still can’t get over this fact. What I want to avoid is Calvinism that degenerates into gnostic elitism. A couple years ago a lady in our bible study stated in somewhat haughty way, “I’m just glad God elect me and my family for heaven.” I said to her, “Yah, too bad he elected the Johnson (a well known kind, but unbelieving family) to be plunged into hell.” It this kind of thinking that I still struggle with.

      And we all struggle with it if we have a negative mind set that depicts an angry God casting undeserving people into an eternity subject to God’s wrath. However the truth is that as finite creatures subject to sin we are all flawed and found wanting in the eyes of God. If you truly understand Calvinism, which this person you speak of does not, then you will never be anything but humble for what God has done for you. In addition you will continue to hold up others and pray without ceasing that God will do the same for them as well.

      Grace and peace to you on your journey.

  14. Dear llondy, You used the Logic that Jesus died for all sins, therefore the sin of unbelief.
    (Jesus did not die for the sin of unbelief, it is the one unpardonable sin.)

    • The idea that Jesus could not have finished the work of atonement on the cross because of the “unforgivable sin” is an idea that come out of a false understanding of what this sin is. It also only survives briefly under the universal atonement view which I do not prescribe to, however I will still give what I believe is the reformed response.

      When Christ died the penalty for all sins was paid in full. There is nothing that you or I need to do in order to complete the work. Many people may not believe this but I am going to move on from this premise and answer your question. We are all sinners that are saved by grace. We accept the gift of grace only after God moves through the Holy Spirit to regenerate us. This happens for all who are saved, and this happens for none who are not saved.

      Now with this understanding we also need to look at the context where this idea comes from and where I assume you take it from. Jesus is talking about blaspheming the Holy Spirit in Matthew and basically says that if you reject the Holy Spirit this will not be forgiven. In context we see that he is saying this to men who just attributed everything that Christ had done to Satan. Christ revealed himself through the Holy Spirit and these people were obviously given over to Satan and gave him the authority for what was being done. For these people there truly was no hope, but this was before the cross, a different time and situation. Christ stood before them and they gave him up for Satan. Others came out against the Son of Man, and many others were confused and did horrible things, but these people directly denied Christ as Lord.

      There is a question whether not this type of thing can even be done in our time. I think that it can but in a slightly different way since Christ himself is not with us directly. When a person rejects God it is not that Christ’s death was not good enough to cover all sins, it is that you did not accept what Christ has already done. If you do reject it in your own mind and God does not move through the Holy Spirit to reveal himself to you any longer then you are without hope just as the people in Matthew. Not because this is a sin that was not covered, but because you rejected the one who has covered your sin. We all do this before regeneration so it is not that God can’t forgive the rejection, it is that at some point He will leave you to your own desires and your own will which without the Holy Spirit is to go against God.

      Remember, your sins have been paid for, but to ultimately reject that fact is to refuse the grace that God sent his son to die for which lands you in an eternity without God. This is not a sin that can’t be forgiven because that deed has been done and many have rejected Christ and believed in him later. This is a sin that results from your hardened heart and the Holy Spirit not being given to you which results in an eternity without God if he does not choose to have mercy on you.

      For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” Romans 9:15 (ESV)

  15. “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, in the end, “Thy will be done.” All that are in Hell choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. Those who knock it is opened. ”
    — C.S. Lewis (The Great Divorce)

    Pretty much sums it up without ambiguity

  16. Does it? How can a soul constantly desire true Joy by Lewis’s standard (which is true joy in the things of God) in and of himself? The Bible says that this is only possible with God and there is none that seeks him otherwise. (Matthew 19:26 – Romans 3:11 etc…)

    In this regard Lewis is absolutely right, although I don’t think he meant it this way when he wrote it. No soul that seriously seeks God (Joy) will ever miss it, because no soul will seriously seek joy in God without his leading. All that are in Hell do “will” it or “desire” it because God did not change their desire and the “love of God is not in him”. We only love him because “He first loved us”

    I think that in the later writings of Lewis, after struggling with free will his entire life, we can see him coming around to this idea even though he never quite makes the change formally. I give him all the credit for putting so much time and thought into such a difficult issue, and it is one of the reasons I admire him.

  17. I would even postulate that this quote from Lewis was probably brought about by his enlightening to the truth of God’s total sovereignty. It is a profound statement that would be heartily agreed with by any and perhaps every reformed thinker as well as any arminian.
    That being the case it hardly sums up the debate, as llondy pointed out. Simply because this inspired quote does not even approach the topic of why who will say which thing 🙂
    Is the one who seeks more righteous in his own right? Lewis would say no. Does this “Self Choice” to seek God come from the more righteous man’s very own Self Righteousness?
    Actually, just for the petty sake of argument, I’ll even make THAT concession and see where it leads. What if one man was more righteous than the other, and it WAS his own self righteousness that enabled him to seek God instead of evil… Who made this man? Who knit him together and knew him before he was born? All signs point to G-O-D.

    Each man from the beginning of creation to the end will do, act, choose and die exactly the way God foreknew before each was ever born. Any free will you wish to extract from that is all yours and I’d be glad to acknowledge it within those confines.

    It appears that the perspective of God being sovereign can swallow the other perspectives whole… As in, even if the free will perspective is as true as it can possibly be, God is so completely sovereign that the debate inevitably ends with God’s will being supreme and triumphant, and man’s will, though as free as he wanted to believe, was totally bound and in submission (opposite of free) to His.

    Of course I could be wrong 🙂

    • I brought this up originally because I think Lewis kicked and screamed all the way to the reformed position just like he kicked and screamed all the way to Christianity from Paganism. He thought through every angle possible, and in the end even though he never said it, I think there was nowhere else for him to go. He is the most mature thinking non-Calvinist that I have ever had the privilege of reading, and you can follow his maturity in the issue of free will through his writings.

      Jonny’s point on perspective is a good one, and one that I talk about often. From every perspective of our own we make free decisions without force or coercion. We are created with minds in a finite universe within space and time. We are held responsible for those actions for this reason. If we had the full knowledge of God we would be God and it would be impossible for God to create another infinite being. He also obviously saw no reason to create robots that would have no choice but to worship him either for what glory would come of that?

      So God created the Heavens and the Earth and set his created beings including Adam and the Angels within it. Satan and Adam could choose God or choose anything but God freely within their perspective as finite creatures. Satan wanted to be like God and was condemned. Adam wanted to have knowledge “like” God and was condemned as well but for these beings God would show grace knowing that ultimately it would necessitate God the Son coming to earth as man to stand in the place of sinful man or it would not be possible for anyone to spend eternity with God.

      Knowing all this at once he created us anyway because being glorified by his creation was worth it even if only one man be saved. John Owen describes this well in his book The Death of Death in the Death of Christ and John Flavel says it best in a post I made on this blog. When you understand this the Bible falls into place. When you don’t you fight to hold a place in the redemptive story of man that you don’t hold. C.S. Lewis fought it, I fought it, and millions of other Christians fight it as well, but in the end there is no place else left to go but the reformed position.

  18. C. S Lewis, was neither arminian or a calvinist, but from all his writings, it is clear he leans towards the arminian beliefs. A few vague references taken out of context does not dismiss a life time’s body of work; if he became a calvinist, or if he change his beliefs later in life, he would have wrote extensively on it, since he did not, we must look to his body of work, which clearly shows he leans towards the arminian beliefs, but remains still neither.

    Now, on this debate, it seems to me, that using scripture to justify one side or the other will not get us anywhere, since any biblicist vs. biblicist could debate until the end of time and probably get nowhere. That’s why Mr. Lewis did not use scripture very often, which I respect greatly.

    A lot of times, just using some common sense can get us very far indeed. Which I will try to do here:

    I think God has given us the ability to know what basic right and wrong is, or good and evil, with something called the morale law. So let’s keep that in mind.

    Now on the subject of calvinism: I only have a few problems with it. Firstly, it’s the election/irresistible grace topic that I take issues with. It seems to me, that this goes against the morale law given to us by God. Firstly, in every culture, the morale law tells us that to force someone to love us is wrong. Example: as much as I would love for Kate Beckinsale (or insert your own hottie here), to love me, I know it’s wrong for me to force her to love me. Example: I know if I tied up Mrs. Beckinsale, and took her home with me against her will, I would be in a lot of trouble, and would even be accused of rape. And we all know that the morale law tells us rape is wrong. Therefore, God would not force us to love him because it would go against his own morale law. God is not a rapist, therefore: irresistible grace cannot be correct because it violates the morale law.

    Now on the subject of Total depravity: I think that if we just observed the human condition, we can clearly see that people are doing good all the time, even the most vile of us can have great acts of kindness, and that includes atheists. (Now I am not saying we are sinless mind you; all of us have sined), but to say that everyone hates God and won’t follow him is simply not true. I think most people, if not all, if given a chance would accept God in a heart beat. Example: Muslims, Hindus, Buddhist…etc…all trying to find God. Some Buddhist even burn themselves to death…now that’s hardcore…maybe misguided…but definitely can’t accused them of selfishness. If God appeared today and said, “Hey dude, it’s me…you know… God, you want to come up to heaven with me to chill for awhile?” Would any of us say no? I think most of us would jump at the chance, if only if it were given. People are searching for God all over the place, looking in telescopes, TV, internet…etc…to say that no one wants God is simply not true.

  19. “I just think that in doing so it will be the Arminian he scolds.” – This statement makes the entire article unreliable. Leaving this out would have made and entirely different argument. Whether or not Calvinists or Arminianists are correct, ultimately it’s up to God.

  20. Caleb…Ultimately everything is up to God, and He gives us his word to explain to us what he has done. The last sentence does not make the srticle unreliable, it is my interpretation of what God says. I believe that based on the clear reading of scripture, God’s word, that Arminianism puts too much weight on the human being and takes glory away from God and on that premise they will be scolded. Notice I did not say sent to Hell, because I don’t believe that the Arminian interpretation keeps everyone from Salvation which is most definately “up to God” and not us. Blessings

  21. Caleb,
    I happen to have loved Llondy’s “God scolding the Armenian” remark!
    I love CS Lewis way of stating his view! The free will / predestination arguments are always answered to me and “Settled” by the words of the Apostle Paul “Oh the depths of the riches of both the wisdom and knowledge of God. How unsearchable are his judgments, and His ways past finding out.”
    My view is best described with this illustration. As we approach the gates of heaven there is going to be a huge sign over the top that says “WHOSOEVER WILLS, let him come.” But once we are on the inside of the gate when we turn around and view the same sign it will say: “CALLED, CHOSEN, PREDESTINED, ELECT from before time began.” From this side of the gates I believe we are free moral agents but when we pass into life eternal we will discover that the Calvinists were right all along! 🙂 Hows THAT for being diplomatic? (It really does best describe my view though) In most cases I deplore straddling the fence.
    I personally sense the Holy Spirit giving me the same answers far better questioners than me were given: “What is that to thee? Follow thou Me.”
    Leanard Ravenhill summed it up in a way that was profound in its simplicity in his book “Why Revival Tarries” It was worth reading for just this one quote. Bear in mind it was written as a kind of a reproof to ministers. He said: “One of these days, some SIMPLE soul is going to pick up the book of God! And he is going to read it! And he is going to BELIEVE it! And then we are ALL going to be embarrassed! We have adopted the convenient theory that the Bible is to be explained whereas, first and foremost it is to be believed and then obeyed.”

    I loved the dialogue and arguments here. I am going to fill my printer up to the brim with paper and print it all off for future reference. May God richly bless you my precious brothers.

  22. The most compelling thing to me about Calvinism is Calvinists. I dont know if it is a “Proper” thing to do or not but in my head I maintain a list of people to search for in God’s kingdom for the express purpose of giving a big bear hug to. Probably seven of the first ten people on that list are Calvinists. Perhaps from my previous analogy maybe NOW they are ALL Calvinists! 🙂
    I love John Newton’s response (He happens to be on the top of my bear hug list, by the way) to his stance on Calvinism. He said: “I take my Calvinism as I take my sugar.” Having said that he took a cube of sugar and dropped it in his tea and commenced stirring and said; “Diluted and well stirred.”

  23. God bless you Llondy, I agree with you on every point, its obvious that when you let scripture speak for itself, and are faithful to every text of scripture, you will arrive at the same point…write a book!

  24. amen , I’m thouroghly grateful to God for all the contributions here and also would like to acknowledge you llondi thought you need it not for the assistance in affirming the truth as i see it in so far.. the lord is leading me in this way of understanding (calvanistic -for sake of stand point)I agree not with all of the calvanists views however i can acredit nothing of His grace to myself id just liketo say well done in your gracius and gentle response to what sometimes looked a bit antagonistic or dressed up as nicety .The sincerity and humility displayed with great slef control all gentleness and patience in love and kindness encourages my soul that by their fruits they will be known .Maythe lord be blessed by all you minister too.

  25. After spending a great deal of time reading just about every posting on this page. Not once has it been brought up that God knows the heart and mind of every single person that has ever lived. He knows their innermost thoughts. He knows if they are in fact a wheat or a tare. If they are a child of God or a child of Satan. If they are a wheat, than when they hear the gospel they will accept it. God knows this not just because he has seen the ending from the beginning and knows what they will choose as a matter of history. But because he knows their heart and that the heart of a wheat would respond to the love of God and the gospel. God then makes sure they get the gospel presented to them. (AKA he calls them). In whatever fashion that best pricks their heart.

    If on the other hand they are a tare. Then no matter what they’re told or shown about god’s love or the gospel, they will never accept it. It is simply not in them to do so. God knows this about them and does not bother presenting the gospel to these individuals. (AKA he does not call them). In fact he even influences them to further his own glory. (AKA the pharaoh of Egypt)

    This debate about free will or predetermination it is simply a misunderstanding on both sides of the debate.

    We as men cannot see into the hearts of other men and cannot tell if they are a wheat or a tare. So we are instructed to love and spread the gospel to all. And let God sort them out at the end.

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